- 3 1/4 cups (or more) powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon strained fresh lemon juice
- Assorted food colorings (optional)
Using electric mixer, beat 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar and egg whites until thick and shiny, adding more powdered sugar by tablespoonfuls if mixture is too thin to spread, about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice. Divide icing into portions, if desired, and add different food coloring to each. Cover until ready to use.
Perfect Royal Icing Recipe
Why It Works
- Cooking over a water bath eliminates concerns over raw egg whites, while also helping the powdered sugar to dissolve.
- Fat carries flavor, so using a splash of cream makes vanilla taste more intense.
- Using salt and acid (cream of tartar) balances the sugary sweetness.
- Silver rum adds a subtle flavor, without darkening the icing like vanilla.
- Creaming helps minimize the grit of powdered sugar.
Royal icing is uniquely suited to decorating sugar cookies because it dries glossy and firm, protecting your designs from smushing and smudging. It's typically considered little more than edible cement, but that doesn't have to be the case. With a bit of cream for richness, salt for balance, and cream of tartar for acidity, it tastes like more than a simple sugar bomb—especially if you splurge on organic powdered sugar, which has a hint of molasses thanks to the raw cane sugar it contains (more info here).
Just make sure to plan accordingly: Royal icing dries in about four hours and thoroughly sets in six to eight hours.
Begin by whisking the egg whites until foamy.
Add the confectioners sugar.
And mix on medium-low speed until thick and shiny, 3 to 5 minutes.
Divide the icing up into bowls depending on how many colors you plan to use. Use food coloring to tint the icing and then add water, little by little, to get the right consistency.
For decorating cookies with a smooth layer of icing like the ones pictured here, you’ll need to thin the icing with water to a “flood” consistency, which means the icing should hold a ribbonlike trail on the surface of the mixture for about 15 seconds until smoothing out on its own.
Go slowly — you don’t want the icing to be so thin that it runs off the edge of the cookies. (If you’ve added too much water, you can add a spoonful of stiff icing to thicken it back up. Always reserve a little white stiff icing just in case!)
Royal Icing Recipe
This simple icing is all you need to decorate cut-out cookies made from U-bake Vanilla Shortbread dough. Apply the icing with the back of a spoon and add a dusting of colored sugar. For more detailed designs, pipe on icing with a decorating kit, plastic bottle or a zip-top bag.
Makes 3 1/2 cups icing
2 large egg whites, plus extra for thinning icing
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
Liquid or gel food coloring (find gels at kitchen or decorating shops)
In a medium mixing bowl or electric stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, lightly whisk the egg whites and lemon juice. Add 3 1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar and beat well until smooth and glossy. It should pause slightly before it streams off the tip of the beater. Add more egg white or lemon juice if too thick, more sugar if too thin.
Make-ahead note: Icing can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Whisk before pouring into small bowls to add color.
Add color, fill pastry bags.
Divide icing among small bowls and stir in food coloring a few drops at a time until desired color is reached.
“Flooding” is a technique used to cover a cookie completely with royal icing. Here’s how to do it:
Transfer about 1/2 cup of royal icing to a resealable plastic bag and snip a small corner (or use a pastry sleeve fitted with No. 4 tip). Use this icing to pipe a thin border around the edge of each cookie. Thin additional icing (same color) and transfer to bags. Snip a corner and pipe a generous amount inside the border of each cookie. Using a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the icing to cover the cookie.
For a sparkling effect, apply colored sugar to wet icing then tip the cookie to remove excess sugar. You can use coarser decorating sugar as well apply and let the cookies sit for about 15 minutes before removing excess sugar. Let dry before adding piped borders, stripes or other decorations with additional royal icing.
For a marbleized look, flood cookie surface. Add stripes or dots in a second color, then drag a toothpick through.
How to test icing: Before you fill a pastry bag, test icing with a spoon for detail work, it should pause slightly before it streams off the tip of a spoon. For covering the whole cookie, you’ll want it slightly thinner, which will cause it to stream off the spoon immediately.
Tips for Using Royal IcingOn Homemade Dog Treats
Getting royal icing to stick to dog treats can be a bit tricky. If you spread the dog treat icing on a dog treat with a smooth surface, the icing has a tendency to fall off later. Because of this, dog treats made with royal icing on smooth dog treats, cannot be shipped easily.
However, it isn’t too difficult to solve this problem. Simply use a recipe that gives you a rough surface when the dog treats have been baked. One way to do this is to add corn meal or bran to your recipe. Simply substitute ½ cup of the coarser ingredient for ½ cup of flour.
