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!

royal icing in mixing bowl

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 Powder 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.

Christmas holiday decorated sugar cookies including snowmen, candy canes, Christmas trees, snowflakes, and stars

Decorating Cookies

Here is the sugar cookie recipe you need. Soft centers, crisp edges, easy to decorate. You can also use this royal icing on gingerbread cookies or as the glue for a gingerbread house.

Some handy tools:

  • Couplers – 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 Christmas sugar cookies

Royal icing on snowflake 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, just keep beating it OR beat in more confectioners’ sugar.


Can I Freeze Royal Icing?

Yes, royal icing can be frozen. Many royal icing recipes, including this one, 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.


How Can I Make Royal Icing Ahead of Time?

You can prepare this royal icing 2-3 days ahead of time. I recommend transferring it to a smaller bowl or container and tightly sealing for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to use it, let it come to room temperature, then mix it up with a whisk a few times as it may have separated. Whisking in a few drops of water is helpful if it thickened.


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 ideal for piping sharp detail. 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.

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decorated Christmas sugar cookies

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 (I use and recommend Domino brand)
  • 3 Tablespoons meringue powder (not plain egg white 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. Pour confectioners’ sugar, meringue powder, and 9 Tablespoons of water into a large bowl. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat 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, beat in more water 1 Tablespoon at a time. I usually need 10 Tablespoons but on particularly dry days, I use up to 12-14 Tablespoons. Keep in mind that the longer you beat the royal icing, the thicker it becomes. If your royal icing is too thin, just keep beating it to introduce more air OR you can add more confectioners’ sugar.
  3. When applied to cookies or confections in a thin layer, icing completely dries in about 2 hours at room temperature. If icing consistency is too thin and runny, it will take longer to dry. If the icing is applied very thick on cookies, it will also take longer to dry. 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 make-ahead and 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.
  2. Optional Flavors: Feel free to add 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite flavored extract, such as lemon, orange, maple, peppermint, etc when you add the water. Taste after the icing comes together, then beat in more if desired. You can also use 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

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

Here is my recipe for sugar cookies.

sugar cookies with icing

284 Comments

  1. Extremely runny even with A LOT of extra sugar. I even only ended up putting in 7tbs of water and it was still vastly too runny. I had to just throw it all away.

    1. Sadly I had the same experience. I added 8tbsp of water and it’s way too thin to work with. Starting over.

    2. I use about 5 T of water for the outline icing and maybe 7 for flooding

    3. Patty Gunner says:

      I don’t understand; did you try beating it longer? When I made it, I had to add extra water because I had beat it too long. The longer you beat it, the thicker it gets.

    4. Angela Cardillo Ciccione says:

      Hi Sally, do you know how long the left over royal icing keep?
      And should I put it in the fridge right?
      Thank you!!!!

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Angela! We recommend freezing leftover royal icing for later use – see blog post for details!

  2. Donna Truckenbrod says:

    I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but I plan. One question: When it dries, is it brittle. That is the issue i have been having with other recipes. Dries beautifully, but very brittle. I am looking for a recipe that sets but not hardens soo much.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Donna! Yes, royal icing is meant to be quite hard when it dries, but I wouldn’t say brittle. Are you having issues with royal icing breaking? We haven’t had that happen with this recipe. Let us know if you try it!

  3. Question: I’m going to try the lining and flooding technique. I saw a YouTube video that used egg whites and said covering the bowl with a damp towel was a must (during decorating time and for storage). Does using meringue powder change that?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Maura, we haven’t made royal icing with egg whites, but you can still use the damp towel method with this meringue powder recipe.

  4. Love your meringue powder recipe. Ummm, just check your heading….. Meringue Power in Royal Icing?

  5. Cookie decorating has always been my nemesis! Until today when I tried this recipe and I am beyond thrilled with the results! I got the right consistency thanks to the helpful video and with a little practice, my cookies came out great! The icing hardened but it’s not brittle at all. I cannot wait to decorate all the cookies with this icing! I used tipless icing bags and they worked great! I will try the tips for more details next time.

  6. Sunnette Christelle Kew says:

    How does this recipe work in high humidity places such as the coast and how often do you get bleeding? I’m battling with bleeding with the recipe I’m currently using.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sunnette, humidity can play a role in how royal icing sets, however readers from many different climates and areas of the world have had success with this recipe. What will help avoid a runny consistency is starting with the smallest amount of water listed, then adding more (if needed) to reach the proper consistency. Having the iced cookies set in the refrigerator will help too. Let us know if you decide to give it a try!

  7. First time trying royal icing and was skeptical (HUGE buttercream fan here!), but was pleasantly surprised how easy this recipe was to make and also tasted good!

    One question…can leftover icing be saved to used the next day for additional decorating?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      So glad you loved it! Yes, leftover icing can be stored in the fridge for up to three days in an air tight container.

      1. Awesome! Super excited to continue using this recipe! Thank you!

  8. Can I use Tarter powder instead of merengue powder?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Judy, meringue powder is essential to this royal icing recipe.

  9. Thank you! It’s just a large lidded glass jar that I filled with sprinkles. Lots of fun.

  10. Can cocoa powder be added to make it chocolate / light brown? Would I add less sugar to offset it? (I’m making football cookies)

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tamara, we haven’t tried it ourselves, but you can try swapping some of the powdered sugar for cocoa powder to make a chocolate icing. It may take a bit of trial and error, or take a look online for a chocolate version to find some inspiration / guidance. Or, you can use brown food coloring like we do with our football cookies!

  11. How does using ordinary liquid food colouring effect this recipe?

    1. Hi Kendra, liquid food coloring may throw off the consistency of the icing. If you decide to use it, use/add it sparingly.

  12. This is a perfect starting ratio, and, as always, your video is easy to follow and shows what you need to see (i.e., icing consistency). The water:sugar amounts will often change from day to day! I have yet to find something on your site that wasn’t wonderful! (so many thanks for putting the weight/metric in all your recipes) Thank you for all the awesomeness you share and happy winter 🙂

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Thank you so much for your kind feedback!

  13. Can you use egg whites instead of meringue powder?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Abby! We recommend the meringue powder here. Using fresh egg whites would require a different recipe. Luckily there are many options if you’re going that route!

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