If you’ve been to one of our virtual Team Building Events since January 2021, odds are you enjoyed decorating cookies with buttercream frosting! This is a very different type of decorative topping than royal icing. I always love to speak about this in my classes to give a little background as to why we work with it, and where else you’ll use either of them!
Okay so you’re probably reading this thinking, “Okay Krystina, why is this even a topic of conversation? What is royal icing? Aren’t frosting and icing the same thing?”
Well! Here’s the deal: buttercream frosting is typically used for cakes. Royal icing is typically used for decorating sugar cookies or gluing gingerbread houses together. If you ever peruse the world of “sugar cookie decorating videos” on Instagram or Youtube, 99% of those are decorated with royal icing.
So sometimes people are surprised to hear that I much prefer to use buttercream frosting with my virtual team building events or public Cookie Ice Night events when I’m shipping Cookie Kits.
Buttercream frosting (first photo above) is billowy, soft, fluffy even; very sweet and tasty! It’s very hard to ship foods that have been decorated in it, as it doesn’t harden very easily and you’ll likely ruin the design of your finished cake or cupcake. However, it’s also so much more fun to decorate with for beginners! It doesn’t take much skill, just seeing how an instructor uses it and then duplicate those designs and techniques. Don’t get me wrong — it’s still not “easy”! But it is a lot more approachable and confidence-building off the bat, as opposed to royal icing, which is very technique-heavy and education-based.
Royal icing (right photo above) is sweet and yummy too, and can range from a very liquidy substance to a more solid consistency like toothpaste. And there’s about a million consistencies in between those two! However, the main difference here is that royal icing hardens quite nicely once it dries. Once a cookie decorated with royal icing has fully dried, it can be difficult to "smush” it! So it makes for a much better topping to decorate something you’ll be shipping (like a gift) or even something you’d like to serve at a party that’s individually bagged. If you’ve ever hired me to decorate custom cookies as party favors for your shower, welcome gifts for onboarding clients, or picked up cookies from my stand at The Great East Butcher Company when I hold my in-person pop-up events, you’ve had cookies of mine with royal icing. It’s a really difficult skill to learn though! From learning to use which consistency of icing to the order of decorating, it takes a lot more education and practice to learn how to decorate with royal icing well.
And shipping? Ha! Shipping royal icing was my nemesis the first few years I was giving virtual Cookie Ice Nights. You never knew if the icing would harden, get more liquidy, or what! And if you have the wrong consistency of royal icing, good luck making the cookies look how they’re supposed to! But now that I’ve found a delicious shelf-stable buttercream, oh my goodness, it’s easy as pie to ship! So, less stress AND easier to decorate with?! It’s a no-brainer!
I have learned over the years of first starting with giving Cookie Ice Nights with royal icing then switching to buttercream that life, when shipping Cookie Kits, is a heck of a lot more enjoyable with buttercream! So that’s what you can expect.