Working with Royal Icing Textures

Hello Fellow Cookie Lovers,

I know, I know!  It’s been a long while since I’ve posted to my blog!  I’ve been in a total state of transition (still am!), and I am finally finding the time to post something of value for all of you.  I’ll leave it at that and keep you updated on some changes with regard to my website, blog, etc. in the near future.

I made a promise to myself that 2016 would be the year that I tried out new techniques in cookie decorating.  I’ve taken a break from producing cookies for sale and it has been very beneficial as it’s a different creative process when you have total and complete free reign of the design with no time challenges to be concerned about.

Onto the tutorial for this post. I want to share with you some new techniques I’ve been working with – specifically achieving texture on cookies with royal icing and hand painting.  I’m sort of new to it myself, so I’ll share what I can and encourage all of you to seek out other Cookiers who have a passion for these techniques as well.

In the cookies I recently created for a mixed media challenge on Julia Usher’s Cookie Connection website, I was challenged to use texture, painting, wafer paper, lustre dusts, intricate piping, royal icing transfers, and sugar beads.  It was fun!!! Really, the worst of the cookies still came out nice proving that you don’t have to be an expert in any one technique; you just have to want to challenge yourself and try new things and know that a mix of media really adds a level of beauty you might not have otherwise achieved.  I found that I got better with practice.  Some techniques took longer than others to master and I still practice all the time.

Textured Hearts 1

I’m totally hooked on the “plastered look technique” used on my recent cookies and will show you how easy it is to do.  I’ve omitted the make the dough, roll the dough, cut the dough, blah, blah, blah, assuming you want to move on to the creative stuff quickly!!  Me too!

TOOLS YOU’LL NEED AND THE COLOR SCHEME USED

Pictured below are the tools that I used for this technique.  If you do not own a Zester tool, I have tried it with the small side of a generic shredder used for cheeses and it comes out good enough to use – just a little more coarse. Don’t make yourself crazy with having the exact items I used, this technique is very forgiving. For instance, if you only have one size brush and it is either larger or smaller – use it! You can always add to your inventory if you fall in love with the overall technique. Just promise me you won’t use SANDPAPER! I honestly had someone ask me if they could use that. NO!! Use a metallic utensil that can be washed and is used for food sources only.

Texured Cookies Tools
Tools used to achieve the color scheme and the texturizing on the cookies

 

MIXING THE ICING

This is the Royal Icing recipe I use:

  • 3 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Wilton Meringue Powder
  • 6 Tablespoons of water

Put all ingredients into a stand mixer and whip on high for about 5-6 minutes. The icing should stay on a spoon if you turn it upside down and leave a dent in it if you push your finger into the icing.  Similar to what you may use to make royal icing roses.

In the picture below, you will see I am using a Navy Blue, Ivory and White color scheme (Americolor Gel Food Coloring).   The first layer should be a 5 second icing that flows over the cookie to get a smooth base.  For the second and third layers, I will be using a thicker royal icing than the first layer.  You can see the difference in texture in the picture.  The white and Ivory icing consistency was achieved using icing straight out of the mixer. When mixing, I used one cup of icing to which I added 13 drops of Navy Blue for the blue, and, 1 drop of Ivory for the off white color.

Textured Cookies Color Scheme
Color Scheme: Navy Blue, Ivory, White

ICE THE COOKIES

I iced my cookies in two colors – Navy Blue and White – leaving the Ivory to be a texture layer on both cookies.   I then let them dry overnight.  It’s really important to dry the first layer 24 hours as you will be really “working” these cookies with some tools and a couple of other layers of icing.  I’m showing a dark base and a white base version so you can see how the cookies come out in the end and the variety you can get simply by using the same color scheme.

Although I create in an organic way, (not much planning on paper but rather in my head) I do have a sense of the color scheme I want to achieve in the final cookie before I start.  For those of you who find this intimidating, just copy this color schemes to start and, once you get the feel for it, experiment with your own colors – look in your closet for inspiration! I think we tend to dress and decorate in color schemes we subconsciously, or knowingly, like.

