Using royal icing to decorate sugar cookies can take them to the next level. Because it hardens when dry, royal icing is great for creating those intricate designs that you see many cookie decorators achieve. Getting that nice glossy royal icing finish can really give your cookies a nice smooth finish and professional touch. There are a few simple tricks to get that shiny royal icing look and I will walk you through each of these techniques!
- Add Light Corn Syrup to your Royal Icing Recipe
- Make Sure your Icing Dries Quickly
- Use a Thick Consistency Flood Icing
What is Royal Icing?
Before we get into the ways to get a shiny finish, let’s go back to the beginning and talk about royal icing. Royal icing is different from most other icings as it dries hard allowing for very detailed designs, and making it perfect for decorating sugar cookies gingerbread houses, gingerbread cookies, and holiday cookies!
The ingredient that allows royal icing to harden is meringue powder (or some recipes use raw egg whites instead). Combining that with confectioners sugar and water will create a nice royal icing. From there you just add more or less water to achieve the perfect consistency for your cookie design!
To learn more about royal icing cookie decorating, check out my Ulitmate Guide to Royal Icing!
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I may get a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links at no cost to you.
How to Make Royal Icing?
Royal icing is simple to make, but it can be a bit tough to perfect. To start, add your powdered sugar to a large mixing bowl. Add your meringue powder and water next, and using an electric mixer (either a hand mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment) beat on the lowest setting until the ingredients are fully combined. Beating on low helps to reduce air bubbles in the icing. From here, you will add water slowly, no more than ½ teaspoon of water at a time, until you achieve the desired consistency. This consistency will depend on if you want to use the icing for flood, outline, detail, etc.
Pro tip: Use a spray bottle to add water slowly will help prevent you from adding too much water at a time.
To color royal icing, use a water-based food dye. My preference is gel food coloring which you can get at most local craft stores.
You can also add some vanilla extract for a touch of flavor. Just be sure you use a clear vanilla extract or the royal icing will develop a darker yellow/brown color.
For the full recipe and very detailed instructions on making royal icing, here is my easy royal icing recipe!
How to Make Glossy Icing
The three best ways to get that shiny perfect icing finish is using lite corn syrup, making sure your flood icing dries as quickly as possible, and using a thick flood icing. If you are able to incorporate more than one of these tricks, the greater chance you will have to achieve that shiny look!
Add Light Corn Syrup to the Royal Icing Recipe
Corn syrup is a liquid sweetener that consists of pure glucose and is simply a sugar that is extracted from corn and processed into a liquid. It is commonly used in baked goods, frostings, candies, jellies, ice cream, and jams. Though corn syrup is sugar and should be consumed in moderation, it tends to have a bad reputation due to high fructose corn syrup. HFCS is made by modifying regular corn syrup and converting the glucose into fructose making it 1.75 times sweeter than table sugar.
Adding corn syrup to candies helps to prevent the crystallization of the sugars while also adding a shine. Enter, adding corn syrup to royal icing! Not only does it add the shine, but it also will help to give the royal icing a nice soft bite.
For my royal icing recipe and instructions on how much corn syrup to add, here is my go-to royal icing recipe I have used for years!
Dry the Royal Icing Quickly
Creating as much airflow around your drying royal icing cookies is one very simple way to get a shiny cookie. Increased air movement allows the top of the icing to dry quickly into a thin crust, creating a sheen on the cookie and also helping to avoid craters.
Related: How to Dry Royal Icing Cookies Fast
The simplest (and my favorite way) to create airflow is to let your cookies dry in front of a fan. Simply line your cookies on a cookie sheet or drying rack, and allow the fan to blow cool air over the cookies for at least 1-2 hours. I often let mine dry in front of a fan overnight.
Another option for drying royal icing quickly is to use a food dehydrator. Not only will it help to increase airflow, but it will remove moisture from the cookie icing giving it a puffy and shiny texture. I don’t typically use a dehydrator so I am no expert, but Borderland’s Bakery has a great post about using a dehydrator if you want to use this method.
Use a Thicker Icing
The most difficult part of royal icing is getting the right consistency. Depending on what design you are trying to accomplish. Creating a thicker icing with the consistency of toothpaste you can do detail work on cookies. However, when trying to flood the base of the cookie (flooding is creating the smooth finish/base layer of the royal icing on your cookie), you will want to use a thinner icing.
Unfortunately, figuring out the correct consistency takes practice. However, one of the best ways to learn is by using the counting method. After your icing is mixed, lift up a small amount with a spoon or spatula and let it drizzle back into the bowl. Then, start counting how long it takes for the drizzle to dissolve back into the bowl of icing smoothly. For flood consistency, I typically use somewhere from a 5-15 second icing. The thicker you can make it (around that 15-second mark) the greater your chances for a smooth and shiny icing. When I use a thinner flood icing around 5 seconds, I tend to get more of a matte finish.
If you can incorporate more than one (or all 3) of these methods, you will increase your chances of getting nice glossy icing. Factors such as humidity can always play a factor. In the winter, I tend to get icing that is super shiny while in the middle of the summer it's a bit less shiny. But even with humidity, using these tricks will help you achieve a nice and glossy finish!