Hokay so. I just cannot get over the cuteness of these cookies. I would take these to market. I was super nervous about decorating them, but luckily, the real cookie-decorating pros like Bridget over at Bake At 350 know what they are doing. Girl is a marvel.
If I can do this, you can do this. I think I made a couple mistakes along the way, but I will point them out to you, and then you will be even better, deal? Deal.
Royal icing is basically egg whites and sugar beaten together–a cinch. Bridget uses meringue powder because you can get a more consistent result not worrying about how large your eggs are or getting a bit of yolk in your whites that will cause them to remain flat, lifeless and useless except for supposedly heart-healthy lunch omelets. For more on how to give your egg whites life to the full, please read this post.
The key to a great royal icing is to beat them just right. That is, you shouldn’t beat them too much, as I did. It led to problems.
Once beaten, you can separate your icing into bowls and color it however you want. Once colored, you can put it into a pastry bag with a piping tip as I did, or put it into those cool little squeeze bottles, of which I wish I was the proud owner. They’re durn useful in unicorn sugar cookie situations.
But wait! There’s more!
In addition to your stiff royal icing, you need to make what is called flood icing. I divided my recipe in half and made half of the stiff stuff into the thinner flood icing. I did this by stirring in one teaspoon of water at a time until the frosting was the consistency of syrup. If you lift a little out of the mixing bowl and let it fall, the icing should take about 2-3 seconds to reabsorb into the rest of the icing. Kinda tricky, but there has to be a bit of leeway if I got it on the first try. You can put your flood icing into a piping bag, but I think in this case, a squeeze bottle would definitely work better.
So now you are ready to frost your unicorn cookies and bring smiles to the faces of women at baby showers everywhere. Begin by piping an outline of your cookie with the stiff royal icing. You hafta make it all the way around with no breaks in the icing. Mine had a break on the right side that I had to go back and fill in. Also, if you want to stick anything into the icing like the little dragees I used on the tip of the horn, make sure to stick them in right away. I was working with about four cookies at a time, but I did press in a dragee after piping each one.
And see how this icing looks a bit strung out and pitted? Yeah, that is because I over-beat it. It could also possibly be that my icing technique is less than super quality, but I’d like to think that is not true.
Then, you fill in the piped outline with flood icing. The flood icing should not be thin enough that it flows into the corners by itself. You kind of have to maneuver it around with a toothpick to get it into all the corners. (In my case, I used the end of a metal skewer that I found in the back of a drawer. It was sufficient, if not perfectly kosher.)
In retrospect, I should have doubled the frosting recipe. I frosted around 36 cookies and this batch of frosting was just enough–not a lotta room for mistakes.
Saweeto! Once the base frosting was dry, I gave the unicorns a purple royal icing swirl for a mane and used an edible marker to make little eyes.
You want to wait a good few hours or overnight before packaging the cookies so the frosting doesn’t mess up. I was worried that they would dry out, but I found out that royal icing is like sparkly lip gloss. It looks pretty, and it provides a moisture seal so the cookies don’t dry out as quickly as an unfrosted cookie. Yeah? :]
I couldn’t resist using my baker’s twine. Most of the time I can’t resist cute things, so no surprise there.
Adapted from Bake At 350
4 tablespoons meringue powder
scant 1/2 c. water
1 pound (4 cups) powdered sugar
1/2 – 1 tsp light corn syrup
a few drops clear extract (optional)
Combine the meringue powder and water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until foamy. Sift in your powdered sugar, and beat on low speed to combine. If you want, add the corn syrup to keep your icing shiny and any extracts you want to flavor your icing.
Beat on medium/high speed until stiff, shiny peaks form (see picture above) and peaks do not fall when jiggled. Do not overbeat or your icing will get crackED.
Use immediately or cover icing with plastic wrap until ready to use.
To make flood icing to fill piped outlines, stir in water with a rubber spatula one teaspoonful at a time until icing is the consistency of syrup. According to Bridget, you should be able to spoon up a little icing and let it fall back into the bowl. If it takes 2-3 seconds to disappear back into the rest of the frosting, you’re golden.