Texture Cookies Iced

Iced Cookies

TEXTURIZING THE COOKIES: SECOND LAYER

This is the fun part, especially if you’ve never intentionally “messed up” a cookie!  For this part I used a mini offset spatula to apply the icing.  If you don’t have one, use a butter knife.  In this stage, you will use the Ivory icing for both of the cookies’ second layer.

Take your Ivory icing and simply smear it on the cookie trying to leave “about” 50% of the first layer exposed.  Don’t get too smooth on this layer. Move your spatula in different directions and apply different pressure in some areas. I try and keep this layer fairly thin – about 1/16″.   The only “rule” here is to clean up the edges after you apply this layer as you probably will want to do some kind of edging on the cookie in the end.  Once you’ve completed this stage, let it dry a couple of hours.  This layer will dry quickly as it is much less thick than the initial layer.

Spackle 1
Grab a small amount of the second layer icing color on an offset spatula.
Spackle 2
This is what your cookies should look like after “spackling” on the second layer of the cookie. Notice it is not even, not smooth, and I have tried to keep the edges fairly clean.
Spackle 4
I kept the second layer of icing for the white-based cookies the same as the blue-based cookies as I wanted the blue on top of this cookie just to get a lighter look.

At this point, you want to let the cookies dry for about two hours.

TEXTURIZING THE COOKIES: THIRD LAYER

For the third, and final, layers, I used Blue icing for the white-based cookie, and White icing for the blue-based cookie.  Same technique using the offset spatula; spread the icing over the entire cookie, this time leaving about 25% of the first layer exposed and 50% of the second layer exposed.  Keep it a bit chunkier/coarser on this layer (chunkier/coarser on texture, not thickness – stick with the same 1/16″ as in the second step).  Again, clean up those edges and then let the cookie dry overnight.

Spackle 8
For the white-based cookie, this is what the end product will look like (prior to drying) with the second and third layers applied to the first smooth layer.  Let dry overnight.
Spackle 10
For the blue-based cookie, this is what the end product will look like (prior to drying) with the second and third layers applied to the first smooth layer.  Let dry overnight.

FILING/SANDING DOWN THE ICING

Time to really get those cookies looking spectacular.  My favorite stage, actually.  We’re going to “sand” the cookie down with the zester tool.  If you’ve never sanded down royal icing before, just remember to keep the pressure a bit light for this technique as you don’t want to 1) crack the cookie, and 2) take too much icing off all at once.  It’s a gradual process.  Once you get more comfortable with this process, you’ll get a feel for the level of pressure you can use on the icing/cookie.

It is important to “sand down” the icing you just meticulously spread onto your cookie over the last day in order to get that Old World Venetian Plaster look to your cookies.  We are NOT going for the 1970’s stucco look!!  Oh yes, I’m that old!

The idea here is two fold: 1) smooth out the roughness of the icing, and 2) create a visual layering of all three icing layers.  I do this by moving the zester – constantly turning it and the cookie, and angling it in all directions as I pull it across the icing.  As you work near the edges, I like to angle the zester to obtain a rounded edge.  You’ll want to keep a clean, dry brush next to you to brush away the “royal icing dust” so you can see how the layers are starting to look.  Keep in mind when you sand the icing down, it will make it much more porous to your “paint” you will create with food gel, so you don’t want heavy pressure here.  Keep it light enough to remove the roughness but heavy enough to get the crustier edges sanded down.

Sanding 1
This is what the cookies look like when they are fully dried and prior to sanding with the zester.

I’m going to share a lot of pictures with you for this step of the process so you can see the level of beauty the sanded cookies have prior to painting.

