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Easy Royal Icing for Cake Decorating

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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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4.12 from 26 votes
Easy Royal Icing For Decorating Cake
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!

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Gemma Stafford
Ingredients
  • 4 (5 1/2 oz/160g) egg whites* (egg sub in notes)
  • 6 cups (24oz/690g) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
Instructions
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Gradually add sifted sugar spoonful by spoonful followed by the lemon juice.

  4. Beat at high speed until thickened.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Use it straight away or store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. This will be enough to cover 1 large cake.

Watch the Recipe Video!

Recipe Notes

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

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Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, and I’m passionate about sharing my years of experience to show you how to make game-changing baking recipes with over-the-top results! Join more than 1 Million other Bold Bakers in the community for new video recipes every week!

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59 Comments

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  1. nazzy on September 16, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    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.

    • Gemma Stafford on September 17, 2019 at 8:47 am

      Hi,

      I personally keep it at room temp so it’s easy to work with. The fridge will make it hard.

      Hope this helps,
      Gemma.

  2. Sharon on September 5, 2019 at 10:43 am

    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.

    • Gemma Stafford on September 7, 2019 at 12:28 pm

      Remember royal icing hardens and could easily crack. To avoid that from happening, marzipan is best placed over the cake prior to applying royal icing.

  3. Crissie on August 30, 2019 at 2:27 am

    Hello Gemma,

    Can i use cream of tartar instead of the lemom juice?

    Thanks

    • Gemma Stafford on August 30, 2019 at 9:03 am

      Yes, you can use cream of tartar instead of lemon juice as they serve the same purpose: to stabilize your royal icing so it can keep its shape. I hope this helps.

  4. Tigris on August 23, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    Hi Gemma, I don’t need a lot of the royal Icing, so can I half the ingredients to make less icing?

    • Gemma Stafford on August 23, 2019 at 5:19 pm

      Absolutely! Just make sure to half all ingredients. Happy baking! Gemma 😊

  5. Talia on August 10, 2019 at 6:48 am

    Hey Gemma, do you have a royal icing recipe that uses granulated sugar instead? Thanks!

    • Gemma Stafford on August 10, 2019 at 2:55 pm

      Hi Talia,

      I don’t as it doesn’t combine into the same way with the other ingredients as powdered sugar does. It will be grainy.
      Best,
      Gemma.

      • Talia on August 10, 2019 at 9:19 pm

        Can I just cook the granulated sugar and the eggs over a bain marie? Would that dissolve the sugar?

        • Gemma Stafford on August 12, 2019 at 8:05 pm

          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,
          Gemma.

  6. Katunge on July 26, 2019 at 7:37 am

    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!

    • Gemma Stafford on July 26, 2019 at 11:36 am

      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.

      Best,
      Gemma.

  7. Sunshine on June 7, 2019 at 7:30 am

    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!

    • Gemma Stafford on June 8, 2019 at 4:05 am

      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 (https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/?s=frosting) that will help,
      Gemma 🙂

  8. dr biswaranjan manna on June 3, 2019 at 2:21 am

    hi i am hiya can i use mixer grinder for blending the butter in buttercream ?

    • Gemma Stafford on June 3, 2019 at 9:01 am

      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 🙂

  9. Reah on April 23, 2019 at 5:32 am

    Hi which recipe do you recommend using for piping rosettes and which tip do you think is best.

    Btw I’m a beginner.

    • Gemma Stafford on April 23, 2019 at 10:53 am

      Hi, for that i would us a butter cream or swiss meringue 😀 Enjoy!

  10. Victoria on April 17, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    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!

    • Gemma Stafford on April 18, 2019 at 3:36 am

      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: https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/naked-wedding-cake/.
      Let me know if you think I can help further,
      Gemma 🙂

  11. Wendy on March 30, 2019 at 9:53 am

    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

    • Gemma Stafford on March 30, 2019 at 5:25 pm

      Hi Wendy,

      Yes Lime will work just fine 🙂

      Best,
      Gemma.

  12. TINA on March 28, 2019 at 7:00 am

    HI GEMMA!
    I WILL BE MAKING CUPCAKES AND CAKES FOR OUR LOCAL FARMERS MARKET. THEY DO NOT ALLOW BUTTERCREAM ICING/FROSTING. DO YOU HAVE ANY RECOMMENDATIONS AS TO WHAT I CAN USE IN PLACE OF BUTTERCREAM? ALSO, IT WILL NEED TO HOLD UP WELL IN HEAT. I LIVE IN UPSTATE NY AND ALTHOUGH IT DOESNT GET TOO HOT IT STILL CAN BE VERY HUMID!