Another way to get the icing to stick on the dog cookie is to prick the dog treats with a sharp object like a fork or ice pick—to make little holes that will help hold the royal icing in place.
Using dog treat icing is a fun and easy way to really "dress up" your homemade dog treats! And, because of its hardening and keeping qualities, royal icing can be a great choice for decorating homemade dog treats.
While any home made royal icing recipe is mostly sugar, you can now buy a royal icing mix that contains no sugar and no fat--it was created just for dog treats. I have to admit that using the royal icing mix for dog treats is sooo much easier than making your own!
Worked for me and I did it by hand. ¿¿ put 3cups in. ¿¿
This icing is way too powdery sweet, and the consistency is way too runny. (same review as ccwbadtz). Look elsewhere for an icing that can actually stay put.
This was perfect for my purposes. I wanted a thicker frosting to do some precise shapes and this turned out great! I think (sadly can't remember now) that I added a dash of vanilla for a little more flavor. ( yeah, so helpful. sorry! :))
Estupendo! Had two egg whites from a flowerless chocolate cake [the 'Orange Flowerless Chocolate cake' here] it took a little less then 300 grams of sugar to get the texture right had to beat the mixture slightly heated [bain-marie] to melt the not-so-fine- grain sugar. Very worth it! Just the whites with sugar have NO taste whatsoever - the PERFECT blank slate for anything! I used sweet lemon and ginger juice [not sure how much - cca. 50ml in all, perhaps]. The little bit of extra liquid helped incorporate the sugar too. A bit of pomegranate juice [squeezed on the spot, about two spoons] turned the whole thing a subtle pink. More pomegranate seeds went on top of the cake for good measure. The quantity is somewhat much for covering the cake. Just fine: otherwise there wouldn't be any left for the cake!
To those who would wonder about the egg white and salminela, i'm pretty sure the lemon juice both cooks the eggs and kills anything harmful to us,
@a cook from california: use the 2005 posted recipe that calls for powdered egg whites instead. :)
I'm not going to make this recipe as written, so this is not a review, merely a comment. It seems to me that using raw egg whites is a bad idea, with the rate of salmonella in our chickens. Are there other alternatives for a really stiff icing that remains hard?
Tried this for holiday cookies. It was very runny, even after adding extra sugar as per the recipe. I even tried refrigerating it and still no luck. After it was on the cookies it did set up but ran off the sides. It was also very sugary tasting, almost sickeningly sweet. I was looking for a stiffer, thicker recipe.
Haven't made this yet - do you think it would work as an "edible glue" to keep an arrangement together?
I think this recipe calls for too much icing sugar. I used 1.8 cups and it was too much. I ended up having to add more of the other ingredients to try to stave off the strong sugar taste and eventually ended up throwing the batch away.
A good standard recipe for royal icing but I agree with the other reviewer. It made too much. Half this recipe would have easily been enough to ice my batch of sugar cookies.
I found this recipe was great. The only problem was that there was way too much left over. I iced cupcakes with this icing, and it hold up great! I added about a teaspoon of real vanilla extract. I also added a touch of lemon zest while i was incorperating the icing sugar then took the zest before I iced them. Great recipe, use less icing sugar!
This is the traditional icing for glazing cookies, piping decorations, or assembling the walls of a gingerbread house. To make different colors, simply divide this big batch of icing into smaller amounts, then color each individually. Be sure to store any icing you're not using immediately in a tightly covered container it becomes quite hard as it dries.
- 1/4 cup (28g) meringue powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 to 4 cups (340g to 454g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 3/4 cup (170g) cool water
Place the meringue powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the cool water, and stir slowly to allow the powder and salt to dissolve. Allow to sit for 5 minutes for the powder to hydrate (see tips below).
Mix on low speed at first, to create a network of very fine bubbles. Add the sugar, increasing to medium and then high speed over several minutes. Beat until the icing is fluffy. You can adjust the sugar or water as needed to get a stiff, glossy icing that holds a tall peak.
Cover the bowl with a damp towel, and cover that with a layer of plastic wrap to keep the icing from crusting over.
To use for piping, put a tip in the bottom of a disposable pastry bag. Using a coupler will allow you to change tips with ease. Use a tall, heavy-bottomed glass to hold the pastry bag while you add the frosting. Take care not to fill the bag more than half full. Close the back of the pastry bag with a twist tie or spring clip, to keep the icing from backing up over your hand when you squeeze it.
Perfect your technique
Decorating cookies using parchment paper
Note that icing can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours (and sometimes up to 24 hours) to set and dry fully once you've spread it on cookies or iced a cake, so be patient!
