Royal Icing

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This royal icing is perfect for decorating holiday cookies, creating intricate designs, or making letters or flower decorations.

royal icing

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.

snowflakes

What you’ll need to make royal icing

ingredients

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.

How to make royal icing

Begin by whisking the egg whites until foamy.

foamy-egg-whites

Add the confectioners sugar.

adding-sugar

And mix on medium-low speed until thick and shiny, 3 to 5 minutes.

thick-and-shiny-icing

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.

flooding-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.

gingerbread-man

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!)

polka-dot-heart

Happy decorating!

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Royal Icing

This royal icing is perfect for decorating holiday cookies, creating intricate designs, or making letters or flower decorations.

Servings: About 3 cups
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 10 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 pasteurized egg whites or 3 oz (6 tablespoons) pasteurized egg whites from a carton (see note)
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • Food coloring (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or beaters. Beat on medium speed until frothy.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Just right.

    • — Liss on December 20, 2018
    • Reply
  • Loved it! I didn’t have allspice so I substituted with nutmeg, it turned it wonderfully, as I always find with your recipes. Thank you!

    • — Emily on December 12, 2018
    • Reply
  • My toddler and I would like to use this recipe to decorate your gingerbread men cookies we plan to make for the holiday season. I am concerned about the raw egg whites (and would prefer not to buy the meringue powder if not necessary). I do not have pasteurized eggs (not even sure where I would find pasteurized eggs at the store?) My question is, do you think there is danger in using unpasurized egg whites for the icing recipe, especially if the cookies are stored in a bag or airtight container on the counter for several days? I would hate to make someone sick! Thanks.

    • — Lauren on October 31, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Lauren, I wouldn’t risk using unpasteurized egg whites (particularly with a toddler). Sorry!

      • — Jenn on November 2, 2018
      • Reply
    • Use the pasteurized egg whites sold in cartons in the dairy section of your store or the meringue powder (which you can purchase at Michael’s craft store). For meringue powder, I prefer the Wilton’s but that’s just me. I use both methods for icing. I would NOT use raw eggs though; especially not with a toddler.

      • — MichaelM on December 19, 2018
      • Reply
  • Do you have problems with this recipe being so brittle when it dries that it’s hard to bite into or eat? I’m trying to find a way to make my icing (where i use egg whites only) less hard to eat. Thanks for any tips!

    • — Erin on May 15, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Erin, I know the icing, when dry, is on the crunchy side, but I don’t have problems with it being too hard. I wish I had some suggestions, but that’s just the nature of this icing – sorry!

      • — Jenn on May 22, 2018
      • Reply
  • My icing did not come out. any way to salvage the grainy icing???

    • Hmmm… it definitely shouldn’t be grainy. Did you, by any chance, use regular/granulated sugar?

      • — Jenn on December 12, 2017
      • Reply
  • If i want to use raw egg whites what will be the measurements?

    • Hi Elizabeth, you’d need 3 oz (6 tablespoons).

  • Hi! I love every single recipe I have tried- thank you! I would like to ask if I need to refrigerate the decorated cookies after and how to keep them fresh and safe for kids ..(?) the pasteurized egg whites that I am using are refrigerated.. xxxxxx

    • Hi Joanna, they can be safely stored in an airtight container and don’t need to be refrigerated. Hope everyone enjoys!

  • Wow, beautiful cookie decorating!
    I love all of your recipies, I have never been disappointed with the many ive tried. Your Chai banana bread is one of my kids favorite, just uplifts banana bread to something more special.

  • This recipe is so easy to make and gives so much control over the icing. I used it for sugar cookie snowflakes for Christmas, and I just did a batch of hearts and flowers for Valentine’s Day. The trick is to add milk/cream to get the right texture for filling or outlining.

    • — Nicole Rodriguez
    • Reply
  • Happy Christmas.for your family members

    • — fathima mimshifa
    • Reply
  • I can’t wait to try this recipe. Your cookies look incredible! Professional! How do you get red icing? We always seem to end up with pink when we add red dye. Even when we add tons of it. Is there a special brand that you like?

    • Hi Amy, I buy the red color from Wilton – you can get it at craft stores. Remember, it gets darker as it dries.

  • Do you have any recommendations or suggestions for best quality food coloring. Maybe I have a sensitive palette. I seems I get I chemical taste especially with the red coloring.
    Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Peg, I can taste it too – I use Wilton “no taste” red. You can get it at most craft stores. Enjoy!

  • Just a question – I have made royal icing with the whites of pasteurized eggs and powder meringue. What I find that when the icing dries it no longer has a shine, and is quite matte. Does this recipe have a little shine when it has dried on the cookies?

    • Hi Cindy, Not really – royal icing has a matte finish. Sorry!

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