Bold Baking Basics, Homemade Ingredients

Easy Royal Icing for Cake Decorating

4.64 from 195 votes
Cake decorating doesn't have to be hard, and with my Easy Royal Icing for Cake Decorating you'll be able to make your cakes as beautiful as you've always wanted!

Hi Bold Bakers!

While I’m not a pro cake decorator, I have all the tricks up my sleeve to make you think I might be! My recipe and method for making Easy Royal Icing for Cake Decorating is one of my go-to for making cake decorating easy as can be. Made with only 3 ingredients, royal icing is a classic for a reason— it’s simple to make, easy to use, and is the first step in making a cake (be it a Christmas Cake or otherwise!) beautiful.

What is Royal Icing?

Royal icing is made of egg whites, powdered sugar, and a dash of lemon juice. This ratio of egg white-to-powdered sugar, when whipped to perfection, transforms into a light, fluffy, and very sturdy icing. This frosting can even be used as a glue to decorate gingerbread houses and cakes like my Irish Christmas Cake.

How to Heat Treat Egg Whites

While this step is NOT necessary to making royal icing, it’s a good method to know when working with raw egg whites in case you’re worried. To heat treat the eggs, cook them in a bain-marie over low heat for 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly. Do this just until the egg whites have become warm — but are not hot. This will kill any potential bacteria in the eggs, making them safe to use when raw, and with the addition of the lemon juice, you’ll be as safe as can be! IF you don’t want to use egg whites at all then you can use meringue powder to make this frosting also.

Cake Decorating with Royal Icing

I love to use this thicker form of royal icing to smooth over cakes and create a blank snowy slate for other decorations. Additionally, my easy royal icing is the perfect consistency for creating a really fun texture. To do this, I get creative with an offset spatula and go to town, creating lovely swirls and peaks.

How Long Does it Take for Royal Icing to Dry?

Royal icing will begin to set after one hour, forming a nice skin. After 4-6 hours, the icing will harden completely — holding whatever form you give it while decorating.

How long does royal icing last?

Before using royal icing, keep it covered tightly at room temperature (cling wrap works wonders, just make sure it’s touching the surface). Once used and dried, royal icing will remain intact for up to one month preserving all of your beautiful decorations.

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Easy Royal Icing For Decorating Cake

4.64 from 195 votes
Cake decorating doesn't have to be hard, and with my Easy Royal Icing for Cake Decorating you'll be able to make your cakes as beautiful as you've always wanted!
Author: Gemma Stafford
Prep Time 20 mins
Cake decorating doesn't have to be hard, and with my Easy Royal Icing for Cake Decorating you'll be able to make your cakes as beautiful as you've always wanted!
Author: Gemma Stafford


  • 4 (5 1/2 oz/160g) egg whites* (egg sub in notes)
  • 6 cups (24oz/690g) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice


  • First heat treat the egg whites if you choose to do so. Warm the eggs in a bain-marie over low heat for 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly. Do this just until the egg whites have become warm but are not cooking. This will kill any bacteria in the eggs making them even safer to use when raw.
  • On a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites in a clean, large bowl with the mixer at high speed until foamy, around 2 minutes.
  • Gradually add sifted sugar spoonful by spoonful followed by the lemon juice.
  • Beat at high speed until thickened.
  • The icing at this stage will be at a good consistency for flooding cookies. If you want it stiffer for frosting a cake, or writing on cookies, add more icing sugar until you get the consistency you desire.
  • Place the icing into a bowl and cover with cling wrap. Make sure you allow the cling wrap to touch the icing so there is no air in the bowl. This stops it from going hard while you are waiting to use it.
  • Use it straight away or store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. This will be enough to cover 1 large cake.

Recipe Notes

How to make Royal Icing Vegan? you can use aquafaba and you will get similar results. 

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193 thoughts on “Easy Royal Icing for Cake Decorating

  1. Hi Gemma ive been your fan since i learned how to bake. Just want to ask after decorating the cake with royal icing can i put it inside the chiller since my cake is covered with buttercream?

