Feb 28


{Video} Royal Icing Consistency Made Easy – The 10 Second Rule

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I’ve been decorating cookies for approximately 8 years now, and I still remember how frustrating some of my first cookie decorating experiences were.

I couldn’t get my cookies to look as nice as I wanted them to; the icing was either too thick and dry, or too runny and hard to control.  The designs didn’t look as neat and pretty as I had hoped.

Well, after poring over every cookie decorating book I could find, taking a cookie decorating class at the Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts, and after much experimentation and practice, I (eventually) found tried and true tricks and tips to make the cookie decorating experience easier.

Today, besides showing you how I made this charming wintry fella, I’m going to be showing you one of my absolute favorite keys to cookie decorating success – a necessary basic: How to figure out the right royal icing consistency.

For those of you who like video, here’s a demonstration of how to find the consistency – The 10 Second Rule:

Click HERE if you can’t see the video.


For those of you who like written break-downs:


Royal Icing Consistency

To test consistency, you’ll need a butter knife and your royal icing.

I’ll be showing you how to make the icing in another video; for now you can find the recipe here in my cookie decorating tutorial.


The 10 Second Rule

To check the consistency, all you need to do is drag the tip of a butter knife through the surface of your icing, letting the knife go approximately an inch deep, and slowly count to 10.

If the surface of the icing smoothes over in approximately 10 seconds then your icing is ready to use.  If it takes longer, 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 it.

You don’t want the icing to be too thick so that it doesn’t flood, or too thin so that it’s too runny and hard to control.

I should mention that this is what works for me; my preference is that the surface of the icing smoothes over at about the 10 second mark.  I like it at this consistency (a bit thick), because the icing holds its shape and doesn’t run too quickly out of the piping bag.

With this thicker icing I can outline and fill in right away; you just have to shake the cookie a bit to help the icing settle.  You can see how I do it in this video on marbling royal icing HERE.

If the icing is runnier, you don’t have to shake the cookie because the icing flows easier.  I used to do it this way, (prepare two consistencies of icing; one for outlining, and one for filling in).  Again, flooding is definitely easier, but I prefer not to have to set up two icings.

{In the video, I normally don’t use a runnier icing like the green example; I was demonstrating the difference between an icing that smoothes over in 5 seconds, and an icing that smoothes over in 10 seconds}.

For an example of icing which is a bit too runny for piping details, take a look at the swags of this birthday cake cookie I made when I first began decorating.  The lines were harder to control when I piped the icing.

What I’ve shown you today may seem like such a simple thing, but it made a huge difference in my own cookie decorating.  It can really help alleviate frustration and improve the overall look of the cookie.


Now a little bit about Frosty the Snowman:

This little guy isn’t a cookie; he’s made just of royal icing.

Royal icing decorations, also known as runouts, flood work, transfers, color flow (by Wilton), or run sugar, are basically the piping of a runny royal icing onto parchment paper or acetate paper (sometimes into an outlined shape).

When the shape dries, you have an icing design which you can use for a multitude of decorating purposes; on cakes, cookies, gingerbread houses, cupcakes etc.

In this case I needed him for an 8″ round cake.  As soon as I saw him on these adorable mugs (bought at the end of last winter at Canadian Tire), I knew I wanted to make an edible version of him.

I actually made the first runout of him before Christmas and have been meaning to get to this post since!  Just managed to squeeze him in before spring.  😉


How to Make Royal Icing Runouts/Floodwork

If you’d like to try making royal icing runouts, you’ll need:

  • Royal Icing Recipe
  • Icing Gel Colors
  • Acetate Paper or Parchment Paper
  • Shortening
  • Piping Tip (I generally use tip #2)
  • Piping Bag
  • Coupler

Basic Steps:

  1. Shortening on acetate paper or parchment paper
  2. Pipe design by tracing or using KopyKake projector (Can do outline first and let dry)
  3. Fill or flood design
  4. Let dry for a minimum of 24 hours
  5. Gently peel off backing
  6. Attach with more royal icing

For detailed steps on making runouts click HEREHERE or HERE.


