How to make royal icing recipe for piping sugar cookies

How To Make Royal Icing

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Use this tutorial to learn how to make royal icing recipe for piping and decorating sugar cookies. Tastes great and dries hard. Lots of of tips included!

When I FIRST started cake decorating, I didn’t know how to make royal icing or what the heck it was used for.

Well, imagine my SURPRISE when I decorated a dozen cupcakes with this icing, resulting in such WEIRD and crusty tops ….hahaha.

Thankfully, I have LEARNT a lot since then and today, I am sharing everything I know and answering the most common questions I have gotten over the years….

What’s royal icing? What does royal icing taste like? What is royal icing for sugar cookies?
This icing is a type of frosting that is most commonly used for decorating sugar cookies and piping and doing intricate scroll works on cakes. It dries hard and dried fast and tastes VERY sweet and usually has a vanilla flavor.

Here are TWO of my most POPULAR cut out cookie recipes that are perfect for cookie decorating with this icing:

How to make royal icing?
This icing is made by mixing together egg whites or meringue powder (dried egg whites) with powdered sugar (also known as icing or confectioners sugar) until soft peaks form. It can then be tinted in different colors.

Why use royal icing? When is royal icing used? When to make royal icing? What is royal icing used for? Where is royal icing used?
This icing is used for any type of  cake/cupcake/cookie decoration that needs to be dry, hard and not spread. This is why cookies decorated with this icing are so popular as party favors. This icing is also commonly used to decorate traditional wedding cakes that require a lot of detailed scroll work.

How to color royal icing?
This icing should be colored with gel food coloring. Liquid food coloring is not recommended since that can change consistency of the icing.

how to make royal icing for piping sugar cookies 3How much royal icing do you need to cover a cake?
You NEVER use this icing to cover your cakes. You have to use soft buttercream frosting for that. Royal icing dries hard and will create an awful crust on your cake. But that being said, this icing is excellent for adding decorations on your cakes such as flowers.

Here are some of my SOFT buttercream frosting recipes (these won’t dry and harden!):

How to make royal icing flowers?
Any flower that you can pipe in buttercream icing can also be made with thick royal icing. The only difference is that flowers, which are made with this icing will dry hard and can be stored for months (in a cardboard box at room temperature, away from moisture, humidity and sunlight).

Here are some of my tutorials oh how to make royal icing flowers:

Why is royal icing not hardening? Why royal icing won’t harden?
There can be 4 reasons for this problem:

  • The mixing bowl and any other utensils you might have used to make your icing had some grease and oily residue from oil, shortening or butter that interfered with this recipe. This icing MUST be made in squeaky clean equipment.
  • Your egg whites were not fresh or your meringue powder was too old. Consider replacing them and making the recipe again.
  • You might have used oil based extracts and those delay the drying time and in some cases, your decorated cookies will not dry try at all.
  • You might be living in a place with very humid climate and the moisture in the air is interfering with the recipe and delaying the drying time of your decorated cookies.

how to make royal icing for piping sugar cookies 2Why is my royal icing too runny?
You probably added too much liquid in your recipe.

Is royal icing safe to eat?
Yes, this icing is safe to eat. Some people are concerned about the use of egg whites and meringue powder but since they are pasteurized, they are safe for consumption.

Why is there lemon juice in royal icing? Glycerin in royal icing?
Glycerin is sometimes added to prevent the icing from becoming too hard. Lemon juice or cream of tartar is also sometimes added to make the icing more stable. My easy royal icing recipe does not use lemon juice, cream of tartar or glycerin and it still works PERFECTLY!

Where to buy royal icing? Where to buy royal icing flowers?
Both can be found online on Amazon or Wilton.

What is thick royal icing? What is flood royal icing?
Thick icing is used for piping outlines on cookies and and it’s also great for making flowers. Flood icing is simply thin icing that’s used used to fill the insides of the cookie outline. Royal icing for flooding is thinned out by adding more water into the recipe.

Where to store royal icing?
This icing must be stored in an air-tight sealed container (I like to cover the container in saran wrap too). It should be placed at room temperature away from humidity and sunlight. If exposed to air, it dries very quickly.

Where to dry royal icing flowers? Where to store royal icing flowers?
The flowers can be dried at room temperature or a fan can be used to speed up the drying process. Once the flowers have dried and hardened, they can be placed in a cardboard box, away from moisture, humidity and sunlight and they will last for months and can be used to decorate cakes and cupcakes.

Are royal icing and fondant the same? Is royal icing like fondant? Are royal icing and buttercream frosting the same? 
The answer to all three questions is NO. They are not the same. Royal icing icing is a type of frosting that dries hard. Fondant is a thick sugar dough that’s soft and pliable and can be rolled out. It’s used to cover buttercream frosted cakes. Finally, buttercream icing is made by mixing butter or shortening with powdered sugar. It’s very soft and creamy and used for filling and frosting cakes and cupcakes. It does not dry or become hard!

