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A Longhorn Story…Royal icing woes

Overhead view of Texas Longhorn decorated cookies
I have been dealing with royal icing for a while now. It has always been my go-to icing for sugar cookies. I feel like I keep the meringue powder people in business myself.
Until now.
Texas Longhorn frosted cookie
Several Texas Longhorn frosted cookies
Close-up of a Texas Longhorn frosted cookie
Close-up of Texas Longhorn cookie with leather-textured icing

Here’s the story…got an expedited order for some Longhorn cookies last month. The sweet lady who ordered them is a repeat customer and more than a pleasure to deal with. She was shopping and found this cute longhorn cookie cutter and bought one for me! She figured I didn’t already have one (which I did not) and was going to order some cookies for a big game the Texas Longhorns were playing last month. Time was of the essence, so I had to receive the cutter, make and ship them to get to her in all under a week. I wouldn’t normally do cookies on such short notice, but like I said, she is a great lady…and she bought me a cookie cutter…the way to my heart 😉
As soon as the cutter arrived I went to work; I made the cookies and the royal icing and iced the cookies all in a matter of a few hours. I wanted them to dry overnight so I could ship them out the next day…it worked out perfect, until the next morning when I came out to check on my sweet longhorns.
Uhhhh, they were still wet. Not tacky even, just wet. So I busted out the fans: ceiling, oscillating and even paper fans my kids made, I was desperate.
OK, no need to stress, I will get the fans on them and UPS is open until 7pm…there was still time.
Cut to 7 pm – SLIGHTLY less wet.
Are you kidding me? I went back over my steps making the royal icing, thinking what I could have done wrong. I honestly had NO IDEA. Royal icing is meringue powder, water and powdered sugar. If you add too much water, you would know because your icing would be too runny. It’s sort of fool proof. Of course I am the exception to the rule…of course.
Alright, another overnight and they will be dry, I will just have to 2-day them.
Next morning, wake up and discover the longhorns, still under fan (now for 24 hours) STILL tacky. Not only tacky, but the icing was drying in an unusual way…the texture of the icing looked like leather…how weird.
With no time to mess around I re-baked the cookies and made a glaze icing, instead of the royal, iced the new cookies, put them under the fans and prayed.
Glaze icing, for me, is powdered sugar, corn syrup and a little milk. It is easier and, in my opinion, tastier than its royal counterpart. I don’t usually use it though because it is stickier than royal and when shipping you don’t want any stickiness, also royal dries to a perfectly smooth matte finish while glaze retains some shine. Personal preference, I guess.
These cookies were dry by the next morning, so I wrapped them up and shipped them out on Wednesday to be there Friday.
They ended up arriving on-time, thank you USPS Expedited shipping and she got them in time for the big game, which the Longhorns won, btw.
So, what happened with my royal icing? The past 2 times I have used it for flooding I have experienced some drying issues. There is no humidity in my house this time of year with the heat running constantly, so I knew that wasn’t the problem.
The cookies did, finally, dry after 3 nights under fans.
I ended up taking the leathery-longhorns to my son’s Tiger Scout meeting. I figured the kids wouldn’t car what the icing looked like! I will admit the leathery finish on them was a neat texture…IF it was on purpose.
Not only did they look weird, the icing was crumbly and strange.
Over the holidays I only used the glaze icing to flood for fear that I would encounter another longhorn incident. The royal that I did make I used for piping and outlining, which worked great! My question to you is have you ever had this happen? Not drying, leathery outcome?
Let me know that I am not alone!!!

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55 comments on “A Longhorn Story…Royal icing woes”

  1. Yes!!! This happens to me frequently!! Thank you for posting. I am hoping that the hints shared here will help me. I have pretty much given up doing sugar cookies due to cracking and drying issues. ๐Ÿ™

  2. I have not had that happen to me and I’ve never seen it.I have been searching for a good Royal Icing recipe as mine was never the right consistency and it never came out really white – I found one that adds cream of tartar and it is mixed with a mixer for about 10 mins. It’s worked for me so far. Maybe the cream of tartar is the trick. Good luck!

  3. Cookie Cheers

    This has happened to me twice. Both times I whipped the meringue before adding powdered. Now I mix it all at one time and haven’t had it happen again. My fix was sprinkling the colored sanding sugar on top to hide the texture.

  4. I know I am three years late on contributing but I see that some of your comments are from this year.

    I had to do 60 cookies for my gf’s baby shower and ALL of my onsies came out this way. I had time (by “time” I mean between the hours of 11pm – 6am when normal people are supposed to be sleeping) so I carefully scraped the icing off and re-iced, same issues.

    After contacting Amber from SweetAbs who is a complete darling, she gave me some advice which helped me figure out what went wrong. Hopefully I am able to help future readers:

    1. The extract. I wanted lemon flavored RI but I didn’t notice that the one I used contained oil of lemon meaning my RI had no chance what-so-ever. I thought extract = alcohol, WRONG! Make sure you read your ingredients!

    2. Attachments and time: I used the whisk attachment and beat it on med-high for maybe 4-5 min. WRONG! (at least for me)
    – I use the RI recipe from Sweetopia since hers incorporates Cream of Tartar which acts like a stabilizer. Weather in NYC can be unpredictable with regards to humidity, so I like throwing it in there.
    – After adding the sugar (per the recipe) I beat on med-low with paddle attachment for 8 min then crank it up to med-high for 2 min. I know its ready when my stand mixer starts to protest.

    I don’t go overboard and wipe down my tools with vinegar, I just make sure that I’m diligent while cleaning, especially if I am making cookies and icing in the same day (creaming that butter than wreak havoc on the icing later).

    This is just Amber’s opinion, but she said that she rather add water to her flood icing very slo-o-o-wly and get the right consistency first than over water and add more confectioner’s sugar. She went to culinary school and all that, so I trust her judgement on that one.

    I hope I was able to help if anyone still has problems ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Hello,

    This has also happened to me. I just made cookies and they dried the same. I believe it was because I put too much thick flow icing. With the same batch of royal icing, I iced a green apple and a red apple and strawberries. Only the green apple came out cracked with bubble like holes. Exactly like your first horn batch. Anyways…. with the green, I decided to make the flow thicker by not adding too much water, so that it would have a nice bubble like effect . I believe that because it was too thick, it did not dry nicely, whereas the other were too thinned, but they came out beautifully. The green apples just cannot dry evenly since the edges dried first and then the centre of the cookie.

    It all has to do with water. At least this is what happened to mine since it was the same royal icing but only coloured differently will gels and different water consistencies.

    I am selling mine as well and I just decided to do a cover up. I has a little green icing left and added more water to it. I then coated them once more. I will update with the results as to how it turned out.

  6. How did you get the icing to be burnt orange? Did you use a mixture of food coloring and if so, how many drops of what colors?

  7. I had my first attempt at decorating cookies yesterday (for my sister’s birthday) and had that exact same problem. I thought I must have put in too much water, but I also used a whisk and I don’t think I mixed it for anywhere near 6 or more minutes. Have to start again toay and will try some of these suggestions. Thanks everyone!

  8. Nathalie Smith

    Yes it happened to me and I cried!!!!! Since I was charging for them! I can’t find out for the life of me why this happened, but I am going to take everyone’s advice and try to make some christmas cookies. Wish me luck.

  9. This happened to me just hours ago. I'm still looking at the cookies and I think I might cry. The cookie part is just perfect, the icing is garbage….what a waste. At least I know I'm not the only one to have a mishap with the evil royal icing.

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