Getting icing consistency right is really one of the major keys to making your cookie decorating experience a fun one.  Once you’ve got a good icing basis everything else becomes easier.

If you enjoyed today’s tips please leave me a comment below and let me know what you thought or if you have any questions.




p.s. In the last video on Marbling Royal Icing I asked what you’d like to see in the next video.  Thank you for your comments!


p.s.s. Please let me know in the comment section below on facebook or twitter, what you’d like to see in the next video.  Happy decorating!

p.s.s.s. I linked up to LilaLola’s fun Snowman Celebration!

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  1. Theresa Moss
    December 17, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Great video. It was very helpful. I always had a hard time with consistency of
    my cookie icing! Thanks

  2. marian
    December 17, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    My pleasure, @ Alicia and @ Theresa Moss

    @ liz morgan: Here is a post for you:

  3. Gina
    December 18, 2012 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Hi! I’ve read your royal icing recipe and was wondering if you mix your icing to form stiff peaks or not? I have been experimenting with different techniques. What I’ve found is that if the icing forms stiff peaks and you work to the correct consistencies you need from there, the icing is easier to work with, but dries rock hard. If you don’t let it get to the point of stiff peaks, it’s harder to control but you won’t crack a tooth on it. I should add that I’ve never added the cream of tartar before.

  4. December 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Hi! Thank you for you wonderful tutorial! All your information has helped us tremendously in our cookie adventure! I do have a question. What type of Projection machine do you have? I googled and found small ones that are for children. Thank you again!

  5. marian
    December 29, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Hi @ Gina: Thanks! Here is a video on how i make my royal icing (for gingerbread houses, but i mention cookie decorating icing in the video); https://sweetopia.net/2011/12/gingerbread-house-royal-icing-video-kitchenaid-7-quart-mixer-giveaway/

    @ Cristi: Absolutely, here is a post for you; https://sweetopia.net/2010/06/decorating-cookies-with-a-kopykake-projector/

  6. tabassom
    February 3, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    That was great! I learned a lot of things through your post. Thank you so much!

  7. Linda DuCote
    February 11, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoy your tutorials and as a newbie, I’m really learning a lot. However, I still have RI consistency issues; going by “seconds”, what’s a good consistency for piping? Outlining is working pretty well for me using 10sec icing, but if I want to pipe designs like lace or filigree on top of icing, I’m not getting that so well. Any suggestions will be most helpful, and thanks!

  8. marian
    February 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    My pleasure, @ tabassom, thanks for your kind comment.

    HI @ Linda DuCote: Besides using my favorite piping tips (PME. *You can see all my favorite tools in one of my videos if you like), and using small sizes, like 00, 1 or 1.5, you can do a 15 second icing if you want finer detail. Hope that helps!

  9. Maria in NJ
    February 12, 2013 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Marion do you ever use any corn syrup in your icing? How will that effect the consistency and why do I feel like I need to add it??? I am doing a crown shaped cookie and need to do the Union Jack flag on it…any help will be gladly be accepted, I am thinking that the easiest way for a newbie like me is to just do them white and use the edible markers to do the stripes???

  10. marian
    February 20, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Hi @ Maria in NJ: I have tried it, and wrote about it at the bottom of this post here;
    Your idea for the Union Jack flag sounds good. Another option is an edible ink image.
    Happy decorating!

  11. Joy
    March 16, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t used the royal icing method on cookies or used the “color flow” method to transfer an image to a cake in years. I thought I’d check out your method to see if things have changed. Your video was clear and concise. Thank you so much for sharing. Tomorrow, I will make an attempt to try the transfer method. I will be making some Easter cookies over next weekend. Hope they come out 1/2 as nice as yours!

  12. Diana
    April 12, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Hi this was very helpful I’m just wondering how do you transfer the decoration? Thank you!!!

  13. preciosa miranda
    April 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    @ Ariana:

    thank you for share the recipes and tricks !!

  14. marian
    April 13, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Hope they went well @ Joy!