  2. Please I want to ask ,if it is compulsory to heat egg before using it.
    Please what can be use to make cake instead of ovalette.
    Please can you help me to make cake and decorate it.
    Last but not the least ,all your recipe is nice, and I love it.

  3. Hi Gemma
    I want to ice my fruit cake with royal icing and was wondering how far in advance can I ice it. If I do it 3 days in advance, is it ok…will the royal icing harden too much.
    Also, is it really necessary to use marzipan on the cake before icing it. Can I brush the cake with softened orange marmalade before icing. Please do let me know.

    1. Hi Seema,
      you can ice it three days ahead for sure, as long as your climate is not too humid all will be well.
      Normally you will brush the cake with either warm marmalade or apricot jam and then apply a layer of either marzipan or fondant icing – the royal icing will struggle to work well directly on the fruit cake, the moisture from the cake will bleed into it.
      I hope you have a very happy Christmas,
      Gemma 🙂

  4. Hi Chef Gemma😊. Happy holidays! I just want to ask if i can make this icing as a decoration at the top of my chocolate ganache cake? Like for example a straight line? Im afraid it will not stick to the ganache frosting and will not show a define line and will fall down? Thank you very very much!♥️

    1. It should work for you, Jhoebelle! If you want it stiffer for frosting a cake, or writing on cookies, add more icing sugar until you get the consistency you desire.(see STEP5).

      Hope this helps!
      Gemma 🙂

  5. Hi Jemma your baby is beautiful.
    I haven’t made royal icing for years so cheers for the re cap. I refuse to pay for meringue powder

    1. hi Geoffrey,
      this is a bit of a challenge! Marzipan tends to seal the cake, to keep it moist – and it divides families into lovers of marzipan and haters!
      The best alternative to this is fondant – you should use a glaze of warm, sieved apricot jam to stick it to the cake. You would not use buttercream under fondant on this type of cake. You can frost on top of this with royal icing, or, you can just leave it as it is.
      i hope this helps,
      Gemma 🙂

      1. So I glaze the cake with apricot jam, then put a film of fondant icing on top, then my royal icing on top of that?

          1. Hi, Gemma.
            I followed your instructions: The Royal icing on the cake is now ‘hard:
            A great success, I also kept the cake in an airtight container in our front porch, which is cold. Many many thanks.

  6. Hi Gemma could you tell if I can freeze this royal icing as I’m doing cookies for my grandchildren but don’t want them until Xmas but just like being organised x also do I just add a touch of colouring to colour it thank you for your help

  7. Hi Gemma, I am making a Rocky Road cake for a birthday in a few weeks and wondered if this is the best icing to use to cover it? Or should I use an alternative such as buttercream or whipped ganache? Just not sure on what would work best. Thank you, love all of your recipes!

    1. Hi Natalie,
      the suggestion for this will be on the pack of powder.
      As a guide:
      4 cups (480g/17ozs) powdered sugar
      3 Tablespoons meringue powder
      9–10 Tablespoons room temperature water
      Do add the water slowly – just enough to get the icing to the correct consistency for your recipe, it is really easy to make it too wet, and hard to correct it.
      I hope this helps,
      Gemma 🙂

    1. Hi Violet. A bain marie is for a hot water bath. It’s used for cooking delicate foods like custards and terrines to create a gentle and uniform heat around the food. You usually use two metal bowls, one larger to hold the hot water in, and the smaller one with the mixture that needs to be cooked gently and not under direct heat.

    1. Your schedule should work for you. Note TIPS here: Royal icing will begin to set after one hour, forming a nice skin. After 4-6 hours, the icing will harden completely — holding whatever form you give it while decorating.

      Hope this is of help and you get on well!
      Best, Gemma

  8. Hi Gemma can I ask I want to cover my Christmas cake with royal icing marble effect do u have a recipe to make royal icing thinner to pour on my marble effect , I know u put drops of colour in the jug before pouring

  9. Hey Gemma! I cannot make up my mind if to cover a cake with royal or buttercream icing. I am from the tropical climate and wondering if buttercream icing will melt if I have to travel far with the cake..that’s the main reason I want to do royal icing. Advise please

    1. Hi Timona. Yes, buttercream icing will melt in a warm environment. Not right away but it will start to soften and is best kept in an airconditioned environment. Royal icing will do well in a warm place, as it actually sets after some time. I hope this helps.

