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

757 Comments

  1. Alexandra Moussadji says:

    Hi Sally, so excited to try this icing with your sugar cookies for Halloween cookies this year. Question, I have never made royal icing or added food colouring before. I just picked up a bunch of liquid food colouring. Should I scratch that and get the gell stuff instead? Will the liquid food colouring dilute my icing too much, or can I get away with it?
    Thanks so much!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alexandra, We prefer gel food coloring because it’s much more concentrated and you will get brighter colors without having to add very much. If you decide to use the liquid color that you already have I recommend decreasing the amount of water you add to make up for the extra liquid in the colors. Have fun!

  2. Carson Leftwich says:

    I don’t see the video

  3. Hi Sally,
    I’m making cookies and icing for my kids school for the kids to decorate. Can I make the royal icing the night before? Or will it harden?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rachelle, You can make it ahead of time if it can be stored so that it’s completely air tight. You can fill piping bags without the tip cut, make sure to squeeze all of the air out and tightly close the end of the bags. You may also wish to consider an easy icing for the cookies which still hardens but is a little more forgiving than royal icing and perfect for kids (fill the bags or squeeze bottles the same way).

      1. How do you recommend sealing the piping bags? I think the kind I have are just open on the ends. In my case, I’m making them in the afternoon but plan on decorating cookies after dinner (maybe 6 or so hours after)? What do you recommend?

  4. Excellent for my halloween cookies thank you!

  5. I want to make the icing the night before and I’m using small containers to put the icing in for my Y kids to each have. Should I put the icing in the refrigerator or keep it out?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jennifer, It’s best to refrigerate overnight, yes. Just be sure to squeeze as much air as possible out of the bags before closing and refrigerating them.

  6. Hi Sally! This is my first time making royal icing! I’m wondering if you’re able to add flavoring such as extracts to the icing?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rochelle, If you want to add additional flavor you can feel free to add any extracts such as vanilla, almond, etc. Just be sure it’s not an oil based flavor.

      1. Hi Stephanie, how much should I add with an extract? Are there other ways to add flavoring to the icing? Also, wondering if you have other cookie recipes that you can decorate with royal icing?

  7. Hi! I’m excited to try this! Was wondering if you use this for lining the cookies as well or does this work more as filling?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kailee, 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.

  8. How do you apply this icing? Do you dip the cookie in it or do you spread it on with a knife?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Donna, You can certainly spread the icing on with knife or dip the cookies if you wish. For all of the cookies pictured above we used piping bags and piped the icing onto the cookies.

  9. HI! I would really like to make this recipe but I cannot find meringue powder anywhere where I live, is there a replacement ingredient I could use? Love your recipes!!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dani, Some people use egg whites when making royal icing. Using fresh egg whites would require a different recipe, 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.

  10. How firm is the icing? I buy pumpkin scones from Starbucks and I think it has royal icing! It is so good. It’s firm but still soft

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Audrey, Royal icing is pretty hard after it dries. Our pumpkin scones have a glaze that sets but is still soft and may be what you are looking for!

  11. Can this icing be used to build a gingerbread house?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes! You can see exactly how we build one using royal icing as the “glue” in this post: Gingerbread House Recipe

  12. I am determined to make some cookies and decorate with Royal Icing. I have been too timid to do so until now. I’ve looked at a few sites but yours makes me feel I can do this!!! Thank you so much!

  13. Sally I tried this recipe to put on top of the gingerbread cookies that I made also following your recipe, and I can’t believe how well it turned out. It was delicious, easy to decorate with, and easy to follow. It was my first time making both gingerbread cookies and royal icing and I couldn’t believe how tasty it was lol I want to thank you for being so specific. Including in the instructions the speed of the mixer and minutes made a huge difference. Thank you for making these available to all of us.

  14. Kathleen Walter says:

    Hi, I have never used royal icing . Looking forward to trying it. I was wondering if I could use a sugar substitute such as swerve , which measures the same as cane sugar, to make the icing?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kathleen, We haven’t tried this recipe with a sugar substitute but let us know if you try it!

      1. Kathleen Walter says:

        Thank you for the reply. I will try it and get back to you to tell you how it works. Thanks again
        Kathleen Walter

  15. Once the cookies are decorated with Royal Icing, can they be frozen?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Sugar cookies decorated with royal icing freeze well up to 3 months. See the text in the above post in the section “Can I freeze royal icing?” for details.

  16. Hi.
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. I would like to know how long can I keep the icing in the fridge?
    I need to bake lots of cookies.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Claus, 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, we 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. Or you can store the icing in the piping bags you’ll use in the refrigerator for a couple of days (be sure to squeeze all of the air out), then cut off the tips when it’s time to decorate. It’s helpful to bring them to room temperature prior to using/decorating.