    Hi @ Diana: I try and peel the transfer away from the transparency paper… Use the edge of the table to help peel them away. Here is a photo… #9. https://sweetopia.net/2011/01/valentines-love-cupcakes/

    They are very fragile so I usually make extra ones. Hope that helps!

    @ preciosa miranda: Thank you!

  15. Jenny
    April 29, 2013 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for the tip. I’m all new at this and trying to have the perfect consistency of the icing was a nightmare. Now with the 10 sec rules…it’s much easier. Thank you!

  16. Heidi
    June 8, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Hi Marian,
    This video is great! I’m hosting my daughters first birthday in 6 weeks and want to make some cookies so about to start some prototypes am sure this video will save me a great deal of pain! I’m going to use your egg whites recipe as I’ve not seen meringue powder available in our supermarkets (am in Australia). So just checking that this consistency indicator is transferable to that recipe also? Thank you sooooo much, I really can’t wait! Heidi

  17. marian
    June 8, 2013 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Hi @ Heidi, you sure can! No matter what the recipe is, as long as the consistency works, you’re fine. Have fun!

  18. Rima
    June 22, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Hi Marian! Thank you so much for posting all your amazing techniques and finished products. I am a visual person, I learn better and faster by seeing things get done, and your video on the ten second rule is great! Just what I was looking for!

    • marian
      June 23, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      That’s wonderful! Glad to hear it Rima!

  19. Karen
    July 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Hi Marian:

    I have really been enjoying your blog, which I just started reading today. I had been doing a quick search on the web about decorating cookies in advance and your site came up. Your tutorial about the consistency of royal icing is very helpful. I have a question though. I am making pineapple shaped cookies. I will be decorating with a golden color for the whole pineapple, with green on top and am planning to do a criss-cross piping on the base of the pineapple. My question is this…Which have you found works better: cover the whole pineapple base (except the leafy part) in the golden color and then pipe the lines, or pipe the lines first and then fill in with the golden color? Thanks for your help!

    • marian
      August 28, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      Hi Karen,
      It depends on the look you’re going for. If you pipe the golden color first and the lines on top it will look puffy and smooth, and the lines will sit on top as a nice detail. If you do the lines first and fill them in with gold, the sections will be more separated, but may run into each other a bit. I personally would go with the first option. Sorry I only saw your comment today!

  20. August 28, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Hi Marian – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this post and watched the video on your 10-second rule. I have yet to try it because I haven’t felt confident in my decorating skills to use one consistency. Well, now I’m tired of making the bags and the flood icing, and I have to make more than 100 elephant cookies. It takes me forever to make the bags and then the flood icing,so I want to finally try this. Your cookies are always so beautiful.

    I have a question though. Is it easy to do detail work with the icing? Should I save a little of the thick icing to the side to pipe details or just go ahead and thin all of my icing using your 10-second rule? For instance, do you think I’ll be able to use this consistency to make the little toes and all on elephant cookies?

    • marian
      August 28, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      Hi Colleen,
      Often I just use a smaller tip, and less pressure, however, leaving some thicker icing aside is a good idea too, yes. 🙂 Have fun decorating!

  21. August 28, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much Marian. I’m going to give it a try and I’ll let you know how I make out. You’re the best!

  22. Nicole furtmann
    August 29, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Please help! I’ve made royal icing before but for some reason it’s turning out like sea foam! I made 2(!) batches last night. I ant figure out what’s going on? Maybe my meringue is old? I have no clue but I’m about to rip out my hair with how frustrated I am lol.

  23. Amy
    September 26, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Hello Marian,

    Do you thin your entire batch of royal icing to 10 sec. icing, and then separate it into batches to tint, or do you scoop out portions of the thick icing and then individually thin each batch and then tint them? I’ve tried both ways and have not been very successful either time with capturing the 10 sec. (it’s either been to thin or thick despite having counted 5-10 sec in the mixing bowl) I’m wondering if the method of separating for tinting makes a difference. Also, if you thin the entire batch at once, do you leave it in your mixing bowl or are you transferring from your kitchen aid bowl to something else before thinning it? Thank you so much for sharing your special talent and being so generous with your time and advice!

    • marian
      September 28, 2013 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      Hi Amy,
      Yes, I thin the whole batch, and then put the icing in separate containers and color. I have noticed that if I add a lot of coloring, i.e. black, or lots of white (which tends to be a thinner gel color), it gets thinner than a batch with less color, so I’ll adjust accordingly.
      I thin it right in the mixer bowl, yes.
      Hopefully that helps! I promise, with time you will find the consistency you like/which works for you! xo

    • Amy
      October 7, 2013 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      Thank you so much for your reply. I just love your website and your art. Exploring your site just makes me happy and inspires me! 🙂

  24. Kelly
    October 12, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    This is by far the most inspiring website I have ever seen. I cannot wait to decorate cookies for Halloween and Christmas. I tried to do wafer paper last year and it turned out awful, never really found a website that explained how to do it. I am going to do Halloween cookies in the next few days and excited to try again. Thanks so much, this is the BEST website.

    • marian
      October 19, 2013 at 6:55 am | Permalink

      Hi Kelly,
      Wow, thanks so much!! xo

  25. Tammy
    October 31, 2013 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    I was wondering about using the RI transfers on Buttercream. I tend to use Buttercream instead of Fondant…I was afraid that the buttercream would soften the RI transfer and the colors would run..Thanks in advance

  26. Denise
    December 8, 2013 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Hi Marian! Happy Holidays!
    I am new to using royal icing, but am excited to give it a try and up the look of my cookies this this year!
    I am planning on making some Xmas cookies this week… Snowmen and Santa bellies…. I was wondering how long it has to sit before adding the details like face to the snowman and button and belts to Santa on the top of the cookies? Also does the icing stay hard enough to wrap and ship via mail with out getting messed up?

    I have to say I am a little nervous!!

    Thanks for your help!

  27. Cynthia Locke
    December 16, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Thank you Marian, I love all of your tutorials and pictures. I have been wanting to decorate Christmas cookies and have given it a couple of tries. However, I am having trouble with my flooding icing. Each time I make it it comes out too airy. It does not dry hard. I don’t have any trouble with the piping icing, just the flooding. I do live in Florida so I didn’t know if the humidity was a problem. Unfortunately, I had to add a lot more water to the icing to get it to the 10 second consistency. Any suggestions? Thank you very much for your help.

  28. Popi
    December 18, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Thank you! You answered many of my questions and I’m going to try your tips very soon! MERRY CHRISTMAS !

    • marian
      January 7, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Popi, same to you!

  29. Gina
    February 3, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Hi Marian,

    I was wondering if you do a “stiffer” royal icing when you pipe letters on a cookie or small details? I need to write on a cookie, and I don’t want the royal icing to spread. Not sure if you have any count that would work or tips?


    • Paulette
      February 9, 2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Gina for the great tutorial on icing cookies and your 10 second rule was a great idea, thanks.

  30. FubuFebi
    March 19, 2014 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for your video. I just started to decorated and this would really help me to know the basic consistency of Royal Icing. Thanks again, Marian. God Bless.

  31. Mery
    May 15, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I absolutely LOVE and admire your talent!!!
    thanks for sharing all your knowledge wit us!!


  32. Josmary
    October 19, 2014 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Thanks!!!! I needed this explanation!! It’s so clear!, i’m having that problem of making two consistency mixes.. I’m going to try your tips and i hope i can do it better!! I’ll come back!!… Thanks!!!

  33. Karen Bowlden
    October 21, 2014 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    This video was such a great help and made it much easier to begin decorating my cookies. Thanks so much!

  34. Nicole
    November 14, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much, this was very helpful. The only ingredient I don’t have on hand is the cream of tartar, do you ABSOLUTELY have to have this?

    • marian
      November 14, 2014 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Hi Nicole,
      That would be the one ingredient you can take out. Have fun decorating!

  35. November 23, 2014 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

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