I use ROYAL. I like royal simply because it gives me the versatility and detail that I like. I can make transfers, flowers, crisp clean lines, leaves...just about anything I like.
5 TBSP Meringue Powder
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 c. water
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp additional flavoring (optional)
2lb confectioners sugar
1 TBSP to 1/4 c. Light corn syrup
Place meringue powder, cream of tartar, water and flavoring in the CLEAN bowl
of a stand mixer with the paddle attached. A hand mixer will work for this too. Beat on medium high until the mixture is frothy. You can also do this step by hand with a wisk. Add the powdered sugar and start mixing on low. The mixture will quickly become thick and difficult to mix. Add the corn syrup till the blades begin to move again. The amount varies between 1 TBSP and 1/4 c. Mix on low until ingredients are incorporated then kick it up to medium and beat for 3-5 minutes. Again, this will vary on how much corn syrup you added. Beat until right before it starts getting shiny. If you get to a point where your icing looks like marshmallow fluff, you've gone too far. Keep an eye on your icing. When it's done, scoop it into a Tupperware, place a piece of saran wrap over the top and close the lid to store (if needed).
Sound complicated? Please by all means head on over and check out the VIDEO! You can see me making icing in the dark corner of my kitchen....except in the video it isn't dark...thanks to the creative rigging of lamps and such...but normally it's dark...muahahahaha!
oh btw, I know in the beginning of the video I say we're talking about meringue powder...blarg...
You know what I meant to say.....anyway...
First off: Please make sure your bowl is clean. If there is ANY grease or residue of that nature in there (say. left over from mixing cookie dough) your icing will mix up in to a funky mess. Just don't do it.
Corn Syrup: I add corn syrup. It gives the icing a little more elasticity. Basically, you can lift and drag a line with less breakage. or at least that's what I've heard. It's not why I add it though. I add it because I think it prevents the icing from becoming so rock hard that you chip a tooth. I also think it adds a sort of satin sheen. The amount of corn syrup you add will vary based mostly I find, on the climate you live in. If you live in a place that's very dry you will need more. If you live in the humid tropics you will probably need less. Sugar is fickle that way. And it also varies on preference. I mix mine super thick, but if you think it's unnecessary then add more syrup. Just don't go overboard.
Why do I mix it so thick if I'm going to water it down anyway? Mostly versatility and storage. If I keep it thick, then if I need to make RI rosebuds or flowers I can add a little water and it's gold. I can easily add water to it, adding sugar to it to make it thicker is a kind of a pain.... And storage, if I store it thick it's less likely to separate. Just the way water and sugar interact. Sugar will take in as much water as possible. Less water available means a more stable sugar structure.
I know it's unconventional to stop the mixing right before it starts to meringue and get glossy. Martha Stewart recommends you go glossy. So does joy of baking and Alton Brown. I just don't. I think once it gets to that point it gets "fluffy". The more you mix it the more volume you get and it gets "fluffy". The way I see it, more volume means more air. I don't want a lot of air incorporated into my icing. I like to work with it dense. I have fewer air bubbles and I feel like it flows easier. It isn't as spongy feeling. Now, I know some people like it like this and will definitely still work just the same. It's just not how I take my coffee.
This might not be how you take your coffee either. And no offense taken. Not everyone likes the same things. It might take a while to find out what works for you, or you may already have your perfect recipe. Go out there and experiment. Like I said, there are so many recipes out there, all with different little twists. Make it yours. You may go through some funky batches of RI but eventually you will find the sweet spot :)