Bold Baking Basics, Homemade Ingredients

How to Make Royal Icing

4.56 from 34 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 in 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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Watch The Recipe Video!

How to Make Royal Icing

4.56 from 34 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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  • 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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Comments & Reviews

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Diane
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Diane
11 months 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 »

Debbie
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Debbie
11 days ago

Can you add food coloring to get different colors

Andrea Hager
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Andrea Hager
15 days ago

What is my royal icing is too stiff? Do I add more lemon juice or water?

janet hayman
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janet hayman
1 month ago

Can you freeze with royal icing,,sugar cookies…how do you store them for the holiday,,how long will they store. Thank you.

Janet Hayman
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Janet Hayman
1 month ago

Gemma Hello,,I am going to do sugar cookies this holiday, and going to use your royal icing ,,,,my question is, can you freeze the cookies after decorating, or should I just layer, with parchment paper between them, and store in container. I am questioning the royal, if it would crack, from freezing. THANK YOU, Janet from OH.

Henry Thomas
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Henry Thomas
2 months ago

I tried to make this icing and it did not stiffen. It went everywhere and my wife’s cake was ruined.

Dorry
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Dorry
8 months ago

Hi Gemma,
I am using your measurements/recipe on the cupcakes. Do you know how may cupcakes I can icing with your recipe 🙂
Thanks!
Dorry

Deborah omoboye mikel
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Deborah omoboye mikel
8 months ago

so i don’t need to add glycerine to the icing

Paige
Guest
Paige
11 months ago

Hi Gemma,

I was wondering how should these royal icing sugar cookies be stored. After drying, I stacked them in an airtight container, but the problem was the decorations were sort of ruined. So then, I stored them without stacking. It took up too much spaces. Another problem—after a day or two, I discovered the icing on the cookies proned to fall apart. It was my first time making the sugar cookies for this holidays. I would like to find out a solution to my problems.

Thanks.

Member
11 months ago

Hi Gemma,
What can you do with leftover 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 a FREE profile and join millions of other Bold Bakers in the community for new dessert recipes, baking techniques, and more every week!

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