Tips from our Bakers
Royal icing is light, fluffy, and quite stiff: the more you beat it, the stiffer it becomes. For thinner icing, one that flows evenly over a cookie, simply dilute with a bit of water. Let icing dry to a hard, shiny surface, then pipe stiffer icing over it, or use food-safe markers to decorate.
To color frosting, we recommend gel paste or powdered colors. Liquid food coloring can dilute the frosting so much it separates and becomes grainy.
Want to make royal icing using fresh egg white instead of meringue powder? Beat together 1 large egg white, 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice until stiff peaks form.
Our Fool-Proof Royal Icing Recipe
Royal icing is the workhorse of the cookie decorating world. This three-ingredient frosting is shelf-stable, sturdy, and easy to make—in short, everything you want in an icing! You can stir a batch up in 5 minutes or less, including the time it takes to dye the icing your favorite color. It can be spread, drizzled, or piped onto cookies for a variety of effects from rustic to sophisticated. It’s hard to mess up this recipe just stir until smooth, and be sure to use before the icing dries to a smooth, hard finish.
If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you might notice that this recipe is very similar to our powdered sugar glaze. Both call for powdered sugar mixed with a liquid to a certain consistency. Despite this, the recipes are distinct in and of themselves. For instance, our glaze recipe allows for more flavor versatility and a glossy finish, whereas the egg white and cream of tartar in the royal icing create a sturdy paste that dries without shine. Each have their own virtues, and they can be used together to highlight each other’s’ strengths—like we do in our favorite glazing technique.
Our royal recipe calls for one raw egg white, but you may prefer to substitute dry, powdered egg whites for food safety reasons. If this is the case, simply rehydrate powdered egg whites according to the manufacturer’s directions before stirring in the rest of the ingredients. If you’re using raw egg whites, select only the freshest eggs from a reputable (and preferably organic) vendor.
Fool-Proof Royal Icing
1 egg white (or equivalent combination of powdered egg whites and water)
To begin, sift powdered sugar to remove any lumps or inconsistencies. Pour into a bowl and stir in the cream of tartar until distributed throughout powdered sugar. Add egg white and mix, using a spatula or spoon, until mixture forms a smooth paste. When you begin, the icing will look like bread dough, but keep mixing and it will transform into a shiny, thick mixture.
If you would like, separate the royal icing into different bowls and tint with liquid or gel food coloring. Pour into piping bags or cones and use to decorate. For best results, use within a day of mixing—the longer you wait, the harder it will be to handle the icing. In the meantime, store at room temperature.
Royal icing can be spread onto cookies, drizzled over scones, or piped onto any sort of dessert. Be sure you start with a firm, relatively dry surface and give the icing at least 6 hours to dry before stacking or storing in plastic. To test the frosting’s dryness, look for a uniform matte texture or gently tap a scrap piece with the pad of your finger. Properly cured royal icing will not flatten when touched.
For an easy, no mess option for cookie decorating, try Tipless Piping Bags. Simply cut the tip size you want and discard the bag when you're done. No need for clean up! Shameless plug here - our tipless piping bags are Top 3 on Amazon!
If you know how to make royal icing, the world of cookie decorating is your oyster. Do you need more inspiration? Check out our Facebook and Instagram pages for ideas, or share this article with another baker or decorator on social media.
Powdered Egg Whites vs. Meringue Powder
For the sake of this recipe, powdered egg whites and meringue powder are essentially interchangeable.
But if you’re wondering how they’re really different, powdered egg whites are just that: dried egg whites, while meringue powder is an egg product containing corn starch, egg whites, sugar, gum arabic, calcium sulphate, citric acid, cream of tartar, silicon dioxide and artificial vanilla flavoring.
Personally, I tend to prefer meringue powder because it’s slightly more stable and already has flavoring, but either one will make a solid royal icing. I’ve found meringue powder at places like JoAnn and Michaels, and I’m sure it’s available on Amazon as well. It makes it really easy to make the icing.
This recipe makes Makes 1 cup, about enough for 12 cookies. If you are going to be making a lot of colors and cookies you will want to double, triple, etc. this recipe.
Combine the sugar and meringue powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until well combined.
Stir in 2 tablespoons of the water.
Next, add a clear extract to make your frosting take on different flavors if you want to.
If the mixture is still crumbly add the rest of the water.
Mix on medium-low speed for 5 minutes.
Color icing with desired food colors by blending a drop of coloring into the icing. Gradually blend additional drops until you achieve the desired color.