This is the best, easiest, most perfect royal icing recipe for cookie decorating that I’ve been using for over twenty years.
You’ll find a video and tons of tips and tricks in the blog post, but scroll to the end for a printable recipe card.
royal icing recipe
I’ve been making this easy royal icing recipe for over twenty years with perfect results every time.
The recipe appeared in my first (now extinct) cookbook, Cookie Sensations, and of course in my second, Sugarlicious. It also appears on my collection of fun food recipes.
But making flawless royal icing is so important in cookie decorating, that it deserves to be featured in its own post. This recipe:
- dries well enough to handle, package, and even ship, but it’s not rock hard like traditional royal icing.
- tastes amazing
- has a perfect consistency that can be thinned or thickened for flooding and piping
- can be stored at room temperature for weeks
- decorated cookies may be frozen!
alternative to royal icing
If you’re looking for another fabulous icing for cookie decorating without egg whites, meringue powder, or corn syrup, check out my easy sugar cookie icing.
cookie decorating basics
Now that you have your royal icing recipe, don’t forget the cut-out sugar cookie recipe and basics for cookie decorating.
And if you want to learn how to decorate cookies like a pro in less than an hour of video how-tos (and with 27 pages of printables), be sure to check out my cookie decorating for beginners course at The Sugar Academy!
what is traditional royal icing?
Traditional royal icing is made by whipping together egg whites and confectioner’s sugar (called icing sugar outside of the U.S.). It dries very hard, so it is best used for cookie decorating and assembling gingerbread houses.
However, I much prefer to make royal icing with meringue powder, or dried egg whites mixed with a stabilizer (cream of tartar) and sometimes a bit of sweetener.
Meringue powder makes gorgeous royal icing without the use of raw eggs, so you can keep the icing stored at room temperature. Find meringue powder online, in craft stores, and sometimes in the baking aisle of the supermarket.
how is this icing recipe different?
This sugar cookie icing is similar to traditional royal icing, but I add just a touch of shortening and flavoring to make it taste delicious. Thus, it dries hard enough to handle and package when left overnight, but not rock hard, like traditional royal icing.
The consistency is thicker than is used for flooding, but you may thin this icing with water to make it the right consistency for flooding.
how to make royal icing with meringue powder
you will need:
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 tablespoons meringue powder
- 7 to 8 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons Crisco vegetable shortening
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
what to do:
In a large bowl with an electric hand mixer or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a wire whip, place the water and meringue powder. Whip the mixture, starting on low and building up to high, until it’s very fluffy and peaks form. This make take a minute or two.
Gradually add about half the confectioner’s sugar and mix well. Add the vanilla, shortening, and light corn syrup and blend. Add the remaining sugar cup by cup, mixing well after each addition, until the consistency you like is achieved.
I like to make my royal icing on the thick side (so if you overturn a spoonful, it clings to the spoon and only slowly falls back into the bowl) because it’s much easier to thin icing later with water than it is to thicken with confectioner’s sugar.
You will make plenty of icing to decorate a batch of cookies, with leftover. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to a month. After decorating cookies, let the cookies dry very well, overnight at least, before packaging.
more cookie decorating links you’ll need
- bake perfect cut-out sugar cookies with this recipe
- find basic cookie decorating instructions
- everything you need to know about FOOD COLORING!
how long does it take royal icing to dry?
I let my cookies dry at room temperature overnight. They are then ready to handle, package in favor bags, and even stack to ship.
(For tips on shipping decorated cookies.)
However, I tend to make my icing a little thicker than many, so if you have thinner icing, or if you live in a humid climate, cookies may take two days to dry fully.
how long does royal icing last?
If you make your sugar cookie icing with meringue powder, the icing lasts in sealed container at room temperature for 3 to 4 weeks.
Decorated cookies will last about the same length of time, but for best results, I suggest baking and decorating cookies within a few days of serving or gifting, unless you freeze the cookies.
how do you freeze decorated cookies?
I get this question so frequently, especially from cookie decorators who are making a large number of cookies and need to freeze them.
