I’ve had many questions regarding decorated cookies since I began 7-ish years ago, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite decorating tips I’ve learned over time. By no means am I an expert, but I hope you find my top 10 suggestions helpful.
There are so many ways of decorating cookies; you can cover them with fondant, rainbow sprinkles, delicious melted chocolate… I could go on, but one of my favorite ways is to flood a cookie with royal icing (flood icing). To basically cover the cookie with a smooth, glossy, sugary coating; piped in such a way that your icing becomes a design – instant sugar art! My tips today refer to decorating cookies with flood icing.
I’ve got an in-depth tutorial here, which goes over how to flood in detail.
How to Flood Cookies with Royal Icing – Top 10 Tips
1. Use a good icing recipe. See here for one of my two faves from cake central user Antonia74. Another favourite is from Peggy Porschen’s book Pretty Party Cakes, but won’t post it here due to copyright infringements.
2. One of the most important things I’ve learned about cookie decorating is that if your icing isn’t at the correct consistency or thickness, the experience can be very frustrating. The trick I use to make sure my icing is just right is called the “10 second rule“.
Drag a butter knife through the surface of your royal icing and count to 10. If the icing surface becomes smooth in anywhere between 5-10 seconds, then your icing is ready to use. If it takes longer than approximately 10 seconds, the icing is too thick. Slowly add more water. If your icing surface smoothes over in less than 5-10 seconds, it is too runny. Mix your icing longer or slowly add more sifted icing sugar to thicken.
3. For tip sizes, my favorite tip is #2; it’s great for outlining and filling in. For larger cookies use tip #3 or #4 and for smaller cookies use tip #1.
4. Seal the top end of your piping bag closed with an elastic band for less mess.
5. Practice piping on your work surface or parchment paper before you begin your cookies, so that your hand gets the feel of it. I usually find I need a few minutes of playing around before my piping improves. Decorate your least favorite cookies or extra cookies first; that way if you make a mistake it won’t matter as much!
6. When you’re outlining the cookie, about a centimeter in begin lifting the piping bag away from the cookie, so that the icing just falls onto the surface. You’ll be able to control your piping easier that way.
7. If your hand is shaky, rest your arm on the edge of your work surface while decorating.
8. After you’ve finished applying the icing to the cookie, shake it gently to help settle the bumps if there are any.
9. If you notice any small air bubbles, pop them with a toothpick or pin right away. If you don’t, the air bubble usually pops on it’s own and leaves a hole in your icing. (See acorn which squirrel is holding in the image above).
10. Let your cookies dry for at least 24 hours before you package them. They won’t get stale as the icing acts as a sealant for freshness.
These are just a few of my favorite tips which would have helped alleviate some frustration had I known them when I first began decorating cookies. If you have any tips which you’d like to share you’re welcome to leave a comment below.
Happy cookie decorating!
p.s. In case you missed it, f you’d like a tutorial on how to make the owl cookies, you can find it here.
They look fantastic!
I’m hosting a woodland animal themed baby shower this weekend, and would love to attempt these. Where can I find the patterns for the animals?
First off, you are absolutely awesome.
I am such a fan, thank you so much for sharing so much, so precisely and so patiently!
I have a question, or two!
A. To do the owl cookies, did you let the brown dry first then pipe on the blue bellies and the eyes?
B. Can I use ziploc bags with nozzles inserted in the corners, or do I absolutely need piping bags?
C. Can I halve your royal icing recipe just to see how I get on before committing to a full batch?
Thanks so much!
Marian (Sweetopia) says
OH, those cookies would be so cute, @ Tirendezvous! I would follow my owl cookie tutorial (you can find it in the tutorial section), for similar decorating steps. In terms of cookie shapes, I’d do them on circles or rectangles, whichever fits better. Good luck!
HI @ Mary Lynn: I’m pretty tall too (almost 5’9), and I actually sit and decorate, and definitely rest my arm/wrist on the table while I’m decorating. My hands are very shaky as well. Maybe watching some of my youtube videos may help you?
My absolute pleasure, @ Caty Silhan!
@ Kelly: I don’t have the stickers any more; maybe print this page to help? Sorry I don’t have a better solution.
Hi @ Alatal:
A: There’s a tutorial on him in the tutorial section.
B: Yes, you can use them, but they pop easily, soooo, I don’t recommend it.
C: Absolutely you can halve the recipe.
Hi Sweetopia. I just LOVE your web-site. I’ve done cupcakes for years and thought I would try cookies this year. Thanks for all your helpful tips and tutorials. 2 quick questions, if you would have the time for a quick response: How do you keep your flood icing and outline icing the same color (as I added water to flood, I lost the color). Also, How do you ‘cover-up’ the outline with flood? You can always see mine and I can’t in any of yours. Thanks again for this blog!
Hi @ Katy: Absolutely! If you look on my YouTube channel (little yellow YouTube circle on the top right of the site), you’ll find a video on how I flood my cookies; that will answer your questions. Let me know if you have any more, no problem. xo
p.s. @ Katy: How to outline and flood is the video which you should watch for your questions. 😉
Hye, one question, wouldnt the cookies be soggy if you left it out in the open to dry the icing? and another thing, im living in malaysia, and the weather is quite hot here. Is it ok to leave it out overnight in an airconditioned room?
Hi @ Misa: Absolutely, I recommend an air conditioner and de-humidifier if you life in a humid climate. These posts will be worthwhile for you to read as well:
All the best!
I’m having a problem keeping the icing “glossy” once it dries. Mine is drying very dull. Any suggestions on what I can do to keep more of a shine to the icing when it dries?
Hi @ Julie: Many of my cookies which look glossy are photographed while they are wet. You can find an experiment on getting glossy icing in this post here, if you like:
All the best!
your site is awesome..uve spent alot of time sharing your gifted talent..i love royal icing but im not too fond of its sugar content..so i was wondering if you knew of an icing that will harden like royal icing but either be low in sugar or sugar-free…can you make icing from yogurt powder that will harden? if so how? any kind of icing that will harden like royal icing but not made from just confectioners sugar…my grandmas are diabetic…so i wanted to do something they could enjoy without being too bad..thanks so much for your time & work..great site..will share!
Hi @ holly: The yogurt powder sounds like a good idea, but I’ve never tried it, so can’t help, sorry! Maybe experiment a little and see what happens? If I hear of anything in the meantime, I’ll come back and share. If you try it out, I’d love to hear how it goes!
Its great site.. lots of helpful information.
i have a really really depressing moment here…everytime i tried to decorate my cookies with royal icing they were always went soggy, do u know why? how do u leave cookies to dry ? do u put it in a container? what about if u make them lots?
Any suggestion would be great
Marian (Sweetopia) says
Hi @ Febriani: Yes, this video and post should help:
If you have more questions or issues with your cookies after watching the video, please don’t hesitate to come back to let me know. xo
Hello, could you please info me on how to leave your icing glossy once dried on biscuit, cause mine after it dries, looks dull.
I use just egg white, icing sugar and a fewdrops of lemon juice.
Marian (Sweetopia) says
Hello @ Rosalena: Please feel free to check out this post:
… where I talk about shiny royal icing. xo
I’ve been decorating cookies like an obsessed overachiever! There is one thing that I can’t seem to achieve though…. Looking at your owl cookie and his blue center, how do you get the outline to disappear? Thanks so much in advance. I have cookies to decorate tomorrow and I really would love to not see every outline a create on them.
Marian (Sweetopia) says
Hi @ Jamie: Ha ha, sounds like me too! 😉 Have you seen how I outline and fill my cookies in, in my videos? If you haven’t, look on the top right hand side of the blog where you see the Facebook, Twitter etc. buttons. The yellow one is for YouTube; I show how I outline and fill in so as not to get the ‘outline’. Let me know if you have questions. xo
<love your sight. I love using Anotinio's icing recipe. I would love to know how yur pit the pictures of the owls on there. Love them
<love your sight. I love using Anotinio's icing recipe. I would love to know how you put the pictures of the owls on there. Love them
Marian (Sweetopia) says
HI @ Barbara: Do you mean these ones? https://sweetopia.net/2011/07/how-to-make-decorated-owl-cookies/
zelia soares says
beautiful!!!i am love!!!
Hi Marian , I’m a total beginner at this and was wondering when you
Decorate with royal icing do you do one part then let it dry over night then do
The other part. For instance for the owl cookies You would do the base
First key it dry then do the owl the next day. But for the owl do you
Make the base shape then let it dry and do the eyes and belly the
Next day? I guess what trying to find out is that if you do everything
Together do the colors run into each other n get messy?
Marian (Sweetopia) says
Hi @ Meenal: Here is the tutorial for you. xo
Hello! your website is great!
I will be decorating 700 cookies and outlining and filling seems like a lot more work. If I dip the cookie in the icing will that work just as well?
Hi @ alessandra: Yes, you’ll have to really thin the royal icing, and do a shape that’s fairly easy to cover, but it can be done. It may not look as crisp as piping as well. Good luck! That’s a lot of cookies!
What is your YouTube channel
Hi @ Eva: If you go to the top of the site, on the right hand side you will see circles of different colors. All those respresent different social media channels. Yellow is my YouTube page.
hi marian .. perhaps more often answered before, but I will have escaped my eye. What’s the point of this is so smooth and shiny? which you use the paint. Thank you..
On your Eiffel Tower cookies, it looks as if you used a projector to trace/pipe the lines on your cookie. Is this right? And if so, what kind of projector did u use? Thanks!
Hello @ beginner: I’m sorry, I’m not sure I understand your question.
Hi @ Terese: Yes, here is a post on the projector;
what cookie recipie and royal icing recipe are you using. It is perfect!
@ Toi: this is my sugar cookie with royal icing (both are in the recipe section).
Alicia Lavis says
The step-by-step instructions are really easy to follow. Thanks for sharing.
when I let decorated cookies to dry the cooky seemed soaked.what shall i do it.
Kathy Monington says
I love your ideas for flooding the cookies. Now, my next question is, What recipe do I use for piping 3-D art on my cookies? Please reply asap as I’m surrounded by dozens of iced cookies that look a little naked!!
Thanks, @ Alicia Lavis!
Do you live in a humid area, @ Sammani? Humidity causes problems with drying and even spots on cookies. The solutions are in these posts for you:
and this one:
Hi @ Kathy Monington: Do you mean ideas like this? https://sweetopia.net/2012/12/christmas-tree-cookie-tutorial-holiday-cookie-exchange/
hi , royal icing or frosting is more suitable to decorate cookies and smooth?
which one is better?
Your cookies look fantastic! I’m just getting back into wanting to decorate cakes/cookies and this tutorial popped up. One question, do you let the icing dry in between the flooding coat and the decorating?
Hi! I love your site!! My question is if you know why when im decorating details with tip #1 ( sometimes with #2 too ) it seems the icing to get stock, it doesnt comes out, i have to pinch the tip with a needle to let it out but it happens again! Is air inside the pipe? Or why does that happens??
I hope i make myself understood jaja
Thank u very much!!
I have been so inspired by you,your creations are beautiful, I would love to be able to do this. your royal icing recipes do you have a conversion for the recipe in cups please let me know.
Thank you so much
I decorate cookies with royal icing and fondant. Sometimes my royal icing bleeds into adjacent colors. How can I fix? I do allow at least 12 hours between colors
Hi @ Brandi: I do let the outline dry if I want it to look/be distinct from the flooding. Most of the time, I don’t though… I outline and fill in right away. You can see how I do it in my videos (youtube page or click on videos in the category section above).
Hi @ Laura, yes it’s frustrating! Here is a post for you; https://sweetopia.net/2010/03/how-to-prevent-your-tips-from-clogging-and-what-to-do-if-it-happens-top-10-tips/
Hi @ Emily: Absolutely, here are some posts for you;
What does it mean if you are outlining and your icing keeps breaking. (Meaning I don’t have a continuous line outlining my cookie. Too thick? Too thin?)
HI @ Jen: It can mean you’re pulling too much, regardless of consistency. Would you be able to share a photo of your piping icing somewhere? (facebook or email?) It can break and curl if it’s too thick but can break if runny as well, if you’re pulling a bit too much.
Hi @ marian: I have never taken any pictures, but I am attempting more cookies for a party this weekend, so I will take some pictures if I have the issue again!! Thanks so much for responding! Excited to try again!
Hi Marian! After I make the royal icing, and before I put any coloring in it, can I store it in a bowl inside the refrigerator overnight and then put coloring in it?
Have fun decorating @ Jen!
Here is a post for you, @ Cris: https://sweetopia.net/2011/01/how-do-you-store-royal-icing-and-how-long-can-you-keep-it/