Fair warning -- this post if full of all kinds of unsolicited advice. Proceed with caution.
Icing consistency is kind of a big deal. It can create the perfect dimension and texture if you get it right or dash all your cookie icing dreams to pieces if you don't take the time to get it exactly as thick or thin as it needs to be.
How do you know how thick it should be? Think about the design and what you need the icing to do. Should it flow together or keep it's texture? Are you filling an entire cookie or just a small space?
THIN ICING (also known as flood icing or 10 second count) is for covering large areas with smooth icing. It's thin though, so you'll need to contain it with a thicker icing.
MEDIUM ICING (also known as one-consistency or 15 count) is for outlining and filling a cookie with the same consistency of icing.
MEDIUM THICK ICING (also known as puffy icing or 17 count icing) is great for filling small spaces that might crater, for adding dimension or pressure piping.
THICK ICING (also known as outlining, piping, or 25 second icing) is for outlining an entire cookie or just sections of it. It''s the best icing for lettering and small details.
EXTRA THICK ICING (also known as icing that gets rock hard if you don't add some corn syrup to it) is for details that you don't want to be smooth like fur on a teddy bear or ruffles on a tutu.
How do you know how thick it is? There are a myriad of ways to determine the thickness of your icing. (Did you see that? I used the word "myriad" in real life without anyone reminding me or anything. I'm like a cookie decorating blogger word savant.) The most common way is by drawing a knife through the icing and then counting the seconds until it smooths over again. I wrote a whole post about it HERE. Counting is the perfect method for a non-lazy perfectionist or for beginners. I used it for years. And then I realized that actually, I AM super lazy. I didn't have time for all that counting to 15 nonsense on a daily basis. I mean, 15 seconds?! Can you even imagine what I could do with that time? I mean, I could smoosh a baby face or spy on my neighbors... TWICE. So I started just banging my icing bowls on my counter and calling it a day. Here, let me show you --
I call this method "percussion" so that we can all sound like cookie decorating geniuses when we say it. Surprisingly, it works regardless of the size of the bowl or the amount of icing in that bowl. This is my preferred method. I think it might be might be some kind of repressed passive aggressive tendencies coming out. Or a cry for help. It's hard to say really.
I use this method when I'm down deep in the very lowest of all laziness. If I got any lazier I would have to hire someone to pull the spoon up out of the bowl for me while I gaze on from the couch. You might want to start by checking the consistency with another method first and then watching the peaks after you've figured out how thick it is already. Once you get a feel for how thick YOU like your icing...this is a real time saving trick!
While icing consistency is one of the most important things to get right in cookie decorating, it is also one of THE HARDEST to explain with words and pictures. So I made you a video. Because we're friends like that. You should know though...I used my real voice for this video. No captions. So don't watch this while your pretending to work or study or something else super worthwhile, okay?
Check out my extremely long-winded icing consistency post HERE. See how temperature affects icing consistency HERE.
And learn how to keep puffy icing smooth HERE.