What are royal icing transfers?
This is a cake and cookie decorating technique in which you pipe the design on a sheet of wax paper and let the icing dry. Once the design is dry, you can carefully peel it off from the wax paper and stick it onto your cookies, cakes or cupcakes.

Can you make royal icing without electric mixer?
No, this icing needs to be beaten until stiff peaks form and you definitely need a stand mixer or an electric mixer for that.

Royal icing vs. Glace icing?
Glace icing is also used for cookie decorating. It dries hard but has a glossy finish. It’s also egg-free (no egg whites and no meringue powder), making it perfect for people with egg allergies. It can also be made vegan, if dairy-free milk is used. I have heard people say that Glace icing is like a royal icing recipe without eggs…lol. This is my glace icing recipe.

How much royal icing is needed for gingerbread house?
This icing works as a great GLUE for sticking all the gingerbread cookie pieces together. But, the amount of icing needed truly depends on how big your gingerbread house is. For basic small gingerbread houses, my small batch icing recipe that I am sharing today is more than enough.

I have a very detailed tutorial for making a gingerbread house that you should check out during Christmas time!

How to make royal icing recipe for piping sugar cookies 1For this small batch royal icing recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

1 1/2 tbsp meringue powder
3 tbsp warm water (NOT hot)
1/2 tbsp light corn syrup
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (use clear extract to avoid discoloration)

Note:
– Use this icing immediately for your decorations OR allow it to sit at room temperature (fully sealed) until needed. Use within 1 week. But, remember that you will have to whip it again because this icing has a tendency to separate into sugar and water, the longer it sits.
– This is a small batch royal icing recipe and yields 1 1/2 cups of icing. It’s great for times when you just need to decorate a few cookies. 

And here are the steps:

Step 1:

In a deep bowl, add meringue powder and warm water.

Step 2:
Beat this for about 1 minute until you have a white and frothy mixture.

Step 3:
Add powdered sugar, corn syrup and vanilla extract and start mixing at medium to medium-high speed.

Step 4:
Continue mixing until your icing becomes thick and peaks start forming, as shown in this picture.
This usually takes about 5 minutes of mixing at high speed.
Note:
– This icing is at the “thick consistency stage.” You can add some water to thin it out if you need your icing to be thinner.
– Please remember that a little water goes a LONG way. Add only 1/4 tsp water at a time and make sure to mix properly again.  

Step 5:
You can now color your icing with gel colors.
Use a toothpick to add gel colors into your icing 

Step 6:
Mix with a spoon until the color is fully blended into your icing.
Note:
The color of your icings will get deeper and better the longer they sit.

Step 7:
This icing dries very quickly, if exposed to air.
Make sure you store it in a plastic container with a tight lid.

Step 8:
Also, cover your entire container in saran wrap.
And you are done! 

how to make royal icing 10

How to Make Royal Icing
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1½ cups
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ tbsp meringue powder
  • 3 tbsp warm water (NOT hot)
  • ½ tbsp light corn syrup
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (use clear extract to avoid discoloration)
Instructions
  1. In a deep bowl, add meringue powder and warm water.
  2. Beat this for about 1 minute until you have a white and frothy mixture.
  3. Add powdered sugar, corn syrup and vanilla extract and start mixing at medium to medium-high speed.
  4. Continue mixing until your icing becomes thick and peaks start forming, as shown in this picture. This usually takes about 5 minutes of mixing at high speed. Note: This icing is at the "thick consistency stage." You can add some water to thin it out if you need your icing to be thinner. Please remember that a little water goes a LONG way. Add only ¼ tsp water at a time and make sure to mix properly again.
  5. You can now color your icing with gel colors. Use a toothpick to add gel colors into your icing.
  6. Mix with a spoon until the color is fully blended. Note: The color of your icings will get deeper and better the longer they sit.
  7. Make sure you store this in an air-tight, sealed container with a tight lid because this icing dries very quickly, if exposed to air.
  8. Finally, cover your entire container in saran wrap.
  9. And you are done!
Notes
- Use this icing immediately for your decorations OR allow it to sit at room temperature (fully sealed) until needed. Use within 1 week. But, remember that you will have to whip it again because this icing has a tendency to separate into sugar and water, the longer it sits.
- This is a small batch recipe and yields 1½ cups of icing. It's great for times when you just need to decorate a few cookies.

Well, that’s all for today.

Until next time, take care my lovelies!

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49 Comments

  1. CCU

    July 16, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Thank you for such a delicious pictorial to this icing 😀

    Cheers
    CCU

    P.S Because of my exams, I will not be commenting for around 4 weeks – see you afterwards!

  2. Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast today

    July 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I always wanted to make pretty cookies with icing. And now it can be royal as well 🙂

  3. Belinda @zomppa

    July 16, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    You didn’t just learn, you clearly found your talent!

  4. Asmita

    July 17, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Hi Abeer,
    I am crazy about cookies and cookie decorating. Thanks for this helpful post.

  5. yummychunklet

    July 17, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Love decorating with royal icing!

  6. Swathi

    July 17, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    I have only tried store bought royal icing, I will try your recipe Abeer.

  7. Daniela

    July 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Great, today I learned something new- Royal
    Icing. It’s the first time I heard about it and it seems
    a cool recipe for decorating. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Manju @ Manju's Eating Delights

    July 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Even I tried royal icing for the first time few months back n can u imagine why? Coz I needed to something like an edible glue that can stick Fondant cuttings on a plastic rod for decorating a Carousel themed cake 😛 LOL! But I loved its texture and the way u can decorate with it. I’m not a cookie decorator myself, but dont mind giving it a try sometimes.

  9. Alex

    July 28, 2013 at 6:28 am

    Oh I have to try your version…….. (I may only take photos of the 10th time I make it though. I’m so clumsy with icing!)

  10. Chitrangada Kundu

    July 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Thank you so much for this details.

  11. Rebecca Yeo

    April 27, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Thank you for sharing! You’re an angel <3

  12. Annabell

    May 6, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Thanks for the pictures… 🙂

    Separation in Royal icing:
    Is caused by grease either in containers, mixing bowl, paddle blades… Because way to remove this separation is using a spray bottle and vingar. Wipe everything down that will be touching the royal icing. Your kitchen aid will make a funny squeaking noise as the bowl is so well clean.

    Hope that might help. I do and love my flood cookies!!! I am going to try your recipe as well.

    I will start wrapping my containers in the cling wrap as well, not just the inside…..

  13. Teresa de Fátima Nunes

    May 24, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Amei vou tentar… Grata.

  14. ebbyit

    December 9, 2014 at 7:17 am

    corn syrup produces serious damage to the brain.
    Better to replace it with glucose syrup or honey.
    Bye 🙂

    1. Abeer Rizvi

      December 9, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      I understand what you mean. But, I don’t know how that replacement would affect this recipe.

      1. Stacie

        January 11, 2015 at 8:29 am

        Corn Syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup are not the same thing, so your recipe is fine. Thanks for sharing!

  15. pamela

    December 18, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Hi
    Just found your site on pinterest. it’s fab
    I normally use icing sugar instead of meringue
    I can’t seem to get it in Ireland
    Keep up the good work

    1. Abeer Rizvi

      December 18, 2014 at 8:39 pm

      Thanks Pamela! Have you checked for meringue powder online? I am sure they sell meringue powder on Amazon and cake supply stores. It really does make the icing very stable. Give it a shot whenever you get your hands on meringue powder 🙂

    2. pamela Jean hill nelson

      December 20, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      Hi! This sounds great! Making gingerbread houses with my precious granddaughters next week. We’ll use this recipe!
      Thank you and Merry Christmas!

      1. Abeer Rizvi

        December 20, 2014 at 7:27 pm

        Keep the icing at thick consistency and it’s gonna work like a great glue for your gingerbread houses. Have fun and marry christmas!

  16. Suzanne Holt

    December 20, 2014 at 7:34 am

    This is great! Thanks for the great pictures. PInned to my Christmas cravings board.

    1. Abeer Rizvi

      December 20, 2014 at 7:24 pm

      Glad you liked the step-by-step instructions! And thanks for pinning 🙂

  17. Joni

    December 26, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Just used your recipe and cookies look great. Can you stack when storing or should they be stored in a single layer? Thanks

    1. Abeer Rizvi

      January 1, 2015 at 8:46 pm

      Once the icing on the cookies have dried completely, you can easily stack them 🙂

  18. Hailee

    January 6, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Does this royal icing dry with a matte or shiny finish? 🙂

    1. Abeer Rizvi

      January 7, 2015 at 1:21 am

      This royal icing dries with a matte finish.
      But, if you want a shiny finish, check out my glace icing recipe: http://www.cakewhiz.com/glace-icing-heart-cookies

  19. ilsmarie

    January 11, 2015 at 4:18 am

    Hi all,

    I have a question.
    What is meringue powder? Can u please post the product or show the name brand. I’m from Curacao, and I’m not familiar with this. Maybe we know it as something different. So please help.
    Thanks in ad advance.

    1. Abeer Rizvi

      January 11, 2015 at 7:17 pm

      Meringue powder is basically dried egg whites powder. I am sure there are many brands out there but I use the one by Wilton brand.

  20. Allyssa

    April 15, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    I can’t wait to use this recipe! But I live in a small town so it’s hard to get clear vanilla extract. Would it be possible to use almond extract? I’m sure it will change the taste, but who doesn’t love almond?

    1. Abeer Rizvi

      April 16, 2015 at 7:24 pm

      Yes, the flavor might be a little different but like you said… everyone loves almond! 😉

      You can also order clear vanilla extract online througH Wilton or Amazon.

    2. SquirrelyLove

      April 5, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      Uhh, lots of people don’t like almond extract. It’s very potent, and most people don’t seem to know how to use it sparingly. :/

      1. Abeer Rizvi

        April 6, 2016 at 5:43 am

        I know what you mean! Almond extract is very strong. Some people love it and some absolutely can’t stand it. The good thing about this recipe is that you can use whatever extracts you like and avoid those that you don’t like 🙂

  21. shantha

    April 27, 2015 at 8:19 am

    hi Thanks for the fab tutorial. i have no idea what meringue powder?
    please clarify..
    tks shantha

    1. Abeer Rizvi

      May 3, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Meringue powder is basically dried egg whites. I use the Wilton brand. You can buy it online or at stores.

  22. Paulette Harris

    June 14, 2015 at 8:30 am

    I would like to learn how to decorate and make good sugar cookies. Do you know anywhere that I can go to take a class. There are beautiful cookies on pinterest, etc. I can not find anyone to teach me. Thank you so much!

    1. Abeer Rizvi

      June 14, 2015 at 11:49 am

      I know there are some cookie decorators like Sweetambs who do cookie decorating workshops. They usually announce on their facebook pages where their workshop will be held. Also, look into Wilton classes. I have taken cake decorating classes with them and I hear they have added a few more classes into their collection. Maybe one of them is a cookie decorating class. Sometimes, community centers also offer cookie decorating classes. Check out their catalog. Oh, Craftsy has a detailed cookie decorating video. It’s not hands on but you can buy the class and watch it as many times as you like and keep practicing.

      I hope this helps! 🙂

  23. Kristin

    December 16, 2015 at 11:48 am

    I have 8 people coming over to my house to make gingerbread houses. How many times do you think I should multiply this recipe to have enough for everyone?

    1. Abeer Rizvi

      December 16, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      I would make at least 4 batches, especially if you are making gingerbread houses with kids…lol. They make such a mess and end up eating a lot too..hahahha

  24. Rebekah

    December 19, 2015 at 12:31 am

    Have you used this in very hot weather? Is it ok? Sweltering in the Aussie heat making cookies and I need royal icing that won’t die in the heat.

    1. Abeer Rizvi

      December 20, 2015 at 2:50 am

      I have used this icing on cookies that were exposed to Chicago heat, which is quite hot and humid. I didn’t have any problems with this icing sweating or melting 🙂

  25. Temika

    January 18, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    Can I use this for cupcakes

    1. Abeer Rizvi

      January 18, 2016 at 8:43 pm

      No… this icing dries hard and is used mostly for cookie decorating. These are some frostings you can use on cupcakes:
      Buttercream icing:
      http://www.cakewhiz.com/buttercream-icing/
      Chocolate frosting:
      http://www.cakewhiz.com/chocolate-buttercream-icing
      Seedless strawberry frosting:
      http://www.cakewhiz.com/strawberry-frosting
      Mocha frosting:
      http://www.cakewhiz.com/mocha-cupcakes-with-mocha-frosting/
      Orange buttercream icing:
      http://www.cakewhiz.com/easy-orange-buttercream-icing/

  26. Erlinda

    May 29, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    Thank you,will definitly make this on my minion cookies.

    1. Abeer Rizvi

      May 30, 2016 at 4:19 am

      Please share pictures once you are done. Minion cookies are the cutest!

  27. Lisa Schumack

    July 25, 2016 at 11:47 am

    I use basically the same recipe with almond extract minus the meringue powder. When mine are dry they look like the heart cookies that you have pictured above. Did you use this recipe on those?

    1. Abeer Rizvi

      July 25, 2016 at 7:55 pm

      I used glace icing on those heart cookies. Glace icing is made with no egg whites or meringue powder (just like what you are describing). I feel like that icing is a little shiny and glossy. Royal icing is more matte… no gloss, whatsoever. Glace icing is also perfect for people with egg allergies. Both of them are great for decorating cookies and dry hard. You can use whichever one you like 🙂

  28. Olga barrera

    September 15, 2016 at 10:34 am

    What do you mean by 1.5 tbsp powder?m

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