Makes about 2 cups, enough to ice 2 to 3 dozen cookies
Use this thick formulation as an edible glue for assembling gingerbread boxes, or thin it with water, add a drop of food coloring or flavoring and spread it on rolled cookies for an icy-smooth topcoat.
• 1 pound confectioners’ sugar
• 1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 2 to 3 large egg whites
• 1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Variation (thinner icing for top coating)
• 3 to 4 tablespoons water
• Flavored extract or liqueur to taste
• Gel or paste food coloring
Pour confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whip attachment. Stir in cream of tartar. With mixer on very low speed (to keep the sugar from scattering), gradually add egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down bowl regularly to completely moisten sugar. Turn mixer to medium speed and continue to beat icing about 2 minutes until silky and very white. Stir in vanilla extract. Add more water, to achieve a thinner consistency, and flavoring or coloring as desired.
Make-ahead tip: This icing can be made 1 or 2 days in advance, but tinted icing is best used immediately after it is mixed to keep the colors from migrating. To store unused icing, always cover the surface flush with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming, then refrigerate. When ready to frost, bring icing to room temperature and stir well to restore original consistency. Once icing has been applied to cookies or other edibles, these items should be kept at room temperature so icing sets into a crisp, candy-like coating.
Julia M. Usher is a food writer, recipe developer and food stylist in St. Louis. Contact her by visiting www.HerbCompanion.com/contributors.aspx .