Jan 30

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How do you store {Royal Icing} and how long can you keep it?

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cupcake-tier-for-valentines-day

I had lots of leftover royal icing from my last Valentine’s cupcakes, so I decided to make some more royal icing decorations using these Martha Stewart Valentine stickers as my design.

As I was making these I recieved an email from Bianca, asking me how long I keep the royal icing in the piping bag and how long I keep it in storage.

She’s one of many who’ve asked, so I thought I’d share the info. here.

So how long can one keep royal icing?

Royal Icing:

Before I answer that question, a little about royal icing.

Royal icing is made using either raw egg-whites (traditional), or using dried egg whites or meringue powder.

Although I have not heard of any documented cases of food-borne illness occurring due to eating traditional royal icing (made with egg whites), there is still a possibility that bacteria such as salmonella can be present in anything made with raw eggs.  Although many would not be affected by the bacteria, the very young, elderly, pregnant women and those with weaker immune systems might be.

You could use pasteurized egg whites found in cartons at the grocery store, but I’ve found that the icing doesn’t whip up as nicely using them.

Safest and most effective for cookie decorating in my experience has been royal icing made with meringue powderI’ll be referring to royal icing made with meringue powder from here on in. All of the following information also applies to both tinted and white icing.

*

What is Meringue Powder?

*Meringue powder is a fine, white powder made with pasteurized dried egg whites, sugar and gum; used to replace fresh egg whites when making icings and meringues. (*The Prentice Hall Essentials Dictionary of Culinary Arts, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008).  It usually includes vanilla flavouring and is not usually sold in grocery stores but can be found in bulk food stores, baking supply stores or on the internet.

So now that that’s covered:

*

How long can one keep royal icing?

Freshest is always best of course, but you can keep your icing for a week or even up to two.

The longer it sits though, the more time it has to separate.

The water and icing sugar separate; after about a week you’ll have to really mix it up again to use it, and it may be difficult to make sure it’s perfectly smooth.  -The liquid pools a bit on the surface, leaving the bottom of the container with dry icing.

If you do end up keeping your icing for a few days or more, I’d recommend putting it back in your mixer quickly before you use it, to try and ensure all ‘lumps’ are out.  You may also have to add icing sugar to help thicken it, or a little bit of water to thin it out.  Whether or not you’ll have to add icing sugar or water depends on a few factors:

Adding icing sugar – Especially if you’re in a humid environment the icing may have absorbed humidity in the air.  (Even if it’s in an air-tight container).

Adding water – Mixing the icing really well (especially with a mixer), tends to add volume/air, and thickens it up a bit.  It is necessary to mix it really well to get the lumps out though.

*

 

So how long can one keep royal icing in the (piping) bag?

The icing sugar (powdered sugar), and water in the icing begin to separate over time, so if you haven’t used your piping bags for a few hours, you’ll start to see this happen.  How fast it separates depends on how runny your icing is.  The runnier it is, the faster it will separate.  See pic below for example.

You can try and knead the bag a little bit to help the icing combine together again, but it won’t be as effective as taking the icing out of the bag and re-mixing it with a spoon or spatula etc.

If you use the icing that has been sitting in your piping bag for a period of time, you’ll end up with icing that comes out in little pools of water and icing sugar. (See pic below).

Where do you store royal icing?

Icing made with raw egg whites needs to be kept in the fridge, however, icing made with meringue powder can be kept at room temperature.  I store mine in air-tight or re-usable yoghurt containers. (Pic below; the dollop of icing on top makes it easy for me to see what color is inside).

To ensure against any crusting, place saran wrap (plastic wrap), on the surface of the icing as well.  If some of it has crusted over (if you’ve forgotten to put the lid on the container for example), scoop those bits out; they can’t be used.

How long do royal icing decorations last?

Once the royal icing has dried, the decorations last indefinitley!  (forever lol).  They don’t spoil but must be stored in a cool, dry place, in an air-tight container.  Besides humidity, the only thing to watch out for is breakage.  They are fragile and should be stored between parchment paper and bubble wrap inside the air-tight container.

Grease from buttercream, for example, can also affect royal icing over time, but it will take quite a while for the icing to absorb the grease.  After I posted these royal icing {LOVE} decorations (below), there were a few questions about grease affecting the royal icing in the comment section.

