How to Flood Royal Icing

December 12, 2013

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: The secret to the prettiest holiday cookies: royal icing. Here's how to decorate with it.

Decorated cookies from Food52

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It's that time of the year again; your local bakery and every neighborhood Starbucks have their holiday cookies on display. The idea of trying to recreate those beautiful sugar cookies may seem daunting, out of reach -- but in reality, it's simple. With the right steps and with a little bit of patience, you will have a picturesque snowman that looks like he popped off the pages of Martha Stewart Living.

First, whip up a batch of royal icing. Now, here are the steps needed to create your fabulous, picture-perfect holiday cookies.

1. Make sure your cookies are completely cool. Begin by piping an outline of royal icing onto the cookie. Your icing should flow in a solid line from the piping tip. This creates a border or “dam” to make sure the flood icing does not flow over the edges. Let it dry a few minutes before you start flooding the design with additional icing.

Cookies from Food52

2. After the cookie is outlined, use a thinner version of the same icing to fill the outlined area. This is called flood icing. This icing should be thin enough to flow smoothly from the piping bag.

Flood royal icing from Food52

3. Keep toothpicks close by so you can spread the icing to the edges and pop air bubbles. 

Royal icing from Food52

4. If desired, shake sanding or decorating sugar over wet icing. After icing dries completely, shake off excess sugar. And if you want to add designs on top of your icing -- especially with colors -- always let the flooded cookies dry for at least 24 hours at room temperature before continuing to decorate.

Flooding cookies from Food52

Royal Icing 

Makes about 3 cups

1 pound confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
1/4 to 1/2 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

What are your favorite ways to decorate holiday cookies? Let us know in the comments!

Photos by James Ransom 

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Rachel K Cleary

Written by: Rachel K Cleary

As the resident pastry chef at Food52, Rachel hails all the way from Northern California, where she was born and raised off fresh produce from the local farmers market. After graduating from Occidental College, she headed to New York to start her career in publishing. After five years in the magazine biz -- Martha Stewart and Architectural Digest included -- she decided it was time to start living the dream and enrolled in the pastry program at the French Culinary Institute. These days she can be found whipping up edible creations for the Provisions product pages or tracking down the new and unique for the next collection. She currently lives in Westchester with her husband and her dog Samantha.

1 Comment

Cynthia C. December 13, 2013
Wonderful tutorial, thank you!