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.

Print
clock clock icon cutlery cutlery icon flag flag icon folder folder icon instagram instagram icon pinterest pinterest icon facebook facebook icon print print icon squares squares icon
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

690 Comments

  1. I usually dip cookies when I ice. Will this recipe work for that? I’m trying to find one that sets up quicker than what I have been using. Thanks.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lauren, Yes you can dip your cookies into this icing instead of piping it. Enjoy!

  2. Hi,
    I was thinking of making this icing, I have a hand mixer but I don’t have a whisk attachment, will the regular attachments work?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Luzaan, Yes the attachments on your hand mixer will be just fine. Enjoy!

      1. Thank you SO much!!

  3. Ross McKinley says:

    Never baked before. Cookies came out fine, but the icing looked like a 2 year old had sat on the counter with the bowel.Huge mess.

  4. My partner and I made sugar cookies and decorated them with royal icing for the first time in either of our lives. My partner was hesitant, but he ended up having so much fun with decorating the cookies, we’re planning on making it a tradition!! This was such a fun activity and one of the best times I’ve had in 2020. Thanks for an amazing, fun and surprisingly easy recipe!

  5. Hello Sally,
    can it be used for gingerbread decoration and hoe long does it last?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes definitely! We use it to decorate these gingerbread cookies and the cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week. We also use it as the “glue” for a gingerbread house!

  6. Silly question, but can cookies with Royal Icing be made in advance and then frozen up until the day before I would like to gift them. Thank you for your time.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes! See the section in the post above called “Can I Freeze Royal Icing?” for details.

      1. I want to make this recipe a couple hours in advance. How can I hold the icing to pipe two hours later?

  7. Naive question: Would I just make it thicker to use for making drop flowers? How would I adjust the recipe?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Peggy, For a thicker icing either use less water or add more confectioners sugar. Enjoy!

  8. I made these cookies a couple times. They are fabulous. The royal icing is perfect as well. My question is, can these cookies be shipped?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Peggy, If using this icing on these sugar cookies, they will stay soft for about 5 days when covered tightly at room temperature. So if you pack them carefully and they can reach their destination in that time frame then yes!

  9. i live in Canada and have never seen meringue powder – any tips on where i can find it?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Susan, You can find meringue powder in some baking aisles, most craft stores with a baking section, and online. We sometimes buy it on Amazon in the 8 ounce container: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01EOK9Q2Y/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=sl1&tag=sallsbakiaddi-20&linkId=98731ad590e120cce0e508d7af875a41

      1. I live in Canada too and you can find meringue powder at Bulk Barn where the spices are.

      2. I live in Canada as well and got at the bulk barn but also saw it at michaels and amazon

    2. Always available at Michael’s as well.

      1. Natasha Pedersen says:

        I found it at Zehrs!!!

    3. Shirley from Surrey BC says:

      Michaels, Walmart and most bulk sections although not sure if they are still using bulk because of covid

    4. The Bulk Barn is the only place I’ve seen it. It sometimes sells out at this time of year with all the holiday baking. I’d recommend getting it ASAP – especially since baking has become even more of a hobby this year! Good luck 🙂

    5. Hi Susan. I also live in Canada. I found the meringue powder at Bulk Barn. Hopefully, you can find that store near you. 🙂

    6. Bulk barn (if there is one in your neighbourhood) will have the meringue powder. Located in the spice section.

  10. What brand is this gorgeous baking sheet?

    1. Hi Terry! That baking sheet is an old ekco ovenex brand baking sheet.

  11. If I give these cookies as a gift, how can I keep them fresh and for how long?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kristen, 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, or freeze for up to 3 months.

  12. Jonathan Popowich says:

    Thanks so much for these recipes! We are in the process and ready to decorate- but we can’t find meringue powder anywhere. Would you have a substitute recommendation and what would the ratio be? Thanks SO much!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jonathan, 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.

  13. My kids (3 and 5) and I made these cookies with the royal icing. I’ve never made royal icing before because I was nervous about egg whites. I loved using meringue powder, and the cookies came out looking beautiful. And they taste great–perfectly done with a little crisp bite and still soft inside. I’ll stick with this recipe on the future. And I really appreciate all the tips on rolling and chilling, how to freeze, which meringue powder to use and how to get it. It felt like having a friend in the room. Which is nice, especially this year. Thank you!

  14. Hi Sally! Is there a substitute for the meringue powder? We don’t have it here in Venezuela. I’m planning to make the gingerbread house with my twin boys!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Andreina, 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.

  15. Can I use this recipe to put together a gingerbread house?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes!! We use it to put together this Gingerbread House 🙂

  16. The proportions are good, but combination of whisk and high speed was producing very fluffy texture that didn’t resemble royal icing at all. Had to slow down mixing speed in order to get royal icing texture.

