Jan 30

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How do you store {Royal Icing} and how long can you keep it?

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I had lots of leftover royal icing from my last Valentine’s cupcakes, so I decided to make some more royal icing decorations using these Martha Stewart Valentine stickers as my design.

As I was making these I recieved an email from Bianca, asking me how long I keep the royal icing in the piping bag and how long I keep it in storage.

She’s one of many who’ve asked, so I thought I’d share the info. here.

So how long can one keep royal icing?

Royal Icing:

Before I answer that question, a little about royal icing.

Royal icing is made using either raw egg-whites (traditional), or using dried egg whites or meringue powder.

Although I have not heard of any documented cases of food-borne illness occurring due to eating traditional royal icing (made with egg whites), there is still a possibility that bacteria such as salmonella can be present in anything made with raw eggs.  Although many would not be affected by the bacteria, the very young, elderly, pregnant women and those with weaker immune systems might be.

You could use pasteurized egg whites found in cartons at the grocery store, but I’ve found that the icing doesn’t whip up as nicely using them.

Safest and most effective for cookie decorating in my experience has been royal icing made with meringue powderI’ll be referring to royal icing made with meringue powder from here on in. All of the following information also applies to both tinted and white icing.

*

What is Meringue Powder?

*Meringue powder is a fine, white powder made with pasteurized dried egg whites, sugar and gum; used to replace fresh egg whites when making icings and meringues. (*The Prentice Hall Essentials Dictionary of Culinary Arts, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008).  It usually includes vanilla flavouring and is not usually sold in grocery stores but can be found in bulk food stores, baking supply stores or on the internet.

So now that that’s covered:

*

How long can one keep royal icing?

Freshest is always best of course, but you can keep your icing for a week or even up to two.

The longer it sits though, the more time it has to separate.

The water and icing sugar separate; after about a week you’ll have to really mix it up again to use it, and it may be difficult to make sure it’s perfectly smooth.  -The liquid pools a bit on the surface, leaving the bottom of the container with dry icing.

If you do end up keeping your icing for a few days or more, I’d recommend putting it back in your mixer quickly before you use it, to try and ensure all ‘lumps’ are out.  You may also have to add icing sugar to help thicken it, or a little bit of water to thin it out.  Whether or not you’ll have to add icing sugar or water depends on a few factors:

Adding icing sugar – Especially if you’re in a humid environment the icing may have absorbed humidity in the air.  (Even if it’s in an air-tight container).

Adding water – Mixing the icing really well (especially with a mixer), tends to add volume/air, and thickens it up a bit.  It is necessary to mix it really well to get the lumps out though.

*

 

So how long can one keep royal icing in the (piping) bag?

The icing sugar (powdered sugar), and water in the icing begin to separate over time, so if you haven’t used your piping bags for a few hours, you’ll start to see this happen.  How fast it separates depends on how runny your icing is.  The runnier it is, the faster it will separate.  See pic below for example.

You can try and knead the bag a little bit to help the icing combine together again, but it won’t be as effective as taking the icing out of the bag and re-mixing it with a spoon or spatula etc.

If you use the icing that has been sitting in your piping bag for a period of time, you’ll end up with icing that comes out in little pools of water and icing sugar. (See pic below).

Where do you store royal icing?

Icing made with raw egg whites needs to be kept in the fridge, however, icing made with meringue powder can be kept at room temperature.  I store mine in air-tight or re-usable yoghurt containers. (Pic below; the dollop of icing on top makes it easy for me to see what color is inside).

To ensure against any crusting, place saran wrap (plastic wrap), on the surface of the icing as well.  If some of it has crusted over (if you’ve forgotten to put the lid on the container for example), scoop those bits out; they can’t be used.

How long do royal icing decorations last?

Once the royal icing has dried, the decorations last indefinitley!  (forever lol).  They don’t spoil but must be stored in a cool, dry place, in an air-tight container.  Besides humidity, the only thing to watch out for is breakage.  They are fragile and should be stored between parchment paper and bubble wrap inside the air-tight container.

