Royal icing is a hard white icing made from softly beaten egg whites and confectioners sugar that dries to a smooth, hard, matte finish. It’s ideal for decorating cookies, creating intricate designs, or making letters or flower decorations.
The egg whites are what allows the icing to dry hard. However, if you’d like to avoid using raw eggs, feel free to use meringue powder, which is sold in the baking aisle of most large supermarkets or craft stores.
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!)
My Recipe Videos
- 3 pasteurized egg whites or 3 oz (6 tablespoons) pasteurized egg whites from a carton (see note)
- 4 cups confectioners sugar
- Food coloring (optional)
- Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or beaters. Beat on medium speed until frothy.
- Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed until blended. Increase the speed to medium-low and beat until the mixture is thick and shiny, 3 to 5 minutes. Divide the icing 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. Use a thicker icing for details and outlines and a thinner icing for "flooding," or fully covering the surface of the cookies. Place a damp paper towel directly on top of the icing to keep a skin from forming on top. If not using within 2 hours, cover the bowls tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. (Icing may also be kept in airtight squeeze bottles.)
- Note: If you're concerned about using raw eggs, feel free to use meringue powder, which can be found in the baking aisle of most large supermarkets or craft stores. Reconstitute the powdered egg whites according to the package instructions, making sure the powder is completely dissolved, and proceed with the recipe.