  17. Do I have to sift sugar? I don’t own one.

    1. You don’t have to, but it’s helpful if the confectioners’ sugar is lumpy. What also works, though not quite as well, is whisking the confectioners’ sugar in a bowl a few times to break up any lumps.

  18. Hi Sally!

    I live in the Middle East and cannot source meringue powder anywhere! Could you please tell me what equivalent of raw egg whites you would suggest to replace the meringue powder in your recipe? I only trust your advice, haha! Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kinsey, Using fresh egg whites 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.

  19. Love this recipe and the one for the cookies, too! So yummy!
    Wondering what your recommendations are for storing iced cookies. I tried layering them with wax paper and it ruined the icing. 🙁

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kerri, You can layer/stack the cookies as long as the icing is completely dry. Depending on how thick you layer the frosting on I sometimes let them dry in a single layer for a full 24 hours before stacking.

  20. Can I use lemon juice in place of water? i like a little bit of citrus 🙂

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rach, You can definitely add lemon juice but I don’t recommend replacing all of the water with it. Replace half or a little less than half of the water with it.

  21. Tina Thompson says:

    I never get a response to any of my questions on any of these blogs but will try again. I have made this several times. Works great except it doesnt harden all the way. The surface is perfectly dry put if you push on it or stack cookies it messes it up. This is after 24 hours in the fridge. I do not do my frosting thick like some. I have no idea how to fix it. Help!

    1. Hi Tina! I see you’ve only commented one other time, but I’m unsure which recipe it was on. How can I help with your other question I may have missed?

      See if you can prep this royal icing with a little less water. Less water will help guarantee the royal icing will set. Since you like a thinner icing, though, you may simply want to add 1 or 2 more teaspoons of meringue powder which can help stiffen up the icing without thickening it.

      1. Tina Thompson says:

        Omgosh I am just thrilled I recieved a response! Might sound silly but I truly have never had one. Not just your site but numerous other ones lol. Ok I will try that!!! I was also thinking maybe the fridge caused it because I always leave one cookie on the counter when trying a new recipe to see if the cookie maintains the softness I love without being covered and I noticed ththaththat one cookie was not soft on the icing. So I might be onto something!! I know you are busy and I love your recipes but I truly thank you for responding!!!

  22. Thank you for such a well written recipe. The texture is perfect, and it sets up beautifully. My question is in regards to the powdered sugar. Does it need to be measured any particular way (eg. Flour needs to be spooned and levelled)?

    The flavor is similar to an artificial sweetener. A bit too sweet, and a little chemically. It’s the same taste you get if you put a bit of the powdered sugar directly on your tongue.

    I’m not sure if it’s that way because of how it was measured (scooped from the container using measuring cups), or if we need to handle it differently somehow, or if we need to switch to a different brand of powdered sugar.

    Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time, and wonderful recipes!

    1. Hi Nic, thank you so much for trying this royal icing recipe. I’m just seeing your comment/question now so my apologies on the delay responding to you. I use and recommend Domino brand sugar. I find it doesn’t have as strong of an aftertaste as other brands. For powdered sugar, spoon and level just as you would flour. If it’s ever helpful for you, I detail how to measure baking ingredients on my How to Properly Measure Baking Ingredients page.

  23. This recipe was perfect including the royal icing! My daughter who is 2.5 loved them which I wasn’t sure she would with the fragrant spices. I will definitely make again! I was going to give some away to family and neighbors but they were all eaten within a couple days so I will have to make more.

  24. Hello! I was wondering … can I use just plain egg white powder. There is nothing else in it.

    Thank you! 🙂

    1. Hi Erica, you need meringue powder for this recipe– not plain egg white powder.

  25. Can I add a little water to thin icing that’s a couple of days old and already coloured?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kerri, Yes you can. Just be sure to mix it up well (but gently so you don’t incorporate too much air).

  26. Can I use this royal icing to construct the gingerbread house?

  27. How do you get the icing on cookies…do you dip them or spread it on? Thank you!

  28. Hi Sally, I’ve never used gel food coloring before, how much to put in and how do I measure it?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Ebony, you can squirt it into a measuring spoon to measure, then use a smaller measuring spoon to help spoon it out into the icing. But instead of a measuring spoon, I just beat in 1-2 squeezes/drops at a time until I’m satisfied with the color I want.

  29. Great recipe! Unused icing – does it have to be refrigerated or can it be left out, as long as it is covered?

    1. Hi Marie, I recommend refrigerating it. See How Can I Make Royal Icing Ahead of Time? in the blog post above.

  30. When measuring the powdered sugar do you measure 4 cups and then sift or do you sift and then measure?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy, Measure and then sift! If your recipe calls for 1 cup of sifted flour, you sift the flour before measuring. If the recipe calls for one cup of flour, sifted– then you sift it after measuring.
      If the word “sifted” is listed before flour, you sift it before measuring. If the word “sifted” is listed after flour, sift it after measuring.

1 7 8 9 10 11 12

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe.Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×