Little craters in royal icing have always been a bit problematic for me. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of information on them out there.
It’s been a bit of an experimental journey, but my main theory was that air in the royal icing was causing the indents.
When it began to dry the icing would settle and air trapped underneath would ‘pop’ open, leaving a little crater.
On the off chance you hadn’t noticed them:
Before I go on, I have to mention that following the tips to avoiding air bubbles is good practice when decorating cookies with royal icing (for tips click here).
There might be something more to these little indents in the icing though. The only thing I can’t figure out is why it usually happens in smaller flooded areas. I’m no scientist, but guess there must be some physical/chemical reason behind it.
I emailed the extremely talented Cookie Swap author Julia Usher, just before I posted my Valentine cookies, in the hopes of finding the definitive answer. Here is her reply:
… Funny you should ask about the crater issue – that’s one problem with icing that I haven’t figured out how to reliably correct. I have most trouble with it when, as you said, trying to flood a particularly small area. I actually don’t think it’s an issue of air bubbles, though, but one of surface tension. When wet, the icing looks fine; but as it dries, more surface tension and pressure on the drying skin causes the icing to sort of collapse into itself. The smaller the area, the more concentrated the surface tension – if you will – and the more likely the icing is to collapse. That’s my theory anyway. I can sometimes minimize the cratering effect by thinning the icing and applying less – using a toothpick to spread a smaller amount within the same area. The more I heavily flood a small area, the more it seems to collapse. If you come up with a better solution, let me know!!
So, to experiment, when making these decorated Easter cookies I filled many areas with a little less icing.
The beak, because of its small size, would be a typical place where a hole might occur.
No craters! Hurray! Thank you Julia!
This is going to sound ungrateful, and I don’t mean it to be! I’m just thinking more experimentation might be in order because I still prefer the look of a ‘full’ flooded cookie.
Since I last posted about how to prevent air bubbles some feedback was also provided by Noelle and Nancy in the comment section of the Valentine post, who seem to be thinking somewhat along the same lines as Julia.
Besides using less icing to fill in an area here’s what Noelle offered as a solution:
… My mentor finally decided that it helped to use a hand mixer on the royal icing that was being used in the small space. She would whip it for 5-10 minutes and use it immediately. She swore that it cuts down on the holes but I could never really tell a difference.
I recently tried a royal icing recipe out of one of the Cookie Craft books and it used lemon juice for the flavoring. I did not get any bubbles like these when I used it. It had a really nice flavor too, but I noticed that it separates much more quickly than traditional royal icing. I wonder if there’s something with the lemon juice that reduced the incidence of bubbles? Anyone else have a similar experience with that?
Interesting! In my response I wondered if the acidity of the lemon and/or the amount of liquid in the icing had anything to do with it.
I’d also like to know why the craters occcur in some areas covered with a thick layer of royal icing and not others?
Lots of ideas and questions. It would be great to hear your feedback on this issue. What do you think? Has anyone else tried the tips mentioned here with success? Any new ideas, theories or information to build on what we have here? Would love to hear from you in the comment section!
Just a side note for you too… I’m happy to share with you that Julia Usher of Cookie Swap will be sponsoring a giveaway for her book on Sweetopia! That’s coming soon.
I usually get emails regarding how to make cookies I post (if I haven’t explained it), so for anyone interested in a visual guide on making these Easter cookies, below are some step-by-step pictures:
Easter Cookies – Decorating Steps
If you’d like to make these, you’ll need:
This is the order in which I piped the details of each cookie:
1. Base of Royal Icing
2. Outline Shapes
Of course I made these using a Kopykake Projectorand some cute Easter stickers. You can freehand if you’re able to.
3. Flood Cookie
4. Bag and ribbon
p.s. Thank you for your emails; I love hearing from you! I’m a little behind though; if you’re waiting for a response I haven’t forgotten you and will reply soon.
p.s.s. I dusted the Easter bunny ears and cheeks using a paintbrush and pink luster dust