Trying to get that fancy bakery look for your delicious holiday cookies? The secret is so simple: just use royal icing. Use this quick, easy icing to pipe borders around the edges of your cookies, then thin the icing to glaze your cookies with a shiny finish. Here's how.
Gather Your Tools
Think of cutout sugar cookies and gingerbread shapes as blank canvases for your decorating skills. Piped borders act like dams to outline the areas for glazing (or flooding) your cookies. Piping and glazing cookies may create the finished look you want. Or, these techniques may simply serve as a background that makes other decorations—such as sprinkles or candies—pop. Here's what you'll need to create unique, one-of-a kind holiday cookies:
- Baked cookies that are completely cool
- Piping bags and small writing tips (one bag per color)
- Fine-tipped paint brushes
- Cooling racks set above waxed paper "drop cloths"
- Royal icing (see recipe below)
- Food-coloring paste
- Small bowls for different colors of icing
Step 1: Make the Royal Icing
You'll use this recipe both for piping and glazing the cookies. The only difference in the icing you use for piping and what you use for glazing is the amount of liquid added. Note that royal icing, once made, dries quickly when exposed to air. So keep your bowls of royal icing covered with plastic wrap or a damp cloth while you're decorating.
1 tablespoon meringue powder (look in the baking aisle of your grocery store)
2 tablespoons cold water
1 cup powdered sugar
In medium bowl, beat meringue powder and cold water with electric mixer on medium speed until peaks form. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.
For piping: Spoon some of the icing into a decorating bag fitted with small round writing tip.
For glazing: Thin some of the reserved royal icing with water—one teaspoon at a time—until it is the consistency of cream. You'll know it's right if the icing coats the back of a metal spoon without running.
Step 2: Add Color
Divide the royal icing among small bowls —one for each color that you wish to use. Use food-coloring paste (available in 1-ounce jars) to tint your icing. Add the paste to the icing with the tip of a toothpick until you achieve the desired color. Remember: you can always make your icing darker, but it is impossible to make it lighter, so add color in tiny amounts and mix well before adding more paste.
Tip: Because liquid food colorings are difficult to control and may make the icing runny, decorating pros prefer food coloring paste.
Step 3: Pipe a Border
Start by spooning the thicker royal icing into a piping bag fitted with a small writing tip. The tip should be big enough to allow a smooth clean flow of icing onto the cookie. Squeeze the piping bag firmly and steadily to create your icing border, working counter-clockwise at the very edge of the cookie. (You may want to test your technique on a piece of waxed paper.) Release pressure on the piping bag to cut off the flow of icing and complete the border. Allow the piped icing to set completely—for 30 to 60 minutes—before glazing.
Step 4: Glaze the Cookies
Spoon a small amount of the thin royal-icing glaze onto the cookie center, using a teaspoon. Spread the glaze over larger areas with the back of a spoon. Use a thin, Small-tipped paintbrush to push or drag the glaze to the piped border and into smaller areas. Cautiously add more glaze if needed. If you add too much, it will flow over the piped border. Allow glazed cookies to stand for 3 minutes before adding additional decorations such as sprinkles or jimmies. If needed, lightly press candy decorations into glaze to make them stick. Allow glazed and decorated cookies to dry completely on a cooling rack before storing.
Get more ideas for decorating your holiday cookies.