Cookies/ Dessert/ Frostings & Sauces

Easy Royal Icing Recipe for Sugar Cookies

December 11, 2019

This royal icing recipe with meringue powder is a delicious way to decorate cookies, cupcakes and anything you want to turn into edible works of art. It’s my favorite recipe!

Sugar Cookie Royal Icing

Whenever I see a plate of cookies, I find myself always reaching for those with chocolate or ones that are decorated with colorful icing. Royal icing is my favorite way to decorate cookies, especially my Cut-Out Sugar Cookies that can be made into shapes for every holiday or celebration. 

This sugar cookie icing is a simple recipe that every baker should know how to make. It’s commonly referred to as both royal icing and sugar cookie icing, and will definitely make an appearance this holiday season. 

You’ll love this easy royal icing recipe that’s made with only 3 ingredients and only uses one bowl. It’s easy to work with and can be turned into almost any color for decorating cookies, gingerbread houses, and more.

Sugar Cookie Royal Icing

Why I make royal icing with meringue powder

I like to use meringue powder in my royal icing recipe as I find it’s the easiest way to get a consistently smooth, white and shiny icing that is perfect for piping and icing sugar cookies. It’s affordable and can be bought in grocery stores or on Amazon.

Royal icing with meringue powder is an alternative to using raw egg whites, which can be found in other royal icing recipes. I find that both work great for decorated sugar cookies, but I prefer to use a royal icing without egg whites to eliminate any raw eggs in my cookies.

Coloring your sugar cookie icing

The basic sugar cookie icing recipe is white, but you can turn it into almost any color with the addition of food coloring. It’s best to use a gel food coloring, since you don’t want to add any additional liquid as that will change the consistency of the icing. My favorite gel colors to use can be found here

Be very careful when adding food coloring. Some brands are very strong, and a little goes a long way, so when making decorated sugar cookies I start with a tiny drop and add more until I reach my desired color. 

To make a variety of colors, start with an easy royal icing that’s white and divide it up into smaller quantities to later add your preferred colors to. Planning ahead for this will help you later on once you begin decorating your cookies.

Sugar Cookie Royal Icing

The right consistency for flooding and piping

Often times, you’ll see decorated sugar cookies with two types of royal icing. They have a piped outline, or border, that is then filled in with another color. Both types of decorations are made with royal icing, but the consistency changes depending on how you will be using your icing. 

I like to make all of my royal icing for sugar cookies into a thick, piping consistency that is perfect for outlines. The royal icing should be spreadable and has a consistency that is similar to toothpaste but blends back together when drizzled within 10 seconds. You can then add your food coloring, if desired, and any additional liquid to thin out some of the royal icing for flooding instead of piping.

How to make royal icing

To begin, make sure that any bowls and utensils you use are grease-free and clean. This is an important step to guarantee your royal icing will whip up to the right consistency. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat together the powdered sugar, meringue powder, and 9 tablespoons of water on high speed for 7 minutes.

The powdered sugar needs to be sifted, sometimes even twice, before adding to the sugar cookie icing. You want to get out any clumps to make sure the royal icing is smooth and not grainy.

After 7 minutes of beating, check the consistency of the royal icing. If the icing is thick with stiff peaks you may need to add more water, a little at a time, to thin it out. Alternatively, if it’s too thin you can add more powdered sugar. You’ll know you’ve got the right consistency when you lift the whisk and the royal icing that drips off blends back into the bowl after 5-10 seconds.

How to color and use royal icing

At this time you can add your gel food coloring or thin it out for flooding. I like to start by separating my icing into smaller portions for all the colors I am using, doing all of my piping work first and lastly thinning it out for filling. For piping this easy royal icing, I like to use special decorating bags, couplers (these are great if you want to switch tips when using the same icing color), and tips (I mostly use piping tip #3 and #2. #1 is the thinnest while #5 has the largest hole).

If using the royal icing with meringue powder for borders or for making a gingerbread house, you’ll want thick and sturdy royal icing to keep its shape and hold everything together. The consistency and colors you end up with all depends on what kind of decorations you’ll be making!

Sugar Cookie Royal Icing

How to dry royal icing

Once you’ve piped and filled your decorated sugar cookies, you’ll have to wait for the icing to dry. The sugar cookie icing needs to dry at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Depending on how thick your icing is, it may take some extra time to harden completely. Gently press on the royal icing to see if it’s firm; the surface dries out quickly but underneath it takes much longer.

Once fully dry, the decorated sugar cookies with royal icing can be stored in an airtight container. The cookies will keep at room temperature for up to a week, but are best enjoyed as soon as possible. 

With the holidays upon us, decorated sugar cookies are some of the best things to gift to friends and family. I have so much fun turning my baked goods into works of art and experimenting with new shapes and colors. Once you’ve mastered this easy royal icing recipe, you’ll be creating beautifully decorated cookies for every celebration throughout the year!

Sugar Cookie Royal Icing

Sugar Cookie Recipes

Sugar Cookie Royal Icing
Royal Icing
YIELD: 3 cups (enough for lots of cookies!)

  • 4 cups (480g) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 Tablespoons meringue powder
  • 9-12 Tablespoons room temperature water , plus more as needed for thinning
  • Gel food coloring , optional
  1. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat together powdered sugar, meringue powder, and 9 tablespoons of water on high speed for 7 minutes. If the icing is thick with stifff peaks, add more water, a little at a time (or, if it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar). It’s the right consistency if when you run a knife through the icing, or when you drizzle down some icing, it blends back together/smoothes out within about 10 seconds. Add gel food coloring, a little at a time, until desired color is achieved.

  2. Allow icing to dry completely at room temperature for about 2 hours. Once they’re dry, place them in an airtight container. They will keep at room temperature for up to a week. If you’re giving them away as a gift, I recommend giving them as fresh as possible.

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