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.
  • 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.

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
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

372 Comments

  1. hi! so excited to use this recipe for christmas cookies i’m making for coworkers! i was wondering, if putting the iced cookies in the fridge helps speed up drying time, would putting them in the freezer speed it even more or would it be too cold and ruin them in some way? i’ll be making both your regular sugar cookies and chocolate sugar cookies!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rachael! Best to stick with the fridge. Enjoy!

  2. This was a great, delicious recipe. I did end up making two categories, though: the recipe directions worked really well for outlining but I did make separate icings for the flooding by adding 2 tsp of water because the recipe directions made it a little too thick. (And thinning the whole thing out with water as some other reviewers mentioned or not beating it as long made the outline a little too runny to stay on the cookie.) But the recipe directions were perfect for outlining (and so clear!) and the icing was so delicious. Will absolutely make again.

  3. I used lemon extract in this recipe.pretty cookies, good flavour.

  4. Is this the same recipe you use for Gingerbread Houses? It looked thicker in your Gingerbread House demo.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi KR, yes! The royal icing is piped on very thick when used as “glue” for the gingerbread houses. The thicker icing on the top is a crusting buttercream frosting.

  5. Can you place the royal icing in piping bags and “warm up” the following day to decorate cookies or should the icing be made the day you are decorating?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jennifer, we find the icing may start to separate a bit, so your best bet would be to either make it the day you are decorating, or make it ahead and store in a bowl so that you can give it a quick mix before placing in piping bags the day you decorate.

  6. Love your recipe and using it for the third time this Christmas. But after drying overnight, they lost their shine. Unfortunately my only time to work on them is late at night so I can’t wait for them to dry before packing them up. Is it the extended exposure to the air that would cause the slightly mottled and non-shine appearance? Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi E, We are so happy that you enjoy the recipe! It is completely normal for royal icing to dry more dull than shiny but we do have some tips. Some decorators add a very small amount of light corn syrup to their icing to add some shine, but keep in mind that it may not dry as hard. You can also try drying your iced cookies in front of a fan for the first hour or two which helps keep some shine. Humidity in the air also plays a roll in how the icing drys so if you are going for a shiny look try making them when your kitchen is not humid. I hope this helps!

  7. Hi
    I would like to try this recipe however, I’m in South Africa and we do not get meringue powder but we do have something called actiwhite which contains dried egg albumen, sucrose, thickeners and acidity regulator. Do you think the recipe would be okay substituting the meringue powder for actiwhite?

    Kind regards
    Cassandra

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cassandra, We wish we could help but we have never used actiwhite before as it’s not a product that is common where we live. You can certainly test it out, or you may wish to find a recipe that is written specifically for actiwhite. Let us know what you try!

    2. Hanndri Swart says:

      2 tbsp actiwhite mixed with 150ml water, let it stand for 10 min,
      Mix into 1kg icing sugar and half tsp cream of tartar.

      I use this recipe from biscuit studio, I’m in SA

      1. Have you tried adding almond extract for flavor and corn syrup to make shiny.

      2. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Linda! You can add almond extract if desired, see recipe notes for tips on adding 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite flavored extract. Some decorators add a very small amount of light corn syrup to their icing to add some shine, but keep in mind that it may not dry as hard.

    3. You can get from CAB Foods! I always buy mine there

  8. This does make a LOT! I halved* the recipe and still made almost 4x too much for a full batch of Sally’s Soft Cut-Out Sugar Cookies recipe. I also used liquid food coloring (because it was all I had on hand) and it made for pretty but pale colors. I’d like to try with the recommended gel food colorings to get those really rich, saturated tones.

    * I halved the confectioner’s sugar, but somehow forgot to also halve the meringue powder and the water. It whipped up to the right consistency (7 second melt) but over the course of decorating, became very runny. It was still workable, but I’m looking forward to trying this recipe again– with the RIGHT ratio of ingredients!

    1. I picked up a pack of Wilton gel colors specifically for this recipe and it was totally worth it! The colors are super vibrant. Definitely try it again. 🙂

  9. I’m sorry but I always get confused on sifting directions as sifting gives more ‘volume’. For the powdered sugar, is the recipe stating that it should measure 4 cups after the sugar has been sifted? Thank you.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Elaine! Rule of thumb: It all depends where the word “sifted” is in the ingredient wording. If “sifted” is before the ingredient name, sift before measuring. If “sifted” is after the ingredient name, sift after measuring. So here, you’ll want to sift after measuring. Hope this is helpful!

  10. Wow! Thank you for such a quick and easy answer.

  11. As much as I love baking, I’ve never attempted cookies with royal icing because they always looked like such a hassle. A few days ago I decided to give it a shot, and wow was it actually pretty easy! The icing whipped up in no time and didn’t dry out at all as we decorated cookies. After curing for a few hours they were good to go. Perfection! I will absolutely use this icing again (And I kind of have to since it made so much lol. I have at least a cup left in the freezer).

  12. How do you recommend we store the decorated cookies? In a Tupperware container? Do the need to be refrigerated?

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Linda, decorated cookies stay soft for about 5 days when covered tightly at room temperature. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days. Enjoy!

  13. Carol mansell says:

    Hi Sally I from Geelong in Australia I have used your recipe many times so I am using your royal icing for my biscuits have a merry Xmas and new year

  14. Lauren Schumacher says:

    I am very excited to try this recipe, but cannot find meringue powder anywhere! It’s sold out at my local stores and I don’t have time to order it online now. Is there anyway to substitute egg whites for this recipe?

