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This is a good all-purpose decorator's icing.  I use a blend of professional strength vanilla, butter, almond and lemon flavors in mine.  This icing is stable at room temperature and can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 weeks.

2 lbs. powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/4 cups solid vegetable shortening (I prefer Hi-Ratio shortening)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons clear vanilla flavoring (or other flavor(s) as desired)
dash salt

In a large mixing bowl, combine water, salt, shortening and flavoring with 1 cup of the powdered sugar. 

Beat on medium speed until creamy.  Scrape sides often and gradually add the remaining sugar, one cup at a time.  Continue beating on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Yield: 7 cups (appx.)


Royal Icing (Egg White)
This icing dries rock hard and is has many uses.  Air-dried decorations made with royal icing will keep for months.  It can be thinned down and used for color flow, and it makes a strong "glue" for attaching dry sugar pieces together.  I prefer royal icing made with egg whites for its strength.  Everything that touches this icing must be grease free.  Keep covered air tight, or with a damp clother, as it begins to crust over right away.

5 egg whites (room temperature)
2 lbs. powdered sugar (sifted)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Beat egg whites until frothy.  Slowly add powdered sugar and lemon juice.  Beat on low until desired consistency is reached (about 5 minutes).  Do not whip too much air into the icing since air bubbles weaken it.

Royal Icing (Meringue Powder)
This is an alternative if the use of raw egg whites is not desired.

3 tablespoons meringue powder
4 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
6 tablespoons water

Beat all ingredients on low until desired consistency is reached (about 7-10 minutes).

Royal Icing for Stringwork
1 cup royal icing (soft peak consistency)
1/8 teaspoon gum arabic (for strength)
1/4 teaspoon glucose (for stretch)

Add the gum arabic to the prepared royal icing, mix well.  Beat the icing until a stiff peak is reached, then add the glucose and mix well.

Tip:  Before I use royal icing for very fine work, I strain it through a clean, unused nylon knee-hi stocking.  To do this, I put the knee-hi in a wide drinking glass and fold the open end over the top of the glass to hold the stocking open.  Using a spatula, I scrape the royal icing into the stocking.  I then place the icing-filled stocking in a decorating bag.  I use one hand to hold the top of the bag closed while I slowly pull the stocking out of the bag.  Voila!...smooth royal icing ready for piping.  I still have to keep a corsage pin handy to clear an occassional clog, but overall, things keep flowing well.

I prefer to use commercially prepared rolled fondant for its superior qualities.  When I must make fondant myself, this is the repcipe I use. 

2 lbs. powdered sugar
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup glucose (or white corn syrup)
1 1/2 tablespoons glycerine
1 teaspoon flavoring (use colorless vanilla for white fondant)

Bloom the gelatin by sprinkling it on top of the water in a small saucepan.  Allow this to soften for 5 minutes.  Heat the gelatin mixture over low heat stiring until dissolved and clear.  Remove from heat and stir in the glucose (or corn syrup) and glycerine.  Add flavoring. 

Put the powdered sugar in a large bowl and make a well in the center.  Pour the liquid mixture into the well and mix until all of the sugar is blended.  Shape the mixture into a ball and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. 

Place in an airtight container and allow it to rest overnight before using. 

Yield:  2 lbs.   

All-Purpose Gumpaste
This is the recipe I use for a quick gumpaste that is great for many applications.  It does not have to rest overnight before using and I find it very easy to work with.  For fine work, such as flower making, I use my Premium Gumpaste recipe.  Wrap it in a plastic bag and store it in an airtight container.  It will keep for 2 weeks refrigerated. 

1 lb. commercially prepared fondant (such as Pettinice, Fondx or Satin Ice)
1 teaspoon Tylose powder

Knead the Tylose powder into the fondant.  The fondant can be colored as usual and is ready to work with immediately.     

Yield: 1 lb.

Premium Gumpaste
This is the recipe I use when making flowers or other delicate items.  It can be rolled super thin and has a good working time.   Keep it airtight, and it can be stored for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.  I usually vacuum seal half the batch and freeze it for longer storage.

This recipe must be made at least a day in advance to allow the paste to firm up.  I highly reccommend a heavy-duty stand mixer; I use a 5 qt. KitchenAid for this recipe.  

1 lb. powdered sugar (sifted)
1 tablespoon + 1/4 teaspoon gum tragacanth (strengths vary- adjust as needed according to brand used)
1/3 cup cold water (less 1 tbs. for firmer gumpaste)
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon shortening, melted slightly
3 tablespoons glucose or corn syrup

Combine sugar and gum tragacanth in a large mixer bow.  Place over a saucepan of boiling water, stirring occasionally, until warm to the touch.

Meanwhile, softer the the gelatin by sprinkling it over the water in a heatproof glass measuring cup.  Allow the gelatin to stand for 5 to 10 minutes.  Place the measuring cup in a saucepan of hot water and stir gently until the gelatin is dissloved and the mixture becomes clear.  Do not boil.  Remove from heat and stir in glucose (or corn syrup) and  warm, melted shortening. 

Make a well in the sugar mixture and add the liquid.  Beat on medium 5 minutes.  (The mixture will be soft and gooey, but will firm up after it rests overnight).  Scrape the sticky mixture onto a greased surface and knead gently a few times with greased hands.  Form into a log and place in a plastic bag which has been greased with shortening slightly on the inside.  Wrap airtight and let the paste sit at least 12 hours before using. 

Yield:  1 lb.

Chocolate Buttercream
Use the recipe above, replacing 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar with 3/4 cup cocoa plus 1 tablespoon water.

Mix throughly 1/4 cup flour with 1/2 cup shortening plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.

Brush the bottom and sides of pans with prepared pan coat to "grease and flour" in one step.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Here are the basic icing recipes I turn to most often ...