How to Make Royal Icing

5 from 2 votes

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Master the art of royal icing with this complete tutorial with step by step photos and tips on getting the right consistency. Enjoy the most gorgeous fluffy royal icing with a soft bite with this proven 4-ingredient royal icing recipe.

piping bags of colored royal icing.


 

What is royal icing?

Royal icing is an icing that hardens as it dries! The base of a royal icing is whipped egg whites or meringue powder and powdered sugar.

The mixture whips into a light, glossy, and bright white icing that’s ideal for decorating sugar cookies, gingerbread houses, and more!

You can color the icing to make festive and bright shades for fun and elaborate designs.

Royal icing decorated cookies like daisies.

Royal Icing Ingredients:

  • Meringue powder is a dry, powdered substitute for egg whites. It’s convenient because it eliminates the need to use raw egg whites, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses associated with consuming raw eggs. My go-to meringue powder brand is Genie’s Dream. You can find meringue powder at your local craft store in the cake decorating section.
  • Water is used to revive the meringue powder into a meringue and to thin out the icing so it’s not too thick. Royal icing thickens as you whip it.
  • Powdered sugar – For a silky smooth consistency!
  • Corn syrup – While it’s an optional ingredients, a tablespoon of corn syrup gives the icing a soft bite and a nice sheen.
  • Almond extract – If you don’t like the flavor of almond extract, you can swap it with vanilla.
water, powdered sugar, meringue powder, corn syrup, almond extract.

Meringue Powder vs Powdered Egg Whites

Meringue powder and powdered egg whites are similar, but not the same!

Both are made from dried egg whites, but meringue powder contains cornstarch, sugar, and cream of tartar as well. These additional ingredients give you a stable and light meringue.

Useful Tools:

Royal icing is easy to make, but requires a few tools to be successful.

  • Electric mixer – Whipping egg whites by hand is tiresome at best! Use a stand mixer or electric hand mixer for best results.
  • Tipless piping bags – I buy them online. But you can buy disposable piping bags at your local craft store or make your own with parchment paper. Technically, you can use tips and couplers, but I find it much easier to achieve fine lines without them.
  • Food coloring – I prefer gel food coloring. It’s a thick gel so it won’t mess up the consistency of the icing and gives you a brighter hue. You can find gel colors in nearly any shade! If you’re aiming for a light pastel, use a toothpick or scriber to add a tiny amount of coloring. Keep in mind, like paint the icing will dry slightly darker than it is.
  • Scriber – You can purchase this handy tool at your local craft store or on Amazon. Mine came with the tipless piping bags. It looks like a pen with a needle on the end of it. A scriber makes it easy to move the royal icing into corners and tiny edges. A toothpick isn’t as easy to use, but works in a pinch.

How to make royal icing:

1. Prepare the meringue

  • Hand mix the meringue powder and water until frothy in the bowl of a stand mixer. And let it sit for 5 minutes.
  • Whisk the mixture on medium speed with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Soft peaks flop over and curl downwards when you pick up the whisk.
whipped egg whites in mixer bowl.

2. Make the icing

  • Add the powdered sugar, corn syrup, and almond extract to the meringue.
  • Switch to the paddle attachment and whip the icing on low (speed 2) until smooth, about 1 minute. The icing thickens as you whip it.
  • Check the consistency of the royal icing by scooping it and letting it fall back into the icing. If it melts back into the icing in 10 seconds, it’s perfect. If it’s too thick, add a little water, ½ teaspoon at a time, and beat to combine. If it’s too runny, whip it longer.
royal icing in a mixing bowl and on a paddle attachment.

Royal Icing Consistency

I prefer to make the base royal icing on a thicker side, so that I can fine-tune the consistency later in small batches when adding food coloring.

3. Add food coloring

  • Once the base royal icing is done, divide the icing into separate bowls to color and adjust the consistency further.
  • For nice pastel colors, use a toothpick (or a scribe) to swipe a small amount of food coloring.
  • For richer color, be sure to let the icing rest for 10-15 minutes, or overnight, to let the colors develop.
royal icing in bowls with food coloring next to them.

Tips for Success:

  • I prefer one consistency for outlining and flooding, aka hybrid consistency. I divide the icing into 2 bags, one with a small hole for outlining, and another bag with a bigger hole for flooding.
  • You can flavor the icing with different extracts, such as vanilla, almond, peppermint, etc. Use about ¼ teaspoon per batch.
  • Don’t overmix the icing, or the protein structure of the egg whites weaken and the icing won’t set properly.
  • Let the icing dry completely before stacking and storing. It could take 8-24 hours, depending on humidity. I let mine dry overnight.
  • Always store the icing in an airtight container to prevent the top from drying out. Cover the rest of the icing with plastic wrap when working in small batches to color the icing. If little bits of dried icing get mixed into wet icing, the icing will get stuck when you try to pipe it!
  • Transfer the icing into a piping bag and decorate your cookies. Don’t overfill the piping bag or it will be harder to pipe.
  • You can use piping bag ties to prevent the icing from oozing out the top of the bag. This is especially helpful when you’re using lots of colors and switching between them.
blue royal icing in a bowl.

