If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you’ll know that I’m not the world’s enthusiastic baker. While I can put together some decent final product, I don’t love the process – the smell of raw flour, butter, eggs and sugar; the precision; things like oven hot spots, candy thermometers, and measuring spoons. Give me a cast iron pot and a hunk of beef any day of the week and I’ll be in a much more pleasant mood.
But when December rolls around, it’s hard not to get caught up in all of the baking frenzy. So every year I put down my guard, pick up my sifter, and jump on the baking bandwagon. Here’s my problem though: after a week or two I’m winded. Too much sugar, too much measuring. I can only do so much.
That being said, my kids are starting to think that I’m a one-woman bakery who opens a pop up shop for the holidays. I set the precedent one year, and once you go big, it’s tough to go home. There were cookies for Santa, birthday cakes and cupcakes, peppermint bark; there might have even been a fruitcake.
So I had to figure out a solution to get through it all. A method to keep the volume high, but my sanity in check. And one year, in a gingerbread-making class, I stumbled on the solution.
Drumroll please…..It’s called Royal icing.
OK, not such a big surprise since you saw it in the title.
Did I disappoint you? I hope not. And if I did, it’s either because you’re frightened to death of using it, or because you’re a Royal icing black belt and were hoping for something a little more innovative. This might be a good time for me to remind you that me ≠ baking innovation. If you’re looking for that, I highly suggest you check out Joy the Baker or Naomi at Bakers Royale.
But jaded baker, I do have some fun uses for Royal icing, so you might as well stick around for this one post while you’re here. And for the rest of you who want some ideas on how to use it, read on. We’re getting down and dirty with Royal icing today, so roll up your sleeves. And by the way, it’s all kid-friendly so that you can actually get a hand with this stuff.
Royal icing always seemed a little scary to me. It was in a class of substances, along with fondant, which seemed like too much work, the domain of wedding cake designers and holiday cookie artisans.
But then I started to use it. And I realized that you can be really stuffy about how you apply Royal icing, or you can say to hell with it, and start splashing it around on just about anything. It can be died different colors, spread thick or thin, used to make delicate little lines, or giant wobbly ones.
You can use it to glue all kinds of fun candies and treats to your baked goods – always a hit with the kids: attach tiny colorful sprinkles, jelly beans, Lifesavers, even Hershey’s kisses. Nothing is too big – Royal icing is like cement when it dries. I might even use it to hang wall art.
Is it as edible as buttercream? Not even close, but here is why Royal icing is so much better to have on hand for the holidays:
You can make it in advance. As in waaaay in advance. Weeks. Probably months, although I’ve never gone that long. Just mix up a big batch of the stuff early in December, tie it off into separate piping bags, and you are all set for all kinds of adventures.
And the great thing about Royal icing is that it’s easy for the kids to use. Buttercream can be a bit finicky and messy. They’ll have so much more control with Royal icing. They can use it straight from the piping bags if you show them how to hold and squeeze. Or you can pipe some of it into a bowl, thin it out with a little water, and use it like a glaze.
And last, but not least, your baked goods will keep at room temp, no fridge needed. They’ll be easy to transport and gift. Given how easy it is to mix a batch of this stuff (just add water), and how well it keeps, you’d be crazy to not keep it on your counter, ready to go throughout the holidays. (Just don’t put it into the fridge where it will harden into something that will cut diamond).
Want to see what we’ve been up to for the past month with our stash of Royal icing? Here are 5 fun things to do with your kids:
1. The traditional gingerbread house…
2. You can never go wrong with cookies. Either simple:
Or maxed out with every kind of candy imaginable:
3. This year, we had fun making little snowy caps for animal crackers by dunking in the tips of their heads and sprinkling with clear sanding sugar…
4. You can even glaze something like pretzels and cover them with sprinkles. It’s an idea I saw done with white chocolate on Sugar Cooking, but it works with Royal icing just as well.
5. And last but not least, one of my favorite (and super easy) ways to use Royal icing is to use it to ice cupcakes. I find that mini cupcakes work best here- make sure that your cupcakes are about flush with the top of the wrapper…
Dip your cupcake into some icing (thinned if necessary), add a little decoration to the top if you’d like. To me, nothing beats simple.
So don’t break a sweat over the holidays. Advance plan, get your kids involved, and let Royal icing do all the work. If you need to get Amazon involved, you can order it from the comfort of your own home. But any baking supply store, or even some grocery stores will stock it too. Any questions, send me an email or leave a comment below.
Happy holidays everyone.