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. Hi Sally,

    Is it possible to apply Royal Icing with a paintbrush? I have an embossed cookie cutter I am using and I would like to use a paint brush to fill in the larger areas – but I don’t want a super hard icing!

    Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kate, we haven’t used that method for decorating, but we can’t see why that wouldn’t work. Let us know if you give it a try!

      1. I love your recipe but for some reason, it’s not showing the ingredients on your blog right now. The ingredients portion is missing. Please get back to this as soon as possible as I need it by the evening today.

    2. Pamela Galea Corser says:

      Well done for all your recipes. Just amazing!
      Have tried so many for my family and the results were perfect.

      Thank you Sally ❤

  2. Terrie Lavelle says:

    There is a Good Housekeeping video on YouTube that shows using a paint brush to flood the Royal Icing with.

  3. Sugar cookies and royal icing were simple but beautiful! My new go to recipe!

  4. Thanks for sharing this recipe! This was my first time making and using royal icing and after a night in the fridge the icing was still not set. Do you have any recommendations on what I might do differently next time to keep this from happening? Would this happen if I added a little too much liquid?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Casey, it sounds like the amount of liquid in your royal icing may be the culprit. For next time, we’d recommend adding more confectioners’ sugar and less water to achieve a thicker consistency. Hope this helps!

      1. Thanks I will give that a try next time!

    2. I had the same problem. I asked the Facebook group and they recommended letting them dry at room temperature. They said there’s a lot of humidity in the fridge that can prevent the icing from setting. So it could be an issue of using too much water and/or using the fridge.

      1. I’ll give that a try next time thanks!

  5. Hi Sally,
    Could I substitute the meringue powder with Cream of tartar, or should I just look for the meringue powder?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brooke, it’s best to use meringue powder here. You can often find it in craft stores or online!

      1. Walmart also carries it in the aisle with the Wilton decorating bags and colors etc

  6. Thank you! I make royal icing once or twice a year, and I ALWAYS struggle with it. Your video on the correct consistency was exactly what I needed! For the first time ever, I got my icing right on the first try.

  7. Candi Campbell says:

    Hi Sally,
    Thank you for your wonderful recipes. As others have mentioned here, I tried royal frosting today and it will set up hard. After several hours in the fridge I thought I might set it on the counter again. It’s really cold in my kitchen so I’m hoping that helps dry them out.
    While I guess the problem could have been too much water, I only added more because I was trying to dip the cookies and the frosting was too thick on them. It seemed to be a similar consistency to yours. Is there any “save” at this point? Like the freezer?
    Thank you so much.
    Candi
    Thanks so much.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Candi, I’m just seeing your question but if you ever try royal icing again keep in mind that adding more water will cause them to take longer to dry. Depending on how much you add, and how thick the icing is layered on the cookies, it can take anywhere from several hours to 24 hours to completely harden – but it will eventually!!

  8. I did not have a good experience with this icing. I’ve never made royal icing before, so I followed the steps exactly. It’s winter here and very dry. The recipe said you could add extra water, so I did, in order to get the consistency to look like Sally’s. Everything looked right, it piped right, and tasted right. I put them in the fridge, covered, overnight. They didn’t set. So I asked the Facebook group and they said it needs to dry at room temp. So they sat on the counter for 8 hours and they still didn’t set. It was like marshmallow cream. The appearance was perfect, but they were very sticky and almost too embarrassing to serve. I will certainly try the recipe again.

    1. What you described is over mixed icing. It will never dry and will have that marshmallow consistency unfortunately

  9. Sally, so far I have loved everyone I your recipes I have made. I wish I could say the same about the royal icing. I used the correct, recommended ingredients and amounts . The icing had a chalky mouth feel and taste. I divided the royal icing into bowls to make different flavors. No matter what I added or how much the icing still tasted and felt like chalk. Any suggestions? I’m not giving up on this recipe just yet!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Leona, Thank you for trying this recipe! If the texture is chalky or spongy the culprit is usually overmixing. When too much air gets incorporated into the icing it can take on more of a sponge texture instead of staying smooth. Try slowing down your mixer, and also mixing more gently when you add your colors. If it’s simply the taste you don’t enjoy you can try adding a bit of extract such as vanilla (or any other flavor you wish). I hope this helps!

      1. Hi Sally,

        Does this royal icing recipe work to flood cookies?

      2. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        You bet!

  10. Hi Sally,
    I could only get hold of egg white powder at the time, is there a reason why this isn’t good? It seems to work ok. Just curious what the difference is between egg white powder and meringue powder apart from the meringue powder having more ingredients.

    Thanks

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Emma! Egg white powder and meringue powder are not the same. Egg white powder can replace egg whites. Meringue powder replaces the ingredients in meringue. The two are different and shouldn’t be used interchangeably in this royal icing recipe. 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!

  11. Paige Schirmang says:

    It was Delicious I loved them

  12. This was so easy to make (I made sure to watch the video to understand consistency) and it dried pretty quickly. I just spooned on and used a toothpick to spread. I also added vanilla extract. Tastes delicious on top of the sugar cookie recipe. Thanks so much!!

  13. What can I use in place of the meringue powder? I can only find the Wilton brand, and there’s a cross-contamination risk with peanuts (daughter has a peanut allergy)

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kristi, there unfortunately is no good substitute for meringue powder here. Some recipes use raw egg whites, but you would have to do a quick search to find one that you like. Alternatively, you could use our Easy Glaze Icing instead — no meringue powder required!

  14. Hi! Thanks for this recipe! Would this also pipe well on a buttercream or fondant covered cake? Also, how would you recommend to color it gold? I was thinking a gold luster dust, but not sure how it would work.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lindsay, although you could use royal icing to pipe letters or small, intricate designs on top of a cake, it’s really best to use traditional buttercream or Swiss meringue buttercream for piping on cakes. You can either use gel food coloring or a luster dust to tint it gold. Hope this is helpful!

