| | | |

Royal Icing

Decorated Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Sugar cookies are delicious on their own, but they are even better when decorated with a tasty royal icing. 

If you have never used royal icing before, it’s an icing that dries hard.  It can be used to create beautifully decorated sugar cookies, gingerbread houses, cakes, and more.  Based on the amount of water added to the icing, it can be used to pipe designs that need to hold their shape (e.g., words, image outlines, etc.) or to flood an already outlined design so the icing will create a smooth layer.

Using this icing takes a little practice to get the proportions correct, but once you figure it out, you will have a very versatile icing in your baking arsenal.  My favorite recipe is royal icing with meringue powder and corn syrup.

***This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click a link and purchase something. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Click to see my full disclosure policy.***

Why Make Royal Icing with Meringue Powder and Corn Syrup?

Have you ever wondered to yourself why you would want to make royal icing with corn syrup and meringue powder?

If you’ve struggled with dull royal icing in the past, adding a small amount of corn syrup will help to keep the icing shiny (even when dry). Royal icing with corn syrup also increases the elasticity of the icing. This means you can pull the icing further away from the cookie or cake without the strand of icing breaking. This is especially helpful if you’re trying to pipe rounded outlines or string work.

Meringue powder, on the other hand, helps the royal icing to quickly dry hard without cracking. It’s also used as a substitute for raw eggs (i.e., the traditional way to make royal icing).

Royal Icing Ingredients
Ingredients:
Equipment:
Making the icing:

Place the meringue powder and water in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment.  Beat until it is combined and foamy. 

Royal Icing Ingredients

Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine.  It will probably be helpful to add the powdered sugar in 3 additions so that you don’t get powdered sugar all over the kitchen.  Do not skip the sifting.  Powdered sugar frequently has clumps.  If you add powdered sugar without sifting it, your royal icing will have lumps that may not break up during mixing. 

Royal Icing

Once combined, add in the vanilla extract and the corn syrup (which helps to keep the royal icing shiny). 

Increase the speed to medium-high on the stand mixer and beat for approximately 5 minutes (or until the icing forms stiff peaks). 

Cover the stand mixer bowl with plastic wrap.  Make sure the plastic wrap touches the surface of the royal icing so that the surface doesn’t dry and harden.  Divide the royal icing and color with gel paste food colorings, if desired. 

Royal Icing in Piping Bag

If you need a thinned icing, add water to the “stiff” royal icing a teaspoon at a time.  The consistency can change quickly if you add too much water.  Add the water until you have the consistency you need to decorate the dessert.

Want to Learn More About How to Decorate Cookies Using Royal Icing?

Decorating cookies using royal icing allows you to make gifts for friends and family and to create edible artwork that shows off your creativity. If you want to learn basic decorating techniques including outlining, flooding, wet-on-wet technique, marbling, feathering, flocking, and more, then click the image below to get more information about my Beginner’s Guide to Cookie Decorating.

Cover for the Beginner's Guide to Cookie Decorating
You may also like:
More posts for decorating sugar cookies
Notes:
  1. There is a lot of variation in the flavor of meringue powders.  Make sure that you use a good tasting one like CK meringue powder or Ateco.  Even though Wilton meringue powder is easily accessible in craft stores, I would highly suggest buying a different brand because the Wilton brand adds a distinctive flavor to the royal icing that is not good (in my opinion).  (Back to “Ingredients“)
  2. If you need your royal icing to be white, you can use any clear extract (e.g., lemon, almond, or clear imitation vanilla extract) or a few drops of white food coloring. (Back to “Ingredients“)
Decorated Sugar Cookies
Print Recipe
4 from 2 votes

Royal Icing

Prep Time10 mins

Equipment

  • Sifter
  • Stand mixer with paddle attachment (or hand mixer with large bowl)
  • Digital scale (or dry measuring cups, liquid measuring cup, and measuring spoons)
  • Silicone spatula
  • Plastic wrap

