Friday, January 6, 2012

Royal Icing Cake Decorations

When a friend asked me to make first birthday cakes for her twin girls... that had the likeness of their favorite stuffed animals on them, I scratched my head a little bit, because while I love making cakes, I'm just not a cake artist like some of those people you see on TV.

Then I remembered a technique that would allow me to make a picture of the animals, and it wouldn't require too much artistic work. I used royal icing... just like you would on a cookie, but I piped it on to parchment paper, let it dry, then you can transfer it to the cake.

What You Need:
Royal Icing
Parchment paper
Cake board or cookie sheet
Printed picture of your decoration*
Icing colors/tips for design

*Remember, if you're making money off of a cake, you can't use a copyright or trademarked image.

Start by getting your image ready. Tape or glue it to your cardboard or cookie sheet. You want a flat surface. Then tape parchment paper over the image. Waxed paper will also work, but I think they come off of parchment easier, so I prefer parchment.

Start by outlining your design in royal icing.
*Note: I used a small tip #1 here for the outline. I regretted that decision. Use a tip 2 or 3. Yes, it will be a thick outline, but these suckers break really easily. The thicker the outline, the stronger you can let it be.

Flood the icing into the design using the same technique you use to decorate a cookie. (Please see my post about royal icing for specific details on making the flood icing.)
See, if you look there on the left side of the face you can see that my thin, little outline didn't hold up.

Fill in the details.

I allowed the icing to dry a little before adding the black eyes to help keep the black from bleeding. I still had a little bleeding in the horse's eyes, but not too bad.

Always make spare decorations to allow for breakage. I didn't do this and regretted it!

Now, you want to let these dry for at least 48 hours, maybe longer if they're at all thick, or use a lot of black or red (those seem to take longer to dry for me).

Once they're completely set, you will remove them from the paper very carefully.
Remove the tape from the cardboard or cookie sheet. You want to be very careful that you don't try to "bend" the paper, that's when they can crack. So, keeping the paper, very straight, use the edge of a counter top to pull the paper down, and allow the decoration to come free.

Then, very carefully and gently place the decoration on your cake.
I noticed that my decorations weren't completely flat- from using a cake board that wasn't completely flat. Be smarter than me. Make sure the surface you pipe them onto is truly flat.

I also made a slew of dots in different sizes with the flood consistency of the icing. These are so fun to make, eat and decorate with. My boys loved that they got to add them to their toast and bagels for a few days after I finished the cakes!

I was really happy with how the cake turned out. It was also super yummy. I used my Rich Chocolate Cake recipe and covered it with Vanilla Buttercream and the decorations.

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  1. does this need to dry at room temp? also, can you do the same procredure with buttercream icing? if so, does it need to go into the freezer?

    1. Yes, they dry at room temperature.
      It would be hard to do the exact same thing with buttercream, because getting the "flood" consistency would be a challenge.
      I do have a post on a different buttercream pattern transfer:
      - Beki

  2. Thank you for this post! I was considering the same idea for Royal icing as a cake decoration, so it's really helpful to know about the drying time and the easy breakage. This was super helpful.


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