I love hand painted cookies. There’s just something extra pretty and whimsical about them. For those of you just embarking on your cookie painting journey, you might have noticed that you have a couple options available to you in terms of mediums: fondant and royal icing. But what’s the difference? Why choose one over the other? Is one just somehow better? Well, no. They’re different tools for your cookie decorating tool kit, and one may be better in some situations than others. So what are the differences?
The Cookie Making Process
Fondant: One of the beauties of working with fondant is that it can be decorated in advance, and stored until you need it. This means that you can cut out and paint your cookie toppers in advance, essentially putting the time consuming/difficult part of the cookie making process at the beginning. When you’re ready, all that’s left is baking your cookies and attaching your toppers. Easy peasy!
Royal Icing: Unlike fondant, royal icing doesn’t have the same flexibility when it comes to beforehand prep. Sure, you can save time by mixing up and freezing your dough in advance, or even baking and freezing your cookies, but ultimately, the time consuming/difficult part (decoration) comes at the end of the cookie making process with royal icing.
Painting Your Cookies
Fondant: If you’re new to painting cookies, I would recommend starting with fondant. Why? One simple reason: moisture. Fondant holds up much better against moisture, and if you get too much water on, you can just wipe it off and wait for it to dry. Good as new!
Royal Icing: One thing you have to be careful of with royal icing is it’s ability to quickly dissolve when it gets too much moisture. Too much water on your brush can mean you suddenly have a huge sugary crater where you once had smooth icing. Unfortunately, there’s really no good fix for dissolved icing, and it means you’ll have to start over on a new cookie.
Fondant: If you make a mistake while painting fondant, you can use a damp paper towel or q-tip to rub away the mistake. Since your fondant won’t soak up the water, just keep rubbing until it comes up, and then wipe up any excess water with something dry. If the fondant is messed up beyond a point you can salvage, that’s ok. Throw out your fondant piece and cut a new one.
Royal Icing: Like the fondant, mistakes can be removed from royal icing cookies with a damp q-tip or paper towel, but be careful! Remember, too much water will start to dissolve your icing! Because your royal icing is going to be attached to cookies by the time you start working with it, you’ll want to be sure to make and ice extra cookies. If that cookie gets messed up beyond what you can salvage, you’ll want some backup cookies ready to go.
Fondant: Just as fondant won’t absorb the extra water from your brush, it also won’t absorb your design, and therefore won’t dry very quickly. You’ll need at least 4-5 hours for you designs to dry, and even then, they’re likely to be sticky. You can fix the stickiness by brushing your design with powdered sugar, but be sure you set aside enough time to let your designs completely dry before packaging. The good news: you can blend, and blend, your colors for quite a while before they’ll dry.
Royal Icing: Royal icing dries very quickly. We’re talking 10-15 minutes for it to be completely dry. The good news: not only does this mean your designs are ready to go faster, but it also means if your layering (not blending), you can move onto the next layer pretty quickly.
This final category is pretty subjective; I’ve heard some people say they prefer the taste of fondant, while I’ve heard others say they like the taste of royal icing better. Ultimately, this last one’s up to you and the recipient.
Super Duper Quick Summary
Fondant cookie designs based on Bumpkin Designs