  10. Hi Gemma, I love all of your recipes and they are undoubtedly successful..
    A quick question is that.. can I make drips for a cake using this royal icing recipe? I actually want to make a gold drip by painting it. Will it run down good enough and harden enough to paint?

    1. Hi Haeshin. Royal icing is not of pouring consistency, unfortunately. But you can probably pipe it like it’s dripping. Yes, this hardens, as it’s often used to pipe sugar cookies. Perhaps a runny ganache will give you what you have in mind. I hope this helps.

    1. Hi claire,
      I have not gone down this path! The reason is that there was a big trend a couple of years back and I decided it was well covered.
      Any time we use gelatin in a recipe it causes great confusion – though I do not find it tricky to work with – it can be for people who use the vegetable sourced alternatives. I will pop it on my list again and see if I can make it a little easier. Thank you for the suggestion,
      Gemma 🙂

  11. Hi Gemma, I once tried covering a cake with royal icing over a butter cream crumb coat and it was a disaster. The RI melted. I guess that’s coz of the fat in the butter cream reacting with the RI. What would be the best coating beneath RI to cover a cake, other than marzipan? Will it work to coat the cake with apricot syrup and simply put the RI covering over that?

    1. Hi Dora,
      yes, that would be a disaster for sure. buttercream makes a great crumb coat for fondant icing, and indeed for a further layer of buttercream.
      How you ice a cake with Royal icing depends on the type of cake you are frosting. A rich fruit cake will need a layer of marzipan/frangipane.
      A lighter cake can be frosted by applying a thin layer about 1/4 inch thick allow it to dry, then you decorate over this. It is your foundation. take your time with it, use an offset spatula if you have one, it will make the job a lot easier.
      Gemma 🙂

  12. Can I cover a cake with royal icing and then cover it with fondant?. I’m planing to make a Christmas fruit cake I was recommended to use royal icing instead of Buttercream, but being as it’s a birthday cake would it be OK to cover it with fondant after? Also using royal icing as a filling and to cover it

  13. Can I use royalnicing directly to decorate cupcakes and also the loose consistency icing for cake pops?

  14. Hi Gemma,
    I’m planning on making a birthday cake for my husband. I was wondering if I can use this recipe for piping “Happy Birthday”? If so, should I reduce the recipe by half or further?

    1. Yes, you can use this for that, Rachel. If you are only using it for piping the greeting, then I suggest you make only a fourth or a third of what the recipe requires.

  15. Hi, thanks so much for this recipe! My cake layers are frozen. i would like to ice w/royal icing then refreeze. Is that a mistake? Can I do it? Thanks again.

    1. Hi Marilee,

      Sorry for my late reply. I think that is ok but I’m not sure the purpose of freezing them. Are you making them in advance? it would be best if they didn’t get frozen so the cake stays nice and soft.

      Hope this helps,

  16. Hiya can I make iceing with iceing sugar and caster sugar and bicarbonate and soda egg milk flour
    Please help me

  17. Hello Gemma Please can I use Ganache under royal icing ? I want to fully cover my cake with Royal icing so can I use ganache as my frosting ?

    1. Hi Ayisha. You will need to place something between the ganache and royal icing because the latter needs to be applied to a dry surface. So, yes, it can be done, but it will be dreadfully experienced.

  18. Hi can you please tell me how much ingredients I need for a 12 x 12 inch 5 inch deep (square) sponge cake I made one of your cakes before and my wife loved it so I want to make her a 12 inch cake for our wedding anniversary on the 17th. Thanks.

    1. Hi Patrick. An additional half recipe of royal icing should cover a 12 x 12 x 5 cake. If you want to be more generous with it, you can double the recipe. I hope this helps.

    1. Hi. You need to coat the cake prior to applying royal icing on it. It does not have to be buttercream. It can be marzipan, fondant, and sometimes a syrup. This is done to seal the moisture in the cake and prevent if from going dry. I hope this helps.

