Bold Baking Basics, Homemade Ingredients

How to Make Royal Icing

4.61 from 114 votes
Decorate impressive holiday cookies and cakes when you learn how to make Royal Icing with my easy Bold Baking Basics recipe!
How to make Royal Icing - Easy icing recipe for decorating cookies and cakes.

Hi Bold Bakers!

Royal icing is a really easy frosting used for decorating cakes and cookies. You know when you see those beautifully decorated cookies or gingerbread houses at Christmas? That is royal icing doing its job.

Just like a really great builder has lots of tools in his tool box, every Bold Baker needs to know how to make all kinds of frostings, fillings, and garnishes. My method for making How to Make Royal Icing is a must-have in your decorating arsenal. Besides my royal icing being super easy to make, it’s a flexible recipe that can be altered to fit either cookies OR cakes. The recipe in this article will teach you How to Make Royal Icing used mainly for cookies — but if you want to make some for decorating cakes, stay tuned, because that’s coming on Sunday with my new Bold Baking Basics video!


What is Royal Icing and What is it Used for?

This type of icing is used for different things, so it can be made either runny or stiff for its different uses. In Ireland, we use it a lot around the holidays to cover our traditional Irish Christmas Cake.

The icing itself is made of the same ingredients no matter what the use. Made of only egg whites, powdered sugar, and lemon juice, there’s a reason this icing is a baker’s best friend. When it comes to cookie decorating, it has slightly less sugar than when used for cakes. For cookies, it’s traditionally a thinner texture — which is perfect for evenly covering larger cookies. You can even add coloring to get the vibe you want.

How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing

My recipe below gives you the perfect consistency for a thinner royal icing great for decorating cookies as it can be used to get very specific, creating line-based designs or even writing.

Another way to use this thinner type of royal icing is for filling in larger areas or covering a cookie with an even shiny layer of icing. This is called “flooding” cookies. The runny icing will spread out evenly on your cookie making the finished product look like they came from a bakery. To test if you have the right consistency you should be able to pipe a line between two fingertips and it should not break.

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How Long Does It Take To Dry?

The reason royal icing is used to decorate cookies like my Gingerbread Men and Best Ever Sugar Cookies is because the icing actually drys to a smooth and shiny finish. This makes for a super professional look, like you get from bakeries. While the icing hardens, it will begin to form a skin and harden in about an hour and will be fully dry after 4-6. Don’t be too tempted by your creations if the cookies have just been iced!

Why Won’t My Royal Icing Harden?

If your royal icing is not properly firming up it may be because of the moisture in the air where you live. If this is something you run into, you can add more sugar to the icing 1/2 cup at a time until it’s a bit stiffer. After stiffening the icing a bit, you can use it as normal and it will dry.

How to Heat Treat Egg Whites

If you’re weary of using raw egg whites, you can heat treat the eggs before beating them. To do this, you simply mildly cook the eggs over a bain marie on low heat for 2-3 minutes, just until the egg whites have become warm but are not cooking. This extra step is NOT necessary but is a great method to know. Plus, with my addition of lemon juice, the acidity will take care of any lingering bacteria anyway!

How to Store Royal Icing

Once your royal icing is made, cover it with cling wrap directly on the surface of the icing to stop it from getting hard and drying out. It will keep happily for a few weeks at room temperature.

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Piping tips/tricks?

I like to think my recipe is pretty foolproof, and not just in the making! The icing itself is perfect for thin drizzling, writing, drawing, and “flooding” cookies. I myself am not a pro at decorating, and it’s the recipe here that does the work making me look like a pro.

For cakes the best way to use royal icing is with a small or large offset spatula depending on the surface are of the cake. This will create and even look. If I want to create fun texture, I use the offset to swirl and streak away. Find out how to make my Easy Royal Icing For Christmas Cake Decorating this Sunday Dec 9!

Also, don’t miss my Gingerbread Log Cabin recipe for a great way to use your freshly made royal icing!

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How to Make Royal Icing

4.61 from 114 votes
Finally take charge of all that tasty treat decorating you've wanted to do and learn How to Make Royal Icing!
Author: Gemma Stafford
Finally take charge of all that tasty treat decorating you've wanted to do and learn How to Make Royal Icing!
Author: Gemma Stafford


  • 4 (4oz/160g) egg whites
  • 4 cups (16oz/460g) icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice


  • First heat treat the egg whites if you choose to do so. Cook 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, ensuring them safe to use when raw.
  • On a stand mixer fitted with a 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 4 weeks. This will be enough to cover 1 large cake.


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Shushanik Boyajyan

Shushanik Boyajyan

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1 year ago

Hi Gemma, have been following you for a very long time. I have been baking cookies for over 40 years, but I have to say I have learned many “new” techniques from you.!! Thank you for all your wonderful recipes. I have made your cranberry orange loaf and it is just soooo DELICIOUS. One question, can I use your royal icing for piping (cookie decorating) in a zip lock with just a tiny corner snipped off. A few years back I loaned my piping kit to a friend and never got it back. ???????? Live and learn. BTW just love… Read more »

4 days ago

Hello Gemma! I love your recipes! I have a question, What can I substitute the eggs with? I am going to bake a cake for my mom tomorrow, but she doesn’t eat eggs; So I don’t know what to do for the icing.

1 month ago

Hi there – does your royal icing dry really hard? I used royal icing (not your recipe) for the first time last Christmas on my sugar cookies, and while it looked really pretty, it dried so hard that my family hated the cookies. Thanks in advance!

Shanty Niez
1 month ago

hi Gemma, i love all your cooking, today i make the chocolate chip pumpkin muffins and make my own puree based on your recipe..
Also i make the sugar cookies today.. OMG it;s soooooo good!! i never like sugar cookies before but your recipe change my min about sugar cookies 🙂 I’m trying to make this royal icing for the sugar cookies, can i store the icing at the airtight container and put on the fridge? so when i want to create with icing i can thaw? or it’s better to store at room temperature in the container?

Bethel Paws
2 months ago

Hi Gemma, should I use this same recipe for a 6 inch cake or should I divide it by two?

2 months ago

How can I make this pineapple royal icing

2 months ago

Can I use lime juice?

3 months ago

Hey Gemma! I was wondering if I can substitute the eggs? Love your recipes!❤

7 months ago

Hi Gemma, if i use cream of tartar instead of lemon juice, how much should i use?

9 months ago

Gemma, how can I thin the icing?

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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