Tinkerbell Goes Royal (or, how to paint Royal Icing)

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Wistfully Warped cupcakes are made from scratch,  using high quality ingredients, and all decorations must be edible.  Some of my designs are created with painted Royal Icing and I am constantly asked, “You MADE that?” Why, yes I did. The next question is, “You used a mold, right?”  Well, no, I did not.  I recently had this conversation with a neighbor, who challenged me with, “Oh, sure, and they just ALL look identical?”  (Well, actually, they don’t since I don’t use molds.) His wife slapped him. “You, know she’s an artist!” Yep, I love my neighbors. So, how to paint Royal icing?

My cousin asked if I could make her a Tinkerbell cupcake.  Never one to shy away from a challenge – game on!  I knew I wanted to create painted Royal icing for this project, so I documented the process.

First,  I do a lot of research on my subject to decide how to best depict it.  Once a design is chosen, it must be scaled to a size suitable for a cupcake.  Since Royal icing is easily breakable, I choose a chunkier shape as I can always define it with the painting.

After creating a template of the design, I ready my supplies.  I cut parchment paper into pieces a size slightly larger than the design. (You might be tempted to use wax paper – don’t do it.  The icing will stick to the paper.  As a chief friend tried to explain to me,  you can’t bake with wax paper since it melts, and the icing is more than “whatever” degree, so it melts together, blah, blah, blah. There ya go, that’s my scientific explanation.)   I get an icing bag ready, usually using a size 2 or 3 tip.

The Royal Icing recipe I use is as follows: (I like to use small batches of Royal Icing since it goes far, doesn’t keep well in it’s raw form and we don’t want waste.)

  • 2 Cups sifted powered (confectioners) sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoon meringue powder (available at craft stores)
  • 3+ Tablespoons warm water (adjust as needed)

Using a stand mixer, blend the sugar and meringue powder.  Slowly add 3 Tablespoons of water. I usually end up using more than 3 Tablespoons. Do not follow standard instructions and beat for however minutes long.

We are looking to achieve the Rule of Ten. The goal is to cut the icing with a butter knife and have it meld together at the count of ten.  Actually, I often use the Rule of Five.  I want the icing to flow – this means I want to be able to draw an outline and fill it with icing without fighting it.  So, if 3 Tablespoons of water is not enough to achieve this goal, slowly add a small amount of water.  Do not over mix – once the desired consistency is reached – stop!  NOTE:  The humidity of the day will affect the frosting so there is no hard and fast rule on how much water is needed.

Placing a piece of parchment over my template, I draw an outline with the frosting. I then fill in the outline with more frosting and gently shake the parchment paper to fill in the design and set it aside to dry.  I wanted Tinkerbell to have some depth, so I created her body and wings separately.

Once the icing has hardened and dried (which can take up to a day, once again, depending upon the humidity) it’s time to paint!

As an artist and crafter, I have an assortment of brushes, but when dealing with food, one must have food-safe brushes. Any synthetic brush is food safe. There is no way I could paint with the brushes sold in the craft store baking aisle. Move along to the “artist” aisles and choose synthetic brushes.

I gather my brushes and colors (which can either be icing colors or food colors) and paint in the details. It’s much like painting a watercolor as you must paint light to dark. You can’t lighten a color once it is laid down, so a lot of thought must go into the process beforehand.

Once the pieces have dried, it is now time to add them to the frosted cupcake. Here’s my cousin’s finished cupcake.

I hope I have explained this thoroughly enough. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like more information!  Have fun! *sprinkling fairy dust*




Did you try this project?

Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #wistfullywarped.

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