Royal Icing Flooding

Royal icing flooding is the first stage in decorating sugar cookies.

This stage, also called the base coat is important. You need to get the sugar cookie icing as perfect as possible to assure the decorating to turn out splendid!

Problems With Royal Icing Flooding

Let’s troubleshoot some common problems with royal icing flooding…

·         Icing runs off cookie

If your royal icing is too thin it will run off the edges, sometimes even with a piped dam around the edge.Too runny icing for sugar cookies

The royal icing should be 12-15 second consistency.

12 second consistency means if you spoon up some icing and drop it back in, it takes 12 seconds for it to disappear. 15 seconds means the same, but it takes 15 seconds to disappear.

12 or 15 second royal icing flooding. Which one?

This depends if you plan on using the same consistency to pipe the border and flood the cookie.

Some decorators prefer using only one consistency to outline and fill. This saves work but gives less control of the icing. Use 12 second if you plan on this technique.

If you like/would like to feel as though you have more control, use 2 piping bags, one with 12 second (outlining) and one with 15 second royal icing (flooding).

However, just starting out, I recommend the 2 bag technique. It's easier.

I use both methods, depending on my time.

·         Air bubbles in icing

Dreaded air bubbles in icing can make your cookies less than a master piece. This page aides in making the royal icing without bubbles.Air bubbles trapped in royal icing

Ugh, those dreaded air bubbles. Where do they come from?

First, do not overmix when making the sugar cookie icing. Mixing to long incorporates air into it.

Make sure to use your whip attachment instead of the paddle. Always make sure it's on the lowest setting too. Refer to Sugar Cookie Icing page on how to make the royal icing.

Second, after mixing the colors it should set a while, preferably overnight. This allows the air bubbles to rise to the top.

Third, adding to much liquid can contribute to air bubbles.

  • Icing turns out flat on the cookie instead of puffy
Flat icing can look nice, but people like the look of it being puffy. There are ways to accommodate this. Follow these instructions.Strive for puffy, not flat sugar cookie icing

Want puffy icing on cookies? Try to not overmix the icing. Also, adding too much liquid will make them more flat.

Note: it's faster to have the royal icing flooding thinner, but this gives way to more bubbles, color bleed, and flatter top.

·         Cracks in the royal icing

There's a couple of reasons why your royal icing can develop cracks. Here's some answers to assist this problem.Cracks in icing

After flooding the sugar cookies, leave them to set untouched over night if possible.

 Though they may look set up, only the tops are crusted over. Underneath is still wet.

Side note…a common myth is to place them in a dehydrator and they will dry. Dehydrators are wonderful for sugar cookies. I wouldn’t want to live without mine.

However, they only help the icing to dry on top. This enables the decorator to pop them in to add another color or layer faster.

·         Color bleed

The head of this cute little sloth shows color bleed. This page teaches you how to avoid it with man tips and tricks.Poor little sloth!

There are quite a few reasons for color bleed. This is a list of what I have learned through the years:

a.       Use quality food gel

b.       Do not use too much water

c.       Possibly the quality of the water

d.       Allow icing to dry on cookie before adding another color

e.       Humidity wreaks havoc with royal icing

f.        Add white food coloring when making icing, AmerColor gels are my go to!

g.       Do not cover cookies until completely dry

h.       Never refrigerate iced cookies (humidity in fridge)

i.         Use high quality confectioner’s sugar, like C&H

j.     If you are using food markers and you notice color bleed, there are certain markers that aide in this. I'll be posting them in the future.

Get to know me here.

Supplies you will need for royal icing flooding

Click picture for the Best Sugar Cookies link with downloadable and printable recipe.

Click image for the Superior Sugar Cookie Icing recipe. This recipe offers a large batch version as well as a small batch version in a free downloadable and printable form!

Alrighty, ready?

Let’s get a few supplies together so we can start.

1.    Blank cookies

2.       Royal icing outline consistency in piping bag, #3 frosting tip

3.       Royal icing flood consistency in piping bag, I like to use around a #5 frosting tip

4.       Toothpick, icing needle tool, scribe, etc.

5.       Paper towel or cookie turntable

6.       Wet paper towel or cloth

7.       Favorite music

Music clipart on Royal Icing Flooding page at

One thing to remember before we start the fun...

“Harmonious fingers make for competent hands.”—Pepper Blair

Did you get your free download of Pepper Blair's Climb a Mountain e-book of inspiring quotes on the home page? If not, be sure to grab it here! You'll be glad you did.

Here's some of the quotes you can expect inside:

Focus on the work at hand. Be detailed oriented. It's when you pay attention to the fine details that it catapults you to a pro level decorator. I can't say it enough:

Detail. Detail. Detail.

Royal Icing Flooding. Ready, Set, Go!

Now that you are all set, let’s get started.

Keep in mind, this is an A-Z sugar cookies site. Thus, we are starting at the very beginning. If you are more advanced, please be patient as this site is developing.

Also, just because this is the way I decorate, does not mean it’s the best or only way. It’s the style I have developed that works for me. So don’t be afraid to stretch out and use your own creativity.

With piping bag in hand, take the thicker (outline) icing and draw a line around the shape of the cookie.

Set the tip down on the cookie to start and raise the tip about ½” away from the surface.

Do not pull the icing, just let it fall down in a straight line, letting gravity have its way.

You need to be aware of the steady squeeze of the bag as you move it along. Nice steady pressure.

As you come near meeting the starting point, let up on the squeezing so there isn’t a glob when you meet it. This is where your icing needle, scribe, toothpick (whatever you are using) will come in handy.

The royal icing may need smoothed out a little when the two ends meet.

That was easy!

Now set it aside and pipe the borders on the rest of the cookies.


Take the first cookie you piped. With the other piping bag, the royal icing flooding, fill in the sugar cookie.

Keep going until you have finished royal icing flooding on all the cookies. Preferably a dozen. This will give you lots of practice.

If you see bubbles rising to the top, just take your ‘bubble popper’ and pop them. There will be others that will pop on their own, so don’t worry too much.

Flood/base coat on sugar cookie. A-Z learning on Royal Icing Flooding page at coated sugar cookie

Isn’t this relaxing? Who needs therapy when you can decorate sugar cookies?

Great job!

Don't fret if yours don't turn out perfect. Rome wasn't built in a day. Royal icing flooding is like anything else...practice makes perfect.

Now that you have finished the royal icing flooding, our next page delves a little deeper.

But before we do the actual decorating, I'll show you some cookie decorating techniques to be applied to your royal icing flooding.