How to Color Royal Icing Black

Posted on May 2nd, 2011 in Decorated Cookies, Icing, Tutorials

Hi there! Hope you had a great weekend! Besides enjoying some of the Saturday sunshine, I finished some animal cookies that our neighbourhood’s wee ones were happy to devour.  I also made these for you, because coloring icing black may be something you struggle with…

The good news is that it’s easy to do, the not so good news is that you need a lot of coloring.

Which means that the taste of black icing (along with other deep colors such as red and deep brown), can be a bit bitter.  Wilton makes a no taste red, however, I like using Americolor food gel colors because I seem to have less issues with icing bleeding. (For a post on bleeding click here).

If I’m not using too much of said bitter colour ;-)  I don’t worry about the taste, but for cookies with a lot of black, like the bear and toucan here, I decided to make them with transfers (royal icing decorations). I lightly iced them to the cookies, so that they could easily be pulled off.

So, to begin, to tint your icing a deep, dark shade, you’ll need:

Items You’ll Need:

  • Royal Icing (for a recipe click here)
  • Black Food Gel Coloring, 4.5 oz/128g (I like Americolor and I buy the large container because I use so much)
  • Spoon/Spatula
  • Measuring Cup & Measuring Spoons (optional)


How to Make Your Icing Black

  • For approximately 1/3 of a cup of icing (80 mL or 3 fluid ounces), add one Tablespoon (15 mL), of black food gel.

  • Note: I have gotten used to how much black food gel to add to my icing, so never measure, however to give you an idea, I’ve given you one example of measurements.
  • If you are making more, or less icing, just add food gel until you’re happy with the shade.

  • Stir until all the color is incorporated

  • It should be noted that the icing color slightly deepens with time.  You can add a little less coloring if you’re concerned about using so much (expensive), and let it sit overnight.  Check the color the next day and then decide if you’d like to add a little more or not.

And that’s basically it!


Some other options:

  • If you are low on black coloring, you can use another deep shade, such as brown or burgundy, to help darken the icing.

  • Some people like to add cocoa powder to their icing to help darken the base (and it makes the icing taste good too!).  I’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried it.  What was your experience like?  When I tried mixing cocoa powder and brown food gel my icing turned out like this (The cowboy’s shirt – it actually kind of worked out well for the look :) ):

  • Something to watch out for – If you add corn syrup to your royal icing to help give it a slight shine when it’s dry, you might want to omit if for deep colors such as red and black.  That and add a little less water to your icing when you’re thinning it out because of all the extra viscous ‘fluid’ you’re adding in (food gel).


If you’d like to make these animal cookies, here’s a basic visual step-by-step guide:


How to Make Animal Cookies

I should first mention that a detailed cookie decorating tutorial can be found HERE, and some cookie decorating videos can be found on sweetopiautube HERE.

Once you’ve made your cookies and royal icing:

Step One: Outline using a #3 piping tip.

Step 2:  Fill in or flood using the same icing and piping tip.

Step 3: Gently shake the cookie to help the icing smooth over.

Step 4: Let cookie base dry.

(Side view for those of you who ask how full I flood my cookie).

Step 5: Royal Icing Transfers – They’re very fragile so I’d recommend making extra!

Outline with black royal icing using a #2 piping tip.  Let dry.

These shapes are zoo stickers I used with my Kopykake projector.

Step 6: Fill in shapes with royal icing, using a #2 tip.  Let dry and then add small details such as the eyes and nose (#1 tip). Let dry.

Step 7: Gently pick up your transfer and put small dabs of royal icing on the back.  Sometimes I use tweezers to help pick them up.

Step 8: Gently place transfer on your cookie and slightly press down on it to help it adhere.  If you like videos better, you’re welcome to check out this video on making royal icing transfers HERE).


I hope you enjoyed this ‘how-to’. You’re welcome to leave a comment below or on my facebook page here if you’ve got any comments, questions or would like to share some tips of your own!




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