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May 02


How to Color Royal Icing Black

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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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  1. May 2, 2011 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    I love your cookies, those animals are so cute!!

  2. May 2, 2011 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Absolutely adorable, as always! Thanks for the tips!

  3. May 2, 2011 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Thank you! My blacks seem to always come out purple or gray looking, and the one time I created a true ‘black’, it was tacky and never dried properly! I appreciate your tips! 🙂

  4. May 2, 2011 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    The trick with the cocoa powder is to omit some confectioner’s sugar when making the royal and use cocoa powder in it’s place, and to use the dutch processed since it is the lowest in fat and acid (all cocoa powder is relatively low in fat but it is just enough to totally kill your fluff when making meringue or royal if you’re not careful). You’ll have a naturally darker color as a jumping off point, and cocoa powder has a drying effect so it can help combat the ‘tacky’ icing problem too. Do you ever use powdered food coloring? I love using that for black, personally 🙂

  5. Adriana
    May 2, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Hello! Have you ever done royal icing with egg whites and powdered sugar only? without the meringue powder…

  6. May 2, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    These are so incredibly cute! What a great tutorial. My son’s birthday is coming up; I may be brave enough to try making these! Thank you.

  7. May 2, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    So cool! I really need to try making transfers like this. Your cookies are always so adorable!

  8. May 2, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Very beautiful ,love your step by step instructions

  9. May 2, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Hi!Perfect cookies as always in here! I have bought ready mixed icing sugar with cocoa powder and used it for dark colors. In brown you don’t have to add any color if you don’t want to. For the black I add some black color and some liquorice sauce that is black, thick and tastes good. It hasn’t ruin the icing and he colors have been all right after weeks. Even in dark red it has worked.

  10. May 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    I was so looking forward to this post, Marian 🙂
    Great photos, great how-to’s, I think many people might try these..at least transfers etc.. you explained these very well! – and the outcome is amazing.
    Many blessings!!
    oh and good morning 😀

  11. May 2, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Wow. What a simple solution for color-heavy decorations! Also, that lion is the most detailed royal icing transfer I’ve ever seen! Great stuff!

  12. May 2, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Love these animals! So adorable! I am going to try some royal icing transfers this week because I have a sheet cake to make next week for a birthday party. Instead of piping with buttercream, I think trying to make my fish and shark in royal icing might be fun and a little different 😉 We’ll see how they turn out, but thanks as usual for all the great tips! I will once again be using your tip this week, just as you’ve gave it. It’s like you’re reading my mind Marian. Thank YOU!!!

  13. May 2, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    such a great post, thanks for the tips!!

  14. May 2, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    CUTEST ANIMAL cookies EVER!!!

  15. May 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Really good tips Marian. These animal cookies are such cuties. My favorite is the black bear 🙂

  16. Marce776
    May 2, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Great tips! I have never colored icing black, so it’s good to know how you do it! And OMG, the animal cookies are just adobale1

  17. May 2, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    @ Mariah:
    I’ve used the powdered black color but I think it’s just as expensive. However, it doesn’t bleed! I definately use the chocolate icing trick with buttercream. I’ll have to give it a go with the royal icing now! I’ve got an order for chocolate sugar cookies with dark icing comming up. Perfect timing!

  18. May 2, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    AWESOME post, Marian!

  19. Samruddhi
    May 2, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Animal Cookies are adorable…

  20. May 2, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    @ Nilda, @ Stacy Daxe, @ Theresa S.: Thank you! Glad you like the tips!

    @ Mariah: Super; I’ll have to try that! I have tried powdered food coloring and it seemed like it took *a lot* of powder; more so than the gel. What did you find?

    @ Adriana: I have used egg whites and icing sugar (minus the meringue), in the past, for gingerbread houses. Many people who can’t find meringue powder use it and it seems to work well for decorating cookies. It’s all about the consistency.

    @ Rachel {eaternal bliss}, @ Teresa, @ sreelu: Thank you so much!

    @ Heleen: That’s so interesting! I’ve never heard of using licorice sauce! Another thing to try – thank you!

    @ niner from wechooseorganic.com: Thanks and good morning to you!

    @ paddleattachment: Merci!

    @ Nikki: I hope you have fun with them! Would love to see when you’re done, if you’d like to share on my fb page. 🙂

    @ sugarHI Creations, @ sweetsugarbelle, @ Renee (kudso kitchen), @ Marce776, @ bridget {bake at 350}: Thanks so much!

    @ Libberlicious: Thanks for the feedback!

  21. Dena
    May 2, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    I see you use royal icing transfer paper, can you use wax paper too? Just thinking of a cheaper method.

  22. May 2, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely adorable animal cookies! Love them. You always find the best stickers and books to use with your KopyKake. I appreciate you sharing your information and finds and gorgeous decorated cookies!

