When I was young and living overseas, every year my mother and a bunch of other women would all make buttercream eggs to sell at the commissary. A couple of weeks before Easter, our kitchen would start to fill up with hundreds of Royal Icing flowers to decorate them. The bags of these candy flowers were so enticing while we waited for the main event and (sorry Mom) I know I stole my fair share of them in the weeks in between! They were so sweet and cute that I couldn’t resist.
It’s been almost 30 years since my mom made her last buttercream egg, and I ran across the recipe a couple of years ago and decided it would be fun (and nostalgic) to try making them myself. They were just as good as I remembered them, although it took a little tinkering to get my “drop” flowers to come out right. I have no idea where the recipe I have came from, and it was missing a chunk of instructions so I ended up having to re-vamp it anyway.
I thought it would be fun to share the recipe even though it takes a little determination to get the flower technique down (the eggs are super easy) – I figure if I can do it than anyone with a little patience can as well (I have very little experience with using pastry bags successfully, and maybe it’s the Boucheés Parmentiers au Fromage that gave me the courage to try these!).
Part 1 – Royal Icing flowers
You need to make these in advance, as they take at least 24 hours to dry. I will caution that Royal Icing has raw egg whites, unless you use meringue powder. I’m not scared of a little raw egg because I use only fresh, local, organic eggs – and because I’ve eaten so much raw cookie dough, cake dough, and yes, hundreds (thousands?) of these little flowers in my lifetime that it never even crosses my mind. If you prefer to avoid them for health reasons, you can buy meringue powder at many grocery stores (except not at the Co-op) – it is made out of powdered egg whites and many cooks feel it is a safer option. You can find an alternate recipe for the Royal Icing using meringue powder here.
I live on the wild side, so into the bowl my two egg whites went. You want to beat them until pretty stiff peaks form, and then you slowly add (3 cups!) sifted powdered sugar and a little lemon juice. The first few times I made the icing, it was way too runny, and you need it to be pretty dense to form the flowers using a pastry tip. I divided the icing into two different bowls and added India Tree food coloring that we now carry at the Co-op, made from red cabbage (blue), beet juice (red) and curcumin (yellow). I went for pink and purple for my icing colors. I realized that the consistency of the icing still wasn’t right, so I kept mixing in more powdered sugar until my spoon stood up straight on its own. I loaded the icing into my pastry bags (one with a #96 or #129 tip for the flowers and one with a #2 tip for the center of the flowers) and got to piping! If you don’t have a pastry bag set, we carry them at the Downtown Co-op in a cute little cake decorating set (I hear that we are out of stock but will have more soon).
The key is to exert slight pressure and keep a steady hand. Very lightly press the tip of the pastry bag (with the #96 tip, the #129 is better, but I don’t have one of those) to the surface of your baking sheet and lightly squeeze while turning it about a 1/4 turn while simultaneously lifting the bag straight up (sounds complicated but it really isn’t once you get the hang of it). It will take a few tries to get it right, but that’s ok because you have plenty of icing to work with! Once you have a row completed, use the alternate color with the #2 tip to pipe a small dot of icing in the center of your “flower”. Continue making flowers until you have about half of your icing left, then switch your tips and make flowers in the alternate color (rinse out the tips well before switching). I meant to take photos of the process (my mom stopped by the Co-op and took the one above), but here’s a short video I found demonstrating the technique (and what they really should look like if you know what you are doing!).
Once you’ve made all the flowers you want to, let them air dry until they are hard. Rumor is they last forever once they harden, but I’ve never put that to the test! Keep them in an air-tight container until you need to use them.
Tomorrow, I’ll post the recipe (and a PDF file of the whole thing) for the eggs and show photos of the final product!
Royal Icing Drop Flowers
prepare at least one day and up to one month in advance
- 2 egg whites
- 2t lemon juice
- 3c sifted powdered sugar (plus up to an additional cup)
- Food coloring
- Two pastry bags and tips (#2 and a flower tip like #96 or #129)
- Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Gradually add 3c powdered sugar and the lemon juice until smooth. Add more powdered sugar until icing is very stiff (you should be able to stand your spoon up straight on its own).
- Keep covered until used.
- Divide icing into two bowls—using a small amount of food coloring, dye each batch the color of your choice.
- Fill a piping bag with each color of icing (remember to cover any excess icing) and fit one with a size 96 or 129 tip and the other with a size 2 tip.
- Cover baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Begin by using the larger number tipped bag—gently press on the top of the bag with the tip just touching the surface of the parchment paper. As you gently press out the icing, give it a slight turn and stop pushing out the icing. It will take a few tries before you get the correct pressure, but never fear, you’ll get it! Make sure you lift the tip straight up.
- Using the bag with the #2 tip, pip a small dot in the center of the flower. Repeat until half of your flower tipped bag is gone, then remove tips, rinse out, and switch tips so you can make flowers in the color you were using for the center of the flower.
- Let air dry until very hard. Store in airtight container until used.