Storing Tips:

  • Store royal icing in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
  • You can store it on the counter or in the refrigerator. If you store it in the refrigerator, you’ll need to let it sit out for 30 minutes before you use it.
  • Royal icing is freezer-friendly! Transfer the icing to a freezer bag and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and let it sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before using it.
piping royal icing onto a chocolate cookie.

Troubleshooting Common Royal Icing Issues:

1. Royal icing stays wet and never dries.

The culprit is most likely over-whipped icing. Over mixing weakens the protein structure of the meringue.

2. Royal icing has craters when it dries.

Craters or tiny holes are bound to happen sometimes! It could be from overmixing, or it could be how you piped the icing. An easy fix – use the scribe tool to pop any bubbles you see so they can settle back into the icing before it dries.

3. Royal icing wrinkled during drying.

The culprit is poor air circulation while they dry. Do NOT cover the cookies with wet icing. Let them air-dry longer than you think they need to. The cookies shouldn’t dry out during this time.

4. The royal icing is too hard after it’s set.

Too much meringue powder will cause the icing to set too hard. If you follow this recipe exactly, you shouldn’t have this issue!

5. Royal icing is dull.

When the icing dries slowly, it gets dull. If you want a glossy sheen, try placing the iced cookies next to a fan for the first 15 minutes or so. Also, don’t skip the corn syrup! Corn syrup creates a shinier icing.

FAQs:

What is the difference between regular and royal icing?

Regular icing doesn’t harden like royal icing. With regular icing, the top layer of the icing forms a thin crust but it’s easy to mess up. If you accidentally touch it or layer the cookies, the icing will smudge. With royal icing, once the icing hardens it doesn’t smudge or move around. This allows you to pipe elaborate designs!

What makes royal icing harden?

The egg whites in the meringue powder cause the icing to harden as it dries!

Why do people use royal icing?

Royal icing is an ideal choice for those who want to create colorful and elaborate designs that won’t smudge. You can let one layer dry before you add more details to ensure the design is flawless.

piping bags of colored royal icing.
5 from 2 votes

How to Make Royal Icing

Master the art of royal icing with this complete tutorial with step by step photos and tips on getting the right consistency. Enjoy the most gorgeous fluffy royal icing with a soft bite with this proven 4-ingredient royal icing recipe.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 0 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 65 servings
Yields: 2 cups (550g) of royal icing

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons (18 g) meringue powder
  • 3 oz (88 ml) water plus more if needed Note 1
  • 16 ounces (450 g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (10 g) corn syrup Note 2
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract Note 3

Equipment

  • stand mixer with the whisk and paddle attachment

Instructions 

  • In a large mixing bowl with a whisk attachment, hand mix meringue powder and water until frothy. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  • Whisk the mixture on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the powdered sugar, corn syrup, and almond extract to the meringue.
  • Switch to the paddle attachment and whip the icing on speed 2 until nice and smooth, about 1 minute. The icing will thicken as you whip it. Don’t over-whip it!
  • Check the consistency of the royal icing by scooping it and letting it drop into a ribbon. If it melts back into the rest of the icing within 10 seconds, it’s perfect. If it’s too thick, add a little water, ½ teaspoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency. If it’s too runny, whip it a little longer, or add more powdered sugar.

Tips & Notes

Note 1: The exact amount of water depends on your desired consistency and how dry/humid your environment is. The amount specified in the recipe yields slightly thicker consistency to allow you to adjust the consistency to your need.
Note 2: Corn syrup adds a nice sheen and gives the icing a soft bite.
Note 3: You can use any flavoring extracts, such as vanilla (1 teaspoon), peppermint, etc.
Storing Tips:
– Store royal icing in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
– You can store it on the counter or in the refrigerator. If you store it in the refrigerator, you will need to let it sit out for 30 minutes before you use it.
– Royal icing is freezer-friendly! Transfer the icing to a zip-top freezer bag and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and let sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before using it.

Nutrition

Serving: 1batch, Calories: 1990kcal, Carbohydrates: 508g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 0.04g, Sodium: 79mg, Potassium: 11mg, Sugar: 497g, Calcium: 11mg, Iron: 0.3mg
Course: Dessert, frosting
Cuisine: American

Hi, I’m Shinee!

Welcome! I’m so happy you’re here! I believe anyone can cook restaurant-quality food at home! And my goal is to help you to become a confident cook with my easy-to-follow recipes with lots of tips and step-by-step photos.

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1 Comment

  1. 5 stars
    Devem ser uma delicia…!!!! Obrigada Shinee…se não tiver pó de merengue. ,como faço com claras ?????