February 21, 2014
I know I know I know. Get it out of your system. I’ll wait.
The best cookie icing ever?! Really!!!!
How dare you say that!!!
Who do you think you are?!?!
Arrogant and Deluded, Party of Two, your table is ready.
Feel better? Can I continue?
Before I get to THE BEST COOKIE ICING EVER! let me give you a little of the back story. If you’ve calmed down enough to hear me out, that is.
As you know, assuming that you read all my posts and take notes so as not to forget a single detail of my life, I’ve been a glaze purist since the early beginnings of my cookie life. So what do I like about glaze?
Glaze only requires four ingredients.
Glaze is stable. It never separates as can happen with royal icing.
Glaze can be stored indefinitely in the fridge or freezer.
Glaze has a perfectly sweet flavor that compliments the cookie.
Glaze has a soft bite and a shiny finish.
There are also a couple well-documented challenges with glaze. With the viscosity of thick honey glaze requires multiple layers of wet on dry application to add dimension to areas of a design and while it’s possible to do fine detail and writing with glaze, the strand of icing coming out of the piping tip will always flatten on itself. Try as hard as it might glaze is unable to hold the raised tubular shape of piped royal icing. Here are a couple examples where you can see that while the writing is clean, even using the smallest tip size, the line of icing goes flat and rounds out the lettering. The word “ballerina” is a prime example.
The other major issue with glaze is the slow drying time, especially when it includes layer on layer for dimension. Typically a glazed cookie requires up to 24 hours to air dry before it can be sealed into a cellophane bag but even then glaze can become slightly damp again once sealed, perhaps from absorbing moisture from the baked cookie, which creates tacky points of contact between the glaze surface and the cellophane bag.
Enough already! Just get to the point! What do you mean you have THE BEST COOKIE ICING EVER?
You’ve always had a hard time living with unresolved tension, haven’t you? Okay then, I’m going to get to the point and end your suffering.
A couple months ago I had a cookie order that involved a lot of writing and I wanted the writing to be super clean with some height, the kind of writing I knew I could get with royal icing. Royal icing. I love the puffy dimensions, the super fine detailing, and the quick drying time of royal icing but the hard crunch, the dull finish, and especially the taste have always been major turn-offs for me.
So the brain gears started turning. . .what would happen if I took a big scoop of royal icing and stirred it into a big scoop of glaze? And so I did because that’s the kind of risk-taker I am. One day I’m combining icings, the next I’m free jumping off tall buildings. And what happened with tossing all caution to the wind is that I ended up with an icing that offered the best of glaze (soft bite, slight shine, and sweet taste) and the best of royal icing (shorter drying time, fine details, and puffy dimension). And no wonder because it IS glaze and it IS royal icing.
Another advantage I’ve noticed from adding royal icing into glaze is that the finish is slightly less slick and more rough, a result of less corn syrup I’m guessing, which produces much better results with airbrushing, stenciling, and stamping on the surface of the icing.
While I can achieve the puffy dimensional look with multiple layers of pure glaze as previously mentioned and no doubt already jotted down in your “Another Brilliant Thing Anita Said” notebook, the amount of dense glaze that ends up layered on the cookie can overwhelm the baked cookie underneath, leaving a bite that’s almost too sweet. If there exists such a thing.
The one immediately obvious downside to combining royal icing and glaze is that it requires double the time in preparing two separate icings and so that’s why for the past couple weeks I’ve exchanged my apron for a lab coat and locked myself away in my culinary laboratory, only emerging long enough to consult and compare notes with some of the finest icing researchers to hold a piping bag including the one, the only, you know her and you love her, Jill. After tweaking through a half dozen different “royal glaze” recipes I’ve come up with a number of variations that gave me finished results similar to the original combo version with one single notable exception. When I combine the two separate icings the airy puffiness of the whipped royal icing lightens the dense, compact quality of glaze and I end up with icing in my bowl that looks and behaves like royal icing. It’s fluffy and still able to form loose, soft peaks. However, when I mix all the ingredients together in one bowl, no matter what the order I add them or the quantities of each ingredient, the finished icing looks and behaves like glaze. It’s dense and smooths back into itself. I suppose I could have continued my experiments until I found that one magic recipe and filled up yet another freezer shelf with plastic buckets of icing but instead, I decided to stop the insanity and stay with Anita’s FrankenFrosting, named by everyone’s favorite retro sheek, Arty McGoo.
So if you’re looking for an icing that offers the best of both glaze and royal icing you might want to give FrankenFrosting a try. Here are the recipes that I use for my mad icing science!
Sugarbelles’ Royal Icing – A Tweaked Version
2 pounds powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons meringue powder
1/2 – 3/4 cup water
2-3 teaspoons oil-free extract or emulsion (More often than not I use a mix of vanilla and almond extracts)
1 tablespoon glycerin
Follow Sugarbelle’s directions in her recent cookie icing post, adding the glycerin when adding in the flavorings.
Sweet Glaze Icing
2 pounds powdered sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
(adjust your flavorings as desired)
Add all the ingredients to your standing mixer in the order in which they’re listed and then, using the beater attachment, beat at low speed until the ingredients are just combined and then beat for another 2-3 minutes at medium high.
The steps that go into making the actual FrankenFrosting are actually so complex and nuanced that I thought it might be better to show you how to do it rather than tell you. Please don’t start the video until you have notebook and pen in hand.
I know. I put everything you look for in a highly educational and entertaining cookie tutorial. Banjo music, off-center framing, and tediously boring stirring of multiple bowls of icing by icing covered hands. It’s a beautiful thing. Step aside SweetAmbs, there’s a new girl in town!
The point of the video is simply to show you in the most B-rated form of video production a comparison of all the icings side by side. I would recommend Netflix or HuluPlus if you’re looking to be entertained.
Final Frankenfrosting thoughts:
- I keep my “starter icings” thick and only thin the Frankenfrosting with water after adding coloring gel since different colors require more or less gel.
- Even though Frankenfrosting has a soft bite because of the glaze, I still go ahead and add glycerin to the royal icing since I want the option of being able to use pure royal icing or pure glaze.
- Frankenfrosting can be left on the counter in an airtight container (or piping bags/bottles) for a couple days (I’m of the small camp that avoids leaving reconstituted egg whites at room temperature for extended periods of time), and should keep in the freezer for several months.
BEST COOKIE ICING EVER. . . in my kitchen anyway!