My Favorite Royal Icing

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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

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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39 Comments

All 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!! 

    1. 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 🙂

    1. 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.

  2. 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 🙂 

    1. 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.

  3. 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. 🙂 

  4. 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! 

    1. I typically add more water as well. There’s nothing you’re doing wrong. Could be the dry weather, the day, the brand of confectioners’ sugar and/or meringue powder.

    1. Frozen and thawed decorated cookies never taste quite the same, so it’s not my recommendation– but you definitely can do it!

  5. I’m totally new to royal icing, so forgive me if this is an easy or dumb question. I want to make some ahead of time for a macaron decorating party I’m hosting. I plan on putting the icing in small squeeze bottles for fine decorating. Do you see any problem with making the icing the night before, and putting it in the squeeze bottles overnight? Will it harden in the squeeze bottles if not used immediately? Anything I should be looking out for? Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Abby! I don’t suggest it. Royal icing is best made right before decorating cookies. It will crust otherwise. Sometimes I make it a few hours in advance and place a moist paper towel directly on top to prevent it from drying out. That should help!

  6. Hi Sally,
    Let me say I love your website. Your clear instructions are amazing to work with.
    I’ve made this royal icing and iced the cookies about 4 hours ago, but the icing hasn’t set. Do you think it will set it I leave them longer or is the whole batch lost?
    Thanks!

    1. Is it getting a “crust” over the top? If you put it on pretty thick, or depending on the humidity level where you are, it can take much longer to fully harden!

      1. No, no crust at all . They’re still sticky on top. I’ve left them overnight and no change so I think they’re a lost cause…

  7. Hi Sally,
    While drying the decorated cookies, do we need to keep them in an air conditioned room at a cooler temperature or room temperature is fine? While the cookies are drying, will they become soft and loose their bite/crisp texture?

    1. Hi Priya! Letting them dry at room temperature is perfectly fine. No need for a cooler environment, though cooler temperatures wouldn’t hurt. The cookies won’t loose their crisp edges.

  8. Cookie decorating is going to be part of my 5 year old’s birthday party. I’m thinking I’ll make a batch or two of this royal icing, divide it, color it different colors, and put it in a zipper bag. All of that a day or two in advance. Then at the party we will snip the corners of the baggies so the girls can pipe it out. Does that sound like a plan that should work? And then lots and lots of sprinkles! Thanks for your feedback!

    1. Hi Leah! If I were throwing a cookie decorating party (which I definitely need to soon!) that’s EXACTLY how I would plan/prep ahead. Take the bags of royal icing out of the fridge a couple hours before so it can warm to room temperature for decorating.

      1. I use so many of your recipes I feel like a super star just posted back to me! Squeel! Exciting! Thanks for your feedback. The girls are going to love the party!

Reviews

Questions

  1. Hi Sally,
    Let me say I love your website. Your clear instructions are amazing to work with.
    I’ve made this royal icing and iced the cookies about 4 hours ago, but the icing hasn’t set. Do you think it will set it I leave them longer or is the whole batch lost?
    Thanks!

    1. Is it getting a “crust” over the top? If you put it on pretty thick, or depending on the humidity level where you are, it can take much longer to fully harden!

      1. No, no crust at all . They’re still sticky on top. I’ve left them overnight and no change so I think they’re a lost cause…

  2. Hi Sally,
    While drying the decorated cookies, do we need to keep them in an air conditioned room at a cooler temperature or room temperature is fine? While the cookies are drying, will they become soft and loose their bite/crisp texture?

    1. Hi Priya! Letting them dry at room temperature is perfectly fine. No need for a cooler environment, though cooler temperatures wouldn’t hurt. The cookies won’t loose their crisp edges.

  3. Cookie decorating is going to be part of my 5 year old’s birthday party. I’m thinking I’ll make a batch or two of this royal icing, divide it, color it different colors, and put it in a zipper bag. All of that a day or two in advance. Then at the party we will snip the corners of the baggies so the girls can pipe it out. Does that sound like a plan that should work? And then lots and lots of sprinkles! Thanks for your feedback!

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