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Tutorial: Making Royal Icing Decorations

I consistently receive emails about how to create cake decorations out of royal icing.  These fun decorations make great cupcake toppers as well as centerpieces on cakes.  Are they time consuming?  Sometimes.  Are they awesome?  Heck yeah! 🙂  But first of all…are they easy?  They sure are…once you know the basics!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Royal Icing + icing colors if you wish
– Image to copy
– Large cutting board or sheet pan
– Wax Paper & Masking Tape
– Piping bags & tips
– Food writing markers if needed

Today I’m going to walk through the steps on how I made the royal icing horses for my daughter’s cupcakes this week (and a few years ago).  So here’s what you do…

Get your image. You need to find the image you want to recreate.  I’ve done various things over the years from guitars to large custom logos (for that one I found a Harley logo and changed the letters).  Google is your friend! 🙂  For these horses, I googled horse head and then clicked on Images to do an image search.  Once you find what you want to replicate, resize it if needed and print it out once or multiple times if needed.  For these horses I put 1 dozen on a page.

Prep your work area. Take your image and tape it onto a large cutting board or sheet pan.  Then take wax paper and put it over the top and tape it down nice and flat (don’t let it bubble up at all).  You can see pics of how I did this below.

Get your icing ready. You can color your icing as needed.  For my icing I only needed brown and black.  Since the icing recipe starts out with stiff icing, I put a little white aside (I always do just in case 😉  ) and colored the rest brown, separated out a little brown and colored that black.  Here’s a pic of stiff icing – you can see it really clings to the spoon and doesn’t flop over:

Load up your bags  – and go! We’re going to start with the outline of the horses head.  So for this project I loaded up my piping bag with a Tip 2 and my stiff, brown icing.

We’re going to start by piping to trace the border of the horse’s head.

Once you have them all traced, let them sit for a couple minutes to let the border dry out.  If you have a bunch to trace, the first ones will probably be “set” by the time you finish outlining.  Here you can also see how I prepped my work surface.  All done tracing!

Now we’re going to thin out our brown icing to flood fill them in.  Basically we are going to add water – little by little – to our stiff icing to make it runnier.  Then we will be able to fill in the horse heads and have them be one solid, smooth surface.

I thin my icing by adding a few drops of water at a time and then stirring.  To test if your icing is thin enough, use your spoon to drizzle a stream of icing on the surface of the bowl of icing.  Then count to 10 as the icing sinks back into the rest.  If the icing sinks back in to create a nice, flat surface in the count of 10, its ready to go.  If it doesn’t go back in, add a touch more water and try again.  If it goes in by the count of 3 or 4 – its too thin and you should add some sifted powdered sugar to thicken it up.  The problem when it is too thin is that it will often leak out of your piping bag like crazy.  Plus it will take longer to harden up.  Here is how I drizzle it on the surface.  You can see the difference from the stiff icing pic above:

Now its time to get ready to flood fill.  Fill a new piping bag with a Tip 3 with the thin royal icing in the color you are filling in with.  For me it is the thin brown.

To flood fill, we are going to start at the edges and pipe a border of sorts inside our thick icing.  Have a tooth pick handy to push the icing into small spaces (like the ears in the case of my horse).

Once you have the outline done, add more icing to the middle – but don’t add too much!  You can kind of push the icing around with your icing tip to move it into place.  You don’t want to add so much that it overflows your border you made.

All horses filled in!

Drying time! Now you have to sit back and wait…for a day! 🙂  You want these horses to be good and dry before you add any other decoration to them.  So set them aside and let them dry out for 24 hrs at least.

Decorating time! So after your images have been sitting for a day, its time to decorate.  For my horses, I accented them with a black main using royal icing and then eyes, nose and mouth using my black food writing marker.

For the mane I loaded my stiff/thick black royal icing into a piping bag with a tip 2 and piped on the mane.

And then I finished by using my food marker to draw on eyes, nose and mouth.  Alternatively you can pipe these on.  Its really up to you what floats your boat 🙂  Different options give different looks and take different amounts of skill and time.

After the piped decorations are dried well (give it a few hrs at least), they are ready to remove from the waxed paper.  Remove the tape holding the wax paper down.    You can then put your hand under the first horse head and support it as you pull the wax paper down/away.  It should start to separate from the paper.  You can then use an icing spatula to slide under it to loosen it the rest of the way.  Be careful!  These are fragile.  I always make a few extra just in case.

And then you’re done!  And I think the end result is worth it…

Guitar Cake #1

And here come the cakes… Today is Emily’s birthday party with her friends.  They should be here in a couple hours…  But I found some time between decorating to upload the pic of the cake for today.  This is an 8″ round iced in buttercream.  The guitars are the royal icing (like the guitars on the cupcakes from Thur) and the stars are cut from fondant.  Girly and rock star!  Just what she wanted – she declared it “the best guitar cake I’ve ever seen”. 🙂

Click for a larger view

And here’s a pic of it on the decorated table later…

Guitar Cupcakes

So its my oldest’s birthday tomorrow (she turns 7!!!).  A couple weeks back we started talking more about her birthday and what theme she wanted…and she decided on rock star. 🙂  This girl loves guitar hero, rock band, guitars and all that goes with it.  Yet in the next breathe she plays barbie and my little pony.  I can’t figure it out!   So when it came time to pick a cupcake for school she said “guitars!!!  or drums…or maybe a microphone…” 🙂  So we settled on guitars as that was probably easiest (and most fun) for me.  She picked the colors and wanted this style of guitar.

The guitars are royal icing piped (I made 30 of them! Only broke one – yay 🙂  ).  The stars are cut out of fondant and left to dry so they harden.  Then there’s icing and pink cake sparkles.  There will be more guitar cakes to follow as the celebration continues 😉

Click the pics for a larger view…