Royal Icing - Insider Expert Tips to Improve Your Cake Decorating The title 'royal' was given to royal icing after being used on Queen Victoria's wedding cake in 1840. Francatelli, the Queen's famous French chef, published a book in l864 in which he describes how to ice a wedding cake with a mixture of egg whites, sugar and lemon juice beaten together. He wrote 'use this icing to mask the entire surface of the cake with a coating about a quarter of an inch thick'. But, long before the above date this type of icing was in use. A cook, wrote in 1789, that she spread it over cakes with the aid of a board or a large feather! And then placed it in front of 'a great fire' to dry. So we can see royal icing has been popular for many years. The simple ingredients, egg white and icing sugar create a dazzling icing, making it the perfect choice for wedding cakes. Dried egg whites can be used instead of fresh. Not only does this save having a surplus of egg yolks, but also the icing is whiter than icing made with fre sh whites. Begin by rinsing out bowls, wooden spoons,and beaters with boiling water. This simple but most important job is done to dissolve any grease which could be lingering on the surface of the tools. Grease and royal icing do not mix well! Sift the icing sugar. It is a good idea to keep a small sieve especially for this job. Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Discard any whites that contain even a small amount of yolk,as once again the fat in the yolk will prevent the whites from aerating. If a food mixer is available,use when beating three or more whites. Smaller quantities are best made either with an electric hand whisk,or with a large wooden spoon(again kept especially for that purpose). Begin by beating the whites until they are quite stiff . How long this takes varies according to the tool used,and the number of egg whites. Now start adding the sifted icing sugar, a tablespoonful at a time, beating well after each addition until the icing stands in peaks. To store, place in an airtight container,and cover with cling film, then place in the refrigerator.This type of icing will keep for weeks, but always remember that it needs re-beating again before use. The consistency of the icing needs adjusting according to how it is being used. For instance,to 'flat ice'a wedding cake the icing should be the consistency of beaten double cream. If too stiff, add a few drops of water,too soft,then add icing sugar. To prevent royal icing setting too hard one teaspoon of glycerine can be added to every pound of icing sugar used. When smooth icing a cake,use icing that is two or three days old. Freshly made icing may cause air bubbles to appear on the surface of the cake. Usually three thin layers of icing are needed,allowing each layer to dry before adding t he next. Icing used for piping decorations should be well beaten,and recently made otherwise it will not hold its shape. Do not use icing which has glycerine in it. Royal icing for Run-Outs (Colour flow) can be softened with either a few drops of water or egg white. Use Royal icing instead of Glace Icing (icing sugar and water)for flooding over cakes. Softened down with egg white it is denser and whiter than Glace icing and gives better coverage. Royal icing is also used when making Rock Sugar, which as the name suggests is a way of making lifelike edible rocks. It is made by adding royal icing into hot sugar syrup, the royal icing literally erupts and hardens into a volcanic-like substance. So as you can see from the above descriptions, this is a very versatile icing. And most importantly, most people love the taste! Pat Lock is a cake decorating expert with over 25 years experience who runs the excellent Cake Decorating Tips website. She has won awards at the prestigious international competition at Hotel Olympia, London and is also an accomplished author.