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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 cookies recipe you need. Soft centers, crisp edges, easy to decorate. You can also use this royal icing on chocolate sugar cookies, 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.
  • Disposable Piping Bags or Reusable 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 you’d rather skip royal icing and try something easier, here’s my easy cookie icing. This opaque “glaze” style 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 1x
  • 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

Scale
  • 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hi I’m trying meringue powder again, I usually use corn syrup for shine can I add it to this recipe?

    1. Hi Brenda, A little corn syrup would be fine, but it will thin out the icing. You may want to reduce the water.

  2. Could this royal icing be used for cookies that are on the softer side, such as lofthouse cookies?

    1. Hi Naomie, you can certainly try this icing on lofthouse style cookies if you wish. You may want to keep it on the thicker side, so it doesn’t absorb into the cookie. Let us know how it goes!

  3. I hope you can help me Sally! I’ve made royal icing for years and never had a problem. When my best friend asked me to help her ice cookies for her daughter’s shower, I was delighted to help. It went pretty well I thought. She beat the icing at first then we began to add water to get it to flooding. I’m not sure it was beaten enough at first, because it got thicker when we added water. Then she beat it a little harder. We ended up adding what seemed like a lot of water to get it flooding consistency. It worked perfectly.. Borders and flooding. But it did not dry in 24 hours and the remaining icing separated! What do you think happened? She’s afraid to try again! HELP!

    1. Hi Laurie, 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. Next time just turn down the speed of your mixer and don’t mix quite as long, you can also try switching to the paddle attachment instead of the whisk so it doesn’t get as much air. Hope this helps!

    2. I have been making cookies for years with absolutely no problem and the last two times this exact thing has happened to me. I’m wondering if Wilton has changed their merengue powder? Frustrating.

  4. I don’t have a whisk or paddle attachment for my mixer. Can I still make this recipe?

    1. Hi Jess, It will be quite the arm workout using a whisk, but you can try it!

    1. Hi Rachel, that would depend on the size of your cookies – this recipe yields about 3 cups which is quite a bit!

  5. Hi Sally is there any other option aside from Meringue powder? I’ve been searching from bakeshops, but no luck

    1. Hi Jam, meringue powder is essential for this recipe. You could search for a traditional royal icing recipe using egg whites, or try our easy cookie icing recipe as well.

    1. Hi Tina, 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.

  6. Hi Sally is it OK not to use meringues powder?
    Will it make a difference?

    1. Hi Saffiyah, meringue powder is essential for this recipe. You could search for a traditional royal icing recipe using egg whites, or try our easy cookie icing recipe as well.

  7. Hey Sally, I’m making this recipe but don’t have meringue powder. Can I substitute it with whipped egg whites?

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