How to Decorate a Cake With Royal Icing Designs

Written by amrita chuasiriporn
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How to Decorate a Cake With Royal Icing Designs
The leaf outlines on this cake were made possible by royal icing. (wedding cake image by cherie from

Royal icing is an edible medium used by cake decorators to make precise line decorations on cakes. Pinstriping, elegant spirals and squiggles, and outlines of other designs are just some of the things royal icing does well. Made with icing sugar, lemon juice and egg whites or meringue powder, royal icing is prized because it dries to a beautiful matt finish and can be coloured any shade you want. It dries very quickly, so you must be confident in your designs so you can move quickly when working with it. Practice is essential to building confidence.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Cake decorating piping bag
  • Cake decorating tip set
  • Royal icing
  • Spatula
  • Frosted cake
  • Plate
  • Gel food colours (optional)
  • Toothpicks (optional)
  • Airtight containers (optional)

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  1. 1

    Load your selected decorating tip into your piping bag. If your tip set uses a coupler to hold the tip in place, mount the tip with the help of the coupler. A decorating tip coupler features one side that goes inside the piping bag, onto which the decorating tip mounts. A ring, usually plastic, threads onto the outside of the pastry bag and locks the tip into place.

  2. 2

    Fill the piping bag no fuller than halfway with royal icing; if you know you will be doing a small amount of decorating with a given colour of icing, only fill it with as much as you think you will need. Use a spatula to scoop the icing into the bag, and squeeze as much air out of the top of the bag as possible.

  3. 3

    Smooth the open end of the piping bag away from the icing in the bag to remove any excess air. Air in the icing can cause burps in your design, which disrupts lines and can make icing splatter in unwanted ways on your cake.

  4. 4

    Practice making a few lines with your piping bag and icing on a plate. Do a straight line, a zigzag and a spiral to familiarise yourself with the consistency of the icing and how it flows from your piping bag as you squeeze. If you have a particular design in mind, practice it as well before starting on the actual cake.

  5. 5

    Begin piping your designs at one side of the cake, and work from it to the other side. Work swiftly, because royal icing dries quickly when exposed to air, but take enough time that you do not feel rushed and prone to overlooking the details of your designs.

  6. 6

    End lines of icing by pressing the decorator tip in toward the cake, stopping the squeezing of icing in the bag, and pulling the tip away from the cake quickly. This helps to create a smooth, neat, unobtrusive end to your lines. If you simply pull the piping bag away, it leaves a trail that tails off to a point at the end, which may stick out from your cake and look untidy.

  7. 7

    Rehearse piping dots on a plate just before piping them, especially if you will be doing a lot of them. Consistency in size and shape is key, so it is important to get yourself relaxed and into the right frame of mind before you pipe a lot of icing dots all over your cake. Even if you have piped dots before, a refresher session helps ensure evenness.

Tips and warnings

  • Mix different colours of royal icing using a toothpick and gel food colours. Keep coloured icings separately, in airtight containers, when not in use. Like uncolored royal icing, coloured royal icings dry out quickly when exposed to air.

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