ROYAL ICING TEXTURES
In our penultimate post, of our ten part series, we are looking at modern and artistic royal icing textures. If you have been following the series you will have noticed I did mention royal icing textures back in week six when we were talking about textured painting – but this post is dedicated to using royal icing as a textured covering rather than a painted detail.
Royal icing is something I had to play around with and discover myself. Growing up watching my mum create cakes for family and friends taught me so much but one technique she never really used was royal icing texture. Whenever we have spoken about royal icing my mum always refers back to when she was growing up and her own mum's experience of using it – it would seem to have put my mum off!
I'll admit royal icing can be a little tricky to work with but the results can be so good.
SOME OF MY FAVOURITE EXAMPLES
LIGHTLY ROUGH. There are so many ways to create texture with royal icing, and it never quite goes the same twice, so it was very hard to pick my favourite examples. A 'lightly rough' royal icing texture could be interpreted in many ways but for this post I'm talking about a texture that is 'imperfect', somewhat natural, and subtly tactile in appearance. It works really well as an entire covering for a cake tier and can take on different personalities depending what it's paired with. Sugar flowers make a lightly rough royal icing texture feel more classical, so careful use of metallics and colour might be needed to keep the design modern – whereas abstract wafer paper flowers can make the same texture feel more artistic but could border on becoming too unrefined for a modern cake, needing some clean lines to balance the overall design.
LINES/RIDGES. Horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines or ridges all work really well to create royal icing textures. Each gives a slightly different feel – so careful consideration when you are designing can find the best fit for the personality you are trying to create.
Horizontal lines tend to feel style focused and modern and, when mixed with watercolour painting and metallics, lend themselves to an artistic design.
Vertical lines often feel more nature-inspired, almost like tree bark or grass. Left white the texture adds interest and depth to a design, without overpowering other elements.
Diagonal lines can either add a touch of fun or a sense of tradition – it depends which other techniques the texture is mixed with. To keep the design modern and artistic, techniques such as textured paint and metallics are often needed.
PANELS. Sometimes entirely covering a cake in royal icing texture can overwhelm the design and take too much attention away from a different focus. This is when panels work well – smaller sections of royal icing texture that just add an accent of interest and depth. Panels of royal icing texture can be a great balancer within a cake design – adding an additional touch of personality to an otherwise 'okay' design.
WHERE TO START?
If you have never used royal icing before (other than perhaps for some piping) then here are a few tips to get you started:
Don't worry about making royal icing from scratch. A good royal icing sugar, mixed with boiled water (to prevent bacteria) that has been allowed to cool, works perfectly fine. It's a lot easier than mixing it entirely yourself, and potentially safer as you aren't dealing with a raw egg scenario. It can take some experimenting to get the right sugar/water ratio but for royal icing textures you are usually looking for a toothpaste like consistency.
Make sure you whisk your royal icing really well – longer than you probably think. It takes a good few minutes to whisk it into shape. From my experience not whisking royal icing enough can leave you with a slightly translucent icing, which is sticky rather than smooth and harder to apply.
Mix some glycerine into the icing. Glycerine helps prevent the royal icing setting too hard on your cake – which makes it easier to cut, serve, and eat. It does make it more fragile when applying as it will start to crumble as it dries, but work fast with it and you will be fine. You need approximately one millilitre/gram of glycerine per hundred grams of royal icing mix.
Palette knives, icing scrapers/smoothers, and sugar-craft modelling tools are very useful, but even items such as cocktails sticks, wooden skewers, and forks can all help create royal icing textures.
Royal icing textures are a great way to add depth to your design. They instantly create interest and, because of the variety in styles, can add so much personality. If you are looking at options for your wedding or celebration cake, and want something modern and artistic whilst still retaining a touch of tradition, then a royal icing texture could be just what your cake design needs.