How to Fix Royal Icing Problems

How to Fix Royal Icing Problems

Royal icing can be used in many ways, e.g., to cover a cake, pipe intricate designs, pipe flowers, and ice cookies, to name a few. Unfortunately, there can often be problems with using Royal icing, so here I will tell you how some of them can be easily solved.

Royal icing not setting, overmixed icing, air bubbles forming, pits and craters in flood work (runny Royal icing piped into an outlined shape), colors bleeding into each other, and icing not shiny when it dries. All these mistakes can easily be put right.

Read on…

Why did my Royal icing not set?

This can happen if you use Royal icing for flooding an outlined shape for a design on a cake or on a cookie. If it hasn’t dried within 24 hours, the only thing you can do is scrape it off and start again.

If it’s a flood work design for a cake, it’s usually worked off the cake and added when dry, so starting again is not a big problem. However, if it has been applied to a cookie, you may not be able to save it as the cookie may have absorbed water and become soft.

If Royal icing has been used to pipe designs on a cake and they have not kept their shape and set, or you have used it to cover a cake, and it hasn’t set.

The reason this has happened …

  1. The icing was thinned with too much water.
  2. You’ve used an oil-based flavor.
  3. You’ve used a flavoring containing glucose or invert sugar.
  4. You’ve not used gel food coloring.

If your icing is too thin, then add more powdered sugar to it to thicken it.

Read the labels on flavors and buy ones that are not oil-based, glucose, or invert sugar-based as they are ingredients used in icings to prevent them from drying too hard.

Always use gel food colors to tint your royal icing because using powdered or liquid colors will affect your icing consistency. 

If you are using a recipe that used meringue powder instead of egg whites, then make sure you are using the full amount. Most recipes use 3 tablespoons of meringue powder to 1 lb/450g powdered sugar.

Do you know how to test the consistency of your royal icing?

How to test the consistency of Royal Icing

The way you can test if you have the correct consistency of Royal icing for your purpose is to make the base icing and then add water to it until it is right for your purpose. 

Using a spray bottle gives you more control over how much water you add.

Base icing – the thick icing to which various small amounts of water are added to achieve a working consistency.

To test the Royal icing’s consistency after adding water, drag a knife across the surface, and see how long it takes for the line to disappear.

For piping – 25 seconds
For outlining – 15 seconds
For flooding – 10 seconds

The Base Royal icing is also used to pipe flowers.  When glucose is added, it’s used to cover a cake. (glucose is used to prevent it from setting too hard).

If you over-mix Royal icing, it can cause you problems you may not be able to solve.

Testing the Consistency of Royal Icing
Testing the consistency of Royal Icing

What happens if you over-mix royal icing?

When over mixing Royal icing dries, it has a crunchy sponge-like texture that easily crumbles.

This is because it may have been beaten in a mixer at high speed for too long so that too much air will have been incorporated into the icing.

If Royal icing has been overmixed to that extent, it’s best to discard it because there isn’t anything you can do to save it.

The only thing to do is start again, this time using your mixer’s slowest speed to make sure you don’t make the same mistake again.

Did you know It’s quite easy to prevent air bubbles from forming in your Royal icing?

How to prevent air bubbles in Royal icing

Place the ingredients for your Royal icing in your mixer bowl, turn the mixer to the lowest speed and mix until it forms stiff peaks. Doing it this way makes sure that too much air is not incorporated into the icing.

After mixing, place a piece of plastic onto the icing’s surface to seal it and stop it from drying. Leave it for several hours before using it to allow air bubbles to rise to the surface, then stir it gently, making sure you pop any large air bubbles, and it will be ready to use.

If you have made it by hand (without a mixer), you need not leave it to stand for so long as not as much air will have been incorporated into the Royal icing.

If you find that your Royal icing has pits or craters on the surface, there are a couple of things you can do to prevent it from happening.

Why does my Royal icing pit or crater?

Pitting or cratering is caused by air bubbles popping as the icing dries. It sometimes occurs when you use Royal icing to do flood work for cake decorations or cover a cookie. It can also happen if you cover a cake with a smooth coat of Royal icing. 

It’s caused by incorporating too much air into the icing, so when you make it, use the lowest speed on your mixer and don’t make the icing too thin.

Stir the icing gently before you use it and pop any air bubbles you see.

If you have used it for flood work, draw a toothpick through it to pop any air bubbles that may be lurking beneath the surface.

Do the colors of your Royal icing bleed into each other? If you follow these guidelines, you may be able to prevent it from happening.

Get Rid of Pits and Craters in Royal Icing
Get rid of pits and craters in your Royal icing

Why did my Royal icing bleed?

The definition of Royal icing “bleeding” is when one color of icing spreads into another color. The result of this is usually a total mess, especially if you are using a dark color on top of or beside a light color.

However, there are ways to prevent this from happening.

  1. Use gel paste colors to tint your Royal icing as the colors are more stable, and they won’t alter your icing consistency.
  2. After you have colored the icing, leave it to stand for an hour or two so that the color saturates the powdered sugar crystals. Remember that the color will intensify as it stands, so don’t add too much for a start.
  3. Don’t make your icing too thin. Follow the rules on how to test the consistency of your icing. (I’ve put them again at the end of this list)
  4. Let one color of icing dry thoroughly for several hours at room temperature before adding another color beside it or on top of it.
  5. Regarding covering cookies with Royal icing, make sure they are completely dry before putting them into a package.

Base icing – the thick icing to which various small amounts of water are added to achieve a working consistency.

To test the Royal icing’s consistency after adding water, drag a knife across the surface, and see how long it takes for the line to disappear.

For piping – 25 seconds
For outlining – 15 seconds
For flooding – 10 seconds

The Base Royal icing is also used to pipe flowers, and when glucose is added, it’s used to cover a cake. (glucose is used to prevent it from setting hard).

You’ve worked hard to get your Royal icing just right, but what do you do when it’s dry, and it’s dull and not shiny?

Why is my Royal icing not shiny?

There are several reasons why this could happen to your Royal icing…

  1. It dried too slowly.
  2. The kitchen is too hot and humid.
  3. High humidity in the atmosphere could cause it to dry slowly and leave it with a dull surface.
  4. Overmixed icing causing a spongy texture and a dull finish.
  5. Icing too thin.

To get a shiny, smooth finish on your Royal icing, it needs to dry fast.

  1. Using a fan will speed the process up but don’t set it too near, or it will blow the icing out of shape.
  2. If you are using your kitchen for baking, dry the icing in another room.
  3. Use a humidifier if the humidity is high where you live.
  4. Don’t use overmixed Royal icing (as mentioned above).
  5. Use the icing consistency guidelines when making your Royal icing.

I hope this has solved some of the major problems you may be experiencing with your Royal icing.

I have experienced these problems, but I’m sure there are more, and as I come across them, I will update this post.

If you have any other problems I have not covered here, let me know in the comments box below, and I will do my best to solve them.

Joyce Freeman

Joyce Freeman

SFW eBooks Montage

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