There are many types of frosting used in baking, but are all of them created equal? When it comes to decorating cookies, there are a few specific types of frostings that really “take the cake” (see what we did there?!).
Buttercream frosting is a very popular and also one of the most versatile topping for desserts, including cookies. It’s made from fat (butter) and sugar. The way you choose to combine these ingredients can change the consistency and type of buttercream frosting that you end up with. The more sugar you add, the stiffer it will be. Regardless, buttercream frosting tends to taste the best and cookies using this type of frosting also look very pretty. Buttercream frosting has a sweet, buttery flavor (hence the name) and it’s great for a smooth icing over cookies, creating borders, and for writing. You can also make some great cookie decorations out of buttercream frosting, including roses. Buttercream frosting can be made in all flavors and all colors.
Since buttercream frosting remains pretty soft even after a couple of days, it is not recommended for stacked or mailed cookies.
Another very popular frosting for decorating cookies, royal icing holds up very well if cookies need to be stacked or mailed (unlike buttercream). Royal icing has a very sweet flavor and works well for fine detailed work or if you want a nice glaze. You can change the consistency a bit, depending on the amount of water you add to your icing and it’s great for making flowers or figures and for decorating gingerbread houses. It dries quickly, so you don’t have to wait forever before adding new details or packing them up.
You have to be very precise when making royal icing, as just a little change in recipe can really alter how the icing looks when it’s dry. Then, when it does dry, it is hard as a rock. It can also make the cookies taste a little drier. If you are just using royal icing for a thin layer of decoration, you should be fine, but if you want a thicker piping, it may be very difficult to eat if using royal icing.
“Your royal icing for decorating must be a good consistency,” Ashley Heffner, a decorator at Cookie Bouquets, said. “If the icing is too thin, the decorations won’t hold up on your cookie. If the icing is too thick, you might have trouble squeezing the icing out of your tube.”
Cookie glaze will dry hard, but it won’t be hard as a rock like royal icing. It dries hard enough so that you can stack cookies, but not so hard that you can’t bite into them! It’s great for adding a written message or coating with colored sugar. It’s very easy to make, won’t dry out your cookies, it tastes great, and it stays very shiny once it’s dry.
As this is just a glaze, it is hard to use it for detailed work, as it doesn’t hold its shape very well. It also sticky and takes a long time to dry, so you must be patient! Finally, colors tend to dull out a little bit once the icing dries.
“When you glaze a cookie with two different colors, you must glaze with one color first and allow it to dry before using the next color to avoid the two colors bleeding.”
Color Flow Icing
Color Flow icing is used to make detailed icing decorations. You actually let them dry before putting them on your cookies. This type of icing has a very sweet flavor and dries shiny on the cookie. It’s great if you want a decoration that completely covers the cookie. Color flow is stronger than royal icing and is also shinier once dry.
Color Flow Icing takes a long time to dry, so you need to plan at least 2-3 days in advance.