Piping is one of the skills I am striving to improve this year. For someone like me who looooovvesss to drink (lots!) of coffee - I can easily down a pot in a morning! - my hands can be on the shaky side. So last night, I put down the caffeinated beverages, and made these pretty gray and pink cupcake cookies to practice.
Some helpful tips to keep in mind when decorating cookies with royal icing:
- Set aside plenty of time for decorating/experimenting - it's best to practice your skills when you're not feeling rushed.
- When coloring your icing, make sure that it is completely mixed in (unless you are going for a streaky look).
- To help avoid problems with bubbles in your flooding icing, let the thinned icing sit (covered with a wet paper towel or saran) for at least 15 minutes. This will allow bubbles to come to the surface, and you can break them up by stirring gently. This is well worth the wait - I am seriously OCD when it comes to bubbles in my icing, and I'll obsessively pop any bubbles that come to the surface of my cookies. I usually try to thin my icing for flooding right after I color it, so it has enough time to sit. Just make sure that you save enough for piping - you can always thin more!
- Work with a small amount of icing in your piping bag at a time. It'll be much easier on your hands, and will allow you more control.
- Make sure that your piping hand/arm is well supported, and that you are sitting in a comfortable place with plenty of working space.
- Make sure that your icing is the right consistency for what you are trying to do. You'll have problems if the icing you are trying to flood with is too thick, just like you'll have problems if the icing you are trying to outline with is too thin.
- When piping, hold the tip a few millimeters away from the cookie's surface. Too much - and you risk the "squiggles". Too little - you'll squish your lines.
- Give your cookies enough time to dry, preferably over night. You don't want to stack or package them until the icing is dry.
- And remember: your cookies did not come out of a factory! We all strive to create things that we're proud of - but please try to remember that you are only human, and your cookies should not look like they were made by a machine. You are creating art - delicious, delicious art!