  23. May 2, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    😐 wow. It’s my first time here and I’m absolutely blown away at your talent. I would never have the patience to create each of those cookies. I love the idea of using a projector sheet and drawing, then transferring, brilliant!

  24. May 2, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Love every one of these animals! I like to work with black royal icing a lot, but I only ever mix black if I’m mixing in cocoa powder. I can’t stand the bitter taste otherwise (Wilton no taste red was just about a miracle for me!). I’ve never had any problems with it… maybe it has to do with the type of cocoa powder you use? I’ve only ever used Dove cocoa powder in my royal icing, and it mixes in beautifully. I only have to use a small amount of black after that!

  25. marian
    May 3, 2011 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    @ Leanne @ Healthful Pursuit: Thank you so much!

    @ Melanie: That’s so good to know! I’ll try using the Dove cocoa powder next time. Thanks for sharing!

  26. Jill
    May 3, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Hi Marian,

    Thank you for sharing your information once again. Your animals are just the cutest. I have a desperate question for you or anyone else out there. I need to cover a cake and 70 small square cakes with brown fondant icing. Please, please help me with how I can colour white fondant brown. I have tried coco but it makes the fondant really dry! We cannot buy ready made brown fondant icing in South Africa!

    • marian
      May 4, 2011 at 1:24 am | Permalink

      HI Jill,
      Same thing, lots of brown food coloring, until you reach your desired shade. Just be careful, if you add lots of color to fondant it breaks it down a bit and makes it tear easier. Try adding cocoa powder to a small piece of fondant and see what happens. Another option is modelling chocolate maybe? Can you experiment with a few small cakes first? Here’s a link for how to make modelling chocolate:

  27. julie bell
    May 3, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    super cute, great job…u are truely AMAZING!! xo

  28. May 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Hey marian..

    I do not know just where I should look, or whether there are others who have asked about it before, but how big is your biscuits in diameter?

    Btw.. I just love you cookies… ♥

    Thx for the great looking cookies.

    • marian
      May 4, 2011 at 1:25 am | Permalink

      Hi Sabina,
      These ones are all different sizes, ranging from about 4-8 cm in diameter.

  29. marian
    May 4, 2011 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    Ooops missed that one- thanks Julie!

  30. May 4, 2011 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    wow i’m not much of a sweets person but this was greattt 🙂

  31. Jill
    May 4, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for your reply Marian. I will try and make the modelling chocolate and see how it turns out! It will definately taste a lot better! Many thanks again! I will keep you updated incase there is anyone else out there with the same problem!


  32. May 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for giving me a chuckle first thing in the morning! These are so much fun and the how to guide is just wonderful. Thank you!!!

  33. May 5, 2011 at 3:11 am | Permalink


    These cookies are just the cutest! And as soon as I get the courage I’m going to try and do transfers. Thanks for sharing!

  34. May 5, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Marian, even with your super amazing tips, I don’t think I can manage cookies that will look this beautiful. If you were closer, I’d just order a batch from you. My daughter would LOVE the animal ones.

  35. May 7, 2011 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    Marian love these cute cookies. Your tutorials are always amazing and so informative
    Wish you a wonderful weekend xo

  36. Ronda
    May 7, 2011 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Your blog is my *favorite* EVER, and it’s past time to tell you that!

    Please don’t ever blog too much, or sell-out, or have give-aways every day, or change. Just keep doing what you are doing.

    The reason I say all this is because all the time; I find myself unsubscribing to blogs who’ve changed so much I don’t even recognize them anymore. I wonder “why did I ever like that blog at all”

    Your blog is always awesome, familiar, sweet, and WELCOME! Don’t ever change. Don’t become a commercial. Don’t lose sight of where you started.

    I’m begging you! Keep up the great work, I am truly a fan.

    p.s. if you ever DO any of those things I listed above (the things I dislike) you don’t do it all the time so it’s cool. I’m not trying to be demanding. I’m just sick of blogs that are only shadows of their original selves.

    Your blog is awesome, I love reading it, I love ALL the tips, and your cookies are THE CUTEST EVER. Enough said? ;=)

  37. marian
    May 7, 2011 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    @ Ramiel: Cool, glad you liked it!

    @ Jill: Hope it goes well! Drop by and give us and update when you get a chance. =)

    @ Brian @ A Thought For Food, @ erin wilhelm, @ Sukaina: So glad to have you drop by, thank you!

    @ Ronda: I love that you shared that with me. I like hearing it straight-up and appreciate honesty! It means a lot to me to hear those words from you; I put a lot of love into Sweetopia (I do love doing it), and it’s nice to see that someone else likes it too.
    Please keep on dropping by (and commenting if you like), and do let me know if I need a ‘check’. xo

  38. Maryam
    May 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    i live in Dubai and we dont have black food coloring .. what should i do?

