I think by now I have documented enough that I have loved making sugar cookies for holidays since I was a kid. Now I must admit that the cookies we made were nothing fancy. I'm talking about opening a can of frosting, adding some food coloring, grabbing a knife, spoon, or spatula, spreading it on the cookies, and topping with some sprinkles. They seemed pretty fancy at the time. And in my defense, we made dozens and dozens of cookies, and they were being decorated by three kids with short attention spans.
So when I saw cookies that people such as Bridget from Bake at 350 make, I was blown away. It was clear that she was not using frosting from a can. While I was still living in the sprawling metropolis of Topeka, Kansas I took a cookie decorating class where I was introduced to royal icing. This was a cookie decorating epiphany for me.
I will say upfront that royal icing is not as tasty as the frosting of my childhood. But you can do so much more with it. That is just another reason I stand by my mom's Holiday Sugar Cookies. They have enough flavor on their own that it doesn't matter that the icing isn't super flavorful. I am going to share with you the recipe for royal icing that was given to me at the class I went to. It's pretty easy to make, so let's get to it!
Start by combining meringue powder water in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until it is nice and foamy.
Sift the powdered sugar to remove the lumps. You don't want lumpy icing! Add the powdered sugar and beat on low just to combine.
Add corn syrup and a clear extract. The extract is your chance to add some flavor to the icing. Almond is my favorite. The smell of almond extract makes me weak in the knees, but you can use whatever floats your boat.
Beat on medium high for about 5 minutes, or until the icing is shiny and stiff-peak consistency. This is what it should look like:
Note that I was holding this up in the air, and it maintained its shape. This stiff icing can be used for piping outlines. I will talk more about the decorating process in a later post, but to fill in the cookies, the icing needs to be thinned. To thin the icing, add additional water, one teaspoon at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency. Here is what thin icing looks like:Royal icing dries easily, so make sure to keep it covered when you are not using it. It can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week. If it hardens, add some water. If you have thin icing and need to thicken it, add more powdered sugar.
1/4 cup meringue powder
1/2 cup water, minus 2 Tbsp
1 lb powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp clear extract
1 Tbsp corn syrup
Beat water and meringue powder in bowl of electric mixer until foamy. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low until combined. Add the extract and corn syrup. Beat on medium high for about 5 minutes or until icing reaches stiff-peak consistency.To thin icing for flooding, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Add powdered sugar to thicken if needed.