I made a batch of sugar cookies with royal icing for a local benefit. I have only been using royal icing for a few months. I took a class at a local bakeshop to learn the technique. I also read a blog called Sweetopia. She has an awesome royal icing recipe that I think is the best.You can find her tutorial for it at the link below. She has amazing pictures as well. Make sure to spend some time looking around.
My mom and I have been baking sugar cookies every year at Christmas for as long as I can remember. We have a family recipe we use that I have been asked not to share. Sorry. They are the kind of cookies that bake up light and fluffy and melt in your mouth. We usually decorate them with butter cream frosting and sprinkles. They really are not good for royal icing, because they fluff too much. I am working on a sugar cookie recipe that still tastes good but holds it shape. I am close, but not quite there.
The ghost is my favorite. It started as just a few drops of black. When you lightly drag your toothpick through the black this is what you get. The icing in this picture is still wet. That is why it looks so shiny.
Kaci's Tips that will hopefully prevent you from throwing your pastry bag across the room.
If your icing is the wrong consistency, most of the time too runny, it will make you very angry. Especially when you thought you outlined it perfectly only to come back and find that your ghost has slid off the cookie and is trying to mate with the pumpkin cookie. Do not overfill your bags like I do every single time. It's such a mess to take the icing out, thicken it and put it back in if the consistency is wrong. Seriously, I do it every time.
A small lump in royal icing will also make you angry. I usually use a tip 2 or 3. These clog easily. I find it best to remove the tip completely, rinse it with warm water, dry it, then replace it. I also have started sifting my powdered sugar before mixing it in. This helps to prevent lumps. Also keep your royal icing covered with a damp paper towel. I usually let the towel gently rest on the icing, then cover the container with the lid.
I have read many places where others say you can save this icing for a week or so at room temperature. I am yet to make this happen. It separates and is never quite the same. I suggest baking a ton of cookies and decorating them all. This will make your family and friends very happy.
Once you get the hang of royal icing it is a lot of fun to work with. My 12 year old daughter loves when I make it. It's like grown-ups art and crafts time. Enjoy!