My Favorite Royal Icing

Here is my classic easy royal icing made with meringue powder. It’s easy to work with, sets quickly, and won’t break your teeth when it dries. It has the most delicious taste and texture and makes decorating sugar cookies FUN and SIMPLE. Use this traditional royal icing recipe for both flooding and outlining your sugar cookies!

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!

Meringue Power in Royal Icing

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, while containing eggs, 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, but I have a helpful video for you below. 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.

Use This Royal Icing for Flooding and Piping

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

Decorating Sugar Cookies

Here is the sugar cookie recipe you need. Soft centers, crisp edges, easy to decorate.

Some handy tools:

  • Couplers – only needed if you’re using the same icing color, but need to switch tips.
  • Piping Bags – I prefer the 16 inch size for decorating.
  • Gel Food Coloring – get the whole set. I love these colors for royal icing, cake batter, frosting, etc. They’re high pigmented so you don’t need as much coloring.
  • Piping Tips– see below.
  • Toothpick — I use a toothpick to help spread out the icing. You could also just use the piping tip, too.

And some piping tips. I always use Wilton piping tip #4 for outlining and flooding the cookie with icing. This is a wonderful basic piping tip to have in your collection. For any detail, I use a thinner round tip like Wilton piping tip #1 (super thin) and Wilton piping tip #2 (thin). For larger round tips that are easier to work with, I suggest Wilton piping tip #3Wilton piping tip #4, or Wilton piping tip #5. The piping tip #s reflect their sizes– #1 being the thinnest and #5 being the largest of this particular bunch.

Just starting out with piping details? I suggest #1 (smallest), #3 (medium), and #5 (largest of the bunch). You can create anything basic with these three.

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

Royal icing on sugar cookies

Royal Icing Consistency

After mixing the 3 icing ingredients together, lift the whisk attachment up. If the icing that drips off melts back into the bowl of icing within 5-10 seconds, you’re golden. If it’s too thick, add more water. If it’s super thin and watery, add more confectioners’ sugar.

Can I Freeze Royal Icing?

Yes, royal icing can be frozen. Many royal icing recipes, including my own, yield a lot of icing. Any leftover royal icing can be frozen for up to 2 months. Place leftover royal icing into zipped-top freezer bags. If you have more than 1 color, each color should have its own bag. Before sealing, squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible. Freeze on a flat shelf surface in your freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before using again.

Sugar cookies decorated with royal icing freeze well up to 3 months. Wait for the icing to set completely before layering between sheets of parchment paper in a freezer-friendly container. To thaw, thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

Royal Icing Alternative

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! It will dry in about 24 hours, where the royal icing recipe below dries in about 1-2 hours.

Print

My Favorite Royal Icing

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 3 cups
  • Category: Dessert
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Here is my classic easy royal icing made with meringue powder. It’s easy to work with, sets quickly, and won’t break your teeth when it dries. It has the most delicious taste and texture and makes decorating sugar cookies fun and simple. Use this traditional royal icing recipe for both flooding and outlining your sugar cookies!


Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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 1.5 – 2 minutes. When lifting the whisk up off the icing, the icing should drizzle down and smooth out within 5-10 seconds. If it’s too thick, add a little more water. (On particularly dry days, I use up to 12-14 Tablespoons water total.) 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. See blog post above for freezing instructions.

Notes

  1. 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.

Keywords: royal icing, sugar cookies, cookie decorating, icing

Here is my recipe for the best sugar cookies.

sugar cookies with icing

305 Comments

  1. Hi Sally I refrigerated the decorated cookies to help it dry faster however, when I took it out the refrigerator…it was hard by the horn back all wet within 2 mins of room temperature. Why did this happen? Am I supposedly put it in the freezer instead to dry?

    1. Hi Ree, How long were they in the refrigerator? Is it possible that they were just cold and not really dry? Once royal icing is really dry (which can take anywhere from 1-12 hours depending on it’s original consistency and how thick it’s applied) it won’t ever liquify again.

  2. Thank you for this recipe!! I got the last rub of meringue powder from Michael’s, woo hoo! It was indeed very easy. Btw one of your headers says “meringue power,” not “powder.” It sure if that was an intentional pun or a typo, haha!

