What is Royal Icing Used For?

What is Royal Icing Used for?

Cakes coated with Royal icing are usually rich fruit cakes, pound cakes, Genoese, or a yeast-based cake that are firmer in texture than a sponge cake.

Wedding cakes are generally given a smooth finish, and Christmas cakes can be given a smooth finish or a rough, peaked finish to resemble snow.

Royal icing is used to coat Wedding cakes and to pipe intricate details on the sides. It’s often used to coat and make decorations for Christmas cakes and cookies. It’s also used to make flowers using a piping bag with special tips. Royal icing can be flavored and colored and is delicious to eat?

Read on …

What is Royal icing?

Royal icing is a hard icing made from fresh or dried egg whites, powdered sugar, and lemon juice that are gently whipped together to form stiff peaks.

This fairly stiff icing is used to cover cakes. For other uses, the stiff icing is diluted with water or lemon juice to a suitable consistency, such as piping designs or lacework on the sides or top of a cake. Also, It can be used for outlining and flooding** the designs on cookies.

**“Flood” icing is an icing that has been diluted so that it is easier to spread smoothly on flat areas.

Royal icing is used to make decorations and pipe intricate designs, and flowers on cakes need to dry fairly hard, so the designs keep their shape.

A softening agent such as glycerin is usually added to the recipe if Royal icing is used to cover cakes. It still sets firmly but is soft enough for it to be cut and eaten with the cake.

This is a good Royal icing recipe for your cakes and projects. 

For a Vegan Royal icing recipe, see my blog post “6 Easy Vegan Royal Icing Recipes.”

Do you know why it’s called Royal icing?

Why do they call it Royal icing?

Icing made with powdered sugar and egg whites has been around since the seventeen hundreds when they gained the technology to grind sugar finely.

Professional bakers named it Royal icing when it was first developed. 80 years later, it gained its public “Royal” status when used for the wedding cake of the British Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, and Images of the cake were published in the Illustrated London News.

After that, it became popular for everyone to have a wedding cake coated with Royal icing but not so big as a cake made for Royalty, which could weigh several hundred pounds.

1858 Princess Royals Wedding Cake
1858 The Princess Royal's Wedding cake decorated with Royal icing

Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia.

So, what about decorating a cake with Royal icing?

Can you use Royal icing to decorate a cake? 

Yes, it’s a great icing to use and make decorations for cakes covered in royal icing and cakes covered in fondant, ganache, and other crusted coatings.  

However, it is not suitable to use on buttercream because it will pick up the fat from the buttercream and become stained and discolored, and there is a risk that it will slide off.

You can use piping nozzles in a wide range of sizes to get precise details for your decorations.

For decoration applied straight onto the sides or on top of a cake, you can use fine nozzles with a piping bag filled with Royal icing to make delicate designs such as lace, string work, beadwork, trellis, eyelet lace, cross-stitching; you can also pipe trellis and latticework.

With larger nozzles, you can make shells, scrolls around the base of the cake, or as part of more complicated 3D designs on the cake itself.

One of the more popular ways to use piping nozzles at the moment is to make Royal icing flowers either one petal at a time or using one of the new “Russian” tips now to pipe whole small flowers.

You can also produce decorations for your cakes by making them on wax paper or an acetate sheet and transferring them to your cake when they are dry.

There is a huge range of Royal icing techniques, and they may need to be practiced to make them perfect, but they are well worth your time and patience to produce an amazing cake.

What can I do if I don’t want white Royal icing?

Can you add food coloring to Royal icing?

Yes, you can add food coloring to Royal icing. However, don’t use liquid food colors because they will alter the consistency of your icing.

Use gel paste colors and leave the icing for a couple of hours before using it to let the sugar crystals absorb the color. The colors will intensify as they are absorbed, so be careful not to add too much gel paste, or the colors will become very dark.

If you want a solid color, add an amount and let it stand then; if it is not dark enough, add more and stand again. 

Keep doing this until the correct color is achieved. If you add a lot of the color at one time, you may get a darker shade than you require, and the batch of icing will be wasted.

If you don’t like lemon-flavored icing, can you change it?

Can you add flavoring to Royal Icing?

Royal icing is usually made using lemon juice, so how much of a citrus flavor it will have will depend on how much you add.

Alternatively, you can make it with water and add other flavors such as vanilla, peppermint, almond, or even rum or cinnamon to make Christmas gingerbread or cookies. The choice of flavorings is endless.

If you don’t want the icing to set hard, you can choose any flavor you can find in the supermarket.

However, if you want your icing to set hard, make sure you read the labels on the flavors and only buy ones that are not oil-based, glucose or invert sugar-based as they are ingredients that are used in icings to prevent them from drying too hard.

You have Royal icing in different colors and flavors, so how do you put it on a cake?

How do you apply Royal icing?

Before applying Royal icing to rich fruit cakes, Genoese, or pound cakes, you would first spread a thin coat of jam over the cake and then covering it with marzipan.

You would then coat the cake with Royal icing of a thick consistency with a softening agent added to it.

The icing is applied in the same way as buttercream by spreading it over the top and sides with a spatula and then evening it out with a scraper until you achieve a smooth finish.

If you want the finish to be left in peaks for a Christmas cake, for instance, that can be achieved by applying the icing to the top and sides and then going over it with a spatula and drawing the icing into the peaks.

To apply it to yeast-based buns or cakes, you would thin the icing and then drizzle it over the top of the baked goods.

To flood cookies with the Royal icing, you would first pipe around the edge of the cookie with an icing that has been slightly diluted with water but still thick enough to pipe and when it’s dry, flood the center of the design with icing that has been thinned a little more.

How safe is Royal icing to eat?

Royal Icing Peaked With a Spatula
Royal icing peaked with a spatula

Is it safe to eat royal icing? 

Because Royal icing is made with raw egg whites, some people are worried about salmonella, especially if young children or older people will eat the finished product. 

If you are concerned about this, buy pasteurized egg whites, which can be found in most refrigerated departments of grocery stores. Alternatively, you can use dried egg whites instead of fresh egg whites.

Another option is to buy Royal icing powder mix, which has the powdered egg white already added.

I hope this has helped and answered some of the questions you have about Royal icing. If you need any more information about the questions I have covered in this post, please ask in the comments box below, and I will do my best to answer them.

Joyce Freeman

Joyce Freeman

SFW eBooks Montage

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