Since I’m going to be keeping these cupcakes in a display case at school to show students an example of what they will be learning how to make when the new semester begins in a few weeks, I’ll be able to keep tabs on the progress.

So far I’ve had the royal icing toppers in a cupcake for 2 days and there’s no dissolving, but the grease has seeped into the icing.  See pic below with today’s date on the phone.  😉

In this case you could only see the discoloration on the back as the front was covered in disco dust.

It’s definitely best not to place your royal icing decorations on your cake, cupcakes etc. too far in advance before you’re serving them.  The grease seeped into these royal icing between 24 – 48 hours of being put on the cupcakes.  Smaller royal icing decorations would probably be affected sooner, especially if the entire surface area is resting on the buttercream.

*

What does royal icing taste like?

Royal icing decorations are edible of course; it’s really just sugar and meringue powder.  It’s delicious if you like the taste of pure icing sugar (lol), but in my humble opinion, pairs nicely with cookies especially.  It dries fairly hard, but when you bite into it the sensation is kind of like a soft, crunchy texture. If you are unsure about using royal icing, I suggest trying it once to see what it’s like. Here is the recipe I use.*

For a brief visual how-to on making these Valentine cupcake toppers, see below.   A more detailed version on making royal icing decorations (also known as transfers, floodwork, runouts etc.), click here.

*

How to make these Valentine royal icing decorations:

1. Pipe base colors with royal icing.

2.  Add icing details once the first layer has dried.

3.  Sprinkle on disco dust if desired.

4.  Using a paintbrush (used only for decorating purposes), brush excess disco dust off.

For a more detailed ‘how-to’, click on the image below:

 

Making the cupcakes:

I’m grateful to Melissa of MyCakeSchool.com for some cool cupcake tips I learned and used after watching some of her videos (Re: paper towel tip – who knew!).  She’s got a ton of great advice on decorating.

I wish I had watched one of the videos before I made my royal icing hearts!  It mentioned making the tail of your hearts longer, so that when you stick it in the cupcake, you can still see the whole heart.

The cupcakes themselves were dipped in light pink sanding sugar and for those of you who are interested in cake stands, these milk glass ones were from ebay.

The vanilla buttecream and vanilla cupcake recipes can be found here.

*

These are just some of the main things I’ve learned about royal icing which have worked for me.  If you have any tips, questions or comments, please drop me a line below and come join me on facebook here.

*

Happy decorating!

xo,

Marian

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258 Comments

  1. marian
    February 19, 2015 at 9:10 am | Permalink
    203

    Hi Linda,
    The cookies will be fine for 3 days. The only time I have a concern is if I would be shipping to a really warm climate.. would hate to have them sit in a really warm postal warehouse and have them melt. Where were you shipping them?

  2. maryam
    March 4, 2015 at 4:57 am | Permalink
    204

    hi! i was wondering, how long does the icing take to dry? please let me know asap. thank you!

  3. laura
    May 31, 2015 at 12:28 pm | Permalink
    205

    i make my royal icing with your recipe and tastes a bit sour, could it be the cream of tarter? can i leave it put?

    thanks,
    Laura

  4. July 16, 2015 at 12:19 am | Permalink
    206

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  5. July 16, 2015 at 8:09 am | Permalink
    207

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  8. Viviana
    December 2, 2015 at 2:22 pm | Permalink
    210

    I made royal icing snow flakes, how can I store them and for how long?
    Thank you!

  9. natalie
    December 4, 2015 at 6:48 am | Permalink
    212

    Good day
    i live in hot humid climate and want to build a ginger bread house. What icing can i make that will be stable enough and keep the biscuit dry enough so it can last?

    Many thanks

  10. Melissa
    December 2, 2016 at 4:01 am | Permalink
    215

    Hello,

    I am in the process of decorating cookies with royal icing. The partially iced cookies have been sitting out for many hours already and since I am not quite finished decorating, what is the best way to store them until I have time to finish? I am concerned the shortbread cookies will become too soft if it stills out longer than it needs to.