Grease from buttercream, for example, can also affect royal icing over time, but it will take quite a while for the icing to absorb the grease.  After I posted these royal icing {LOVE} decorations (below), there were a few questions about grease affecting the royal icing in the comment section.

Since I’m going to be keeping these cupcakes in a display case at school to show students an example of what they will be learning how to make when the new semester begins in a few weeks, I’ll be able to keep tabs on the progress.

So far I’ve had the royal icing toppers in a cupcake for 2 days and there’s no dissolving, but the grease has seeped into the icing.  See pic below with today’s date on the phone.  ;-)

In this case you could only see the discoloration on the back as the front was covered in disco dust.

It’s definitely best not to place your royal icing decorations on your cake, cupcakes etc. too far in advance before you’re serving them.  The grease seeped into these royal icing between 24 – 48 hours of being put on the cupcakes.  Smaller royal icing decorations would probably be affected sooner, especially if the entire surface area is resting on the buttercream.

*

What does royal icing taste like?

Royal icing decorations are edible of course; it’s really just sugar and meringue powder.  It’s delicious if you like the taste of pure icing sugar (lol), but in my humble opinion, pairs nicely with cookies especially.  It dries fairly hard, but when you bite into it the sensation is kind of like a soft, crunchy texture. If you are unsure about using royal icing, I suggest trying it once to see what it’s like. Here is the recipe I use.*

For a brief visual how-to on making these Valentine cupcake toppers, see below.   A more detailed version on making royal icing decorations (also known as transfers, floodwork, runouts etc.), click here.

*

How to make these Valentine royal icing decorations:

1. Pipe base colors with royal icing.

2.  Add icing details once the first layer has dried.

3.  Sprinkle on disco dust if desired.

4.  Using a paintbrush (used only for decorating purposes), brush excess disco dust off.

For a more detailed ‘how-to’, click on the image below:

 

Making the cupcakes:

I’m grateful to Melissa of MyCakeSchool.com for some cool cupcake tips I learned and used after watching some of her videos (Re: paper towel tip – who knew!).  She’s got a ton of great advice on decorating.

I wish I had watched one of the videos before I made my royal icing hearts!  It mentioned making the tail of your hearts longer, so that when you stick it in the cupcake, you can still see the whole heart.

The cupcakes themselves were dipped in light pink sanding sugar and for those of you who are interested in cake stands, these milk glass ones were from ebay.

The vanilla buttecream and vanilla cupcake recipes can be found here.

*

These are just some of the main things I’ve learned about royal icing which have worked for me.  If you have any tips, questions or comments, please drop me a line below and come join me on facebook here.

*

Happy decorating!

xo,

Marian

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219 Comments

  1. Chantel
    February 10, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
    164

    So once I ice the cookie with the egg white based royal icing, can the cookies be stored at room temperate safely?

  2. Shayeda
    February 20, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Permalink
    165

    Hi,

    I was wondering what the difference is between meringue powder and dried egg whites? Dried egg whites is readily available where I live, but meringue powder is harder to buy. Would I be able to achieve the same results if I used dried egg whites instead of the meringue powder? Any help would be greatly appreciated, I am new to baking and I would love to be able to make royal icing like you do! :)

    • Jenniferfrance
      August 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink
      177

      Powdered egg whites and meringue powder are essentially the same thing. You can just add lemon juice or cream of tartar as a stablizer.

    • Felicia
      August 20, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink
      179

      i used her recipe for both the sugar cookie and royal icing. the grocery store i shop at had egg white powder but not merangue powder. i used the egg white powder the store had and based on how my cookies looked i would say the outcome was the same. i will be using the egg white powder again and am glad i don’t have to travel further to find a merangue powder :)

  3. marian
    February 20, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Permalink
    166

    Hi @ Chantel: I work with royal icing with meringue powder, so can’t tell you for sure.

    @ Shayeda: I believe there are a few more ingredients in the meringue powder, such as vanilla and sometimes cream of tartar, although the two are similar. I haven’t tried making royal icing with dried egg whites and would be curious to hear your results should you try it. xo

  4. leticia
    February 21, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Permalink
    167

    thanks! that helped tremendously!