To freeze decorated cookies, let them dry fully for one to two days at room temperature. At this step, you may package the cookies in favor bags with ribbon so after they thaw, they are ready to use (this is optional).
Place the cookies in a gallon size freezer-safe Ziploc bag in a single layer. Seal. Stack the bags of cookies, using a box for additional security in the freezer, and freeze.
Most importantly, to thaw the cookies, remove the bags from the freezer and let sit at room temperature. Allow to fully thaw before opening the bags to prevent condensation. This should only take 1 to 2 hours.
why are there spots on my royal icing?
I often hear from cookie decorators that after they decorate cookies, they see spots and discoloration the next day, or royal icing colors bleed into each other. I have not had this problem, but I have some ideas why this happens.
- humidity — Moisture in the air can be a culprit on the butter in cookies, so if you live in a humid climate, I suggest placing a low fan or dehumidifier near the cookies as they dry.
- too thin icing — While I love the gorgeous cookies with perfectly smooth, flooded icing, sigh, you risk splotches appearing in a few days. For me, I always err on the side of too thick when it comes to cookie icing. So you may see imperfections when I pipe and see the “lines” of icing, but no splotches or spots. The thin icing just lets the cookie moisture through more easily.
- stifling your drying cookies — Be sure to let cookies dry on the trays at room temperature without covering or putting in containers until they are totally dry (at least overnight). This way, you won’t trap humidity in with them.
- undercooked cookies — I love light, soft cookies, but as with the too thin icing, you should err on the side of baking a couple minutes longer. The softer cookies tend to lend moisture to your icing.
printable royal icing recipe
The perfect, easy royal icing recipe for sugar cookie decorating, made with meringue powder. Find a cut-out sugar cookie recipe and basic cookie decorating instructions in the blog post, as well as troubleshooting royal icing, how to freeze royal icing, and more tips and tricks.
royal icing recipe
Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1020Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 8mgCarbohydrates: 259gFiber: 0gSugar: 254gProtein: 0g
The perfect, easy royal icing recipe for sugar cookie decorating, made with meringue powder.
Find a cut-out sugar cookie recipe and basic cookie decorating instructions in the blog post, as well as troubleshooting royal icing, how to freeze royal icing, and more tips and tricks.
PIN FOR LATER:
Renee Murphy says
I am really looking forward to making this icing recipe…It sounds AMAZING
What dye do u use. Food coloring ok to put into the icing? What do u recommend?
Hi Karen, I suggest concentrated gel pastes. My favorite brand is Americolor Soft Gel Paste. Here is a lot more info on food coloring: https://thedecoratedcookie.com/all-about-food-coloring/
Hello! How long can you keep the frozen decorated cookies?
Hi Heather! You can keep the frozen decorated cookies up to 3 months. (Off the record, I’ve gone longer, but 3 months is best.) Make sure the cookies dry very well, overnight, before freezing. And after you remove the cookies from the freezer, let them thaw totally in their ziploc bag before opening!
Thank you so much, I can’t wait to try this recipe!
I’ve been using this recipe and a year and love it! How would it do making florals and packaging it?
Hi Sara! If you want to do 3D shapes, I would leave out the Crisco and light corn syrup so it can dry very hard. I would also package in cello bags with ribbon. If you’re shipping, much bubble wrap and popcorn so that when you close the box and shake it, you hear NO movement at all!
Sara Blanchetti says
Thank you so much!
Joyce Day says
Can I use coconut oil instead
That’s a great question Joyce, and now I want to experiment! I haven’t tried it, but if you do try it, wait until the royal icing is mixed and done and add it at the end so the oil doesn’t deflate the meringue. You can also simply leave out the Crisco and/or the corn syrup. But I do think coconut oil would be something fun to try.
Hi,so has anyone tried this with coconut shortening? Thanks
Do you have to freeze in individual bags or can you freeze a dozen cookies stacked on each other in a gallon ziplock bag ?
Hi Beverly, I don’t freeze in individual bags. I will fit as many cookies as I can in a SINGLE layer in a gallon-size ziploc bag. (So depending on the size, you can probably fit maybe 5 to 8?) And then I stack the bags. But I don’t stack the cookies in the Ziploc itself. And remember to let them thaw totally IN the bag before opening!
