I have always loved royal icing, before I even knew what it was called. I've always been attracted to detailed decorated cookies that look like little drawings made with sugary paint. I was even curious about trying to decorate cookies myself over the years but was intimidated by the piping bags and the sugar and the egg whites. I thought my hand wasn't steady enough, or maybe I was scared that I might not be able to learn how to adapt to drawing with a pastry bag, or I thought I didn't have the right kitchen equipment. But then I took my first Wilton class and used the recipe that they print in their books and on the can of meringue powder and found it wasn't quite so difficult after all!
The Wilton icing recipe is super easy, but after making it a few times, I was curious about other ways to make royal icing. I tried out Sweetopia's icing recipe (how adorable is that illustrated recipe, by the way?). It has more steps and ingredients, but I found the end product to be far superior. I think the key is dissolving the meringue powder in the water before adding it. And probably the cream of tartar helps too, even though there is already some in the meringue powder. And that's another thing I learned...not all meringue powders are equal. I had purchased some Ateco Meringue Powder to use for casting sugar skulls, so one time when I made icing, I used that in place of the Wilton. I found it to be much better flavored and scented. Something seems a little... off with Wilton. It's got a very subtle bad egg smell to it, I have noticed. I really love making this royal icing. It's so fluffy and beautifully white and soft. I love watching it develop as I keep mixing and mixing, I love the patterns that the mixer makes, and I love squishing it around with my spoonula. I kind of want to jump in and go swimming in it.
And now that I have a base recipe that I really like, I have been tweaking it a bit, adding flavoring, and experimenting with color. I found a link on Pinterest to LilaLoa's blog post about using cocoa powder as a starting point to making a rich black icing without adding a ton of gel coloring. I love that idea of using a basic ingredient to make color instead of something less natural, so I started experimenting with cocoa as the exclusive ingredient for color. As a bonus... the icing tastes like chocolate! I use a dark chocolate powder and the resulting icing ends up being dark grey-brown, which contrasts very nicely against the basic white icing. I really love making this royal icing. It's so fluffy and beautifully white and soft. I love watching it develop as I keep mixing and mixing, I love the patterns that the mixer makes, and I love squishing it around with my spoonula. I kind of want to jump in and go swimming in it. I am starting to experiment with more colors and flavors now! I hope to make another batch of icing this week and try out the new colors. I will make sure to take lots of pics!