  3. Hi, help! I was asked to make royal icing to decorate gingerbread houses for my daughters third grade class. I have time to make today, which I’ve never made before (I love buttercream). I’m worried about how to store it overnight so it doesn’t harden overnight and then the kids won’t be able to work with it tomorrow? I know it says to out a damp towel if you are working with it while decorating but I can I keep it the consistency so the kids will be able to spread it on the houses without cracking the graham crackers?? Thanks,

    1. Hi Diane, I suggest making sure it’s very tightly covered (you can press plastic wrap right on the surface so that it doesn’t crust) and then before you use it just give it a good stir and it should be good!

    1. I use my Wire Strainer as my Softer.. You can too.. If you don’t have one.. Gr8 a b one at Dollar Tree.. Hope this helps…

  4. The icing on my sugar cookies has been crumbling so I tried your recipe for the first time – just bit into one and my icing completely crumbled. I was so hopeful this would be a success. I use bottles instead of a bag with a #2 tip for outlining and a #3 for flooding. What brand of meringue powder do you use. Also when you have to add more water, do you mix additional time with mixer? Am I over mixing and incorporating air. I followed the 5 min. on high however icing was too thick with 10 T of water and thinned it. My grandchildren decorate the cookies and then our family sings at an assisted living and they give out their cookies. Thanks for a response – your cookies are beautiful! It is too late for my 45 iced cookies but I love doing this and need HELP!

    1. Hi Jean, What a wonderful thing to do with your grandchildren! Royal icing is supposed to dry a bit hard, so if it’s piled up very thick it might seem crumbly when you bite into it. Was it thick and puffy after you mixed it, or smooth and shiny? If the first, it was likely mixed too much which incorporates too much air. Depending on the humidity levels in my kitchen some days I have to add up to 15 TBS of water. Try not mixing as long and slowing down your mixer. That should help!
      I use the Wilton brand of meringue powder – there is a link for it on Amazon up in the post!

    1. Before. Sift after measuring. If the word “sifted” is after the ingredient name, that means you sift it after measuring/weighing. If it comes before the ingredient name, sift it before measuring. Hope this helps!

  5. I really liked this royal icing recipe just because i didn’t have to mess around with it to get the perfect consistency. I just needed an icing that would flood well but not run off the sides. I use bottles and i was able to outline and flood without any problems. I added vanilla to the mixture and it tasted great. I made snowglobe cookies and frosted with this royal icing and they came out so well that i’m making another batch. People complaining about the frosting being tacky, royal icing can take 24 hrs to set so just plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time.

  6. Hi Sally, I don’t have a food scale so I measure everything using cups. When measuring the powdered sugar, is it best to use the spoon and level method that you recommend for flour, or is it best to just scoop it up and level? Thank you!

    1. Hi Hannah! Spoon and level is always my recommended method for properly measuring dry ingredients like powdered sugar and flour.

  7. Sally,
    This recipe looks great, but is there ANY way I can reduce the amount of sugar without altering the consistency of the icing?

    1. Hi Sophia, this icing is just about all sugar so reducing the amount would just reduce the quantity of icing. There are not other ingredients to substitute for it.

  8. I made this today and I felt like it turned out pretty well. I just have a couple questions to make sure I didn’t do anything wrong. My frosting is taking much longer than the estimated 2 hours. It’s slowly getting there but it’s been probably close to 12 hours now. Does that mean my frosting was too liquidy? Also, is it supposed to have a matte finish or more of a glossy finish? Mine are definitely matte.. is that correct? If not, what did I do wrong and how can I correct it?

    Thanks! And thank you for all your wonderful recipes!

    1. Hi Jenny, It sounds like you may have just mixed it too long. When it’s mixed too long (or at too high of speed) it will incorporate too much air – this makes it fluffier which means it goes on thicker and takes longer to dry and also makes it dry with more of a matte finish. Next time just turn down the speed of your mixer and don’t mix quite as long and it should turn out well!

  9. How does Royal Icing Mix compare? Is there a way to alter it to make it less break-your-teeth hard (if it’s super hard, I have never tried it)?

