Royal icing can be incredibly daunting, and there is some trial and error before you find a consistency you love and can work with over and over. There are also variables such as humidity, ingredient quality, and just personal preference. Today I’m sharing the recipe that I’ve returned to time and time again. Now, what exactly is royal icing? Royal icing is an icing typically used for decorating sugar cookies or other desserts where you may be adding quite a bit of detail. It creates a smooth and beautiful surface, which makes it a favorite for bakers when working with intricate designs and colors. It also has a simple taste to it, so it doesn’t overwhelm the cookie flavor.Jump to Recipe
Common Terms when Making Royal Icing:
- There are lots of different techniques to making royal icing, some prefer to make a thinner icing that ‘floods’ together quickly. Flooding is just a specific term for the icing spreading out across the cookie.
- Another term you might come across is an ‘outline’ icing. This means it’s a slightly firmer consistency that doesn’t spread out across the sugar cookie as you pipe it.
- Piping is the technique used to frost the cookie when working with royal icing. After your icing is mixed together and ready to use you add it to a piping bag and cut a small hole in the bottom. I start tiny with my cut and then adjust as needed. Tip- if you cut your piping hole too big, instead of completely rebagging (a pain!) your icing, make the hole larger and add to another bag. That’s one of the reasons I prefer to use the disposable bags when decorating cookies.
- For this recipe, it is somewhere in between a flood and an outline. I prefer this consistency because I only have to make one batch and find it easier to control. This is a personal preference and not a fool-proof method for everyone. This approach does require you to help the icing ‘settle’ a bit after it’s been iced. That just means using a tool or a toothpick to stir it around a little bit so you get a flat and smooth design.
I prefer meringue powder when making my icing, but have used egg whites too. It’s a personal preference. I prefer being able to measure exactly how much powder I’m using and am not always an expert at keeping shells out of recipes including eggs, so it’s just easier for me. Note- meringue powder is derived from eggs. If you're looking for a recipe without eggs due to an allergy or dietary preference- this is a vegan meringue powder alternative.
When you're making your royal icing, start with the dry ingredients. Then gradually add your water. Let the mixer run for a few minutes and you'll be able to tell if it appears to runny or too thick to work with.
Yes! If you'd prefer to use egg whites instead of meringue powder that is very common in a lot of recipes. I would recommend starting with 2 egg whites and seeing if you like working with them.
Meringue powder is a dried egg white substitute that is sold by bakeries and craft stores to help achieve a royal icing consistency.
This icing sets up completely overnight, or over several hours. It will harden within 10-20 minutes so you can add another layer or icing, but for a complete total dry it needs several hours.
Tips for making One-Consistency Royal Icing
- If your icing appears too runny, gradually add more powdered sugar. Begin with ¼ cup and allow to come together.
- You do not need to use a lot of food coloring! Just a drop or two of gel food coloring is plenty to get started. I really like gel food coloring, it's easy to control and you get great, rich colors.
- To bag your icing, put the piping bag in a drinking glass and pour into the bag. This is one time it's nice to be using a one consistency icing, you don't have to separate outline and flood icing into separate bags.
- When ready to decorate, snip the bottom edge of the piping bag. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments and I'd be happy to help. Royal icing does take some trial and error, but stick with it! I hope this simple, one consistency royal icing recipe helps you get started!
Simple One Consistency Royal Icing
- stand mixer or hand mixer
- bowls for different colors of icing
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- 4¾ cups powdered sugar 4-5 cups total, I typically start with 3 cups and check consistency as I go
- 2½ tablespoon meringue powder
- ¾ cup water
- 1 teaspoon corn syrup this is an estimate- typically one squeeze of the bottle or quick pour from the bottle works great.
- Combine powdered sugar and meringue powder in bowl or stand-mixer. Allow to stir for 1-2 minutes to combine.
- Add your corn syrup and water.
- Run stand mixer for 2-3 minutes to combine.
- Separate into bowls as many colors as you're planning to use, and add your gel food coloring.
- Bag right away and start decorating!
My go to recipe!
Not without eggs, meringue powder IS egg white. Allergy issue.
That's a good callout! A lot of recipes call for actual/liquid egg whites in the recipe, so that's the distinction I made here as I'm not as comfortable working with egg whites.
I am adding a note in the recipe though to make sure people are aware that meringue powder is typically an egg product. I'd recommend trying this vegan meringue powder if you're looking for an alternative! https://www.amazon.com/V%C3%B6r-Meringue-Egg-Free-Decorating-Certified/dp/B082P6CXHM