Making black royal icing, or any black icing or frosting for that matter can be huge headache. In this post, I’ll show you how to make a cocoa powder based black royal icing with minimal (a drop or two tops) added gel color AND how to make black royal icing with gel color only with not as much color as you may be used to using. With my tips, you can make black royal icing WITHOUT adding loads of color, tastes amazing and also won’t stain teeth and hands.
Black Cocoa Powder vs Black Gel Food Color
Black Cocoa Powder
One of the best way to achieve a dark black icing color with out using a lot of gel color is to start by using cocoa powder. With my method, only using a small amount of cocoa powder, you won’t end up with chocolate flavored icing. It will have a cocoa taste, but it won’t be enough to make it a full chocolate flavor.
You may have seen how other creators will start their royal icing with a Dutch processed cocoa, like Hershey’s to color their icing brown first, before adding black gel color, which allows them to achieve a darker black color faster than if they had started coloring the icing from white first. This is also the method to use if you want chocolate flavored icing.
For my black royal icing cocoa powder method, we’re starting with BLACK cocoa powder. The same black cocoa powder that you would be used for an Oreo or an ice cream sandwich. This unsweetened cocoa powder is black, and very Dutched, or heavily alkalized. I use this cocoa powder to make my black cocoa sugar cookies, which I also used for these Halloween bat cookies.
Black Gel Food Coloring
Not all gel food color acts the same, so it’s important to start with a good brand that makes a true black color. Oftentimes black food coloring can have undertones, usually green or purple, so that when you go to color your icing, its black-ish with a green or purple tint. Brands like Americolor and Chefmaster tend to be a consistent true black color. Avoid Wilton black in the tubs, as it usually has a dominant green undertone but Wilton’s Color Right black is great to use.
How to make Black Royal Icing – Cocoa Powder Method
For every 3 cups of you will need 2 tablespoons of black cocoa powder. You can add as much as 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder. I mention this because different brands of cocoa powder can vary in color/potency based on the brand. Mix the cocoa powder with equal parts warm water to create a paste. So, 2 tablespoon of cocoa powder to 2 tablespoons of warm water and so on.
Mix the black cocoa mixture into the icing a little at a time, until it is all incorporated. Let the icing sit, covered, in airtight container, for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, check the color. It should be black. If your icing is not dark enough, add a bit more of the chocolate paste, or 2 drops of black food color. Let the icing sit, covered in airtight container for an a couple hours before using.
How to make Black Royal Icing – Gel Food Color Method
For every 3 cups of icing, I find that 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons of black gel color (depending on the brand) is enough for a true, dark black. Stir in the color, and let the color sit for a few hours or overnight. Letting the color sit will allow the color to be fully emulsified into the icing, and it will darken as it sits.
How to make Halloween Bat Cookies
- Prepare the icing: I use the same icing consistency (15-20 second icing) to outline and fill in my cookies. It’s solid enough to not run off the cookie, but thin enough to evenly fill the cookies.
- Thin out the icing with a few drops of water at a time until a toothpick or spatula that is ran through the icing creates a line that fills up and flattens out within 15-20 seconds. For this consistency, the icing has to be thin enough to flow, while remaining thick enough that it doesn’t fall off the side of the cookie.
- Thicken the icing by adding a teaspoon of powdered sugar at a time until a toothpick or spatula that is ran through the icing creates a line that fills up and flattens out within 15-20 seconds.
- Fit a piping bag with a #2 piping tip. Fill the bag, about 2/3 full, with prepared icing.
- Outline the cookies with icing.
- Fill the cookies with icing.
- Use a scribe tool or a toothpick to even out the icing and pop any air bubbles.
- Jiggle the cookie gently to help even out the icing.
- While the icing is still wet, sprinkle black sanding sugar over the cookie, making sure the sugar is covering the entire cookie. Let the cookie sit for a minute or two.
- Lift up the cookie and gently shake off the excess sugar. Use a scribe tool or a toothpick to remove any stray sugar crystals.
- Let the cookies dry completely before packaging or serving.
Tips for Perfect Icing
- The color will darken as it sits. When making dark or very vibrant colors, let the icing sit overnight for it to fully develop its color.
- Use only concentrated food color. Do not use liquid food color as it is not concentrated color.
- If you have left over royal icing in different colors from previous projects, you can combine them together, then add black color.
- Before using black gel color, smell it. If it smells chemical-like, it will taste bad too.
- Store the icing in an airtight container. If it gets any crusty bits around the edges, remove them with a damp paper towel. You don’t want those to get into your icing.
If you make this black royal icing for any of your baking projects, let me know! Drop a comment below or tag me on Instagram.
For more decorated cookies, check out these recipes:
Black Royal Icing
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons meringue powder
- 4 tablespoons warm water
- 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Black Royal Icing with Black Cocoa Powder
- 2-3 tablespoons black cocoa powder
- 2-3 tablespoons warm water
Black Royal Icing with Black Gel Color
- 1 – 1½ teaspoons true black concentrated gel color
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the confectioner's sugar and meringue powder.
- Add the warm water, corn syrup and vanilla extract.
- Beat on low until everything is blended. Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and mix until the icing forms stiff, glossy peaks, about 5-7 minutes.
Black Royal Icing with Black Cocoa Powder
- Mix the cocoa powder with the water to make a paste.
- Mix the black cocoa mixture into the icing a little at a time, until it is all incorporated. Let the icing sit, covered, in airtight container, for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, check the color. It should be black. If your icing is not dark enough, add a bit more of the chocolate paste, or 2 drops of black food color. Let the icing sit, covered in airtight container for an hour before using.
Black Royal icing with Black Gel Color
- Mix in black gel color, starting with the lowest amount first. Let the icing sit for a few hours to develop color before adding additional color. It will darken as it sits.