  10. Hi Sally, I am going to try your recipe for royal icing! First time to try my hand at this! So, in reading your post, I saw that you mentioned a video to see the correct consistency of the icing. However, as hard as I looked, I could not locate the video.

    1. Hi Marie! It’s there under the heading Royal Icing Consistency. Give it a second to load and make sure any ad blockers in place are temporarily paused. You can see a rectangle thumbnail of me with a play button on it.

    1. It’s a relatively simple icing sugar based frosting, so it’s mostly just sweet and nothing too fancy… but I love it and get amazing reviews when I bake for friends/family. After reading some comments just now, I found out we can add some flavor to it as well. I doubt there is a better (cookie) icing recipe out there! Try it, you won’t regret it!

  11. Great recipe, worked like a treat, thanks! I added a bit of almond essence but otherwise made as instructed and it was perfect. Thanks again.

  12. Hi Sally,
    I’m just wanted to make sure…
    Is this the recipe I should use to assemble gingerbread houses with? Thank you.

  13. Hi Sally,
    Do you have a preferred Royal Icing recipe that doesn’t use merengue powder? I live in Asia and I’m having trouble sourcing it. And ordering to ship from the USA from Amazon isn’t practical. Thanks.

  14. Hi there,
    I’m quite new to the intricate side of baking, but I am excited to try making sugar cookies for my daughter’s birthday. You say to use this icing for outlining and flooding the cookies. I assume flooding means filling in the outline with a solid color? But is this icing also suitable for trying to draw detailed designs on the cookies as well as writing?
    Thank you.

    1. Correct! Flooding means filling in the outline. This is suitable for more detailed designs and writing – you may need to add a bit more powdered sugar to thicken it up to your liking. Let me know how it comes out for you!

  15. This was the first recipe from your website that I’ve failed at! Have no clue what went wrong but was fluffy like meringue instead of runny despite how much water I added. Beat on 8 for 5 min. 🙁

      1. Well I’ve taken a huge chance and made both the easy icing and the royal icing…and combined the two! The idea came from another recipe called Franken Frosting…but that one makes way too much icing. And all of your recipes seem to work for me! Have you ever tried doing this? I needed a cookie icing that pipes well and tastes great!

  16. Is this frosting shelf stable? I would like to make cookie decorating boxes but want the frosting to be shelf stable so there is no chance in making anyone sick. I would like to put the frosting in sealed sandwich baggies so we can just cut off the tips to decorate. Would that work okay?

    1. Hi Sarah! Yes, this icing is fine on decorated sugar cookies for up to a couple weeks. You can store the icing in baggies, then cut off the tips when it’s time to decorate. If you stored the icing in the baggies in the refrigerator, it may be helpful to bring them to room temperature prior to using/decorating.

  17. Hello! I am sooo happy to find this! I love to bake and bake often but for some reason I have always been intimidated to do sugar cut out cookies and royal icing. However, my son has requested some pac man cookies for his birthday in a few weeks. Yikes! My question is for example lets say I have to work with 4 different colors and want to use a piping tip #4, Do I have to purchase four #4 piping tips??? One for each color? As a back up, would this recipe work good if I put it in a squeeze bottle?? I wouldnt be doing anything fancy but outlining and flooding. THANK you in advance!

    1. Hi Shellbeee, You do not need to purchase 4 #4 piping tips. Instead, use couplers which allows for the piping tip to be placed on the outside of the piping bag so you can switch it between colors. You can find frosting couplers at most craft stores that sell baking products and/or Amazon. A squeeze bottle will be fine as long as you work quickly because the royal icing can dry out.

  18. Hi Sally, what a fantastic recipe!
    Just a question – in Australia we get icing sugar mixture (with added corn flour) and pure icing sugar. Do you think you could use either? Would it make a difference? Thanks so much!

  19. Hello! I’ve been wanting to try my hand at royal icing for awhile now. It always seemed intimidating but you make it look so easy! I’m going to try Valentine cookies! Here’s my question. . . if I wanted to add vanilla extract, as some have suggested, how much should I use with your recipe? Thanks!

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