      1. Hello,

        Instead of water, can milk be used for the liquid portion?

      2. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

  17. Hi Sally I’m making my own Christmas cake for the first time this year. Will I be able to cover with the icing and form peaks around the cake as a decorative feature

    1. Hi Michelle, I can’t see why not but you may enjoy using a Swiss meringue buttercream instead. This icing dries hard and sets. A cake may taste better with a softer buttercream.

  18. Ok I made the royal icing for my mini gingerbread houses that sit on the coffee mug and it was first two drizzly and so I mixed it more to thicken it up which helped a lot …I was getting frustrated since I have never worked with this before so it was the bag and coupler 🙁

  19. Hi Sally! I am planning on using this recipe with your roll out sugar cookies. My question is, once this icing has hardened, are you able to “paint” on it? I plan on painting my cookies with a clear vanilla extract and coloring gel mixture. I just wasn’t sure if the minimal moisture from the extract would ruin the finish once set? Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Emily, Yes! I paint on this often! Just make sure that your icing is fully dry (I often give it 24 hours just to be sure) and use a thin layer of “paint.” Enjoy!

  20. I’m using this recipe to make eighty dozen cookies for in need families for thanksgiving, can my cookies with this frosting be non refrigerated?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Debbie, Plain or decorated sugar cookies stay soft for about 5 days when covered tightly at room temperature. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

  21. If you wanted top add light corn syrup for a sheen on cookies how much would you use in this recipe?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lori, Yes! A little corn syrup (1 teaspoon is plenty) adds a lovely shine to royal icing.

  22. Hi! I’m more of a fan of a cream cheese flavor as opposed to the “cavity in every bite” flavor that comes from just using powdered sugar. Can cream cheese be added to this for a different flavor?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dawn, We don’t recommend adding cream cheese to this royal icing. It wouldn’t have the same consistency or set properly. You can definitely decorate cookies with this cream cheese frosting for a different look though!

  23. Can I make this icing a night before icing the cookies?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah, You can make it ahead of time if it can be stored so that it’s completely air tight. One way to do this is to fill piping bags without the tip cut, make sure to squeeze all of the air out and tightly close the end of the bags.

  24. Hi!
    I’ve never made royal icing or worked with meringue before. At the store I bought what I thought was meringue powder, it says Sauer’s Egg White Magic Meringue Mix… is this ok to use in this recipe? I wasn’t sure if meringue powder is just dried egg whites or is a substitute for egg whites.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Grace, it’s my understanding that the meringue mix you purchased should work in royal icing. Meringue powder is a replacement for making meringue (not just dried egg whites).

  25. Brittany Gross says:

    Hi! I tried making this frosting for the first time today. It kept looking too thick according to your directions. So I kept adding water. I think I got to around 15-17 tablespoons of water and it was only seeming to stay the same or maybe even get thicker. Can you over mix it? Or was I just not being patient enough and needed to keep adding water?
    When I piped it onto the cookies it was thick and didn’t even out or look smooth for me. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Brittany, if over-whipped, the icing will thicken. (Due to the meringue powder.) Was it over-beaten and therefore extra thick?

  26. Jennifer Collins says:

    Hey Sally – Just wondering can you use this recipe for the tops of cakes? Is it easy to write on with edible pens? Thanks

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jennifer, You can use this to write on the tops of cakes and for any smaller decorations – although I wouldn’t use it to cover the entire top of a cake.

  27. Freda Crawford says:

    I am going to add real maple syrup to the sugar cookie recipe, so I’d really like to add real bourbon to the icing. I’ve never done royal icing before and I really want to try it. Can you add a real liquid such as Bourbon to the icing?

  28. Hi Sally
    I am putting together cookie decorating kits for my daughter’s Zoom birthday. Can this icing be made in advance and then sent via mail? Is it shelf-stable once it’s made or does it have to be refrigerated.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Shana, you could prepare and ship this icing. I recommend the quickest shipping method if possible. The sooner it arrives, the better it will taste and look. Once arriving, it should be mixed up with a whisk, mixer, or fork as it may have separated. A little water will help thin it out if needed, too.

  29. Celia Spiropoulos says:

    What if I keep egg whites on hand at all times, how much of those do I use? 1, 2, or three egg whites?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Celia, Using fresh egg whites would require a different recipe, 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.

  30. Hi how would the blue icing color be achieved? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tori, You can add food coloring to this recipe. See the section in the post above called “Decorating Sugar Cookies” for a link to the gel food colors we love and recommend.

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