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

Posted on January 30th, 2011 in Cupcakes, Icing, Tutorials

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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Happy decorating!

xo,

Marian

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