    • marian
      May 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Can you order on-line from another country? Or, try the cocoa powder option.
      In these comments, there was a lady who mentioned something about using licorice. Scan through and see if she can help you.

  39. Amy M
    May 8, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I’ve started using cocoa powder when making black RI . It definitely cut down a lot on the amount of coloring I needed. I was using Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder, which I think is dutch processed like someone mentioned before. It got me to a light- to mid- brown coloring before I started adding black.


    The chcholately taste was very light, but my friends enjoyed it. The time before that when I needed black, it was just for a small bit of detailing after I was done with all my colors, so I just mixed the remains for the rest of my colors to get a muddy color, then darkened it with black.

  40. May 11, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Marian, I need half a bottle of black
    Wilton whenever and feel extremely irritated
    I look forward to get the black of amerikolor!
    Thanks for your tips!

    • marian
      May 11, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      Hi Maria! I know, you need to use A LOT! Same with Americolor though – need to use quite a bit. I just like it because it seems to bleed less!

  41. michelle
    May 12, 2011 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Hi,I love the site! Your tutorials are so informative. Thank you! I was just wondering,my biggest problem is red. Everytime I used it, it turns pink. I use Americolor, but I am not sure what I am doing wrong!

    • marian
      May 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      Hi Michelle, it’s he same issue as with black, you have to use a TON of coloring! =(

  42. May 16, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Oh my goodness! I just submitted some critter cookies for the sweet of the week and had also made a snake…similar to yours and had never even seen your snake!!! I found the snake image somewhere on etsy and tried to replicate it as a cookie. Mine is on my website…www.cookieconstruction.blogspot.com….. but I like yours soooo much better!!! Love all of your creations!

  43. Kimmie
    May 30, 2011 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    Is that the bear that chased you in the woods?

  44. Little Flower Bakery
    June 12, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I love these cookies! They’re just so cheerful! The colors you used for the background are fabulous! Can you tell me how you got these vibrant colors? Are they Americolors? I have the hardest time getting blues to turn out the way I want them and these are perfect!

  45. marian
    June 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    @ Kimmie: Ha ha funny girl! Thought it was a bear in the distance… it was a huge tree stump. Thank goodness! lol

    @ Little Flower Bakery: I used Americolor, yes! =)

  46. Little Flower Bakery
    June 13, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    AWESOME! Thank you!

  47. June 18, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Have followed you for a long time and have learned so much from you. Thanks! I watched your video link to bagging icing and have a quick tip that I have been doing for years. It just made sense to me. I fill the bag as you do. I then use a bench scraper at a 45 degree angle to the tip and push all of the icing to the tip. All of the bubbles are squeezed out! Then I make the icing straight across. I fold the bag and use a binder clip. It is nice and tidy and ready to go. I think your students would love to use their bags this way. I can send you a picture if you can’t picture what I am describing 😉

  48. Heather
    June 23, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I’ve used an entire bottle of Winton’s brown and it looks like baby poop. I need the brown to be a darker brown – after reading all these posts, it sounds like cocoa powder will help deepen it? Should I remake the RI and toss the one I have in the fridge? Or add the cocoa powder to it? I’m needing this by the weekend so I’m hoping all you experts out there can help…thank you!!!

    • marian
      June 23, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      No problem at all Heather; add tiny bits of black until you’re happy with the shade.
      I also sometimes look at a colour wheel and try and figure out by looking at it what colour I need to add to make it more or less of _________ (whatever you want goes in there).
      To find a colour wheel just google ‘color wheel’ under google images and use a more detailed one to help you out.

      Good luck and let us know how it goes.

  49. July 6, 2011 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    Hi, I have just been looking through this posting and I have had lots of success with this method of tinting my royal icing and flow icing (I use a modified King Arthur Flour recipe for my flooding icing). We have learned to measure icings exactly (we are still working on a formula book for our business) and I am happy to share my findings with you. We have found that a piping bag needs 130 grams of RI to be comfortable to work with. To make black royal icing, we use 5 grams of sifted cocoa powder and 5 grams of Americolor super black for the 130 grams of RI. If it is too dry, we carefully add a tiny bit of water to make it pipe better. The same formula works for chocolate brown. The only difference is that you substitute Americolor chocolate brown for the super black. I’m sorry that I don’t know the conversions for grams to teaspoons and cups but hopefully this will help.

    • marian
      July 6, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Thanks SO much Nancy for sharing!!

  50. Anika
    September 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Hi Marian,

    Thanks for keeping up such an inspiring and helpful site! You’re very generous with your time and knowledge.

    I was wondering: my RI tends to dry to a matte finish, but the RI in your dried cookie photos seems pretty shiny. Do you ever add corn syrup to Antonia74’s recipe and how does that work out?

    Also, Americolor makes Red Red and Super Red — do you have a preference? (e.g. like your marbled Christmas ornaments or the Royal Wedding crown cookies)

    Thank you!

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