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.

And some piping tips. I always use Wilton piping tip #5 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? 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 right back into the bowl of icing, you’re golden. If it doesn’t, add more water. If it’s super thin and watery, add more confectioners’ sugar. I made a very fancy video with my iPhone to show you:

https://youtu.be/t9bZvIavZt4

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.

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
  • 810 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. (I always start with 8 Tablespoons of water. On particularly dry days, I use up to 12-14!) When lifting the whisk up off the icing, the icing should drizzle down and smooth out within 10-15 seconds. If it’s too thick, add a little more water. 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.

156 Comments

  1. Your meringue powder suggestion contains egg. Your comment that it does not contain egg is misleading. I am going to try substituting aguafaba (a vegan egg substitute made from beans). I have had success with this as I do not tolerate egg white.

    1. Hi Cientxa! I understand how that could be misleading. Meringue powder is made from eggs, but you do not need raw egg whites for this royal icing recipe. Some readers have made aquafaba icing with luck!

  2. Hello, new to the site. Was wondering if you have any high altitude Xmas cookie recipes. I live in Colorado now and my old recipes just don’t come out the same. Any advise would be great!

  3. Maybe a silly question…but do you ever add anything to make the icing super “white” or do you find that this is a solid white when it dries?

  4. My grandson and I made this recipe to decorate our Christmas cookies and it was fabulous! We’ve never made
    royal icing before and this was super easy to use. Thank you do much for posting this recipe!

  5. Hi bakers,
    This is probably a silly question… but what did I do wrong? I basically made a TON of merengue…. light fluffy and delicious (with vanilla) but definitely not royal icing.

    1. Best covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator. Give it a whisk before using and add an extra teaspoon of water if it thickened overnight.

    1. Hi Kaity! Did you use the meringue powder? If so– and it doesn’t harden– it sounds like there was too much water in the icing.

    1. Hi Barbara, there are no uncooked eggs in this recipe. Meringue powder is made from eggs, but you do not need raw egg whites for this royal icing recipe.

  6. Perfect recipe! My sugar cookies looked so professional thanks to this icing. I added a tablespoon of water to get a 10 second consistency. I used gel food coloring to get the color, and I was able to ice 3 dozen sugar cookies with plenty left over.

    1. Hi Sandra, I recommend freezing unfrosted cookies. I haven’t had much luck freezing cookies after they are decorated with royal icing.

  7. How much frosting does this make? Is there enough to separate the batch for 5 colors? Also, is it vital to sift the confectioners sugar? I don’t own a sifter. Thanks!

  8. I used this recipe last night and it was super easy. My question is can you add a little corn syrup to this recipe to get a shiny appearance? I don’t want the icing to dry hard like other recipes. I did use plastic squirt bottles and it was so easy

  9. Hi
    I am very grateful for the video it helped with getting the correct consistency. I am wondering what you recommend to get the frosting from the bowl to the piping bag without making a big mess.
    Thanks!
    Maureen

  10. Hi Sally, I have a family who has requested cookies with royal icing but has asked for natural food coloring. What would you suggest for coloring icing? I normally use the gel food coloring because of their vibrancy. Thanks for your help!

  11. Hello! Thank you for the tips! When adding detail i.e. a second colour to a flood icing base, can you do so immediately? Or is it best to wait a bit? Thank you

    1. You can do it immediately and the colors will stay separate and have a seamless look. For a more defined boarder between the colors you need to wait for the first to dry!

  12. Hi Sally, we want to put a icing on donuts that will dry but will not be hard, so that the donut will still be soft, It must also not be sticky like the icing you normaly get on donuts. I hope you understand what I am trying to say.

  13. I’ve tried this recipe a few times now and it always turns out very thick and fluffy. To get the right consistancy I end up adding a LOT more water than called for. I’ve always chickened out and tossed it but I’m determined to get it. So two questions: Any thoughts on what I am doing wrong? And what is the risk with too much water, will it not set? Thank you!!!

    1. It’s possible you are mixing it too fast/long. You could simply be whipping too much air into it. But there is nothing wrong with adding more water if you need to!

  14. Hi Sally, have you tried using freeze dried fruit to color the icing instead of the coloring gels? Would it change the consistency of the icing?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Michelle! I haven’t tried adding freeze-dried fruit powder to the royal icing, but I don’t expect an issue. Let me know if you try it.

  15. I have Angie’s problem! I guessed I overwhipped….any suggestions for how to still use it and get it less “whipped”? I used all the ingredients I have so I can’t start over!

  16. Hello Sally – I made your sugar cookie recipe last night, and they turned out great!! I’m thrilled 🙂 Now I’m ready to decorate! I read the directions about freezing for what’s left over. However, might you know if this recipe can be halved, so as not to have so much left over, or for when smaller batches of cookies are made?
    Thank you!!

  17. Thank you!! My cookies are kind of ugly but that’s because I am possibly the messiest artist in the world. Great recipe though xo

  18. Hi, how many days in advanced can I make and decorate my sugar cookies? What is your recommendation for storing them?

    1. If you are using my sugar cookie recipe I find they stay soft for about 5 days at room temperature. Just store them in an airtight container after the icing dries!

  19. Hello, I need to make numbers, and I would like them to dry hard, so I can place them one the top of cupcake that have been frosted with buttercream..
    I do not think I can use the same recipe,,,,,,it will be too thin, it seems I would need to do something different, can you help me. I have the meringue powder.

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