Feb 21


Part 2 – How to Prevent Air Bubbles in Royal Icing

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Little craters in royal icing have always been a bit problematic for me.  There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of information on them out there.

It’s been a bit of an experimental journey, but my main theory was that air in the royal icing was causing the indents.

When it began to dry the icing would settle and air trapped underneath would ‘pop’ open, leaving a little crater.

On the off chance you hadn’t noticed them:

Before I go on, I have to mention that following the tips to avoiding air bubbles is good practice when decorating cookies with royal icing (for tips click here).

There might be something more to these little indents in the icing though.  The only thing I can’t figure out is why it usually happens in smaller flooded areas. I’m no scientist, but guess there must be some physical/chemical reason behind it.


I emailed the extremely talented Cookie Swap author Julia Usher, just before I posted my Valentine cookies, in the hopes of finding the definitive answer.  Here is her reply:

… Funny you should ask about the crater issue – that’s one problem with icing that I haven’t figured out how to reliably correct. I have most trouble with it when, as you said, trying to flood a particularly small area.  I actually don’t think it’s an issue of air bubbles, though, but one of surface tension. When wet, the icing looks fine; but as it dries, more surface tension and pressure on the drying skin causes the icing to sort of collapse into itself. The smaller the area, the more concentrated the surface tension – if you will – and the more likely the icing is to collapse. That’s my theory anyway. I can sometimes minimize the cratering effect by thinning the icing and applying less – using a toothpick to spread a smaller amount within the same area. The more I heavily flood a small area, the more it seems to collapse. If you come up with a better solution, let me know!!


So, to experiment, when making these decorated Easter cookies I filled many areas with a little less icing.

The beak, because of its small size, would be a typical place where a hole might occur.

 No craters!  Hurray!  Thank you Julia!

This is going to sound ungrateful, and I don’t mean it to be!  I’m just thinking more experimentation might be in order because I still prefer the look of a ‘full’ flooded cookie.


Since I last posted about how to prevent air bubbles some feedback was also provided by Noelle and Nancy in the comment section of the Valentine post, who seem to be thinking somewhat along the same lines as Julia.

Besides using less icing to fill in an area here’s what Noelle offered as a solution:

… My mentor finally decided that it helped to use a hand mixer on the royal icing that was being used in the small space. She would whip it for 5-10 minutes and use it immediately. She swore that it cuts down on the holes but I could never really tell a difference.

I recently tried a royal icing recipe out of one of the Cookie Craft books and it used lemon juice for the flavoring. I did not get any bubbles like these when I used it. It had a really nice flavor too, but I noticed that it separates much more quickly than traditional royal icing. I wonder if there’s something with the lemon juice that reduced the incidence of bubbles? Anyone else have a similar experience with that?

Interesting!  In my response I wondered if the acidity of the lemon and/or the amount of liquid in the icing had anything to do with it.


I’d also like to know why the craters occcur in some areas covered with a thick layer of royal icing and not others?


Lots of ideas and questions.  It would be great to hear your feedback on this issue.  What do you think?  Has anyone else tried the tips mentioned here with success?  Any new ideas, theories or information to build on what we have here?  Would love to hear from you in the comment section!


Just a side note for you too… I’m happy to share with you that Julia Usher of Cookie Swap will be sponsoring a giveaway for her book on Sweetopia!  That’s coming soon.  🙂


I usually get emails regarding how to make cookies I post (if I haven’t explained it), so for anyone interested in a visual guide on making these Easter cookies, below are some step-by-step pictures:


Easter Cookies – Decorating Steps

If you’d like to make these, you’ll need:

1.  Sugar Cookie Recipe

2.  Royal Icing Recipe

4.  Decorating Bag/Piping Bag – (I use disposables which can be washed and re-used)

5.  Couplers

6.  Decorating Tips (#’s 14)

7.  Food Gel Coloring


For an in-depth Cookie Decorating Tutorial see here, and for my Top 10 Decorating Tips see here.


This is the order in which I piped the details of each cookie:

1.  Base of Royal Icing


2.  Outline Shapes

Of course I made these using a Kopykake Projectorand some cute Easter stickers.  You can freehand if you’re able to.

These are how the outlines turned out:

3.  Flood Cookie



4.  Bag and ribbon




Hoppy decorating!



p.s.  Thank you for your emails; I love hearing from you!  I’m a little behind though; if you’re waiting for a response I haven’t forgotten you and will reply soon.

p.s.s.  I dusted the Easter bunny ears and cheeks using a paintbrush and pink luster dust

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  1. January 10, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Tony, that is wonderful! *Thank you* for sharing all those valuable tips!
    I’d love to see some of your work! Please feel free to share a link here,on my Facebook page, or elsewhere on social media!