  5. mariela
    March 1, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink
    168

    Hi!! Just wondering how long am I allowed to freeze royal icing if I store in an air tight container like tupperware? Thanks, love all your recipes & tips!!

  6. marian
    March 3, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink
    169

    Hi @ mariela: I don’t do it often, but discuss it here:
    http://sweetopia.net/2012/03/easter-bunny-lamb-decorated-cookies/

    Check out the comment section too. :)

  7. valerie heinzen
    March 22, 2013 at 9:56 pm | Permalink
    170

    I just read the FAQ’s and got lots of valuable info. However, I still have one royal icing question. I will be making decorated cookies for a rehearsal dinner that will occur outside at the end of July in Wisconsin. It’s likely to be hot and humid. How long do you think the cookies could be left sitting out before the royal icing starts to get sticky? Is it even reasonable to serve this type of cookie outside in the summer?
    Thanks so much! I just discovered you last week and I’ve already learned a lot! Your videos are great!

  8. March 22, 2013 at 10:56 pm | Permalink
    171

    Hi @ valerie heinzen: I hate to say it, but I would stay away from decorated cookies if they’re going to be outside on a hot and humid day. If they were for the dinner but kept in a cool, dry area (inside) and handed out as a favour near the end or something, that might be better. Another thing to note is that darker icing colors bleed into lighter ones much easier in hot, humid climates. You may have see my posts on that in the FAQ’s. Sorry, I wish I had better news, but heat and humidity really make cookies (desserts) melt. All the best with your planning! :)

  9. Beth
    April 6, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink
    172

    @ marian:
    It’s been fun spending the day with you reading your blog (my husband is from Vancouver, so I enjoy your English spellings) and watching videos. I’ve been decorating cookies for a few years (very much still a novice) and although they are far from what yours look like, my boys, their friends, and the high school students I teach are always impressed. So, onto my question. I’m preparing owls for the high school seniors (just my homeroom, not the entire class). I see that you store the icing in containers and then fill the bags while hanging out. Is that because your going to be decorating cookies that night? Otherwise, it seems the icing would separate in the bags after a few hours. Thanks for the countless questions you’ve answered – I have literally been reading for hours.

  10. April 13, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Permalink
    173

    Hi @ Beth: Aw, that’s so nice to hear – that you’re enjoying it as well! We have a lot in common… high school teachers, decorating cookies… :)
    I’m not sure I’m understanding your question 100%, please let me know either way… I’ll just explain what I do… We make the icing and put it into containers… I make the piping bags at other times… like while I’m watching TV (cut the disposable bag, insert coupler, screw coupler lid back on).

    When I/we decorate we put the icing in the piping bags and decorate right away.The icing does separate over time (see picture above), so it’s best to use the icing in the piping bag right away.

    I hope I’ve answered your question! xo

  11. May 16, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink
    174

    oh great

  12. Sisca Theresia
    May 21, 2013 at 3:44 am | Permalink
    175

    Very detail and informative, love your site

  13. Sisca Theresia
    May 21, 2013 at 3:53 am | Permalink
    176

    Do you have any suggestion for making border line(black line)to the cookies with different color icing, let’s say red? i’m a little bit confused, shall we start with the black line border then fill color we want like we usually drawing, or shall we start with base color then we make a black border line? please kindly suggest thank you

  14. Margaret Groom
    August 18, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink
    178

    I have used ready made coloured (red) icing and erroneously rolled it out in icing sugar. I can’t get rid of the white marks and the royal icing has gone dry. Do you have any tips please?
    Thanks

    • marian
      August 28, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink
      181

      Hi Margaret,
      Do you mean fondant? Royal icing can not generally be rolled out. If it is fondant, a pastry brush to dust off the white, if possible? A lightly dampened paper towel might be another solution. Sorry for the delay – I only found your comment today. All the best!