        1. Hi Gloria. If by mentoring, you mean answering your questions about baking, then yes! I won’t be able to chat though as I literally need to answer thousands of questions here, in Facebook and Youtube. Thank you for being here.

        1. In theory, yes, but in practice, it depends on how long you are storing the cake, the temperature where it is stored, etc.
          The buttercream will bleed into the royal icing, discoloring it, and making it unpleasant.
          I hope this helps,
          Gemma 🙂

  19. Hello Gemma.
    I don’t have lemon in my pantry. Can I just leave it out while making the icing or is it necessary?

    1. Hi Alexa. Once you’ve mixed the ingredients in a recipe, there is no turning back. Swiss meringue buttercream contains butter, while royal icing does not. So you can’t convert it into the other. However you can substitute one for the other if used as cake or cupcake frosting, but not for cookies as that would be more applicable to royal icing. I hope this helps.

  20. Hi Gemma, so I’ve long been searching for the best royal icing recipe and this time I decided to try out your recipe and it was amazing, one of the best batch I have ever whipped up. I halved all the ingredients and the icing had perfect consistency and was so easy to handle and decorate. Thank you so much, this is definitely going to be my go-to recipe henceforth. 🙂

    1. Hi Martina. Royal icing when piped on biscuits or cookies, will set in about 15-30 minutes forming a thin crust on the surface, but it is still wet underneath. If applied thinly, it would take around 4-6 hours for it to dry completely.

  21. Hi Gemma, it’s new year’s eve here and I was desperately looking for an easy recipe for my sponge cake and I found this!!!!! Perfect timing- can’t wait to make it!!!

    1. Hi Doris,
      use 1lb/480g of powdered/icing sugar to 3 tablespoons of meringue powder. You mix this with 135ml/9 tablespoons of warm water, adding this slowly until you get the right consistency. You can add a little more water if you feel it is too thick. Just take it easy and all will be well.
      I hope this is of help to you,
      Gemma 🙂

  22. Hi Gemma. The recipe I have for fruitcake uses almond paste as a base for the royal icing. Do you recommend this? If so, should I use flour or powdered sugar to prevent the almond paste from sticking?

  23. Hi Gemma, Ive not done a xmas cake in 20 years and referred to my old recipe for icing, mine included icing sugar, glycerine, lemon eggs and rosewater..I cant find rosewater over here or order in a hurry, Im thinking, we can survive without it, what do you think?

  24. Hi Gemma. Merry Christmas. I want to ice my Christmas cake, but the icing I need for that is a rolled icing. Do you have a video or a recipe for that? xx

        1. Hi Jo,
          there are two types of icing to go on a heavy fruit cake. Royal icing is more traditional. It is the same as the one I show you here but it is usually made a bit thicker, which means adding more icing sugar until it is just right for you. A little lemon juice will help to keep it white.
          I hope this helps,
          Gemma 🙂

  25. Hi Gemma,
    Its a give a pleasure to watch ur videos with sharing each and every small details related to baking.

    Can you give the subsitute of egg white for royal icing ?

    I do not egg as am vegetarian.

  26. Hie gemma ,thank you for the easy recipes am frm zimbabwe .i wld rilly wnt to knoe if i can put this royal icing for those matured fruit cakes ..will the royal icing last for a long tym

  27. Hi Gemma, Just ran onto your site and so far I love it, I may try several of your recipes.
    However I have a couple of questions. would the Royal Icing for cakes harden to much on a cake?
    I have never seen a cake with a hard icing and I use royal icing for my cookies and in my opinion its to hard for a cake.
    Or is it that the way you make your royal icing for cakes not harden as much?

    1. Royal Icing has been used for centuries in Europe And xmas cakes and wedding cakes have been forever famous for royal icing. Its rare to find on biscuit (cookies) In UK however.

  28. Hello Gemma,
    I want to thank you for your services.
    I want to know if vinegar could be used instead of lemon juice.

        1. Hi Nash! The purpose of lemon juice is different here. Rather than flavor, it makes the egg whites more stable. You can add a splash of vanilla extract if you’d like. Gemma 😊

  29. Hi Gemma,

    like your explanation. can i pls have a quick reply as tomorrow im gonna make royal icing. im gonna make with egg whites, so should i store the left over icing in the fridge> ? or at the room temp>> AS ITS MADE WITH EGG WHITES? pls. explain.

