When it comes to baking and decorating cookies, royal icing decorations take center stage for their versatility and stunning results. But what happens once your cookies are beautifully decorated with royal icing? How can you make sure they stay fresh and picture-perfect? In this blog post, we'll dive into the aspects of storing royal icing and the decorated cookies that showcase its artistry. We’ll share the best tips and tricks to keep your edible creations looking and tasting their best long after the baking is done.
What is Royal Icing?
Royal icing is a type of icing used to decorate baked goods including cookies, cakes, and pastries. It is most known for its smooth, glossy finish that dries hard to the touch. This makes it ideal for intricate designs including text, flowers, lace, etc. Though classic royal icing recipes may vary a bit, they consist of powdered sugar, meringue powder or egg whites, and water.
Storing Decorated Cookies
Once you finish decorating your cookies, you’ll want to make sure they are fully dry. I also have a guide on how to dry your royal icing cookies fast.
You will want to get a good quality, airtight container. I personally love these Rubbermaid ones. They are quite large with a lot of surface area so there is no need to stack cookies too high and risk damage.
If you plan to eat or share your decorated cookies within several days then no need to freeze them! My cut-out cookie recipe will stay fresh in an airtight container for up to about 5 days, but check the details on whatever recipe you use for freshness guidelines.
Gently place decorated cookies in your airtight storage container and place a piece of wax paper or parchment paper between layers. I do not recommend stacking more than about 3 layers high and use your discretion when stacking. I like to put more simply decorated cookies on the lower layers and more detailed work on the top.
Make sure you keep royal icing-decorated cookies in a cool, dry area out of direct sunlight. Humidity is royal icing’s nemesis and will make the colors bleed together. In the summer, if you have central air, you should be good. If you have a room air conditioner, I would keep the cookies in that area. Basements tend to be cooler with less humidity as well.
One of the great things about royal icing cookies is that they freeze well, so they can be made ahead of time for holidays or events! They can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months (but please check the specifics of whatever specific recipe you use).
You will also use an airtight container and gently stack the cookies in the same way described for short-term storage. Once the cookies are in the container and the lid is sealed, place them in the freezer. Make sure they are level and secure in the freezer so the cookies don’t break.
Do not store cookies in the refrigerator as this will dry them out!
Pro Tip: Make your Christmas holiday cookies ahead of time and store them in the freezer to save you some time during the busy holiday season.
Defrosting Frozen Royal Icing Cookies
Properly defrosting royal icing cookies is key to making sure the colors do not bleed and they look as beautiful as when you froze them. Take them out of the night before you need them (at the very least several hours before). But here is the key: DO NOT OPEN THE LID. Allow them to come to room temperature inside the airtight container without opening it. Also, make sure they are defrosting in a cool, dry place. If you follow these steps, your cookies will defrost beautifully and be ready to serve!
Storing Royal Icing (Made with Meringue Powder)
When you are done decorating your cookies, chances are you will have some leftover royal icing. But don’t fear, it can be easily saved and re-used for future decorating projects!
There is one major factor in how long royal icing can last and this is dependent on the recipe you use. Meringue powder is more stable and allows the icing to last a bit longer than if you use a recipe with raw egg whites. As my experience lies with meringue powder royal icing, I’ll be sharing how to store this kind of icing.
How to Store Royal Icing
Royal Icing can be stored in piping bags or in an airtight container. I like using glass Pyrex containers when storing royal icing that has not yet been put in a piping bag. Make sure the lid is secure.
If you are keeping royal icing in the piping bags, place them in a large gallon freezer bag or a large airtight container and seal them.
Where to Store Royal Icing?
Royal icing can be stored at room temperature, refrigerated, or frozen. If storing at room temperature, do so in a cool, dry place and make sure the royal icing is stored properly as described above. It will stay good for up to 2 weeks at room temperature.
Royal icing can also be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month, though I have kept mine a bit longer than that without any issues.
To keep icing fresh for a longer period of time, you can freeze it to keep it fresh for 3+ months.
After storing royal icing, no matter the time frame or method, if the bags start to puff up dramatically, this could be bacteria growth, so time to toss them. Also, if it smells funky, also a sign it’s time to move on and make a fresh batch!
When royal icing sits in piping bags at room temperature, it will often separate. This means that the water will start to separate from the sugar. It is usually quite visible when this happens. This can also happen when royal icing is in the refrigerator for a few days as well. Thin royal icing (or flood icing) tends to separate quicker than thick icing. This can also occur quicker with darker colors with more gel food coloring in them.
However, there are two simple fixes. First, if there is enough room in the piping bag to swish the icing around thoroughly, you can squeeze it to mix it back together. If this is not possible, simply remove the icing from the piping bag, put it into a mixing bowl, and stir it back together. There you go, simple as that!
Pro Tip: When using pre-made royal icing, always test it on the side before using it on a cookie to make sure it is at the right consistency for what you want!
Tips for Re-Using Icing:
From one project to the next, you will probably be using very different color palettes so it will be hard to reuse the icing color as is. What I like to do, is make a list of all the colors I need, and find similar shades from my previous piping bags. For example, if I need a dark green, I’ll look to see if I have a lighter green or teal. If I need a dark pink, I’ll use a light pink or purple.
If you need dark brown or black, you can use almost any color you have. This is where I like to reuse colors you probably won’t be needing again.
I hope this article helped with the best ways to store sugar cookies and all of that extra royal icing for your next batch of cookies!
No, cookies decorated with royal icing should typically not be refrigerated. Store decorated cookies in a cool dry place, sealed in an airtight container. For long-term storage, freeze decorated cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Yes. Allow royal icing cookies to dry and harden overnight at room temperature.
Yes, you can store royal icing in piping bags. Place the piping bags in a gallon freezer bag and store them in the refrigerator for up to 1 month and the freezer for up to 3 months.