All About Royal Icing… with Tessa Whitehouse

Friday 16th June

One of the few mediums of sugarcraft which can be used to finish an entire cake, royal icing is a baker’s best friend. Use it to cover a cake, pipe pearls, beads and borders, create flowers, drop lines or drapes, run-out monograms and motifs and also to decorate biscuits. Our tutor and royal icing expert, Tessa Whitehouse says that once you’ve learnt the various skills needed to produce these effects, you can also apply many of them to decorate your cakes using ganache and buttercream.

The basics

  • The simplest way to make royal icing is to use an instant mix, such as SK Professional Royal Icing. A stand mixer removes all the hard work but make sure all your equipment is really clean and use the flat beater with the mixer on the slowest speed. Beat until a standing peak can be pulled up from the icing. This consistency of icing is ideal for piping borders and lines and also for coating cakes to a very polished finish.
  • Once made to the standing peaks, royal icing can then be adapted for plenty of other different techniques:

o   Rub it down to slightly soften it, to achieve the best texture for piping pearls;

o   Add water to make a flowing, ‘run-out’ icing which is best for coating biscuits; and

o   Mix in icing sugar to make a stiff icing, suitable for piping flowers and outlines.

TIP: Royal icing dries very quickly so keep all bowls of icing covered with a damp cloth or in a bowl with an air-tight lid. The nozzles of filled piping bags should also be kept tucked under a damp cloth to prevent them from blocking up. 

Finishing touches for cakes and biscuits

  • When piping royal icing onto a cake or biscuit, keep moving the item you’re piping onto, so you can see the tip of the nozzle and exactly where the icing is going. Touch the nozzle tip down to start and then lift to pipe a curved or straight line, and as you finish the line, make sure there is no pressure on the bag and touch the nozzle to the surface again.
  • Royal icing is still a full-proof and classic way of achieving the ultimate straight or square edge to a cake, and while still best known as a coating for a fruit cake covered with marzipan, royal icing can also be used to coat a sponge cake.
  • When using run-out icing to coat biscuits, make the flowing icing a good half an hour or so before you want to use it, to allow air bubbles to rise to the surface. These can be popped by gently stirring the icing and using a small nozzle size (No 1.5) to pipe the icing onto the biscuit. If any bubbles do still escape to your applied coating, gently pop them with a paintbrush or cocktail stick, straight away!
    • TIP: Dry coated biscuits in an oven or a dehydrator set to a very low temperature (40oC) for half an hour or so, which prevents the icing from hardening too much on top and sinking into the softer icing.
  • Once royal icing decorations such as piped flowers or run-outs have been made, they’ll keep for months if stored in a cardboard box between pieces of kitchen paper.

Tessa is teaching a number of courses over the summer using this versatile medium, including:

To browse the full list of Tessa’s courses, go to


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