    Thanks,
    Melissa

  11. Linda
    March 27, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink
    217

    If i make the royal icing transfers in advance for a large order, how long in advance can I keep them before they spoil. I use pasteurized egg whites to make the icing transfers. So how long do they last once they are made and can I store them in room temp or fridge. Also sometimes i notice that the dark transfers bleed into the white icing that I just flooded on the cookie. Dark transfers like the black or red ones that I apply on top of freshly iced cookies with white or light color icing. I would really really appreciate any tips you can give me because it spoils hours and hours of my work. And as you are a perfectionist like me i don’t like seeing colors run. Any tips on how to prevent running and if corn starch works and how to use it on transfers etc. thanks so much for the tips! You’re the best!

  12. Rachel
    August 13, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink
    218

    This is very helpful for beginners like me..Thank you so much..I am a little bit worried because I add some powdered milk sugar and a little butter to my royal icing because I wanted it to be creamy. Can I still use it to ice cookies?

  13. Max
    February 10, 2018 at 11:26 am | Permalink
    219

    Hi Marian,

    Hope you could give me tips on my royal icing disaster. I’ve tried it using merengue powder and sad to say, it wasn’t great. My royal icing mixture is really taking its time to harden or set, but with what I can see or watch online, it shouldn’t take much time specially if the mixture is thick. I’m a self taught baker as I can’t afford the fee in formal training or lessons, but I really love baking and when I learned royal icing makes a whole lot of difference. And one more thing, my sugar cookies were as hard as rocks…pffshhhh…

    • marian
      February 12, 2018 at 10:15 am | Permalink
      220

      Hi Max,
      Try baking the sugar cookies for a shorter period of time. For the royal icing, try using a dehumidifier in the room you’re working in. Hope that helps.

  14. Luíza
    December 4, 2018 at 7:24 pm | Permalink
    221

    Hello Marian,
    I’m starting out in the art of cookies with royal icing and I’ve come across something boring after the royal icing dries. The white layer turns yellow and the colored ones get darker at the edges. Why does it happen? Is the fat of the cookies that goes into the cover? I’ve already researched it, but found nothing that explains what happens and how to avoid it. I hope you can help me!

  15. Janet
    December 11, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink
    223

    Hi there! How long do you leave your flooded cookies out to dry before packaging or freezing? I left mine out overnight and now I’m worried they are hard! I have now frozen them for teacher Christmas gifts!

  16. Amy Sneedena
    February 5, 2019 at 5:52 pm | Permalink
    224

    Very useful information, thanks.

  17. February 15, 2019 at 6:01 pm | Permalink
    225

    How would humidity affect royal icing? I’d love to do this for girl scout camp. But we’re not in air conditioning.

  18. Kelly Zimmerman
    March 6, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink
    227

    So let me get this straight, once dried, royal icing made with egg whites is safe from bacteria? But if it’s unused (kept in piping bag) it needs to be refrigerated?

    • marian
      March 7, 2019 at 10:55 am | Permalink
      228

      Hi Kelly,
      Perfect timing! I have a public health inspector in my class today as she’s proctoring the food safety test for my students. (I teach culinary arts at the high school level). We chatted about this before lunch and she said that baked products made with raw egg products such as lemon meringue pie and royal icing are generally safe to eat but, she agreed with what I wrote in the blog post above, “Although I have not heard of any documented cases of food-borne illness occurring due to eating traditional royal icing (made with egg whites), there is still a possibility that bacteria such as salmonella can be present in anything made with raw eggs. Although many would not be affected by the bacteria, the very young, elderly, pregnant women and those with weaker immune systems might be.” She has not heard of any documented foodborne illness due to eating a cookie with royal icing.

      In terms of storing the icing, I do store icing made with raw egg whites in the fridge, to keep the egg whites/icing out of the danger zone as much as possible (Danger zone is 4-60 degrees Celsius or 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit), in the hopes that if there is bacteria in the egg white/icing then storing it in the fridge at least decreases the chances the bacteria will multiply. For icing made with meringue powder, I do not store it in the fridge, as the meringue powder has been through more of a process which hopefully has removed any possible bacteria. Once the icing has dried on the cookie, I don’t put the cookie in the fridge as the moisture in the fridge usually causes the icing to bleed, which ruins the design.

      So, there is always a possibility of bacteria with any item which uses raw egg whites, especially with the elderly, very young, those with compromised immune systems and the pregnant, but I haven’t heard of any documented cases of foodborne illness as a result of a decorated cookie.

      Hope that helps and please let me know if you have any more questions.

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