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Saving Time and Energy with Royal Icing Transfers

Written by: Sarah Mills



Time to read 4 min

If you're anything like me, you might feel like you don't have an artistic bone in your body (cookie decorating skills aside), and simply winging a design is a terrifying thought. Or possibly the idea of making the exact same design over and over again is intimidating to you, making you wonder how you can possibly make them all identical. Or maybe you're just a Prepared Pollyanna who knows they're going to need a certain embellishment for an upcoming cookie order, and you want to get ahead of the game. If any of these apply to you, royal icing transfers can be your new best friend!

royal icing transfer cookie collage

When to Use Royal Icing Transfers

I personally LOVE a good royal icing transfer, and there are so many ways and so many reasons to use them! Made from royal icing, they are essentially a big sprinkle that you can place where you need them to be. As I mentioned above, if you know that you will be making (for example) five dozen cookies that need to have a small pumpkin design on them, you can either flood and decorate those five dozen cookies and pipe those five dozen little pumpkins directly onto each individual cookie (doing your best to make sure they are all identical in size and shape), ORRRRRRRRR you can make those pumpkins ahead of time and make your life exponentially easier. If I have an order coming up, I usually try to see if there's any way to save myself a little time by incorporating royal icing transfers. Yes, I might spend the same amount of time piping overall, but if I can make my transfers a week ahead when I have some free time, that can help me not have to stay up til 2am on my actual decorating nights.

Icing transfers can easily add dimension to your cookies and make that embellishment really pop, since you can add them on top of your base design. This can differentiate them from the rest of the surrounding cookie art in several ways, especially since you can add them to wet icing or dry, depending on the look you're going for. Want that snowman's carrot nose to have definition but also look like it was just smushed into the snow? Pop it right onto the freshly flooded snowman face. Want some flowers to rise above the rest of the bouquet? Wait until the base icing is dry, and then add some drop flower transfers.  I'm a big fan of making royal icing eyeballs in a variety of sizes, just to have them on hand--you'd be surprised how often they come in handy!

Mistaeks happen.

One of the reasons I love using royal icing transfers so much is that it helps me not have to deal with things like color bleed or cratering. (Color bleed happens when the coloring from a darker icing seeps into a nearby lighter color; cratering refers to small pits or holes that appear in small piped areas of royal icing. Both are total pains in the butt and can be hard to combat.) If, for example, you needed to make black buttons for your snowman cookies, you could pipe them directly onto your crusted white icing, or you could simply make royal icing transfers that could be “glued” on later, eliminating the possibility of color bleed. If you have any transfers that crater, well, just don't use those particular transfers and move on with your life. Easy peasy. 

This leads to my most common reason for making and using royal icing transfers: I don't have to worry about making mistakes on my actual cookie (or at least, not in regards to this particular embellishment, anyways lol). If I am worried about making sure all of my drop flowers are as Mary Poppins as possible (practically perfect in every way), making transfers allows me to make sure I'm ONLY putting the best flowers on my cookies--no wonky petals in sight. Making transfers gives me the opportunity to cover a piece of parchment paper with a field of flowers and then pick and choose which ones I want. Mistakes happen, but they don't always have to happen directly on the cookie!

How to Make and Store Royal Icing Transfers

Royal icing transfers are made by piping designs made from your normal royal icing onto parchment or acetate sheets, allowing them to dry, and then peeling them off. That's it! Here are a few tips for making and storing transfers:

  • Use icing that is (at least) slightly thicker than flood consistency in order to keep the icing from spreading and flattening more than desired. The design you are trying to achieve will really dictate your consistency at the end of the day;
  • Use stiff icing to make florals so that your transfers hold their pretty petal shapes. There's nothing worse than a wilted floral transfer;
  • Use transfer pattern sheets for consistency, especially when making a lot of a particular design. For a DIY version, print a sheet with your design on it in a repeated background, and place a piece of parchment paper on top. Pipe your designs directly on top of the parchment paper and allow to dry flat. Don't move or bend the paper during drying, or your transfers can deform;
  • Once completely dry, gently peel royal icing transfers off of the parchment paper and store in an airtight container. When stored properly, these little sugar decorations can stay good almost indefinitely; 
  • Dried (and dry-ing) transfers can be spritzed with edible glitter or airbrushed for dimension. Completely dry transfers can be dusted with petal dust or other dry colorants that need to be brushed on instead of sprayed;
  • "Glue" transfers into place onto your cookie with a dab of thick-ish royal icing on the back of the transfer itself.

Royal Icing Transfer Making Videos


Pro Tip:

For a design like this Love Gnome transfer, that has more than one section, you can pipe sections separately and allow them to dry in between. This will keep the dimension and segmentation of the design. Make your own with the free download below!