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…

How to… Make Rainbow Cupcakes

Cakes come in so many flavors, but what about colors?  Coloring cake batter is an easy way to add some extra fun and surprise to your cake.  And kids love it!

Today we’re tackling how to make rainbow cupcakes.  I made these last week for my daughter’s 9th birthday.

Rainbow Cupcakes Inside

You can start out by making your favorite cake recipe (whether it be a mix or scratch) for WHITE cake.  Be sure to use egg whites as specified on the back of the box and NOT whole eggs.  The yolk gives a yellow tint and it will be harder to get nice, true colors.  If you are baking from scratch, be sure your recipe makes enough batter for the number of cupcakes you need.  My measurements are based off of making 24 cupcakes.

After you have your batter mixed up, split up the batter evenly into 6 different dishes.  I got somewhere close to 3/4 cup worth of batter into each color.  But mixes do vary some.

Then take your food coloring (I prefer Americolor) and add a few drops and mix the color in.  You can see how dark my colors are once mixed.  If you do them lighter, they will bake up lighter.  But these baked up nice and bright as is…

Now we’re going to start filling our prepared cupcake liners.  Starting with purple, put about 1 tsp of cake batter into each liner.  I then kind of spread the purple out to cover the whole bottom nicely.  You can see below, the bottom row I spread out but the other rows I hadn’t yet.

Then follow up with the next color (blue).  Add 1 tsp of blue on top of each purple layer.  Note I did NOT spread the blue out like I did the purple.  If you do too much spreading it will start to blend the colors.   I just kept putting one color on top of the other.  As I would dump each one in I would try to get it “spread” out as I dumped.  But I didn’t go back and spread it to the sides.  As they cooked, the batter spread out on its own…you can see that end result above.

And continue on with the remaining colors (remember to continue to work backwards).  Here they are finished & ready for the oven. (I almost forgot to take a pic!)

Bake them in the oven as specified on the box/recipe.  And when they are done…. yay! Rainbows! 🙂