Sanding 2
This is what the blue-based cookies look like when I finished sanding but haven’t yet brushed the royal icing dust off the cookies.
Sanding 3
This is what the white-based cookies look like when I finished sanding but haven’t yet brushed the royal icing dust off the cookies.
And…this is what the cookies will look like after you have brushed off the royal icing dust!!!! I’ve included individual pictures below so you can see the closeup details.Sanding Final

Sanding 8

Sanding 9

Sanding 7

Sanding 4

Sanding 14

Sanding 6

Prior to moving on to the next stage, make sure you brush, brush, brush the dust off those cookies.  I also take a clean, dry towel and wipe down the cookies, front and back.

PAINTING THE COOKIE

You probably feel like this is a lot of work for a cookie, but trust me, reading it takes much longer than it actually takes to do.  The results at each step are so fun to see and I promise you will be really excited along the way to see how the cookie will turn out.

Before we start painting the cookie, you MUST make sure you have thoroughly brushed off the “icing dust” on the front, back and sides of the cookies.  If not, your colors and textures tend to get muddied rather than enhance the overall texture.  So, brush, brush, brush, those cookies.

Similar to the coloring of the icing, selecting your paint colors is one part trial and error and another part sticking to a color scheme.  Remember I told you that your icing becomes more porous as you sand it?  Well, that means that as you apply the paint color the overall color will be darker, and in some cases a bit pitted looking.  That’s okay, it just takes some “trial and error” to get a knack for how colors change when applying them to porous icing and other colors.  For instance, you will find using an ivory wash over pink will turn it orange and over blue it will turn it green.  This is something I really didn’t have a problem with as I have used acrylic paints and watercolors in my past and had that knowledge.  If you don’t have this baseline knowledge, don’t worry, just go with the flow – it will be more fun to see what you create!! 😉

A couple of things about creating the “paint wash”:

  • I used Americolor gel colors for this project but also use Wilton colors.
  • I used paint brushes I only use when working with my cookies.
  • You need a lot of water and very little gel color.
  • Keep a wad of paper towels next to your paint palette.

The idea for this stage is to get a variety of colors in your icing and a depth of color by laying the paint over the textured layers you painstakingly created. For the cookies pictured in this post, I used Americolor’s Navy Blue and Ivory colors – the same colors I used when tinting the royal icing.  Sometimes I use totally different colors than the ones I used to tint the icing, but, again, it’s trial and error, so explore.

  1. I put a very tiny amount of color on my palette and mix a lot of water into the gel to get what looks like a steeped tea, translucent color.
  2. I then dip my brush in the mix and wipe it on my paper towel to see if the color needs to be watered down further.
  3. I re-dip the brush and slightly blot it on the paper towel again to get off some of the wash.
  4. I then “brush” it and “blot” it across the cookie.
  5. Once the brush gets dry I repeat the process from step 3 on.
  6. I don’t typically color the cookie entirely with color; instead, I try to leave some white/ivory showing to keep the range of depth strong.
  7. For this project, I used the Navy Blue and the Ivory gel colors.  You can go crazy with more than two colors to get some really beautiful looks; for this project, I am using just two to keep it easy.
  8. The painting process is similar to the “spackling” process in that I use the first color and then layer the second color on.  As you will see in the following pictures, I don’t wait for each paint color to dry, I work with the colors one right after the other.  After the cookies fully dry, I sometimes go back in to add some darker color but most of the time I am finished after using the two colors while they are both wet.
Painting 1
This is what I start with. I’ve put a couple of drops of blue in one crevice of my painting tray and two drops of ivory in a couple of other crevices. I’m using a flat head brush and a rounded brush.  I have my water and paper towels handy as well.

I’m starting with the Navy Blue gel and watering it down.  I test it on my paper towel to make sure it is a light wash.

Painting 2

 

 

 

Painting 4
I next watered down my Ivory gel and blot it on the paper towel to get a light wash.  You can see how beautiful your paper towels are already starting to look!!
Painting 8
For the blue-based cookies, I left some white and blue showing as I will then be applying the Navy Blue as the next color.