    THANK YOU!

    • Gemma Stafford on March 28, 2019 at 5:43 pm

      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,
      Gemma.

  13. Vamshi on March 26, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    Four egg whites comes around 120 gm but you wrote 160

    • Gemma Stafford on March 27, 2019 at 4:04 pm

      Ah, thank you for letting me know!

  14. Glynn on February 12, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    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.

    • Gemma Stafford on February 13, 2019 at 5:41 am

      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 (https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/best-ever-chocolate-cake/) 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 🙂

  15. Gulliver247 on December 14, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    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?

    • Gemma Stafford on December 15, 2018 at 4:45 am

      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 🙂

      • Ian Bryant on December 15, 2018 at 4:16 pm

        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?

        • Gemma Stafford on December 16, 2018 at 7:02 am

          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 🙂

          • Ian Bryant. on December 16, 2018 at 4:00 pm

            It has worked perfectly!

          • Diana Knight on January 11, 2019 at 7:57 pm

            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 😊.

            • Gemma Stafford on January 12, 2019 at 3:32 am

              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 🙂



  16. Aaina on December 13, 2018 at 4:27 pm

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

    • Gemma Stafford on December 14, 2018 at 7:23 am

      Hi there Aaina,
      I have this on my list to do, but not just yet! (https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/best-ever-chocolate-cake/) this recipe may suit your need, with the addition of cherries. It is light, but perhaps too heavy for a fresh cream filling, which is what a black forest gateaux would normally have.
      I hope this helps,
      Gemma 🙂

  17. Sharon on December 12, 2018 at 11:17 am

    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

    • Gemma Stafford on December 13, 2018 at 2:48 am

      Hi Sharon,
      I have never used meringue powder, though I understand it does a great job for royal icing. There are a number of techniques for this, and you will find a good one here (https://www.wilton.com/royal-icing/WLRECIP-50.html). Wilton also supply this powder.
      I hope this is of help,
      Gemma 🙂

  18. sakarmarbo.com on December 12, 2018 at 8:57 am

    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
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    • Gemma Stafford on December 12, 2018 at 3:39 pm

      Thank you so much for the kind words about the site, thanks so much for stopping by 😀

  19. Heba Ahmed on December 12, 2018 at 5:50 am

    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

    • Gemma Stafford on December 12, 2018 at 3:55 pm

      Hi there, I am delighted to hear that! You can reduce the amount of sugar but it will change the texture so i would not advise that.

  20. Sonia on December 11, 2018 at 6:14 pm

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

    • Gemma Stafford on December 12, 2018 at 7:49 pm

      Hi Sonia,

      It would be around 3 tablespoons. There should be directions on the tub. Basically add enough sugar until you get the consistency you wish.

      Best,
      Gemma.

  21. Shashikala Athukorala on December 11, 2018 at 4:57 am

    🥖🥨🥐

    • Gemma Stafford on December 11, 2018 at 4:57 pm

      😀 Hi there!

  22. Shashikala Athukorala on December 11, 2018 at 4:55 am

    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 🎄

    • Gemma Stafford on December 11, 2018 at 10:42 am

      Thank you so much for the lovely message, keep on baking and happy holidays 😀

  23. Sonia on December 10, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    Can I replace eggs whites with meringue powder ? And if I can, how much ??
    Thx

    • Gemma Stafford on December 11, 2018 at 5:17 pm

      Hi there, i would not suggest that for this recipe as the egg whites are what harden and preserve the inside of the cake keeping it moist. Happy holidays!

  24. Jeannette on December 9, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    Hi, do you have vegan royal icing.? Thanks 🙏GOD bless you

    Jano.mikhail@icloud.com

    • Gemma Stafford on December 10, 2018 at 4:09 am

      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 🙂

  25. Cheryl on December 9, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    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.

    Thanks

    • Gemma Stafford on December 10, 2018 at 2:39 am

      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 🙂

  26. Carmen D Hudson on December 9, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    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?

    • Gemma Stafford on December 12, 2018 at 7:52 pm

      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.
      Best,
      Gemma.

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