  15. gloria
    September 10, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Permalink
    182

    hi is there an edible sheet that could be used to do the runouts on so that when storing after time it helps them to hold together and not brake so easily when handled?

    • September 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
      183

      What a great idea! Not that I know of, but maybe trying to pipe them on frosting sheets would be an option. I’m not sure it would make them much sturdier, as frosting sheets are pretty fragile, but another option might be a gelatin sheet. Let me know how it goes!

  16. gloria
    September 17, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink
    184

    Thanks Marian i will try that and see how it goes. not sure when i will get round to it as i have so many ideas going round in my head right now i’m find it hard to know which to tackle first lol but have to make a start somewhere and i guess as this may be the easiest i think i’ll start there. thanks again. if you do find anything else please let me know. xx

  17. gloria
    September 17, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink
    185

    Hi Marian regarding the runouts i just thought what about coating the back of the runout when its dry with edible glue? or would that damage the runout you think? lol i’m really catching at straws here lol

    • marian
      September 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
      186

      Hi Gloria, yes, fortifying with something might help (as long as the RI transfer doesn’t break while trying to fortify ;-)
      I’m thinking with more royal icing might work. Edible glue might damage the transfer a bit, yes.

  18. gloria
    September 18, 2013 at 6:48 am | Permalink
    187

    Thank Marian gonna try the leaf gelatin at the weekend so will get back to you by the end of next week and we’ll see if it has been successful. Have a blessed day love and thanks again.

  19. Stephanie
    October 6, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
    188

    Hello!!
    I am curious about your timeline for making colors in advance. I saw your cookie timeline- but I want to double check: so you make colors and store in yogurt containers, then the next day you mix them up again and put in bags to decorate? And then the following day repeat for details? Also- can you squeeze out unused colors from outline day 1 back into containers and then mix the following day? I’m making cookies for a baby shower on Friday as favors and want to do them in advance. Let me know! Thank you!

    • marian
      November 3, 2013 at 8:23 pm | Permalink
      189

      Hi Stephanie,
      Yes, that’s right to all of the questions!
      xo

  20. roxana
    November 13, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink
    190

    Hi,I have a customer that doesn´t like buttercream, and prefers wipped cream ( I use richs´s whipped topping)and I am thinking of making their company logo with letters made with royal icing , do you think thw whipped cream will damage the letters?

    • marian
      November 14, 2013 at 7:14 am | Permalink
      191

      Hi Roxana,
      Hmmm, that’s a good question. Generally, it’s the grease in the buttercream which works it’s way into the royal icing… Since whipped cream is often 35% fat, that might damage the letters, yes. I’ve never tried it. Do you have a chance to just put some dried royal icing on top of whipped cream and see what happens (at least over a 24 hour period). That may be the best way to tell.

  21. Jenny
    November 24, 2013 at 3:12 am | Permalink
    192

    Hi – thanks for all this info – very helpful! I’m hosting a gingerbread house decorating party for the first time. Everything I’ve read says royal icing is the best to use because it holds so well. Each kid will get their own bag of white frosting. It sounds like it’d be simplest to just make the frosting & bag it just before the party starts…is that correct? Also, because these are just little kids and I don’t have a lot of tips, is there any reason they can’t just use ziplocs with the corner cut off to pipe the royal icing? I know that’s not the most professional, but these are preschoolers :) Thanks for your help!

  22. Terry
    December 19, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Permalink
    194

    LOVE THIS SITE!!!!!

  23. Heather Macomb
    December 26, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Permalink
    195

    How long can I have the cookies at room temp if the frosting is made with pasteurized egg whites? I want to mail them.
    Thank you!

  24. April 28, 2014 at 7:09 pm | Permalink
    197

    Thank you so much for this post! It has been driving me nuts how quickly my RI is separating. I have been debating not putting any extract or corn syrup in with it… do you think that would help at all to keep a more stable icing?

  25. August 18, 2014 at 8:05 pm | Permalink
    198

    Hi Marian .
    I’m wondering how long and where I can store my sugar cookies … I made the icing using real egg whites???

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