Royal Icing

Has anyone besides me fallen for beautifully frosted cookies? Maybe purchased one of the cookie cutter sets from Williams Sonoma with your child’s favorite princesses or Star Wars characters or super heroes because they would be so fun to make? And they would make your kids so happy?

Here’s my experience with it. Please do comment below and share with me if you can relate.

Royal Icing
Nailed it!

So the top photo is what was pictured on the box of cookie cutters that I bought. I so fell for it and was excited to make these cookies for my kids. You see, I have this thing with the Hulk. If any of you grew up in the early 80s, you may remember the Incredible Hulk tv show? I loved it, but I was so scared when the Hulk got mad and turned green. I vividly remember going behind the sofa to hide. Any time I saw the Hulk, I would laugh and feign fear, and my kids got a kick out of me “getting scared”.

Anyway, I saw the box, thought it would be amazing, and then actually tried it myself. And the bottom picture is what happened. You can see some where I genuinely seemed to try to decorate the cookies well and some where I just gave up, particularly that upper right Spider Man… clearly I knew at that point that I had failed and was just done. We served these to guys who came over for Ryan’s Bible study, and they were truly confused. Every year when this photo pops up on my FB memories, I laugh out loud.

Royal Icing

Clearly you can see why I may have thrown the idea of beautifully frosted cookies out the door, right? While I still have the Super Heroes, I have never again tried to frost them. But I did try pumpkins and ghosts this Halloween, and I did it! So I tried Christmas trees and challenged myself to try some candy canes with two colors, and they all turned out pretty enough to give to teachers.

Here’s what I learned…

  1. Don’t use whatever recipe is in the box of Williams Sonoma. I think I threw that away the night the above photo was taken.
  2. Piping an outline is the key. You need it to catch the frosting. I did not know that.
  3. Once you pipe, the rest is super easy! Just thin the frosting and fill it in the outline. Kind of like coloring.
  4. Let it dry overnight.
  5. This cookie recipe is the best.

Frosted cookies are perfectly delicious for at least a week. The icing seals the moisture in the cookies and keeps them fresh. We haven’t resisted eating them after a week, so they may be good even longer than that. Good luck testing it.

Royal icing keeps in a tightly sealed container for at least 30 hours (I outlined all of mine, filled in a few, had to run out and couldn’t finish until the next night… frosting was fine). You may need to adjust the consistency by adding more water or sugar, but it’s ok if you outline them and need a break. This isn’t a quick project, so you can spread it out over two days.

Ok, please comment and tell me I’m not alone with cookie fails…

Royal Icing

Royal Icing

Course Dessert


  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp. meringue powder
  • 6 tbsp. water plus more for thinning
  • gel or powder food coloring
  • cookies


  1. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water together on medium-low speed for about 5 minutes, or until it is not shiny. At this point, the icing will likely still be too stiff for piping. Add a tiny bit of additional water and mix until incorporated. Continue to do so until your icing is the right consistency for piping the outline… not too stiff, but not runny either. That’s helpful, right?! It’s better to be too thick than too thin. It should come off your beater and smooth out in 10-15 seconds. If you’re unsure, put some in your decorating bag and give it a try. If it’s difficult to squeeze or breaks apart as you pipe out a sample line, it needs more water. Mine was probably a bit too thick still on these trees (you can see where I stopped and started since it was so stiff).

  2. Once you have the desired consistency for piping the outline, add the coloring. The liquid squeeze bottles from the grocery store add liquid and will thin your icing. Gel coloring will not. Powder coloring is my favorite, but it’s harder to find. Add a little bit, mix it in, and add more until you get the desired color. If you’re making multiple colors, divide your white icing into various bowls that have tight-fitting lids. The meringue powder causes the icing to harden pretty quickly, so you need to keep it all covered when you’re not using it.
  3. Fit a pastry bag with a piping tip (I use a #2) and fill the bag with the icing. If you have a disposable bag that comes with the clasps to seal it at the top, this is the time to use it to prevent air from entering and hardening your icing. Outline the edges of your cookies. Set the bag of icing, tip down, in a cup with a bit of water in it when you are not actively using it, to prevent it from hardening inside the tip.
    Royal Icing
  4. Once all the outlines are done, transfer the remaining icing to a bowl. Thin it out, adding a little bit of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon and quickly smooths out in the bowl. If you add too much water, just add more powdered sugar to thicken it up.
    Royal Icing
  5. Cover the bowl and let it stand for about 5 minutes. Air bubbles from your stirring will rise to the top. Either tap the bowl on a table or counter a couple of times to pop the air bubbles or give it a gentle stir (you don’t want to incorporate more air bubbles!)
  6. Slowly spoon the thinned icing onto the cookies, smoothing to the edges and adding more as needed. Don’t flood them or they will flow over your outline barrier. If there are any air bubbles remaining, grab a toothpick and use it to pop them (a good job for kids if they want to help!) If using sprinkles, add them now while the icing is wet.
    Royal Icing
  7. Allow the cookies to set overnight or at least 8 hours.
  8. If you’re super fancy and want to pipe designs on top of the frosted cookies, you’ll need to set aside some of the thicker icing used for outlining. After the cookies have set overnight, decorate designs to your heart’s delight.

3 thoughts on “Royal Icing

    1. I think JoAnn’s in the Cale decorating section. I have the one Wilton makes… nothing fancy.

  1. Hahaha those superhero cookies are awesome. Appreciate the realness, I can never make it look even close to the pictures! Those trees look pretty darn good though… Will have to give this a try with the kids 🙂

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