    Best,
    Lauren

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lauren, this recipe was written specifically for meringue powder, and using fresh egg whites would require a different recipe. Luckily there are many options if you’re going that route! Or if desired, try this easy glaze icing which does not require meringue powder or egg whites.

    2. Am I supposed to pack the confectionery sugar into the cups? I know that matters sometimes due to packed cups obviously having more volume than unpacked cups.

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Megan! Spoon and level the confectioners’ sugar to measure – you can read more about that method in this post. Happy baking!

  15. Hello! Is regular powdered sugar an okay substitute for domino confectioners sugar? I know the internet says they’re basically the same but I’ve spent a lot of money on ingredients and would hate to ruin the cookies just from using powdered sugar instead of confectioners. Thanks!

    1. Hi Haley, confectioners’ sugar does have a little cornstarch to prevent caking as it settles in a package (powdered sugar does not), but the two are used interchangeably in recipes including any recipe calling for confectioners’ sugar on this website. You can use either in this icing.

  16. I had never made royal icing nor worked with royal icing before making Sally’s royal icing. I followed her instructions, watched her instruction video, and it turned out great! It had a perfect consistency and was easy to work with. Thank you!

  17. Would this icing dry too quick to decorate cookies with a toddler? I was planning on setting out dishes of different colored icing for her to paint onto cookies, so it will have a lot more air exposure time than with piping. I anticipate spending about 30 mins decorating with her, but would the icing still be spreadable with a paint brush in that time?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Heather! It may begin to crust over – this easy cookie icing sets more slowly and may be a good option as well!

  18. really, really disappointed in this recipe. no matter how hard we tried, we could not get this to thicken up and ended up dipping our cut out cookies instead. not everyone owns a kitchenaid mixer and hand mixing with a whisk did not work. we followed the directions and video exactly, but it would never drip as shown. when put in the icing bag it poured out the top. sooooo disappointed.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi there! Did you use meringue powder (not royal icing mix or other products)? Meringue powder is a must for this recipe. Feel free to add powdered sugar as needed for a thicker consistency next time. Whisking by hand does take a bit but it’s very doable – I just made two batches by hand for a cookie decorating party a couple weeks ago. Hope these tips help for next time 🙂

  19. Will this recipe work with squeeze bottles instead of piping bags/tips?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, definitely! We do it all the time!

  20. Hi! Is there anything i could substitute for meringue powder? i can’t find it at my local grocery store.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Swati! 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. You may also enjoy our easy glaze icing.

  21. Lisa Jayne Lee says:

    I made these cookies for decorating for Christmas and it was actually really easy. I did add the almond flavor and doubled the recipe. Make sure you let them bake until light golden brown. My husband took out a tray before and it just didn’t taste the same. I will use this recipe again.

  22. These are the best sugar cookies of any I have tried and I haved tried a few. They are my son’s favorite Christmas cookie. Royal icing worked perfectly. Thanks so much for this. It will be my new go-to recipe.

  23. Great recipe and instructions! Cookies are delicious and the icing works like a dream. Can I sub lemon juice for water if I want to have lemon royal icing? I have no lemon extract.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Julia, You can definitely add lemon juice but I don’t recommend replacing all of the water with it. Replace half or a little less than half of the water with it.

  24. lissa Callahan says:

    Tonight is my first time ever making and using royal icing. This recipe was so easy and absolutely phenomenal. I used a gel coloring and a bit of peppermint extract. For some reason though it came out tasting a little flowery. That settled out a little as it dried but it also came out dull. Can I add corn syrup for some gloss and if so how much should I use as it is already quite sweet?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lissa, It is completely normal for royal icing to dry more dull than shiny but we do have some tips. Some decorators add a very small amount of light corn syrup to their icing to add some shine, but keep in mind that it may not dry as hard. You can also try drying your iced cookies in front of a fan for the first hour or two which helps keep some shine. Humidity in the air also plays a roll in how the icing drys so if you are going for a shiny look try making them when your kitchen is not humid. I hope this helps!

  25. I made the recipe exactly and iced the Easter Egg Sugar Cookies. It probably was a little thicker than the icing in your video. It has been 24 hours and it is still quite sticky. I live in Southern California so the humidity is not a problem. Why is it still not set up?

  26. If storing for future use, how many days is it good for in the fridge? I have some in an airtight container and more in a piping bag (leftover from Christmas decorating!)

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sara, You can prepare this royal icing 2-3 days ahead of time. We recommend transferring it to a smaller bowl or container and tightly sealing for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

  27. I’ve been trying for days to ice sugar cookies with this recipe but it’s not drying. After many hours and even overnight it stays glossy but develops a tacky consistency, like chewy marshmallow fluff. I dumped the first batch and made another, same result. I’ve made this recipe before with no such issue. What am I doing wrong (besides wasting time and energy and ingredients and losing my mind)?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Erin, It sounds like this could be a mixture of adding too much water and then over mixing the icing. Over mixing will add too much air and give it that “marshmallow” consistency. If you try again, add the water just a little at a time, slow down your mixer (you can even try switching to a paddle instead of a whisk attachment if it’s adding too much air), and mix just until the water is incorporated before deciding if you need more. Also, depending on how thick you apply the icing to the cookies, it can take as long as 24 hours to completely dry. Hope this helps!

1 5 6 7

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe. Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

Every December we publish 10 new cookie recipes in a row! Sign up via email and we’ll send you my most popular recipes and all the new cookie recipes once the palooza begins!

View More

Pie Week is all about baking the BEST pies! Sign up via email and we'll send you my most popular recipes and all the new pie recipes once Pie Week begins!

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×