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 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.

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 – 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 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, 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.


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, too.


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.

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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
  • 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. 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 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, 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 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 the best sugar cookies.

sugar cookies with icing

736 Comments

  1. Can you make royal icing ahead of time? My granddaughter is coming over next weekend to decorate cookies and I’d like to have everything ready. 🙂

    1. Sure can! See How Can I Make Royal Icing Ahead of Time? in the blog post above.

      1. My icing turned out hard and crunchy. I’m testing various recipes. I left the cookies out overnight, could that be the reason why?

      2. Hi, on average how many cookies does this recipe cover?

      3. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        A few dozen, depending on the size of the cookie.

  2. Amy Lynn Daugherty says:

    Hi Sally,
    Do I need to make any adjustments to use this icing in writer bottles?

    1. Hi Amy Lynn, I wouldn’t think so.

      1. Amy Daugherty says:

        Sally thank you so much for this recipe, it was absolutely perfect for my Christmas cookies. I’m a novice, but your tips (especially the one about using a tall glass to help fill your piping bag) made it so much easier for me this time! Oh and not to mention the icing is delicious !!

  3. Looking to experiment for my first time with royal icing tomorrow. Have plans to do more as we get closer to Christmas. Can I put remaining icing in fridge? How should I manage this so I don’t waste a bunch. Thank you.

    1. Hi Gwen, see How Can I Make Royal Icing Ahead of Time? in the blog post above.

  4. Would this icing work on gingerbread?

    1. Yes definitely! We use it to decorate these gingerbread cookies and as the “glue” for a gingerbread house.

      1. Hi Sally, is this recipe worth attempting without a hand or stand mixer, whisking by hand? I unfortunately don’t have either

      2. Hi Em, you can whisk by hand but it will take some arm muscle!

  5. Hi Sally,
    Your recipes have never steered me wrong before, but I’m currently up to 20+ tablespoons of water (I stopped counting after 20)! I followed the recipe exactly, but can’t seem to get the consistency in your video. I’ve got a kitchen aid professional 5 (the one that brings the bowl up rather than the hinged neck) – could that have changed anything? Can you over mix the icing? Was my meringue powder too dense? I’m stumped! Help!

    1. Hi Lauren, the longer you beat the royal icing, the thicker it becomes. (As a result of the meringue powder doing its magic.) If you ever try the recipe again, I recommend reducing the beating time. Follow the recipe (with 9-10 Tbsp of water) then beat for only 1 minute before checking the consistency.

  6. Hi Sally
    I have used Wiltons color flow for years. How does using this recipe compare? Will the flooding have a similar consistency?
    Thank you
    Marsha

    1. Hi Marsha, I haven’t tried that icing before so I can’t give a suitable comparison for you. This icing flows very easily as long as it’s thin enough.

  7. Hi Sally,

    Can this recipe be halved?

    Thank you!

    1. Absolutely!

  8. Does the icing have to be frozen for storage or if I made the icing today and plan to frost the cookies tomorrow can I just store it in the refrigerator over night? Thanks!

    1. Hi Karli, you don’t need to freeze it overnight. See How Can I Make Royal Icing Ahead of Time? in the blog post above.

  9. Hi Sally! Planning to make these at a cookie gathering tomorrow! Any tips to make the icing ahead without freezing!? Thank you!

    1. Hi Alli, see How Can I Make Royal Icing Ahead of Time? in the blog post above.

  10. Hello, I’m trying your royal icing this week. I’ve never made it so have a few questions for you ….

    Need to make it in advance, so how long will icing in a piping bag last? Should it be kept at room temperature or in the fridge? Stored in an airtight container or something else?

    I’ve read corn syrup helps with piping. Can light corn stone added to add gloss and elasticity when piping? If so, how much for this recipe? And if so, reduce water?

    TIA!

    1. Hi Sonia, see How Can I Make Royal Icing Ahead of Time? in the blog post above. For the corn syrup, that certainly helps improve elasticity and adds a shiny touch. If using, I recommend decreasing the water by that amount. I would start with adding only 2 teaspoons when you add the water.

  11. DIANA BROWNING says:

    Is there a way to “stiffen” up pre packaged frosting? O it will dry harder on cookies?

  12. Hi Sally,
    I’m going to make the sugar cookies with royal icing next week, but I cannot find meringue powder anywhere (I’m new to baking from scratch). Will your recipe still work with egg whites? Thanks so much!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Liz, Some recipes use fresh egg whites but that would require a different recipe. We don’t have one, but 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.

