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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.