  15. Never have made Royal Icing before but looking for a good recipe to ice my Sugar Cookies from the GREAT recipe on this site!
    My question, and forgive if it’s silly, but can I just cut the above recipe in half to make a half-recipe of icing?
    Also, will this icing dry hard enough to be able to stencil a design on once dried?
    Thanks for all the great recipes and THANK YOU for all the great Video Tutorials!!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Barb, yes and yes! You can absolutely halve this recipe, and the icing will harden enough to use stencils. If you’d like, make yours on the thicker side to ensure it’s more firm/hardened for using your stencils. Enjoy!

  16. First time trying your sugar cookie and royal icing today! The cookie tester (pre icing) went ‘mmmm’ so thats a solid . Thank you for sharing

  17. Hi Sally, I am vegan so I wonder if this recipe also works with a vegan meringue powder? Would appreciate if you could let me know. Thanks!

    1. Hi Renate! I haven’t tested it to be certain, but let us know if you do.

  18. Hi Sally,
    I use this on my gingerbread cookies together with some dipping into chocolate ganache….I always have requests for more!!
    I use your gingerbread chocolate sandwich cookie recipe (like linzer cookies!) everyone loves loves loves them! and I make some sandwiched with ganache and some traditional with royal icing and a bit of dipped chocolate here and there (like the hooves of a gingerbread moose cookie!!)
    I think I need to thicken it a bit so will be trying that for Easter sugar cookies.
    thanks for the great recipes!

  19. I have an entire 2 lb package of powdered sugar in this batch now and it’s still just running straight out of the piping bag. Started with 4 c. confectioners sugar, 3 tablespoons meringue powder, and 7 tablespoons water (wanted it thicker). So I’ve added over a pound more sugar and also additional meringue powder and it’s still runny. I assume 7 TEASPOONS of water would have been sufficient. This isn’t my normal recipe, just googled quick to make icing for a St. Patrick’s themed gingerbread house for my kids to decorate but now I have to drag them out in the rain to the store and start over.

    1. I also had a problem with the icing being too runny even after I added more powdered sugar. I’m wondering if the meringue powder was getting old.

  20. Carol Gallups says:

    Sally,
    I am 64 years old and just decided that I would teach myself to make and decorate cookies. I have made 2 batches so far and taken them to work to see how they liked them. The absolutely love the cookie recipe. My decorating still needs practice, but I have been asked to make cookies for our Widow’s Ministry at church. Thank you for these recipes. Simple and they taste wonderful!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We’re so happy to hear that you’re enjoying decorating cookies, Carol! The icing definitely takes a lot of practice to perfect. Happy baking!

  21. Connie Pofahl says:

    Does this harden enough to make items and dry to put on cake

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, I’ve done this many times! Depending on the size/thickness of the design it may be best to let it dry for a full 24 hours before moving it.

  22. Hi Sally! Will this consistency work for both piping and flooding? Piping once the base layer is dried of course. Thank you 🙂 so excited to try this!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Michelle! We 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.

      1. Yay thank you so much! I can’t wait to try this week!

  23. Hi Sally! This recipe is perfect for decorating cookies and so easy to make!
    I wanted to pack some cookie decorating kits. How long can the icing stay in closed piping bags at room temp?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Poonam! Royal icing will last for several days at room temperature (as long as you are using meringue powder like in this recipe) in an airtight container. However, I find it will start to separate after a few hours and need to be stirred again before using, so it’s best not to store it in icing bags until you are ready to use it.

  24. Hi Sally!
    Instead of using extracts, is it ok to use the juice straight from a fruit?
    Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kara, you can definitely add lemon juice (or other fruit juices) but we don’t recommend replacing all of the water with it. Replace half or a little less than half of the water with it.

  25. Cynthia A Gonzalez says:

    What type of sugar did you use to frost your heart shaped cookies? They seem larger than granulated and look sparkly.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cynthia! We used this royal icing and then topped the heart sugar cookies with sanding sugar crystals. You can find them online or in the baking section at your local craft store or grocery store. Hope this helps!

  26. Hi Sally! Is it possible to substitute the water with whole milk? I feel that may balance the sweetness of the icing a little more for my family without sacrificing anything or will that compromise the consistency and the setting?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Briana, The royal icing will not set with milk, so we don’t suggest it.

  27. Thought I ordered gel food coloring but it’s liquid instead. Will the liquid coloring make the icing a lot thinner? Should I cut back on the water?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Bee! You can use it but the colors are not as vibrant and you will need to use much more to reach darker colors. It’s fine for pastel colors but if you use a lot just be sure to use a little less water to make up for the liquid food coloring.

      1. Thank you! The pastels will work for what I’m decorating. Good to know the gels get a nice dark color. BTW the cookies are delicious!!

  28. Hi,

    I loved how easy this was to whip together and I like the taste. But for some reason, it never really dried for me. Stayed tacky, almost like a marshmallow… Too thick, do you think?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sheryl, It’s possible that your icing is layered on too thick as you mention and simply needs longer to fully set / dry. For next time, you can also add a bit more water (or less confectioners’ sugar) to thin it out a bit. Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try!

  29. This was my first attempt at royal icing. I followed the recipe to a T and the icing turned out amazing. Soft but by no means runny!

  30. I’m curious, after decorating the cookies with your royal icing how long can you refrigerate them (after the icing is set) and have them still taste great? Making cookies for a birthday party hoping to do them 2 days in advance so freezing wouldn’t be necessary. Or how long can they sit out room temp and still taste great?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Krystal, 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. So yes, you can definitely do these two days in advance of your party without the need to freeze!

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