Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

My Favorite Royal Icing

How to make royal icing with meringue powder on sallysbakingaddiction.com

This is the only traditional royal icing I use. It’s my favorite because it’s easy to work with, sets quickly, and doesn’t require raw egg whites. And, best of all, it doesn’t have a hard cement-like texture. It won’t break your teeth like other royal icings!

There are many ways to prepare royal icing and my favorite method is with meringue powder. Meringue powder takes the place of raw egg whites, which is found in traditional royal icing recipes. Both create a very sturdy and stable icing that hardens quickly on top of cookies. Meringue powder eliminates the need for raw fresh eggs, but still provides the EXACT same consistency. You can find meringue powder in some baking aisles, most craft stores with a baking section, and online. I just buy it on Amazon in the 8 ounce container. Super inexpensive and it lasts me awhile.

This royal icing is just 3 ingredients: confectioners’ sugar, meringue powder, and water. The trickiest part is landing on the perfect consistency. Sometimes I need more water, sometimes I need less water. But the wonderful thing is that you can manipulate the icing to get the proper consistency by adding more water or more confectioners’ sugar. It’s awesome.

I use this one royal icing for both piping/outlining and flooding. It is thick enough to outline and thin enough to flood, which makes it super convenient.

Decorated sugar cookies with my favorite royal icing on sallysbakingaddiction.com

What consistency are we looking for?

After mixing the 3 icing ingredients together, lift the whisk attachment up. If the icing that drips off melts right back into the bowl of icing, you’re golden. If it doesn’t, add more water. If it’s super thin and watery, add more confectioners’ sugar. I made a very fancy video with my iPhone to show you:

If desired, try this royal icing alternative that I posted on my blog a couple years ago. This “glaze” icing doesn’t set/dry as quickly as royal icing and it’s not as easy to decorate with. That being said, sometimes it’s just the more convenient option! So give it a try if you prefer. (It will dry in about 24 hours, where the royal icing recipe below dries in about 1-2 hours.)

Royal Icing

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 Tablespoons meringue powder
  • 6 to 8 Tablespoons room temperature water
  • optional for decorating: gel food coloring (I love this food coloring kit)

Directions:

  1. Watch the video of the icing above so you get an idea of what the final consistency should be.
  2. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat all of the icing ingredients together on high speed for 5 minutes. (I always start with 6-7 Tablespoons and usually need to add 8. On particularly dry days, up to 9-10!) When lifting the whisk up off the icing, the icing should drizzle down and smooth out within 10-15 seconds. If it's too thick, add a little more water. If it's too thin, add a little more sifted confectioners' sugar.
  3. Icing completely dries in about 2 hours at room temperature. If you're layering royal icing onto cookies for specific designs and need it to set quickly, place cookies in the refrigerator to help speed it up.

Recipe Notes:

When you're not working directly with the royal icing (for example, you are decorating cookies but you still have some icing left in the bowl that you intend to use next), place a damp paper towel directly on the surface of the royal icing. This prevents it from hardening.

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18 comments

  1. Can you double the icing recipe? Or would powdered sugar go flying all over the place out of my mixer? I feel like I always end up making two batches (maybe because I like to use so many colors ) thanks!! 

    • Yes, absolutely. I always double or triple it based on how much icing I need. Start the mixer on low to avoid confectioners’ sugar explosions 🙂

  2. Once you had instructions on how to quickly bring butter or eggs to room temperature… Can you please email this information to me!

    • I know I’m not Sally but… https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2016/10/28/soften-butter-quickly-trick/
      and for the eggs, place them in a bowl of warm water for 5-10 minutes.

  3. Could you add vanilla or peppermint extract to this for a little more flavor?

  4. Hi Sally. Is there any way to make any alternative for meringue powder? I have hard time finding them in my place. Thanks. 

  5. Hey Sally! I was just wondering if I could replace the water in the recipe with milk? Would that make it taste better? My mom isn’t a big fan of royal icing on her cookies but I love making them all pretty for the holidays so I want a compromise 🙂 

    • Hi Anne! The royal icing will not set with milk, so I don’t suggest it. How about adding a little extract for flavor? 1/2 teaspoon of a non-oil based extract is great here such as lemon or vanilla.

  6. Thank you so much Sally. I have been following your recipes for two years now and I am so happy i found your website… thanks for sharing your recipes to us. Merry Christmas in advance. 🙂 

  7. hi sally how many cookies does this royal icing frost??

  8. Hi Sally,
    I have had success with this icing recipe but I’ve only been able to get the right consistency by adding A LOT more water than your recipe calls for. Could you think of a reason for this?

    Thanks! 

  9. Sally, I need your help. I followed your recipe but my icing did not harden. I was trying to make a dark brown colored icing for my football sugar cookies. I had to use 6 wilton dark brown small containers to get the color that I wanted maybe that is the problem. But I also added 12 Tablespoons of water to flood the cookies maybe that is also the problem. I hope you can help. Thank you GB

    • Hi Grace! It sounds like there was way too much liquid in your icing. I’m not surprised it didn’t set. Is that gel coloring you are using? Because the colors are much more vibrant and concentrated, so you need WAY less. It doesn’t mess with your icing consistency.

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