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why are there craters in my cookie

Craters in Royal Icing: How to Avoid Them Completely

Sarah Mills

Cookier, customer service. Meme connoisseur.

Craters are THE WORST. You can flood your snowman cookie perfectly, and then BAM—the eyeballs and carrot nose you just added have sunken in and look terrible. So completely frustrating! And the worst part about craters is that although there are lots of anecdotal solutions for how to prevent them, you won't know if you have succeeded until your cookies are left to dry for a while. You really just have to hold your breath, cross your fingers and toes, and hope the Cookie Gods are with you that day. But this blog isn’t about how to prevent craters (that’s for a different post entirely!). Instead, let’s look at some options you can take to simply avoid the possibility of craters altogether.

cratering definition
The Cookie Countess​​

"Why is this happening to me?!?!" --Every cookier who has ever dealt with craters in their icing

crater in cookie
another crater in apple cookie

Why does cratering happen?

Cratering occurs when air bubbles get trapped inside the icing as it is being applied to the cookie. As the icing dries and hardens, these air bubbles expand and create small craters on the surface of the icing.

Keep reading to learn my tips for avoiding craters in your cookies completely.


Let’s take the example of a snowman cookie, with his eyes, carrot nose, and buttons.  One option is always to add those extra details in the wet-on-wet stage. This eliminates the possibility of craters, since the details will be level with the flood icing. Simply flood your snowman and then immediately add the eyeballs, buttons, and carrot nose in a matching-consistency icing. A gentle nudge with your scribe tool can help everything settle into place. 

Edible Markers and Paints

Along the same lines as the wet-on-wet technique, drawing on your details with edible marker or paint eliminates the possibility of those areas developing craters.  Simply wait until your icing is 100% dry so that you can write on it without accidentally pushing through with the tip of your marker (and even then, try to press carefully!).

edible marker example
The Cookie Countess​​

Edible markers and paints come in all the colors of the rainbow, so this is an easy work-around for not running into frustrating craters in your icing.

Royal Icing Transfers

If you still want that 3D look to your cookies but don’t want to risk craters, then icing transfers are the way to go.  Print out the size and shape of the design you want (this is the best way for you to be consistent), and place it under a sheet of acetate or parchment paper. Alternatively, you could purchase pre-designed transfer sheets that are fun and easy to use and come with a sheet of acetate included. 

Simply pipe your designs onto the parchment or acetate, allow the transfers to dry completely, and then carefully remove them from their sheets.  Attach to your cookie with a dab of royal icing, and you are all set!  If one doesn't turn out the way you hoped, simply don't use it--no worrying about "ruining" a cookie if things go wonky.

These techniques can also easily be used together on the same cookie!  Wet-on-wet eyes, marker-drawn arms and mouth, and royal icing transfers for a hat, nose, and buttons can make for a sweet snowman—while allowing you to stress a little less about whether or not craters are going to ruin your day.

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