Icing Separating Really Quickly?!

Hi, all. I hope someone has advice for me that might spare me a ton of time and frustration.

This last batch of royal icing I made **really** liked to separate. I ice cookies with a combination of icing bullets in piping bags with couplers/tips, and an assortment of Sweet Sugarbelle squeeze bottles. The last batch of cookies I made had a palette of 12 colors, 6 of which had both outline consistency and flooding consistency. What I noticed was that, I would start mixing, thinning and bagging my colors, and by the time I got to the 4th or 5th colors, the earlier ones had already started to separate in the bottles AND in the bags. With the colors in the bottles, I at least had the ability to unscrew the top and stir it periodically (though I prefer not to have to, because every time I do, inevitably some crusted icing from the neck/seal of the bottle falls in with my icing, no matter how careful I am), but the icing in the piping bags would separate and get so unreliable that occasionally, even though I would get the icing flowing nicely on a paper towel before starting on my cookie, a giant blob of really wet icing would ooze out, ruining my border or detail. I had to empty my icing bags numerous times to stir it back to the consistency I wanted, and even after that, they would start separating once again before I was done reconstituting all my colors. What gives??

For added context, this was the first time I used organic powdered sugar, the first time I sifted it, the first time I mixed my meringue powder and warm water first before adding powdered sugar, the first time I used the whisk attachment, and the first time I mixed it all on high speed, as per LilaLoa's recipe. In the past, I'd combined my powdered sugar and meringue powders together dry, and then combined with warm water and clear vanilla in the mixer outfitted with a paddle, and came out with a much stiffer royal icing that gave me less trouble. But I'm a newbie to royal icing (Hi! December 2018 was my first go!) and so I'm trying different styles to see what works for me. This most recent batch came out much looser right off the mixer than any earlier batch, was really prone to separation, and had a ton of air bubbles once iced. And I mean, new air bubbles would creep up even as I was popping them.

On top of everything, it has been really rainy here lately.

Please share your expertise to help me troubleshoot which of the multitudes of factors led to my sub-par icing woes.

Gratefully,

-Sabrina

Original Post

There are so many things you did with your icing I’m not sure where to start.  First, don’t use warm water.  Second, don’t use a whisk or put it on high.  Actually less mixing is better than more.   I always use C&H sugar, I’ve never used organic powdered sugar.   My current choice of meringue powder is genies magic meringue powder.  I use the recipe on the container.  Also, before i start I clean everything with vinegar.  It helps to get rid of any oil which will ruin your icing.  Also, I don’t sift my powdered sugar.  The one time I did it never set.  Hope it helps.

Don’t use warm water? The first recipe I made royal icing with called for warm water and I think it came out great, but the truth is, I never got any explanation for either why to or not to use it. What temperature do you use? I only cook with filtered tap water and we keep our Brita in the fridge so it would be refrigerator temperature unless I warmed it up some. I typically microwave it for about 30 seconds to get it to room temperature or slightly warmer.

Thanks!

-Sabrina

Sabrina Veksler posted:

Don’t use warm water? The first recipe I made royal icing with called for warm water and I think it came out great, but the truth is, I never got any explanation for either why to or not to use it. What temperature do you use? I only cook with filtered tap water and we keep our Brita in the fridge so it would be refrigerator temperature unless I warmed it up some. I typically microwave it for about 30 seconds to get it to room temperature or slightly warmer.

Thanks!

-Sabrina

I always use warm water and have never had any issues. If that new recipe isn’t working for you, I wouldn’t worry about troubleshooting it. Just try another one until you find something you like. I use this one (with some minor tweaking - slightly less water and a little bit of corn syrup), and it’s always worked well for me.  In my experience, once you identify your icing is misbehaving, it’s best to cut your losses and start over. I’ve wasted so many hours and cookies trying to salvage something I knew was bad. Sometimes it’s better to just start over with a fresh batch.

Warm water should be fine - it helps to dissolve any fine particulate matter in the meringue powder or powdered sugar faster. The likely reason the icing separated so fast is because it was too loose to start, and/or had fewer stabilizers (cornstarch, gums, cream of tartar, etc.) in one or more of its ingredients. Even so, it separated so darn fast! My guess is the organic powdered sugar isn't as absorptive as normal powdered sugar, perhaps because it has no added cornstarch. I'd check its packaging to see and do some controlled tests (changing just one variable at a time, but not all at once), if you're curious to determine the root cause. Otherwise, I'd just return to the recipe that worked for you previously.

Sabrina Veksler posted:

Thank you for all of your suggestions! I went back to C & H sugar and my royal icing was perfect, but I’m determined to get the organic powdered sugar recipe down so that i can offer organic cookies. I’ll experiment with one variable at a time and see what happens.

Keep us posted - interested to hear your conclusions!

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