I'm pretty new to cookie decorating with royal icing.  Sources online make it look straightforward - get the right consistency, keep the icing covered, etc.  I find in practice, however, it's not nearly as simple as they make it sound. The icing bowls develop crusting on the edges no matter how religiously or quickly I cover them, no matter how much I stir and it's never enough to just cover them.  Even just stirring them creates little crusts at the top where the icing thins.  Literally the only thing that seems to work is pressing saran wrap onto the surface to seal it, which is messy to take off and I have to replace it every time I color, load into the bags, anything.  

I'm also wondering how people do the consistencies. Let's say I'm working with 3 colors. Each of the colors may be the background on one cookie, wet on wet detailing on another or raised decorations on others. Do people just make and bag each color in 2-3 different consistencies, and then have like 7-9 bags going all at once? Is there a sequencing aspect I'm missing here? It seems like the things I see on the internet show the process as clean, organized, orderly and efficient, and when I do it it's a chaotic mess. I feel like they're leaving out some important details on efficiency in their decorating tutorials. Looking for any tips anyone might have or if people could share a process that works for them.

Original Post

Hi Jag! 

Try to clean your bowl with a spatula before using the saran wrap and cover your bowl with a damp cloth. This might help to prevent crusting. 

I usually prepare and keep my icing (very thick, “Julia’s glue” consistency) in one bowl though. Then I color the amount needed, thin it down to the consistency I need and load into the bag. See @Julia M. Usher ’s  video here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GO0_aNbL6Do (This is lesson 5, I suggest you to watch the whole serie.)

I am used to outline my cookies with a consistency different from flooding and I use a PME #1 tip. I always use white royal icing, no matter the color of the icing I am going to use for flooding. The color of the flooding will bleed into the thin white outline (the damn), and I also learned to hide the outline by covering it with flooding icing. So this cuts the bags for the outlining consistency to 1. I also use this same consistency and color for piping borders or lines or little dots. Some people use the same consistency for outlining and flooding though, and tipless bags, so they don’t even have this one bag to prepare. 

At the beginning of my cookie journey I was preparing each outline consistency matching the flooding consistency!

I don’t make so many cookies, just those for my monthly tutorials here on Cookie Connection and maybe another project a month. But I have learned to plan step by step everything. Having a good plan about the design and the colors you are going to use helps to be efficient. And also working on more projects at the same time helps to maximize the use of royal icing. 

The only one time I had to prepare a lot of colors was recently for this set wet on wet below: 8 colors and 9 bags just for one wet-on-wet cookie (the white outline and white flooding consistencies are missing in the picture)! But It has been so much fun.

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I don’t know if I have been of any help. You said that you are at the beginning of your cookie journey but I can tell you that little by little while you practice and gain experience this tedious process will get easier and you will find what will work better for you. 

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Hi, @Jag, Manu covered a lot of good tips already. I only cover my bowls with Glad Cling Wrap (and maybe some foil if they are going to sit for hours), and that does the trick for me. Plastic is a bit permeable, so the added foil can help. (A damp cloth is a cheaper way to go, but I don't use one, for no particular good reason.) And, yes, I usually mix a different consistency/color for each task (as needed), but I only mix and bag them when I am ready to use that icing color/consistency (as it's even harder to prevent drying in tips). As Manu said, I plan out in my head what colors need to go down in what order; then I draw from a large vat of thick white icing and color/adjust consistencies as I go in other, smaller bowls. I usually have no more than a few bags going at a time, because of how I work. And also because . . . I hate to mix tons of colors, so I tend to stick to a few on each cookie!  I hope this helps a bit. While you will get faster and more efficient as you learn, cookie decorating is inherently a very time-consuming process, so don't expect to become a speed demon! 

I agree with you completely! I’ve been decorating cookies for years, and I still struggle with icing consistency. It’s still a mess and a pain to make all of the colors. I don’t think you’re missing something; that’s just kind of the nature of the beast. 

Like Manu, I start with stiff-consistency, uncolored icing and just portion off small amounts to color and thin. I mix each color in a small bowl, thinning with a spray bottle of water, and then I store the colored icing in a tube of plastic wrap. (See this post by Sweet Sugarbelle for a better description.) With the plastic wrap method there is no crusting. I keep these pods of colored icing in a big ziploc bag in my fridge for weeks. They will start to separate after a time, but then I just cut off the top, squeeze the icing into a bowl, and stir it again before giving it a fresh plastic wrap tube. (Or if I’m feeling really lazy, I’ll just massage the icing within its original plastic wrap.) 

It seems like everyone does things a little differently, but this is the method that works best for me.

I have bowls (with lids)  I use just for my royal icing and to color icing.  I typically only work with one consistency, unless I’m doing something special.  i make all my icings, and if necessary different consistencies all at once and load my bags.  If I don’t need the color right away, I cover them with plastic wrap and press into the icing and then out the lid on top.  Royal icing takes a lot of practice and planning.  There is also a lot of waste and clean up.  There is just something about decorating that is special that makes all the planning, work, time and expense.  Let’s face it is an expensive hobby.

I live in a desert climate, the air is very dry and my icing crusts quickly.  I am limited on wet on wet because of this. I outline and flood with the same consistency.  I make my royal and keep the bowl covered with a moistened kitchen cloth.  I use a liquid measuring glass to mix my color and transfer the whole amount to a piping bag. Then clean my measuring glass and mix my next color.  The amount of color bags depends on the project - but they are all flood consistency.  I work with one color first, outline one cookie, then immediately flood it. After all the cookies are done with the first color, I start the second color. After I am done flooding, I do one of two things with the remaining amount in the bags. One: empty bag into a cup and add confectioners sugar to thicken, transfer to parchment triangle to add details to the cookies.  Two: empty bag into small storage container with lid and put into freezer.  If I need a detail color not already mixed from flood consistency,  I will mix the color in a small container as I need. I always check my freezer for colors I used on past projects (may need to add color to darken, add white icing to lighten or change the consistency). My freezer has about 20 small containers of various leftover colors at any given time.

Umm... You can FREEZE RI?!

I, too, have so much to learn about this new obsession we all seem to share, and 1000% related to your post here, Jag!

I'm so grateful to everyone who replied - sounds like the struggle is real, lol, so I'll just keep at it - and look forward to continuing to learn from you veterans...

~Ann

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