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  Home :: techniques & tips :: Covering a Cake with Royal Icing

Covering a Cake with Royal Icing

Royal icing is made from a mixture of egg white (or reconstituted egg albumen) and pure icing sugar. Royal icing sets hard and is often used in traditional cake designs and classic wedding cakes. It requires greater skill and is more time-consuming than sugarpaste. 3 thin layers are spread over the cake and each coat is left for 8 hours to dry. It can look effective for more elaborate designs.

Materials and equipment

Icing sugar
Egg white (or equivalent of reconstituted egg albumen, such as merriwhite)
Few drops of lemon juice
1 teaspoon glycerine
Sieve
Electric mixer with paddle attachment
Wooden spoon
Pallet knife (Such as a Wilton 11" Straight Cake Decorating Spatula)
J-cloth
Side scraper (Such as a PME Side Scraper)
Straight Edge Smoother / Polisher
Cake turner

How to make royal icing

Royal icing is made up to 6/1 ratio (600g of icing sugar to 100g egg white).  This ratio will cover one layer of a 7” round cake.

Take your egg whites and weigh out 100g or if using merriwhite mix with water and use as per packet instructions.

Take your icing sugar and tip about half into your egg white. Mix on a low speed for a minute or so until your icing is combined and scrape any remaining sugar back into the bowl.

Take most of the remainder of your icing sugar (leaving a very small amount) and beat well until the icing mix changes to a white colour. Add the remaining icing sugar to the royal icing mix and beat well until the royal icing forms full stiff peaks. If your icing is too stiff add a couple of drops of lemon juice and mix until combined.

Add 1 teaspoon glycerine and mix well so your icing does not dry too hard and it is suitable for cutting. Cover your bowl of icing with a damp J-cloth so your icing does not dry out until you are ready to use it.

How to ice a cake using Royal Icing

To cover the top of a cake

Take a cake already covered in marzipan as explained in the How to Cover a Cake with Marzipan article. 

Put the cake on the cake turntable. Using a palette knife put a large dollop of royal icing onto the top middle of the cake. Spread/paddle the icing with pallet knife, pushing fairly hard, using a backwards and forwards movement, almost like you are buttering bread. This movement helps displace any air bubbles from the icing.

When the top of the cake is covered smooth the surface by holding the tip of the pallet knife in the center at a slight angle and turn the turntable, with your left hand in an anti-clockwise motion.

Move the cake dummy closer to you (as it’s easier to remain balanced) and take a straight edge to get a fully smooth surface. Hold the straight edge at both ends at the furthest edge of the cake, at a 45 degree angle and draw it across the top of the cake towards you and back again in one continuous movement until the icing is smooth.

Remove any collected icing and repeated this movement a few times to try and ensure a clean, even covering.

How to cover the sides of a round cake

Take a pallet knife and dollop some icing on the top side of a cake.  

Using the same ‘buttering’ motion ice your cake, positing the pallet knife alongside the whole side of the cake adding more icing if you need to. Take a side scraper and hold it at a right angle against the cake side, spreading your fingers over the back of it.

With your other hand take hold of the turntable near to the scraper and slowly (but without stopping) revolve the turntable until a circle has been completed. Repeat the process with the side scrapper until the sides are smooth.

Leave to dry for at least 8 hours and remove any rough edges with a sharp knife. Repeat the whole process (top and sides) two more times until you have a beautifully covered cake.

How to cover the sides of a square cake

Take a pallet knife and dollop some icing on the top side of one side of the cake. ‘Butter’ the icing onto one of the sides of the cake, holding the pallet knife vertically with your finger down the back of the pallet knife.

Take a side scraper and hold it at a right angle against the cake side, spreading your fingers over the back of it. Move the scraper along one side (at the end of the side) and move it towards yourself.

Start the second side by bringing the ‘take off mark’ made by the scraper on the first side around to the second side. Repeat the process until you have coated and scraped each side in turn.

Leave to dry for at least 8 hours and remove any rough edges with a sharp knife. Repeat the whole process (top and sides) two more times until you have a beautifully covered cake.