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  Home :: techniques & tips :: Beginners Guide to Royal Icing

Beginners Guide to Royal Icing

Royal icing is made from a mixture of egg white (or reconstituted egg albumen) and pure icing sugar. It is a ‘hard’ icing and the only icing suitable for piping work. Piping with royal icing is an essential skill for any budding cake decorator and can also be used as excellent glue for fixing sugar flowers/decorations on cakes or to stick cake tiers together. If stored in an air tight container your icing will last seven days. For piping you will only need a small amount of royal icing for each cake project.

Recipe Ingredients and materials

One medium egg white (or equivalent of reconstituted egg albumen, such as merriwhite)
300g icing sugar, sifted
Few drops of lemon juice
Piping bag
Various piping nozzles (such as PME nozzles number 1.5, 3, 4, 13)
Electric mixer with paddle attachment
Wooden spoon
Pallet knife

How to make royal icing

If using merriwhite mix with water and use as per packet instructions. Add the merriwhite mix or one medium egg white and sift half of the icing sugar in the mixer bowl. 
Mix on a low speed for a minute or so until your icing is combined and scrape any remaining sugar back into the bowl
Add the remaining sugar until the mix begins to thicken. Scrape down any of the mixture that has not fully mixed and beat until the mixture has reached a soft-peak consistency suitable for piping. If your icing is too stiff add a couple of drops of lemon juice and mix until combined.
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 make an icing bag

Fold some greaseproof paper about 13in square in half to make a triangle and place on the table with the point facing you.
Take the right-hand corner and fold around your hand to make a cone. Fold the left-handed corner all the way around to meet the other side. Secure your piping bag by folding the corner to the inside.
Cut the tip of the bag (about ½ in) from the end and drop in your chosen piping nozzle. Using a pallet knife fill your bag with icing (no more than two-thirds full). Close bag by rolling the sides of the piping bag in and down.


Types of piping techniques

Pearl trail

This technique is usually piped along the line where the cake meets the board.
Use a PME 2 Piping nozzle and fill your piping bag as directed in ‘How to make an icing bag’. Hold the piping bag at 60-degree angle to your cake with the nozzle just touching the icing on your cake.
Make a pearl shape of icing and ease the pressure off as you move the piping bag to make a tail. Pipe the next pearl over the tail of the previous pearl to make a continuous line.
Continue all around the cake in this way, joining the last pearl neatly to the first one.

Piping shells

This technique can be used to pipe the line where the cake meets the board or around the top of a cake. It can look very effective on Christmas cakes, wedding cakes or traditional birthday cakes.
Fill a piping bag with a PME13 nozzle and icing. To create a shell hold the bag at a 45-degree angle at the base of your cake (so the shell covers the where the board meets the cake) and squeeze the bag until the shell is formed.
Ease the pressure off the piping bag and make a tail. Pipe the next shell just over the previous shells tail.
Continue around the cake in this way joining the last shell neatly to the first one. To cover the top of the cake repeat the process around the top of the cake ensuring the shell comes slightly off the cake.

Piping Lines

Drop either a PME 2, 3 or 4 nozzle (depending on how thick you want your line) into a piping bag and add royal icing.
Touch the starting point of the line with the tip of the bag slowly squeezing out the icing. As you squeeze lift the bag upwards slightly towards you.
As you get to the finishing point of your line, gradually bring your line down and touch the finishing point with the tip of your bag to end the line.