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs (907g) powdered sugar
  • 8 Tbsp (82g) meringue powder
  • 1 cup (250g) water
  • 2 tsp (14.5g) corn syrup
  • 2 tsp (9.6g) vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Place the meringue powder and water in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Beat until it is combined and foamy.
  • Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. It will probably be helpful to add the powdered sugar in 3 additions so that powdered sugar doesn't get all over the kitchen. Do not skip the sifting. Powdered sugar frequently has clumps. If powdered sugar is added without sifting, the royal icing will have lumps that may not break up during mixing.
  • Once combined, add in the vanilla extract and the corn syrup (which helps to keep the royal icing shiny).
  • Increase the speed to medium-high on the stand mixer and beat for approximately 5 minutes (or until the icing forms stiff peaks).
  • Cover the stand mixer bowl with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap touches the surface of the royal icing so that the surface doesn’t dry and harden.
  • Divide the royal icing and color with gel paste food colorings, if desired.
  • If you need a thinned icing, add water to the “stiff” royal icing a teaspoon at a time. The consistency can change quickly if you add too much water. Add the water until you have the consistency you need to decorate the dessert.

Similar Posts

30 Comments

  1. 4 stars
    Hi! I am a newbie to royal frosting and chose your recipe for my first foray into making and using it. I followed your recipe to the letter and after 6 minutes of beating the ingredients, I still had only soft peaks. Not knowing what to do, I added additional powdered sugar and beat it some more. I finally achieved stiff peaks. Hurray!! My questions are what did I do wrong and is this frosting useable? Thank you so much for any assistance you can provide.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      I’m not 100% percent sure what happened. It’s possible it might have needed a couple more minutes of beating, although 6 minutes should have gotten you there. Were you using a stand mixer or a hand mixer? Hand mixers can sometimes be a little weaker. Regardless,the icing should be ok to use. There can sometimes be drying issues if too much air is whipped into the icing. If you notice that the icing feels spongey rather than smooth, you should probably start over.

  2. The Royal icing was easy to make and easy to use, but the cookie recipe isn’t very tasty. They taste like bland biscuits. Next time I will double the vanilla measurement or even try a different flavor.

  3. Hello, my name is Paula.
    I just made your frosting recipe and mine turned out bitter, I am wondering why, I went by the directions very carefully.
    Is there anything I can do so I won’t have to throw it all out?

    1. Hi Paula,
      I’m sorry for the super late reply. I’m not sure why the frosting turned out bitter. It’s typically very sweet. It’s possible that you are very sensitive to the taste of meringue powder or the cornstarch in the powdered sugar. You can try to cut back on the meringue powder to see if that helps. Tanya (in the comments) said that she made it with 6tsp of meringue powder and the recipe worked well. That might help with the flavor. I haven’t tried making it with less meringue powder, so I’m not sure how that would turn out.

  4. Hi! I’m new to cookie decorating and want to try your icing recipe.

    I’m not sure I can find the corn syrup where I live. Would not using it change the consistency or the flavor of the icing?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Ana,
      The corn syrup is added to the recipe for a shinier cookie when the icing dries. I’ve also read in the past that it can help with increasing the elasticity of the icing, which can be helpful for avoiding “breaking” when piping lines. There shouldn’t be a noticeable difference in flavor since the majority of the icing is sugar (i.e., sweet) anyway. If you’re not able to find corn syrup, you can substitute glucose or glycerin in equal amounts. These ingredients are sometimes easier to find outside of the US. You could also just leave that ingredient out and the cookies should be very similar. To increase the “shine” factor without using corn syrup, you can dry the cookies with a fan rather than just air drying them.

  5. 4 stars
    Hello! I was just wondering if over mixing is possible. I think I over mixed it. I mixed it for 5 mins but I think I should’ve done it for less time. This was my first time making royal icing and I don’t quite have the hang of it.