  2. Darlene
    January 10, 2014 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Tony for your suggestions. I printed it so I can refer back to it. Marian, my question is how do you get cute dimples in your royal icing deliberately? Like for example in hands and feet. It is a piping technique I would love to learn. Definitely want to avoid the creators or when your royal icing collapse on you. All that hard work then you get these holes. One technique I learned off of a class I took was when flooding to do a side to side motion and with each swipe always connect your icing to previous swipe so no air pockets form. It makes a world of difference in the end result….smooth. Doing small areas is more difficult. One cookie blogger said humidity can contribute to the collapsing of your royal icing and get those unslightly holes. Also, Tony have you ever heard of using a hot air gun on your finished cookie. One blogger said it helped with her being able to finish cookies faster. Less bleeding with icing and the such.
    Thank You for all the helpful information and hope I was able to contribute some!!

  3. Sophie white
    October 19, 2014 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    I am having a hard time finding a solution to my current problem. After I flood my cookies, the icing forms these little bubbles. When I try to pop them, it leaves a small peak from the tip of the needle and more form as the cookie begins to dry. I try to pop what I can, but they keep forming throughout the drying process and it looks horrible. I have let the icing sit to allow bubbles to form before I begin flooding and rubbed the bag. I stir in water and colors very gently. I’ve literally done everything to prevent this, yet it continues. If you have any suggestions to prevent this from happening, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Thank you,
    Sophie White

  4. julia
    March 18, 2015 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Craters are making me wanna rip my hair out… 🙁 I find it interesting that most people say to make the icing thicker to avoid craters, while Julia Usher says to make it thinner… I have been wondering if the rigidity of the thicker icing makes it seem full when it’s applied, but then as it dries it falls into place, forming a crater. If it were thinner, as Julia says, it would fall into place, filling the area sooner, and not form a crater later as it dries.
    I just made some anchors on round cookies for a shower, too late to remake, every single one has a tragic and huge, deep crater. I’m mortified. I need a way to cover it up… but, alas, too late. Next time I’m going thinner, as this time I made it thick, like over 25 seconds…
    I appreciate your help for all of us newbies! Thanks for sharing so much of your knowledge.

  5. Rosalba Gonzalez
    December 20, 2015 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you guys!! I thought i was the only one getting this annoying craters on my cookies, i thought it was because i dont have as much experience decorating cookies like you, and obviously it happens in small areas too, and i discovered like Julia did, that if i put less amount of icing it dries perfect, but as you say, it looks better a little puffy.
    Anyway, i use lemmon in my royal icing recipe since always, and for me it hasn’t change the fact that i still get craters, but i agree that when you keep it longer in the fridge, it separates, but i just whipp it again with the mixer and voilá!!
    (By the way, sorry if i spell/write something wrong, english is not my first language)
    Thanks and hi from México.

  6. March 11, 2017 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    The collapse problem used to prevent me from doing any bead or small areas flooding. What saved me was a little culinary dehydrator. It drys the icing much faster and I don’t get craters at all!!! I did some research before buying it, and saw people with really expensive dehydrators, but mine is the cheapest I could find ( and afford at the time) and it’s my icing best friend!!!

    • Robin Lapin
      March 21, 2017 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Ana! I just did several cookies all with pits so I’m getting a dehydrator now!

  7. Amy Q
    April 20, 2017 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    Just curious, what recipe is everyone using that is getting air bubbles? I have always used Alton Brown’s recipe which simply called for egg whites and powdered sugar. I never had a sunken spot or collapsed hole. I just recently switched to a merengue powder recipe and the texture and air bubbles, sunken spots and collapsing are driving me crazy! I think I’m going to go back to my old recipe.

  8. June 25, 2017 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Hello Marian! This is quite an old thread but as i’m comfronted with royal icing crateras, i’m all into tips and tricks! It would be so good to finally know what is the cause!

    Another experiment i made was with cookie that had been floded, dried and i was about to add details. I had a 2 day old dried based cookie and a few hours old dried based one as well. I noticed that there were wayyyy more criteras on the very dry one. as if because all the humidity in the background was gone it tried to suck all of the new icing’s one. as for the few hours dried cookies, since it was still a tiny bit wet, both layers kind of dried together, causing way less, and i would even say even no, criteras.

    since this happend i try to decorate every step a bit quicker but as we all know, cookie decorating can be very long (especially when you need to make 300-400 a week!) Sometime you have no choice but to wait a whole night or a few days in between steps, so i haven’t been able to work it out everytime!

    It might be another path toward fiding the answer to this mystery phenomenon!

    Love your work!

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