This royal icing is whipped up with a simple mixture of egg whites, powdered sugar, and vanilla. It stays stable and shiny for days, tastes delicious, and is fit for royalty!
What Is Royal Icing?
Royal icing is an egg white-based confection typically used to decorate cookies. It tastes sweet and vanilla-y, with a fluffy texture. There are three different consistencies of royal icing: stiff, piping, and flooding. Stiff icing is ideal for decorating details, while the thinner piping and flooding icings are used to create basic designs. Meringue powder is also sometimes used in place of the raw egg whites, but we prefer this version without any stabilizers.
Royal icing earned its name from… you guessed it — royalty! This icing dates back to the 1600s, when it was simply known as “egg white icing.” It became “royal” in 1840 when it was used to decorate Queen Victoria’s wedding cake. If royalty loves it, so do we!
Royal Icing Vs. Frosting Vs. Meringue
What’s the difference between royal icing, frosting, and meringue, you may ask? Due to its high sugar content, royal icing dries harder than frosting or meringue, and it contains no butter like most frostings do. But isn’t royal icing basically meringue? Yes, actually! The only deviation is that royal icing contains more sugar than meringue and can be altered in consistency, whereas meringue cannot.
How To Make Royal Icing
Are you intimidated by complicated recipes? Well, rest assured — this royal icing is crazy easy and comes together in only five minutes!
- Beat the egg whites: Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites until they are foamy.
- Add the sugar and vanilla: Reduce the speed and gradually add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Increase the speed again and beat until the mixture is shiny and fluffy.
- Decorate: Add food coloring if desired, then transfer the icing to a piping bag and decorate away!
Hot tip: Try a new flavor and swap the vanilla extract for almond extract.
Tips & Tricks For Perfect Royal Icing
You don’t have to be an artist or baking connoisseur to create magic with royal icing. Here are our top tips for an icing that’s easy to decorate with and stays shiny for days.
- Sift the icing sugar. For a smooth icing, pass the powdered sugar through a sieve before adding it to the egg whites.
- Avoid over-mixing. Keep a close eye on the icing as you whip it. Over-beaten egg whites contain too many air bubbles, which may ruin the appearance of the icing. There’s no need to beat the mixture to stiff peaks — the icing is done as soon as it’s fluffy and shiny.
- Adjust the consistency. This royal icing can easily be thinned down to piping or flooding consistency. Whisk in a few drops of water at a time until you reach your preferred consistency.
- Use gel food coloring. Avoid liquid coloring, which may ruin the consistency of the icing. Gel colors are usually more vivid, as well.
- Portion out the icing for coloring. If you’re planning to go all-out on decoration, test out each color in a small bowl to find your perfect shade. This is the time to show your inner artist!
- Keep the icing covered. Royal icing sets within minutes, so cover it until you’re ready to pipe. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the icing to keep it from drying out.
Do you want to take plain sugar cookies or gingerbread cookies up a notch? Use these techniques with our royal icing to produce stunning designs for holidays, birthday parties, and any other special occasions!
- Outlining: For picture-perfect decoration, start with outlining the design on the edges of the cookie with a small round piping tip. Add a few drops of water to the stiff icing to reach piping consistency, then outline away.
- Flooding: Flooding simply means filling in the center of an outline with a thinner icing. For a marbled or swirled effect, try the wet-on-wet technique. Flood with one color, then pipe another color onto the wet surface. Use a toothpick to swirl the colors together.
- Detailing: This is where the fun begins! Work in small sections, allowing the surface icing to dry before piping details on top of it. The design can be as simple or elaborate as you wish — invest in a piping set for endless design options.
Hot tip: Add a pop of glitz and glamor with sprinkles, edible glitter, or edible pearls. Lightly press them into the icing before it dries, then allow to set.
If you decorated all your cookies and still have royal icing left, don’t toss it! Royal icing stays good for a few days longer when stored properly — and who doesn’t need an excuse to make more cookies?
- Storing: Transfer the icing to an airtight container and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface. Close the container and refrigerate for up to three days.
- Reviving: If the icing becomes too stiff, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it, then give it a vigorous whisk. Wondering if your royal icing is still good? Check the texture. If it appears grainy or clumpy even after mixing, throw it out. All it takes is five minutes to make fresh icing!
More Simple Sweet Treats
- Powdered Sugar Glaze — A simple two ingredient glaze to fancy-up baked goods
- Chocolate Ganache — Silky smooth and decadent
- Instant Pot Dulce De Leche — Rich condensed milk caramel
- Panna Cotta — Vanilla custard topped with raspberry sauce
- Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they are foamy.
- Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the confectioner's sugar and vanilla.
- Increase the speed again and beat until the mixture is shiny.
- Add food coloring if desired, then transfer the icing to a piping bag and decorate away!