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Sugar Molding & Royal Icing

Sugar-Meringue Powder:
5 cups granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons water
2 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder

Use ordinary granulated sugar, or, for a very smooth surface, use superfine sugar. Add the liquid to the sugar (you may mix food coloring with the liquid if tinted sugar is desired) and mix well with hands or wooden spoon. (Instructor Eileen Gilson said it would feel like wet sand.) Cover with a damp cloth until ready to use.

If the mold has an intricate surface or if it will be used repeatedly, dust the interior with cornstarch to prevent sticking. Pack the sugar mixture firmly into the mold. Gilson suggests using the heel of your hand to firmly press the sugar into the mold. Level the top and remove excess from the edges. Unmold by inverting onto a smooth surface. Take a sharp knife and cut off the narrow end of the egg, making sure it is a straight line. This will be the end of the egg. Do the same with the other half of the egg, cutting off an equal amount so that the egg halves are the same lengths.

Drying time will vary with the weather and the size of the molded item. Usually about 2 hours will be required for the surface to harden to the point where the item can safely be picked up and hollowed out. Drying can be speeded by placing the molded sugar in a 200- to 250-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes, but since the sugar hardens quickly, this method often produces a thicker crust than desired. A thin shell not only looks daintier, it allows more light to pass and thus makes the scene inside easier to see.

Once the two molded sugar halves are hollowed and dried, the interior can be planned. Piped animals and flowers, cut-up greeting cards, artificial flowers or miniature figures all make good choices. Before decorating the interior, spread some untinted royal icing on the inside bottom of the mold. When this dries, it provides a base on which a scene can be piped and it protects the sugar shell from colored icing seeping though. Set the figures in piped icing, using toothpicks for support if necessary, and allow to dry in place. Then cement the two halves of the mold together with royal icing and pipe a design on the outside of the egg.

Royal Icing
(Meringue Powder)

3 tablespoons meringue powder (see note)
1 pound confectioners' sugar
7 tablespoons lukewarm water (see note)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Combine all ingredients, blending at low speed in an electric mixer. Then turn to high speed in an electric mixer. Beat for to 10 minutes or until the icing stands in straight peaks and is stiff enough to hold a line when cut through with a knife or spatula. This produces icing of medium consistency, perfect for stars, shells and borders. Flowers require a stiff icing, so longer beating or the addition of a little more sugar may be called for. For lines and writing, or where strength is particularly important, beat for a shorter period of time at slower speed. The shorter the beating time, the less air is incorporated; the longer the beating, the fluffier (and more fragile) the icing becomes. Since royal icing dries out quickly, keep the bowl covered at all times with a damp cloth. Icing based on egg white cannot be rebeaten to restore texture, so try to use immediately. Meringue-based icing keeps well and can be restored to full volume by beating.

Note: This amount of meringue powder and water may vary with the product used; follow label directions to get the equivalent of three fresh egg whites.

Adapted from "Decorations for Holidays and Celebrations" by Barbara B. Stephan (Crown Publishers Inc.)

Thursday, April 05, 2001

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