  30. Good day Gemma,
    How are you and thank you for the lovely recipes. Please I will like to know if I must use marzipan under royal icing. Can I just apply the royal icing directly to the cake?
    Thank you.

        1. I hear what you are saying and technically yes you can add granulated sugar to the egg whites but just note you will be creating more of a meringue that way. You might not get the exact same results as I did.

          Hope this makes sense,

  31. Hi Gemma, First off, thank you for your channel. I have learnt to make so may yummy treats for my family. Your measurements are precise, and your substitutes really help when some ingredients (like fruit) are not available. Thanks for this recipe! I made royal icing for the first time ever and I love it! I did use my hand to mix and got the same thick consistency. I was done in 10 minutes or so total. My sous chef (6yo) is a fan too!

    1. I’m thrilled to hear that! Thanks so much for trying it out and letting me know 🙂

      Tell your 6 year old I’m looking for a culinary assistant that I can pay in cookies.


  32. Hey Gemma! I am a beginner btw. I was wondering, which recipe would you recommend for icing a cake? Which one won’t melt completely? Also, how do you store a cake? Do you put it in the fridge or …? 😉 Thanks!

    1. Hi there,
      I think what matters is where you live. Some places are really hot and will need you to store the cake in the fridge up to serving time. What you use to frost cake matters too, and this too depends on where you live and what you have available to you. I could write a thesis on this, a little more information from you will really help.
      Where do you live, what are the ingredients you have, do you use dairy, eggs etc. Take a look at these recipes ( that will help,
      Gemma 🙂

    1. Hi there,
      If you mean a blender then you would be best to use a wooden spoon and elbow grease. The bowl of a blender does not allow the butter to aerate.
      A little hard work will do it for you, that is how it was made prior to electric kitchen appliances,
      Gemma 🙂

  33. Hi, when using the royal icing, can you use fondant icing as a base or must it be marzipan? I’m making a wedding cake and want t to make a chocolate cake so I’m not sure what to use beneath the royal icing. Thanks!

    1. Hi Victoria,
      I can see by your email that you are probably in thr UK. Marzipan is the traditional covering for a heavy fruit cake when applying a finish with Royal Icing. This combination was used to preserve the cake too, and the weight/texture of this cake would easily take the weight of the marzipan and the royal icing. That may be the issue for you. The combined mix is heavy.
      Generally for a lighter cake you would use buttercream as a crumb layer and then cover with the fondant as a finish. I know this can be a bit nerve-wracking, but unless your chocolate cake is really firm I think it will suffer.
      sorry, I do know this is not much help. See too this one:
      Let me know if you think I can help further,
      Gemma 🙂

  34. Hi Gemma my name is Wendy and am from Belize where it’s hard to find lemon. Will lime juice work to put in egg white for royal icing? Love your shows

  35. HI GEMMA!


    1. Hi Tina,

      If you want a thick frosting like buttercream so you can decorate then I’m not sure what to suggest except for swiss meringue but that also is temperamental in humid climates.

      It might be best if you just decorate in a glaze make of powdered sugar and a little water.

      Hope this helps,

  36. Hi miss Gemma gud noon. Is the royal icing needs to be placed in the ref. How long will it last if i decorate it in a cupcake without a ref.

    1. Hi Glynn,
      No! Royal icing does not go into the fridge. At room temperature it hardens over time. This icing would not generally be used for cupcakes. A simple water icing would work well for you, this can be left at room temperature too. This is just powdered sugar, mixed with warm water or milk, very little at a time until it is right.
      A fudge frosting, like this one ( would well too, and can be made as a vanilla frosting, a chocolate frosting, coffee flavored etc.
      I hope this is of help to you,
      Gemma 🙂

  37. I made this icing on Monday and used it straight away. It was easy to make and easy to work with. However, today is Friday ands it still has not hardened. Any ideas please?

