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

239 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 🙂

    2. I made this for some cookies today, and it was FANTASTIC. I added the water 1 tablespoon at a time so I could get piping and flood consistency. It worked great, and my cookies came out gorgeous. Thanks!

  2. Once you had instructions on how to quickly bring butter or eggs to room temperature… Can you please email this information to me!

    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.

    1. Recipe for royal icing made with fresh egg whites and a video. IDK if you’re still searching for a recipe as it has been almost 1 year since you posted your question but doesn’t hurt to share!
      https://www.joyofbaking.com/RoyalIcing.html

  3. 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.

  4. 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. 🙂 

  5. 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. Likely beating too long. Here is a helpful website I turn to when I have trouble with my royal icing: http://sweetopia.net/2010/02/how-to-prevent-air-bubbles-in-royal-icing/

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

  6. 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!

  7. 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 Nadine! It sounds like the royal icing wasn’t whipped enough, so that is why you needed more water. 20 Tablespoons is a lot and the reason your icing never hardened. Sorry you had trouble! Thanks for trying this recipe.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. This is a great recipe, but I have one question… what do I do with the rest of the icing that is left? Cause I have quite a bit…

  11. I made the royal icing and it seems like it is too hard / crunchy and take away the cookies’ flavor. Do you know what I did wrong with the icing? I followed the recipe step by step. Is it because the icing needed more water?

    1. Hi Sina Lo! If the icing tastes too hard and crunchy, there wasn’t enough water. Did you add enough to reach the consistency shown in the video?

  12. Hi there! I made this icing yesterday and used it to decorate some cookies. It was super easy, tasty, and the consistency was great! The only problem is that even after being in the fridge overnight, the icing didn’t quite harden. It is definitely set – I was able to add on another layer of icing on top for other decorations – but even the weight of another cookie on top of it smooshes the icing.

    Do you know why that might be? Or a recipe that would harden more, if this one isn’t supposed to?

    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Molly! I wonder if you added too much water or the layer of icing was simply too thick? Those would be my first guesses and what to fix for next time.

  13. Hi Sally,
    What do you suggest to use to apply this icing? Piping bags? I found some bottles with a thin tip, think those would work? Thanks!

    1. Hi Chelsea! I recommend piping bags and small tips such as Wilton round tips 3, 4, or 5. I use 3 and 4 the most often. Here are some examples with links to the exact products: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/decorated-sugar-cookies/

  14. If layering royal icing to make designs, does it need to be fully dry? If so, about how long does it take if refrigerated to speed things up?

    1. Hi Elisa, There are two different techniques for layering colors: wet on wet or wet on dry. They are both so much fun to play with! If you want your colors to sit on top of each other you can wait for the fist color to dry. The length of time really depends on the consistency of your icing. I usually go through all of my cookies with the first color and by the time I am finished they are dry enough to begin the next color. Hope this helps!!

  15. Hi.please can you advise me on Christmas cake icing. I always make 6 cakes for family and they all like them with fondant icing on, but I like to do proper royal icing,but it’s always too hard. Would your recipe be ok.
    Thanks, Kevin

    1. Hi Jane! Likely beating too long. Here is a helpful website I turn to when I have trouble with my royal icing: http://sweetopia.net/2010/02/how-to-prevent-air-bubbles-in-royal-icing/

  16. Do you use a thicker consistency of icing to outline your cookie and then a thinner one to flood? I’ve read about that method elsewhere but didn’t see it in any of your posts. If not, could you explain why you don’t think it necessary? Thanks!

    1. Hi Karrie! I am NOT a professional cookie decorator, but I’ve made dozens and dozens of different EASY decorated sugar cookies, like the ones pictured in this post. The royal icing recipe written above is perfect for flooding AND for outlining. It just has the best consistency for both applications.

  17. Hi Sally,
    I am going to try this for some cookies I am making but also wondering if I can use this recipe on a Christmas cake to cover it? Would I need less water for a thicker consistency?
    Thanks

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