Updated: Mar 19
So today I want to talk about consistencies. I have been trying to write this blog post for a while but I’ve been putting it off because I didn’t have a good video to show you the comparisons, and every time I took photos to try to use, they just didn’t come out very good.
But as I sat on my couch this morning stringing together videos and adding audio I figured OK I think I finally got it. So let’s finally talk about probably the most important thing in cookie decorating: consistencies.
I like to say that there are 4 main consistencies:
If you want to do any cookies at all and make them very beautiful or add certain embellishments or basically want to get into cookie decorating you need to know how to make these four. I’ve attached a video from my YouTube channel on the bottom of this and it briefly goes over what the consistencies look like as they are mixed. But in this blog post I will show you actual cookies that I’ve done and what consistencies I used for those cookies.
So in terms of materials that you’ll need:
(please see my blog post about recommended things to purchase if you want to know exactly what things to use)
A spray bottle - please make sure that your spray bottle is a completely new and clean one. Don’t go using that spray bottle that you leave in the bathroom to do your hair because if you use hairspray or product or just germs in general sit in your bathroom and they’re going to get all over that spray bottle. You do not want to make somebody sick because you used a contaminated spray bottle. So use new one.
A small mixing bowl
And possibly a mini sifter with extra powdered sugar in case you over thin your icing.
So let’s talk about consistencies and take into consideration that the terms I use for each one of these consistencies may not be the technical term in the baking world. If you happen to use them with other cookie people, they’re probably going to understand what you’re talking about but I just wanted to give you heads up if you Google the term and might not be technically correct. The name doesn’t really matter it’s concept.
This is the most stiff consistency of the four And it’s what I like to always start out with. Some bakers will only make 20 second consistency because that’s what they use the majority of. However, my orders range so widely in their designs that I like to start with the stiffest consistency so if I have to do flowers one week and basic cookies the next, I already have the consistency that I need made and I do not have to make a new batch of royal icing.
So what exactly is it used for?
This consistency is most widely known as the consistency that you use to make flowers leaves and other florally type things. It is also the consistency that you use if you want to use piping tips for certain textures.
For example, in the baby shower cookies you’ll see flowers with pretty leaves. if you don’t have super stiff consistency, you’re not going to get the shape of the flower or you’re not going to get the petals or the leaves to stand up. As a side note when you’re also using this consistency it takes longer to dry because the icing is a lot thicker. So if you’re planning on making flowers for a cookie set and packaging within the same week, make sure that you make your flowers before anything else and let them dry for at least 48 hours or they will smash when you go to package them and box them.
If you look the unicorn which happens to be part of my favorite set of 2019. You could see the manes of the unicorns have a pretty, fun texture. Many of you may ask what tip did I use to get that, to be honest, I don’t know what tip that was. it’s the one that I had in the drawer that looked like it would do what I wanted. If you really want to know, please place it in the comments and I’ll go look for it. Regardless, I used stiff consistency so you can see the individual lines that came out of that piping tip.
This consistency can be best described as soft peaks. It is also the best consistency for writing and outlining your cookies. It’s important to note that with piping consistency, you do not want it to expand. If it expands, your letters will run together and most likely it’s considered 20-second icing at that point.
Let’s consider the unicorn set again. While it’s my favourite set for its overall design and colours, the text isn’t all that great. Some of you maybe asking what’s wrong with it? Well you’ll notice that the letters aren’t as clear cut as the star photos. This was because my royal icing was too thin and not exactly piping consistency.
Also note that with piping consistency, if you use it as an outline your cookies, you more often than not will see the outline on your cookies. I bring this up because a student once asked me how to get it to look seamless. To do that, use 20-second icing and don’t let your border dry. I’ll do a video on that later. But In all honesty for me, it hasn’t been an issue.
This consistency is what I use the majority of. That is because you can both outline and flood with it so you only have to make one type. The reason it’s called 20-second is because if you swipe your spoon around the bowl while making it, pick it up and let it fall, within 20 seconds the icing will smooth out. My good friend, Sara at Sugar and Spoons says to her it looks like really thick ranch dressing and now that’s just stuck in my head when I make my 20-second icing. As a side note, Sara’s from Texas so that makes a little bit more sense lol.
Some dos and don’ts with 20-second icing:
Don’t try to use 20 second icing for writing. If you missed my note from earlier, 20-second icing expands too much and your letters will run together
Don’t make your hole too big in your piping bag. Start small for your outline and after your entire outline is done you can make the hole bigger so you can flood the inside. Or you can turn around and make a slightly bigger hole and do the outside and the inside right after one another if you want the more seamless look. I’ve had issues with icing falling off the cookies so I don’t typically do this.
20-second icing should be thick enough for you to easily do the outline . If not, it’s probably too thin. Ranch dressing! ranch dressing! At this point, you have a couple options. You can sift in a little bit of powdered sugar to thicken up your icing or if you don’t want to pull it out of the bag just to make sure that you do one or two layers of an outline and let it dry. If you choose this option, don’t flood very close to the outline. Use your pointy tool to smooth out your icing from the center or it will fall off the cookie.
Remember think thick ranch. This may seem too thick, but you will always be able to use your pointy tool to smooth it or shake out the icing.
OK so last consistency. What icing is the icing that people say looks like honey or shampoo. It does not hold its shape. It Immediately just flattens and pulls out. Now when you first start cookie decorating a lot of people recommend using an outline and a flood. This is what they’re talking about. I don’t like to use an actual flood Icing. The reason being is this icing is really thin and you can have a lot of issues with it if you don’t know what you’re doing. I also only use this consistency if I have 50 or more cookies to do all the same base. And when I do use it, I put it in squeeze bottles because it’s so liquidy it flows right out of the piping bag.
This consistency is really tricky to use and a lot of people have problems because they assume that this is what’s normally used. In fact, I think I’ve seen more people use a 20- second icing because it’s so much easier to control. So below are common issues that I’ve had with this icing and how to fix them.
First issue is the icing will fall off your cookie. When using this icing I always recommend having a thick outline. I would use piping consistency for this. When you put it on your outlined cookie, do not put it close to the edge of your cookie. Put a nice blob in the center of it and use your pointy tool to smooth it out.
This icing also is prone to a lot of air bubbles. Air bubbles are caused because when you were mixing your consistency you were forcing air into your icing at the same time. With thinner icing you’ll be able to see them more because they’ll be able to rise to the surface easier. A few things to mitigate that: right after you mix your icing let it sit for about a minute and you’ll see all the air bubbles rise to the surface of whatever container you’re mixing it in. Run your spatula through them and pop them, it’s very satisfying, then put it in your piping bag. Second most common thing is make sure you have a good boo-boo stick or pointy tool handy so you can pop them as you ice your cookie. I’ll do a whole post about air bubbles later but those are just two things that you could do.
Don’t over thin your icing. Use that spray bottle and once it easily flattens out, it’s done. If you over thin it out, you’ll either be able to see through it or it’ll look translucent when you use it. Again think honey or shampoo.
Lastly, make sure to not over colour your icing. I’m going to do a whole blog post on bleeding but I’ll just say here, colour naturally will get darker once it’s added to your royal icing and it sets. The more liquidy the icing, the more chances that you have of the icing bleeding into another colour. See the firework pictures? This was caused cus my white base was flood icing and my blue and red colours were over coloured so it caused bleeding. Don’t do this! Colour darkens! Don’t over colour.
So that’s basically it. As you can tell it was a LOOOOONG post but that’s just cus it’s important. Hopefully you can master consistencies but if you’re having issues, feel free to message me!
Here’s the official video