First of all, I have to explain the title choice... my sons have adopted the 'like a boss' suffix to just about everything they do, including when they frost cookies with me. I guess it makes it more mucho if they can say they've frosted cookies like a boss. I love it. I love how they can create such intricate designs on their cookies with unbelievable dexterity... like a boss... often dressed like Spiderman.
Sugar cookies dressed up like Spiderman or ladybugs or apples or anything your mind desires, are easier to accomplish than what it looks like. Once you have the royal icing made to the correct consistency, you're good to go. The rest is up to practice and how fancy you want to get. You can make intricate designs like Spiderman or simply elegant cookie dressings like the spotted heart below or the stars above, which are just as spectacular, once they're dried and the royal icing has formed a hard meringue type finish.
As shared in last weeks' blog post, baking the sugar cookies is a fun activity, with or without kids and it's not too tricky of a recipe either. See the post on baking sugar cookies here. Now we'll get to the fun part ...
There are numerous ways in which you can make Royal Icing, but my go-to recipe is this one;
¾ cup Wilton meringue powder
4 lbs confectioner’s sugar
1½-2 cups warm water
2-4 Tbs oil-free, uncolored vanilla or hazelnut extract
Download the free printable recipe here.
Combine the Icing/ confectioner's sugar and the meringue powder in the electric mixer and blend together loosely by hand.
Add in the 1½ cups of warm water and whichever flavorant you decide to use and whip at medium to low speed for about 7 minutes. Make sure that the flavoring extract you use is oil-free and color free. If you use an oil-based flavorant, your icing will not work! If you decide for vanilla, make sure it's colorless, otherwise all your icing will be off-white. Scrape down the bowl a couple of times and keep mixing until it is stiff and glossy. It will be thick.
This is where it gets interesting. There are two major types of royal icing you'll need for your cookies. The first is a thicker one, which is used to outline designs and for fine writing. The other is a thinner, flood type consistency, which is for coloring in your designs. To determine when your icing is ready for either of these, you need to do a bit of counting. Run a spatula through the icing and count how many seconds it takes for the line to disappear. For the thicker outline frosting you'll want 15-18 seconds. For the flood icing you'll be looking at around 7-10 seconds.
Now it's time for the coloring! You will need:
Gel type food colorings
small bowls for mixing
mini-whisks/ spoons/ icing knives for blending
plastic wrap, such as Glad Wrap Press 'n Seal
icing tips #1,#2, #3, #4
water in a spray bottle
Scoop about 1 cup of the bulk icing (or whatever amount you think you'll need for your project) into a smaller bowl. Cover up your bulk with a wet cotton or paper towel to prevent it from drying up or crusting over.
Choose your color and get to work blending it in. Remember that at this point you're working with the thick 18 count icing.... this will be relevant in just a moment.
In the past I have used the Wilton gel colorants in a jar. These give fabulous colors, but the gel can be messy and sometimes, as it gets older, lumpy to work with... whenever I get this gel on my hands it takes some ferocious scrubbing action to remove it, and even then, I'll still be rainbow colored for a day after. But unicorns are lovely too and this is a minor observation. But I've had good success with them, so no complaints on that end! Recently I came across the Wilton Color Right System and I am beyond thrilled. The liquid gel colors are dispensed from small squeeze bottles, one drop at a time. Not only that, the set includes a chart which tells you exactly how many drops of which colors to add so that you land up with a desired shade. I absolutely loved working with it and my colors all turned out virbant. It was also way less messy.
At this point, I should probably add that I'm not linked in to any manufacturers and am not benefiting from this review in any way! It's my honest experience with this product.
Make sure you mix your colors well into the icing. You don't want streaks. Now you need to decide whether you want to make one or two sets of each color... that is, a thicker 18 count outline version as well as a 7 count flood version in identical shades. To be honest, I don't have enough couplers and tips for both versions, so I just make the flood consistency type of most colors, except for black and white, which I usually require for finer details and writing. But it's totally up to you!!!
To create flood icing, use your spray bottle of water and gently sprinkle water over the icing until it gives you a 7-10 count consistency. One spray at a time should work... if you get too excited and over-water, you can always add more bulk icing to it! So don't be stressed. It's all good.
Decant your colored icing onto a sheet of Press 'n Seal,sticky side up.This trick will save you many headaches and much frustration! If you've ever tried to shovel frosting into a piping bag, you'll know where I'm coming from. It gets EVERYWHERE if you're not paying attention. Messy business. But none of that anymore with this simple trick. Fold over your plastic and make sure you press it to seal it up.
Twist the ends of your sticky wrap together to produce a completely sealed up icing bonbon! And voila!
I do this with all the colors, until I'm ready for the next step.
Get your decorating bags and couplers ready... (Although I use the 12 inch disposable decorating bags, they can easily be re-used. Once you're done, wash them with soap and hot water and they'll be perfectly fine for next time.)
Insert the threaded coupler and then the tube of icing into the decorator bag. Cut off the sealed wrap to open up a portal for your icing to flow. Twist on the coupler ring with the tip and give your bag a squeeze to make sure the icing comes out. You'll want to use mainly tip sizes #2, #3 and #4. I only use #1 with very fine details. My go-to sizes are #2 and #3. If you want to frost larger cookies with runnier icing, use #4.
Invert the filled up decorator bags in glasses, into which you've placed a moistened paper towel. This prevents your icing from hardening and from leakage.
Now go for it! Color in your cookies with your icing and have fun! There is no right or wrong answer here. Outline the shape, color it in and then gently shake the cookie horizontally to smooth out the frosting and to remove bubbles. You can also prick the air bubbles with a toothpick.
To create the white shine on your apple, inject a squeeze of white icing into the wet red icing. Then run a toothpick through the white icing from top to bottom and you'll get this pretty little heart-shaped shine.
For eyeballs or cutie-pie ladybug spots on your designs, insert a small dot of white icing into the wet freshly-colored background. Immediately insert a black dot into the middle of the white one, by the same technique. If you work fast, and all your icing is still wet, then it'll all dry smoothly, without any bumps.
To create stripes, which are flush with your base color, run the tip of black icing through the wet yellow icing. Again, if you act fast, it'll dry smoothly.
Allow your freshly frosted delights to harden completely before packing away. I have found this drying time to vary very widely, from a couple of hours to overnight. This may depend on how wet and humid it is outside to how runny your icing was. Once the meringue frosting has created its pretty hard shell, these cookies will be stable for weeks and longer! They look spectacular and taste heavenly. The dark chocolate sugar cookie base is perfectly contrasted with the thin layer of sweet crunchy deliciousness. Not too sweet. Not too salty. Just right.
Enjoy your frosting adventures. You'll see how simple it is to make a wow-factor cookie. I'm sure you'll agree with my boys... even without fancy designs, your delicious delights will soon look like they've been decorated ... like a boss. ;)
Create. Enjoy. Repeat.
THREE & ME
PS: Keep a look out for a future post with more detail on techniques... this narrative would've run too long by adding on individual how-to's. Sign up for updates so you don't miss it!