Royal icing is one of the most universal and widely used icing in baking. You can decorate cookies, gingerbread houses, and more with the white confection. It dries hard and sturdy, but yet it's still edible. It's very easy to make and a fun medium to work with when making decorated sugar cookies.
Here is a recipe for royal icing from the Wilton Baking site, www.wilton.com. The company is a leader in baking equipment and supplies and specializes in helping home bakers decorate their cakes and gourmet desserts to get professional looking results.
Makes: About 3 cups of icing.
Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer).
NOTE: Keep all utensils completely grease-free for proper icing consistency.
For stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water. When using large countertop mixer or for stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
Thinned Royal Icing:
To thin for pouring, add 1 teaspoon water per cup of royal icing. Use grease-free spoon or spatula to stir slowly. Add 1/2 teaspoon water at a time until you reach proper consistency.
Meringue powder is available in a jar in the baking aisle at large craft stores and can also be found at specialty cooking stores. It's not at all hard to work with and should not intimidate you in any way.
Once you make your first batch of royal icing, you will see how easy it is to work with. Spread it on cookies and then draw with edible markers once it dries to a smooth surface.
Create a surface for edible printed paper to adhere to. This is a special paper made of confectionery ingredients that you can print on using specialty food inks. Bakeries use this to make cakes that have photographs printed onto the frosting.
Most home bakers will want to tint their royal icing to make different colored iced cookies. You can use food coloring paste or powder, found at craft or cooking stores, to acquire deeper, richer icing colors. Food coloring drops tend to diffuse too much and make pastel colors, which are still pretty, but not as dark.
Once you have iced cookies with royal icing, you'll want to add any colored sanding sugars or decorations right away before the icing sets. Once it sets, you really can't stick anything else to it.
So go ahead and sprinkle and shake dots and jimmies onto your gourmet cookie favors as soon as you frost them. Why stop there? Go with a theme and make different colors of your icing. Then go crazy decorating your cookies with a cause.
Royal icing is a great medium to use with kids for gourmet cookies. They love how easily it spreads and can see their results quickly when it dries. It's also very sweet. And because it is so sweet, it's not recommended for frosting entire cakes.
For that type of icing, the one with the smooth surface, use rolled fondant icing. This is a paste you can also buy at the craft or candy store and roll out to cover a whole cake. You can also use cookie cutters to cut designs out of it. It will be semi-pliable and not hard when it dries so it's fine for eating in larger quantities.