    1. Hi there,
      Are you living in a humid place? That is often the problem with this. You need a cool dry environment for this to dry out. The powdered sugar in the recipe attracts the moisture in the air. That is all I can think of here, other than that it should form a ‘skin’ in a day or so, and harden over a few days.
      I hope this resolves for you,
      Gemma 🙂

      1. I am in Florida but humidity is low right now. I am thinking of heating the oven on low, turning it off and after a while putting the cake in there. What do you think?

        1. Hi Ian,
          I think that will work, but really low, about 70C/140F would be warm enough, I sometimes use that as a proofing temperature if I am rushing a bake of bread.
          I am wondering why it did not set for you though, I have not had that happen to me given the measurements being right.
          I think you can try it, I hope it works for you, I have my fingers crossed!
          Gemma 🙂

          1. Hi Ms Gemma good night thank you for your channel I have one question do I need to put the egg white over the heat are can use them the way they’re and how many eggs do I need thank you again God bless you ????.

            1. Hi Diana,
              In Ireland, here in the US and in many other places eggs are not regarded as a risky food. I have never heated the egg whites to make Royal icing, we did not do this at home. So, the important thing is to know about egg safety where you live, then all will be well.
              Happy baking,
              Gemma 🙂

  38. Your all recipies are really good. Can you plz teach to make simple black forest cake for wedding anniversary

  39. I am looking on the website for the royal icing made with the meringue powder. Can you help me I don’t seem to find it. I want to make royal icing for cookies with meringue powder instead of egg whites. Thanks so much

  40. Great items from you, man. I’ve have in mind your stuff prior to and you’re just too great.
    I actually like what you’ve acquired here, really like
    what you are saying and the way during which you are saying it.
    You are making it entertaining and you continue to take
    care of to stay it wise. I can not wait to
    learn far more from you. That is really a great website.

  41. Hi Gemma,

    Ii am from Egypt and really like your videos I got very useful info as well plus you are really adorable 🙂
    I have only on question can I reduce the sugar quantities as I thing this will be very sweetie for my taste and if possible what is the reduction ration.

    Thank you

  42. Hi! I have meringue powder in my pantry.., how much would I add to this recipe in exchange for the egg whites…??

  43. Hi Gemma!
    Im from srilanka.. I always watching your videos. And really thank you ???????? for your lovely recipes..????????‍????????????????.. i got lots of knowledge as well as experience from them.. i love the way of your cooking and your beautiful smile ????.. keep it up sister.. God bless you and happy Christmas ????

    1. Hi Jeannette,
      This is a matter of using aquafaba to make the icing. If oyu are not familiar with this you need to google it, it is really useful for all your baking needs.
      Some meringue powders are egg free too and can be used for this type of recipe,
      Gemma 🙂

  44. Hi Gemma,

    You’ve mentioned using aquafaba instead of eggs in the recipe above. Could you make a separate video for that one pls?
    Because I tried making aquafaba from fresh boiled chickpeas (not canned chickpea liquid) and it didn’t workout as expected.


    1. Hi Cheryl,
      This is on my to do list. The ration of water to chick peas matters for this. It is so much easier using the can. You will need about 5 cups of water to 1 pound of beans/chick peas, they need to be rinsed well, soaked, and then cooked in the soaking water, it is a long process.
      We will get to it, I hope you master it too,
      Gemma 🙂

  45. Hi Gemma. In your video you mentioned that you would put the information of using meringue powder instead of egg whites. I’m allergic to eggs so I that’s why I use the meringue powered instead. I’m going to make the icing for your sugar cookie recipe but I’m not sure how much to add. I’ve searched your site but can’t find the information. Can you please tell me how much powder to use for the royal icing for decorating cookies?

    1. Hi Carmen,

      So if you are making icing to decorate cookies you will need it thinner that this one. you need this one . If you want a vegan version you can replace the eggs with aquafaba. I haven’t tried it for icing but I’m guessing it will work.

      Otherwise you could just do powdered sugar and a tiny amount of water.

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About Us

Meet Gemma

About Us

Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, and I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere! No matter your skills, I have you covered. Sign up for my FREE weekly emails and join millions of other Bold Bakers in the community for new recipes, baking techniques, and more every week!

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