The tradition of using royal icing to top Christmas cake is an old one, originating in the United Kingdom. This easy-to-make white icing not only looks attractive on Christmas cakes, it is easy to spread on the cakes' uneven surfaces and it helps keep them fresh longer as it forms a hard, protective shell. Ice the Christmas cakes directly after preparing it as it will turn from royal icing to royal concrete in the bowl within minutes.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- 0.454kg. confectioner's sugar
- 4 tsp lemon juice, or 2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, or 1 1/2 tsp of either, orange, peppermint or almond extract
- 4 small egg whites or 4 tbsp of meringue powder plus 6 tbsp warm water
- 3 to 6 drops edible glycerine, optional (adds gloss)
- Large bowl
- Electric mixer or wire whip
Sift 0.454kg. confectioner's sugar two or three times to ensure it has a fine consistency with no lumps.
Separate four egg whites into a large bowl and reserve the yolks for other cooking uses. If you prefer, make a meringue mixture instead composed of 4 tbsp of meringue powder mixed with 6 tbsp of warm water.
Whip the egg whites or meringue mixture with an electric mixer or wire whip until stiff.
Gradually add 4 tsp lemon juice or a flavouring extract like vanilla (2 ½ tsp), orange, peppermint or almond (1 ½ tsp) to the large bowl along with the sifted confectioner's sugar. If you prefer a glossy icing over a matt finish, add 3 to 6 drops of edible glycerine.
Mix for an additional minute or two until all the ingredients are well-blended and the mixture is a good consistency to spread. Use as soon as possible or cover the bowl with a damp cloth to keep the icing from hardening.
Tips and warnings
- If your icing appears greyish you have two options: It will turn snowy white if you beat it longer, or you can add a drop of blue food colouring during the mixing.
- To get a smooth finish on your cake while icing, put the icing on the cake and then dip a palette knife into a bowl of hot water (don't get the knife too wet) to spread it and smooth it out.
- If you are worried about the risk of salmonella from using raw egg whites, substitute meringue powder.
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