What meringue powder do you use? Wilton has a terrible after taste. Can you recommend a meringue powder recipe that’s foolproof? How’s Chefmaster meringue powder. I’ve been baking w/a stand mixer for 1 year and have finally reached the holy grail recipe for the $6 Christmas decorated Sugar Cookie. On my 2nd & 3rd batch of sugar cookies and icing and am in search of the best meringue powder. Appreciate your response, great blog, very helpful!
Hi Gaylene, SUCH a good question! I should do a post just taste testing meringue powder. I used Americolor for a long time (because they sent me a bunch for free) which I liked, and I use Wilton (because I’m cheap), but chefmaster is a good one. I also like the King Arthur meringue powder you can find at Sur la Table. https://www.surlatable.com/meringue-powdwer/PRO-2188928.html#prefn1=productType&prefv1=HardGood&q=meringue+powder&start=1
Hi! Is this recipe ok for using edible markers to draw on the royal icing or do paint your own cookies with?
Hi Danielle, Yes! But make sure to let the cookies dry overnight. It helps to put a fan on them, too.
I absolutely love this unique royalist icing recipe and have used it for over a year now. But I hoping you can help me. I read through the entire post and saw your mention of spots. It is winter here now and started noticing these spots two weeks ago. All colors, light colors, dark colors…. I haven’t changed how long I bake or my method for decorating. Any ideas why all of the sudden now? Also, when I try to freeze decorated cookies I get light colored spots all over the cookies (so I never feel I can freeze them) Thank you so much!
Such a great question. Any time anyone asks I share Sweetopia’s blog post all about spots. Her number one theory is humidity, although it’s not the time of year for that (unless you’re in the southern hemisphere). She also suggests: cooking the cookies a little longer so the butter doesn’t ooze up to the top, rolling cookies more thin, making sure you’re adding white food coloring to make white, drying at room temperature. There’s a lot more in the post. I’m not sure about the freezing. Hmm. Do you let them dry overnight before freezing? And let them thaw in the closed Ziploc bag fully before opening?
Thank you for responding. So with freezing the whitish spots are showing even without thawing ( I can see them in the bag). I made samples so they sat out for a few days before freezing. It’s like butter bleed is happening after they are frozen? Or part of the icing is freeing differently? It is so odd and I wish I fix it so I would have pretty cookies come out of the freezer.
Gah, that’s so frustrating! Are the whitish spots showing up on both light and dark colors? I just found this post that talks about blotchy icing too. She suggested it’s the meringue powder separating (although I’ve used the americolor meringue powder and didn’t see splotching.) She got rid of splotching by putting her cookies in the oven for a few hours with the light on, so the heat of the light helped them. Heat feels risky to me, though.
Yes, it happens to even the white at times. Sometimes it is one color of the whole batch and sometimes it more than one.
To save money, can I layer the cookies with sheets of wax paper between the cookies? I would lay them flat.
Hi, do you mean for freezing? As long as they are completely dry (let set overnight) and you have a container or freezer bag sealing the cookies, that should be totally fine! Just let the decorated cookies thaw at room temperature completely before opening. (Also, if the price is comparable, I prefer parchment to wax paper.)
Rebecca Kinder says
I’m gonna try this out for my Christmas cookies this year, could I swap the water out for milk?
Hmm, great question, and I’m not sure! I don’t think the meringue will whip up as well with milk in place of water, and the cookies won’t dry as hard. Another option is to use this sugar cookie icing instead. It doesn’t dry as hard as royal icing, but will set enough to loosely wrap or lightly stack. https://thedecoratedcookie.com/sugar-cookie-icing/
Is it possible to leave out shortening for this recipe? Thanks!
Hi Ying-Ti, yes! Absolutely. You can also omit the light corn syrup. I add both to help with taste and texture, but you’ll have a more traditional royal icing without them.
Can I use butter instead of Crisco?
Hi Sue, I’m not sure butter would have the same consistency, but given it’s such a small amount, I think it would be OK to try. The icing may not dry as hard. But it would make more of a buttercream/royal icing mixture that would taste great.