    1. Hi Erin,
      It is possible to over mix icing. As soon as the icing has formed stiff peaks (i.e., the icing stays straight up when you hold the paddle attachment/spatula upright), you can stop mixing. When the icing is over mixed, it gets too much air whipped into it and the dried icing tends to be crumbly on the cookie. The icing can seem a little spongy rather than being smooth. Is this what you noticed in your icing?

      1. My icing was very thick even when I tried to add water. I guess a good description would to be over whipped with too much air air. I just couldn’t seem to get it to a consistency where I could pipe the perimeter and fill the cookie so nicely like your cookies. My icing also never really dried. I want to try again. I just want to get an idea of what I did wrong first before wasting ingredients making the same mistakes.

        1. Based on what you’re saying, my suggestion would be to decrease your whipping time. You could even stop a little before stiff peaks to make it easier to get to the flood consistency. I’ve written the recipe to whip the royal icing to stiff peaks because it’s usually easier for new cookie decorators to have a stiff outline and then a flooded interior. I personally prefer to have all of my icing one consistency because it just takes less time to prepare the icing.

          For the thinning, sometimes it takes a bit of water to thin it to the correct consistency (especially if you are thinning large amounts of icing). Continue adding small amounts of water at a time until you get to the correct consistency. I’m guess you probably did not add enough water to get it thin enough.

  6. How many cookies will this recipe frost. I’m making 3 dozen for my wedding and I want to know if I should half the recipe

    1. Hi Emily,
      This will vary based on the size of cookie you make. This recipe should make enough to cover about 4 dozen 3.5-inch cookies. If your cookies are bigger, it will cover fewer cookies. If your cookies are smaller, it would cover more cookies. What kind of design are you planning on making?

  7. Hi there! This is my go to royal icing recipe! I’ve tried quite a few and yours is the best! What did you use to get that gorgeous blue? I loooove it!! Thanks!

    1. Hi Rebecca! I’m so glad you like the recipe. To get that blue I added Wilton Royal Blue gel food coloring (although it was probably a little too much since it made everyone’s mouth look like a smurf lol).

  8. Why does my icing get dual? It’s shining and after I have decorated my cookies and let them set it gets dual? Is there something I am doing wrong

    1. Hi Monica,
      The royal icing will dull a little as it dries. That is part of the normal drying process. If it looks overly dry or is cracking, it might be due to over mixing. Try not to beat the royal icing more than is needed to get stiff peaks. I hope this helps!

    1. 8 Tbsp is what I usually use. The royal icing should be thick when you are beating it, although I sometimes stop a little before it reaches stiff peaks if I don’t have any decorations on my cookies that need stiff icing. You can certainly try less meringue powder, but the icing might not harden the way it’s supposed to. You can always add a little water to slacken the mixture if it feels too thick. Hopefully that helps!

  9. I don’t have meringue powder but I do have pasteurized egg whites. Is there a substitution?
    Thank you

  10. I love this recipe. I did cut the meringue powder to 6 tsp instead of 8. What does the powder do to the frosting? I have sooooo much to learn. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Tanya! I’m so glad you like the recipe. The purpose of meringue powder is to help stabilize the royal icing and allow it to harden completely. If you are finding that the royal icing does not become hard, you might need to add a little more meringue powder the next time. If 6 tsp gets the icing to the right consistency, that’s awesome! Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions as you use the royal icing!

  11. Just frosted my cookies and loved the frosting. Instructions were right on. But I made too much of it. Can I freeze the frosting for later?

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      I’m so glad to hear that you loved the frosting! Royal icing can sit at room temperature for two weeks (just make sure to cover it with a piece of plastic wrap touching the top of the icing to avoid a crust forming) or you can freeze it for up to 3 months. If freezing it, place it in a zipped top freezer bag, squeeze out as much of the air as possible, and try to freeze it on a flat surface (this will make it easier to store). When you want to use it again, simply take it out of the freezer and let it come to room temperature. If it separates a little as it’s thawing, you can mix it back together (either in the bag or in a bowl) and it should be ready to use.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating