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.
Your cookies are beautiful. I am a fondant cookie girl, but want to try flooding with royal icing! Jeri
Yay! I’d like to try more fondant cookies btw. Happy holidays!
So after you’ve outlined and flooded your cookie, and allowed it to dry, in order to pipe on details you need a stiffer icing. At this point do you dump your thinned royal icing back into the mixer and add more sugar?
Most of the time, I use the same icing and a smaller piping tip. If I do need more detail, I’ll stiffen the icing by putting the approx. amount I need in a bowl, and just add icing sugar and mix well.
I was wondering what kind of piping bags you use for this!
Here is a video with all my favorite decorating tools:
How long do you let the royal icing dry before applying a new color on top, i.e., a dress background red with gold flowers, outline and ribbons on top of the red dress?
Kamer Yıldız says
Your icing seems glossy.. But mine seems pale when they are dried. What can cause this? Do you have any suggestion?
Sure, I discuss the issue near the bottom of this post:
Hi Marian! I usually let my no decorated cookies dry for a day before I decorate them. Have you decorated the same day as you bake? I don’t have time to let them dry out, do you think this will affect anything?
I have a question idk it’s posted here somewhere, 1st I love your site and it’s been very helpful for me I start cookies decoration just couple of month ago and your tips, recipe and tutorials they’re been vey helpful thanks…Now my question is how can I give a pearl color to the icing?
Dania, You can buy pearl powder at Michaels. They also have a pearl “spray paint” that you can spray on cookies etc. I have used it on cupcakes for a wedding and they turned out beautifully.
Cheryl Hancock says
Can you please give me a tip -when making small dots on cookies-they always seem to get little points on the dots or tips-is my icing too thick?
You have to push slightly in before you remove the piping bag, that way it won’t let a tip.
Ellon St. Croix says
Love your site! Do you thin your royal out at all after making the outline? Or do you switch tips? It seems like it would take a long time to fill in the outline with the small tip. Thanks!
I have been frosting both Shortbread and Sugar Cookies using Royal Icing and noticed after they are dried, the cookie starts to soften beginning at the sides. Can you tell me why this happens and how to correct this problem . Thank you
I have the same question and don’t know why.
The cookies are soft because of the water in your icing. You can try to dry them in a dehydrator, so the water doesn’t soak into the cookie while sitting out to dry. My guess is you are in an area with high humidity? If so the longer the cookie sits to dry the more the water transfers to the cookie and not the air.
Another thing would be to use less icing… try a smaller tip to outline and flood with just enough to cover nicely. This way you lessen the amount of liquid soaking into the cookie and and lessen drying time, again to improve texture.
very useful tips thanks for that.
I have a problem with the smallest tip, it doesn’t get the icing out at all, can you tell me why’s that happening?
And can you tell us how much time we leave it to dry before filling the surface?
This post should help you with the tips clogging issue:
For your second question, perhaps watching these videos under the title “Cookie Decorating Basics” will answer your decorating questions. Please let me know if you have any more questions and happy decorating!
Your blog has inspired me to try a little cookie decoration, and it is not as hard as it seems.
Still a long way untill I can make these types of design, but as long as I keep trying, I guess it will get better!
Absolutely, it will get easier! Have fun!
Can you freeze decorated cookies?
Here is my experience with it:
Definitely check out the comment section too; there’s lots of helpful advice.
Let me just start by saying I absolutely love your site! My question is..and forgive me if you’ve answered it before…how thick do you roll and cut your cookies??
Do you pipe AND flood with 10 second icing???
Yes. I have YouTube videos which you may find helpful.
In your supply list you suggest a supply called a J cloth. I don’t know what this might be. I have been baking for many years. I have never seen such a wonderful tutorial on frosting cookies. This Christmas my cookies will be gorgeous thanks to you.
Marian (Sweetopia) says
Thanks Maureen! A j-cloth is a cloth or cloths found in the cleaning aisle at Walmart or any big box store, which are usually pink, blue or yellow, and are not cloth material persay… they’re quite thin, somewhat disposable cleaning cloths I guess, although you can wash them a few times before they disintegrate.
Dyan Barrett says
My mother used to make the icing with boiled sugar and whipped egg whites and the cakes she made were to die for. Ive tried that icing three times and all I get is flat liquid? I had my egg white in soft peeks as it said. I called myself adding the hot sugar liquid the way it said? The recipe said boil sugar until it rapidly bubbles? Im thinking I should have waited for a soft ball stage or what?
Hi! So I just finished my very first batch of royal iced cookies ever. However it was super frustrating. I noticed that my icing hardening very quickly and once I tried to decorate they were too dry. I tried to add more water to see if my ice was too thick but it ended up making my icing slide of the sides. I just have a super hard time with the decorating mainly the icing. Do you think my icing recipe is wacked or is it just not at the right consistency?
I have a cookie bouquet business, so I know a little about royal icing, but am still learning too. My guess is it’s a consistency issue, and perhaps your recipe too. Try using the Wilson royal icing mix, you can find it on the specialty cake decorating section in Wal-Mart. I LOVE it. Good luck.
How do you keep the different colors from bleeding? I make my transfer, let it dry overnight and then flood my cookie. I place the transfer on the cookie, the next day, it starts to bleed. please help!
Have you ever painted your cookies? I use luster dust or something similar and I paint my cookies and I let them dry and they do fine in boxes with tissue paper but if I try to put them in a cellophane bag and seal it they always bleed within a week is there a way to prevent the bleeding of the paint?
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Jenny Peters says
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Becky Ingram says
Please help! Whenever I use royal icing it gets brittle and crunchy and appears dull to the look!! I use a paddle when mixing should I use something different. Am I mixing too long? I love decorating cookies but it just is so frustrating! Please help with any suggestions. Thanks.
Janet Vogt says
I have always Admired the de ration with royal icing . What I am concerned is ,is the frosting hard to the point of crunchy? I usually make 4 batches at one time and frost and freeze. This is with powdered sugar frosting. When I purchased a cookie that was probably a few days old I didn’t like it. This has stopped me from trying the royal frosting. Thank you.