18 Feb We’ll Never Be Royal Icing….
I want to take a minute to talk about royal icing. When I first started getting into the cookie business, I was in awe of how amazing royal icing was. You whip a few ingredients together and the next thing you know, you’re making edible art. It was easy, pretty, and it made me stand apart from other bakers.
I was so very naive back then.
Let me go back in time and tell you the story of a very young Becca in her first attempt at decorating a cake. It was Christmas of 2011. The first Thor movie had just come out and we couldn’t stop fist bumping to Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO. This naive Becca looked something like this:
Naive Becca (when she wasn’t too busy looking like a complete lunatic) really enjoyed baking and decided to try her hand at one of those super fancy cakes that she had seen on TV. So she baked a cake and covered it in store-bought fondant. It looked something like this:
But Becca couldn’t decide how she wanted to decorate her very square cake. So without doing any research whatsoever, she made a batch of royal icing and put it in some piping bags that she had bought from the drug store and she went to town. After hours of piping, she had finished her masterpiece. It looked kinda like this:
The cake was a success! It was beautiful! Becca took a couple of poor-quality photos of her cake (yes, it’s sitting on the obituaries) and she admired her work. Her dad said “Wow, I can’t wait to eat it” and Becca agreed. So she grabbed a knife and tried to cut into her cake. Instead of cutting like a normal cake, the knife bounced off and made a “thump.” Becca was confused. She tried to cut the cake again but the knife just would not break through the royal icing. She was distraught. How could the royal icing betray her?! It was rock hard! What could have gone wrong??
Back to present day.
The list of mistakes the 2011 era Becca made were too many to count. Why did she attempt a square cake first?! Why was both fondant and icing necessary?! WHY DID SHE CHOOSE TO MAKE ROYAL ICING?! In order to eat that cake, we had to break the royal icing away in great chunks. I suppose we all have to keep in mind that this is the same girl that made “pumpkin” cupcakes that looked exactly like boobs.
One of my biggest disagreements with royal icing is that it dries hard… like, really hard. There’s nothing more discouraging than baking the perfect cookie, piping some royal icing on it, and then watching as people make a funny face when they crunch through your slate-like cookie. The average person has never encountered royal icing and is always somewhat shocked when it isn’t soft.
The thing with royal icing is that it does indeed serve a purpose. For one, it’s easy to make and work with (when it’s the right consistency). 2011-era Becca chose that icing because it was only a few ingredients and seemed like it would be a lot easier to make than a buttercream. Royal icing also keeps your cookies fresh by trapping in moisture. My first cake stayed fresh far longer than the average cake does.
The biggest selling point of royal icing is that it’s tough. Once it has dried, you can stack cookies to your heart’s delight. But to be tough, it also has to be hard. You can’t decorate your cookies with buttercream and expect them to survive the shipping process.
As a result of my royal icing qualms, I have been on a royal icing journey. I have been testing out different ingredients and methods, hoping to find an icing that was the perfect mix between tough and soft. And my journey has recently come to an end. I have discovered the holy grail of royal icing recipes and I will never be going back.
Thanks to an Instructables recipe, my cookies will be decorated with a royal icing that tastes amazing, pipes smoothly, and is soft enough for happy eating (all while maintaining the ability to stack and ship). My interpretation of the recipe can be found below.
The moral of the story here is that with enough patience, you can find the perfect recipe. This recipe might not be the perfect recipe for everyone and there may even be a better solution out there but for now, it’s exactly what I needed. I suppose I can have my cake and eat it too.