 

Painting 6
For the white-based cookies, I also left some blue and white showing, and then went ahead and layered on a very light wash of the blue.
Painting 9
After putting a light wash of blue on the blue-based cookies, I dipped my brush directly in the Navy Blue gel without watering it down and dapped it into key areas and crevices on the cookie to get the look above.  Below is a picture of just how dark the Navy Blue color was that I used.

Painting 5

After the cookies dried for about 30 minutes, I went back in and used a dried brush technique with my rounded brush and VERY lightly swirled my brush over the cookies to get an even more subtle level of texture.

Dry Brush 1
When using the dry brush technique, put the tip of your brush into the full color gel and then in a circular motion, swipe the brush over your paper towel until the gel is more dry than moist.  At that point you can take it to your cookie.  Swirl the brush lightly over the cookie and as you go over the textures of the cookie, you will see even more texture comes out than when you used the watered down gel colors.

This is what the cookies looked like after I painted with watered down colors, and the second picture is what they looked like after applying the dry brush technique.

Painting Final
After applying watered down gel colors but prior to final dry brushing technique.
Dry Brush Final
The effect is subtle but if you look at some of the lighter areas, you can see that the dry brushing has just deposited a small speck of color here and there emphasizing the texture from sanding the icing.

Now, let the cookie dry a bit (about one hour) before getting into the metallic layer – if you want to add a metallic layer.  (For these, I do!!)  I find waiting for them to dry a bit works best so that the metallic really “pops” the overall design of the cookie.

In applying the metallic layer, less is more.  I decided to use both silver and gold dusts on the cookies as I haven’t tried that before.  Focus on putting a concentration of metallic in just a few areas so the metallic is bold but not overpowering.  I used the Wilton lustre dusts mixed with vodka to get a smooth paste that brushes on without clumping.  I then let the cookie dry overnight before I add any decorative details such as royal icing transfers, stamping details, wafer paper, beads, etc.

Metallic 1
I am showing the silver dust mixed with the vodka and the gold dust strait out of the bottle.  I used each color mixed with vodka, but wanted to show the dry version as well.

 

Metallic 3
Up close look at one of the cookies with some gold washed over it.
Metallic 4
In the cookies on the left you can see I used silver dust.  For the cookies on the right I used gold.
Metallic 2
Up close look of some silver dust on the cookies.

Metallic 5

Let dry overnight so that you can literally use any decorative technique you want when the cookie is fully dry.

ADDING OTHER ELEMENTS 

Once you have your gorgeous, textured cookies, you can do just about anything on top of them.  In the pictures below, you will see that I explored using a stencil and royal icing to get even more texture to the cookie.  I also added royal icing transfers (roses) and gold and pearl white beads.  I also piped some design because, well, I’m a PIPE-A-HOLIC!! (I seriously get the jitters if I go 48 hours without piping SOMETHING! Hey, don’t judge me, you’ll get there!)  Your options are unlimited and I encourage you to imagine anything.  Add wafer paper, some Cookiers like fondant transfers, others use SugarVeil (I have not tried it yet), you can use beads/dragees, and even dry lustre dust adds a nice element to the textured cookie.

 

Blog 4
Of the six cookies that I made for this Blog Posting, I did four of them with an emphasis on gold.
Blog 3
For the other two cookies, I tried to stay with a silver tone to them and kept the overall look of the cookie lighter.
Textured Hearts 1
These are the Valentine Hearts I recently made using a textured base, stencils with royal icing, hand piping, royal icing transfers (flowers), and gold beads.  For the cookie in the upper right corner, I used a stamp before using the stencil over the cookie.

And the pictures below are some closeups of the cookies done for this Blog Posting.

Blog 5

Blog 6

Blog 7

Blog 8

Blog 10

Blog 9

I hope you enjoyed this post and I hope to share more with you, ahem, in a more timely manner in 2016.  Thanks for following me fellow cookie lovers and remember to just have fun! They are cookies! Even if you aren’t completely satisfied with your end result the first time around, your consolation prize is that you have a tasty cookie to eat, which will give you the inspiration to try another batch!!  I know I did!!

Diane.

 

 

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