      1. Can you use egg white powder?

  13. These came out PERFECTLY!!! Thank you so, so much for this holiday cookie recipe. 🙂 Will be trying the Royal Icing next…

    1. Oops. Sorry, I meant to post this under the Best Sugar Cookies recipe.

  14. Help I can’t find your video above to watch making the royal icing first time, I’m probably passing it up ?
    My grandson of 5 is helping me we started late yesterday and he is in love with these cookies!

    1. I forgot to sign my name looking for the video to make the royal icing?
      Thank you
      Terri and Mac

    2. Hi Terri! It’s located right above the header “Can I Freeze Royal Icing?”

  15. Quick question… can I use regular food coloring or does it have to be gel?

    1. Hi Connie! Royal icing produces the most vibrant colors, but liquid coloring will work as well!

  16. My royal icing dried very sticky. Any ideas why?

    1. Hi Rachel, the icing may have been applied too thick and just needs longer to dry or there could have been too much water in the icing.

  17. Hi! Around how many cookies can be iced with this yield?

    1. A few dozen, depending on the size of the cookie.

  18. I tried this Royal icing tonight and just couldn’t get the consistency right! It tasted great though. I’m going to try again (good thing I only made a half batch). I made your gingerbread cookies yesterday and they are amazing!!! Just have to practice getting the icing right so that I can decorate them 🙂

  19. Thank you Sally for the great recipe I halved it and it is definitely a keeper 🙂 Have a Merry Christmas

  20. Can I add vanilla or almond extract? Should I subtract water if I do?

    1. Sure can. See recipe note.

  21. jan zielinski says:

    This is the best sugar cookie recipe that I’ve ever used! I follow exactly and appreciated the tips such as rolling out the batter on parchment paper and then storing in the refrigerator until ready to cut out and bake. These cookies are great plain, iced or sprinkled with colored sugar.

  22. Can I double this recipe for Royal icing? My first time doing this.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Candy, Yes you can double this if you need a lot of icing!

  23. smith jacqueline says:

    Can I add rum to this icing, I am decorating Jamaican fruit cake.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Smith, You can replace a little of the water with rum. Enjoy!

  24. Hi Sally!
    I was wondering if royal icing could be chocolate flavored…should I just add coco powder?
    Thanks in advance!
    -Jamie 🙂

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jamie, Sally doesn’t have a recipe for chocolate royal icing. We haven’t tried it but the recipe from Sweet Sugar Belle looks good and her explanations seem thorough!

  25. Hi Sally!
    So I’m actually trying this recipe for my nieces birthday! Is it better to make the icing ahead of time, day before or day of? I don’t wanna make it too early especially since this is my first time. Today is Wednesday and I need them on Saturday!
    Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Heaven, Royal icing is best to make right before you use it. Have fun!

  26. Hi Sally! I want to make gingerbread houses but can’t find meringue powder. Is there a substitute? Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jess, Some recipes use fresh egg whites but that would require a different recipe. We don’t have one, but luckily there are many options if you’re going that route!

  27. I have a question. Once I put this on the cookie, should I store the cookies in the fridge/freezer or can I keep them out on the counter in a storage container so my family can eat through out the week?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Anna! 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.

  28. Robin Ferguson says:

    Does it matter if you use a glass, metal, or plastic bowl for the royal icing?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Robin, any of those bowls will work for the royal icing.

  29. Barbara in Venice says:

    Hello, I’d like to add vanilla (powder) to this. Assuming that will be okay? I’ve made intensely decorated sugar cookies for 4 decades and I always use “frosting,” buttercream no less! I’m family-famous for them, but I am always a little disappointed after the first few days that the cookie goes soft. So funny that it took me this long to understand why. I’ve done this over and over and over to accolades, and it never occurred to me to delve. My family is already verklempt that I’m trying something new, but I can’t wait. Onward!

  30. This recipe is GREAT! Today I iced all the cookies with the Royal icing. Tomorrow I want to do the detail work with more icing, but the icing is too runny for detailed work, and won’t hold the shape. Do I just add a bit more icing sugar to the Royal icing I have (I made three colours) to thicken it up for more definition in the detailing?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Christine, I’m sorry I’m just seeing this question but if you are still decorating then yes, you can always add more icing sugar to thicken up royal icing!

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