This Easy Royal Icing Recipe is made with only a handful of ingredients, has no raw egg whites, and is almost impossible to mess up. I’ve got some tricks and tips to share with you so you can make royal icing at home easily! Plus, a step-by-step video.
I don’t know about you, but royal icing has always intimidated me. After testing a few things, I’ve learned just how easy royal icing can be!
It isn’t Christmas without some Christmas cookies.
Whether it’s some cutout Christmas cookies, plain sugar cookies, or something a little spicier (like molasses cookies), I can’t let a season go by without making up a few batches of all things sugar and spice.
When it comes to cutout cookies, I love using a vanilla buttercream on top. Frosted sugar cookies are so classic and I love the flavor of homemade frosting on top of a thick cookie.
However, I just love the look of royal icing. While I’m definitely not a cookie artist, I’m fascinated by how you can decorate cookies with royal icing. Of course, my cookies are extremely basic, as I only did a couple of easy royal icing techniques, but you can make these as simple or elaborate as you’d like.
But, if you’re a royal icing novice like I was, I’ve got you covered with all of the tips and tricks you need to know to make decorating cookies with royal icing not only easy, but super fun too.
What is royal icing?
- Royal icing is a mixture of water, powdered sugar, and meringue powder. Some recipes call for egg whites, but meringue powder is a perfectly good substitute and you don’t have to worry about any raw egg in the recipe (of course you could use pasteurized egg whites, but for me, meringue powder is so much simpler).
What does royal icing taste like?
- Sweet. Royal icing is very, very sweet. In terms of flavor, I prefer frosting. But in terms of details and decorating, I love royal icing. To cut through the sweetness, I added some fresh orange juice to the recipe. It gives it a bit more flavor as well.
Where can I find meringue powder?
- You can find it at most craft stores in their cake decorating section. For me, that’s Michael’s Joann’s or Hobby Lobby.
- You can also find it on Amazon; however, if you live in California (like me) Amazon will not ship it there. I’m not entirely sure why, but for some reason, it’s a no go.
First things first, let’s talk about the two royal icing techniques I used:
Piping and Flooding.
Piping is a thick consistency, similar to frosting. It’s used for outlining your cookies and for adding the details on your cookies (the picture above is the piping consistency).
Flooding is a looser consistency and it’s used to ‘flood’ large sections of your cookie. For most of my cookies, I piped a border/outline around the cookies, then flooded the center of my cookies. (The picture below is flooding consistency.)
When making royal icing, make it the ‘piping’ consistency first. When you need icing for flooding, all you need to do is a little water to thin the frosting out.
What tools do I need for royal icing?
- piping bags
- piping tips (my go to tip is #3 or #4 Wilton tip, using #1 and #2 for more precise detail)
- squeeze bottles
I’m going to talk about why and how you use each tool.
- The toothpicks are used to helps spread your ‘flooded’ royal icing. A lot of people use a needle tool or a scribe tool for this purpose, but for a basic design, I found a toothpick works great.
Piping Bags, Tips & Couplers:
- The piping bags are so you can pipe your frosting onto your cookies easily. This is where your piping tips and couplers will come in handy.
- Of course, you can put your royal icing into a piping bag without a tip, as long as you cut the piping bag with a very small hole. However, it’s so much easier to use a tip. The purpose behind using a coupler is so that you can switch tips easily.
- The squeeze bottle is an optional tool, because you can use a piping bag for this. I just found that using a squeeze bottle was significantly easier and less messy. I prefer to use a squeeze bottle for flooding the cookies (in the video, you see me using a piping bag for flooding).
- Yes, you can use a piping bag for flooding (as I used in the video). However, I found using a piping bag was just a little too messy, because the icing was so thin it leaked out of the tip when I wasn’t using it (plus, it felt a little wasteful). Using a squeeze bottle eliminated that problem for me.
How to Make Royal Icing at Home:
- Using a hand mixer or a standing mixer, you whip meringue powder, powdered sugar, water, orange juice and vanilla extract together until stiff peaks form. (You can omit the orange juice and use all water instead; however, I like how the orange juice adds a bit of citrus flavor to the icing.)
- This is the piping royal icing consistency. If you plan on using different colors, divide the icing into separate bowls and color as desired with gel food coloring (I highly recommend gel food coloring for royal icing).
- If you plan on using any of the icing for flooding, divide the icing again (so that you have a bowl for piping/outlining and a bowl for flooding).
- The icing you want to use for flooding needs to be thinned out with a little bit of water. Add about a teaspoon of water at a time until the icing is thin enough. It should be thick enough to hold its shape, yet thin enough it drizzles off of a spoon.
- The best thing about royal icing is that if the icing is too stiff, you just add a little more water until it’s at your desired consistency. If it’s too thin, add in a bit more powdered sugar.
- Royal icing, depending upon how thick it is, can take anywhere from 2-4 hours to dry completely. You can speed up the process by putting them in the fridge, but if possible, it is best to let them air dry.
Royal Icing Decorating Tips:
- If you plan on using the flooding technique, pipe a border around the edge of the cookie with the thick piping icing. This will help keep the thin icing from going off of the edge of the cookie.
- When flooding, I like to ice the cookie almost to the piped border of the cookie. Then, I take a toothpick and spread the icing to the piped border edge. It gives the cookie a really clean look.
- If you want to do the ‘wet on wet’ icing trick (like I do in the video), after you flood the icing, use another ‘flood’ consistency icing to make dots or lines on the iced cookie. Use a toothpick to swirl the colors together.
- Or, you can allow the flooded icing to set, then can decorate on top of it with any other icing you want.
Happy cookie decorating! This the Cutout Chocolate Sugar Cookie Recipe I used here.
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 3 Tbsp meringue powder
- 6-7 Tbsp water
- 2 Tbsp orange juice, fresh*
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- gel food coloring
- With a standing mixer with a whisk attachment (or a hand mixer), whisk powdered sugar, meringue powder, water (starting with 6 Tbsp of water), and vanilla extract.
As the mixture begins to come together, add in orange juice. Whip on medium speed until the icing holds stiff peaks.**
Divide the icing into separate bowls and tint with gel food coloring (if you only want to use white royal icing, you can omit this step). This is the piping consistency for royal icing.
For flooding, thin the royal icing with water, beginning with a teaspoon at a time until it’s at the desired consistency (it should be thick enough to hold its shape, yet thin enough it drizzles off of a spoon).
- When decorating, pipe a border around the edge of your cookies. Flood the centers of the cookies, then use a toothpick to spread the icing to the edges. Allow the icing to set before adding more decorating details (if you are planning on using the wet on wet technique, you can read in the post for more tips).
- Allow the cookies to air dry (about 4 hours) before stacking on top of each other.
*You can substitute water for fresh orange juice, if you prefer.
**The best thing about royal icing is that if the icing is too stiff, you just add a little more water until it’s at your desired consistency. If it’s too thin, add in a bit more powdered sugar.
***Recipe for the cutout chocolate sugar cookies.
Here are some other recipes you might enjoy: