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 5 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

198 Comments

    1. Hi Jess! It’s fine stored in the refrigerator for a couple days. I usually store it in piping bags so it doesn’t dry out from excess air.

      1. How long is the icing good for once it has dried and set on the cookies? In on there words, what would the expiration date of the icing be? Could you ship cookies with this icing? Thank you!

  1. Mine had a horrible chalky texture to it. I do believe after reading all of the other comments that I over beat it. But what causes the chalk texture and lack of flavor? Thanks

    1. Hi Stephanie, Royal icing is inherently very sweet – it tastes like the sugar you use! You can certainly try a different brand of sugar and you can also add flavoring. Feel free to add a very small amount of vanilla, almond or any other extract you wish for different flavors (just be sure they are oil free).

  2. Hi there, I have a mom who’s a type 1 diabetic and I’ve been wanting to make her some sugar-free sugar cookies with sugar-free royal icing (if that’s even possible cuz I’ve tried looking all over the internet and have yet to find anything), so I was wondering if it’s at all possible to use Splenda or another sugar alternative to replace the confectioners sugar? Or at least incorporate the two in some way? Thank you so much in advance!

    1. I have also never tried this. However, try searching blogs for keto or low carb recipes. There are a ton sugar substitutes, and they each have their own qualities. I’ve read using them together instead of using just one can help minimize their aftertastes. Swerve is a popular brand and one I found very useful. It’s erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol. You’ll want to find another to use with it to minimize the cooling effect you get from sugar alcohols. I hope this helps.

    1. Royal icing is very very sweet! If you want to add additional flavor you can feel free to add any extracts such as vanilla, almond, etc. Just be sure it’t not an oil based flavor!

  3. I made this recipe using meringue powder. I did use a bit more water to thin to the proper consistency. I wasn’t flooding, just decorating butterfly shaped cookies

    I put in a drop of lemon extract to give it some flavor. It dried quickly, was easy to work with and a good texture with no grittiness.

    The only thing soneone might not like is that it didn’t dry super shiny. For my purposes, it didn’t matter. It was perfect

    I’d post a picture if I could figure out how!

  4. I just made it and frosted my cookies. It’s perfect. Thank you for publishing the recipe. I will be making it again for sure.

    1. Yes you sure can! I recommend mixing a drop of your gel food coloring with vodka (or any clear extract if you don’t want to use alcohol). Don’t use water to thin out the food coloring as it will take too long to dry and mess up your royal icing. The alcohol will evaporate quickly on the cookies keeping your icing intact!

    1. Hi Sarah, I admit I use the same consistency icing for all of my cookies, both outlining and flooding. If you wish to make more intricate designs that call for stiffer icing I recommend adding less water to start with vs adding more powdered sugar at the end. SweetAmbs makes beautiful cookies and has a great explanation and a list of uses for different consistencies here: https://www.sweetambs.com/tutorial/royalicing/

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