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Royal Icing

Royal icing is a holiday must, both for frosting Christmas cookies and licking straight from the spoon. It’s easy, requires just egg whites and sugar, and may make a pro decorator out of you. We even have some advice for decorating with it, if you like.

Royal icing being piped onto a cookie by a young girl being helped by her mother, surrounded by jars of sprinkles, cookie cutters, and wooden spoons.

All we want for Christmas is an easy royal icing recipe. And here it is. Just two ingredients—egg whites and sugar. And just two simple steps—mix and frost. For those whom raw egg is a no-no, such as the very young, the very old, the very sick, the very preggers, or the very finicky, be aware that this recipe contains raw eggs and should not be consumed by them.–Renee Schettler

Royal Icing FAQs

How do I color this icing?

Making multiple colors of royal icing couldn’t be easier. Figure out how many colors of icing you want and divvy up your royal icing into that number of small bowls, teacups, mugs, etc.
If using gel colors, use the tip of a toothpick to add a tiny amount of the gel to the icing, stirring it until it’s totally mixed in and you see the resulting color. Slowly add more gel, stirring well between additions, until the color has reached the desired shade. Remember, when coloring icing you can always add more color, but you can’t take it away.
If using liquid food coloring, add the coloring one drop at a time, stirring until it’s totally mixed in and you see the resulting color. Slowly add more coloring, one drop at a time, stirring well between additions, until the color has reached the desired shade. You may need to beat in a little extra confectioners’ sugar if the liquid color begins to thin down your icing.
When you’ve finished, cover the surface of the icing with plastic wrap and chill each bowl as you make it until you have all the colors you need.

How can I practice decorating with royal icing?

It can take a while to get used to icing cookies. Practice makes perfect. Always aim to make a few more than you need and enjoy the odd imperfect cookie along the way. (We’ve noticed that the cookies that are misshapen or the ones with the wiggly lines or colorful splotches taste just as good as the perfect ones.) You can also practice icing on sheets of parchment or wax paper before you commit to decorating your precious handmade cookies. Like a “tracing paper” for cooks, it helps you get a feel for it, and you can get a good idea of the pattern and the shape that you want to make before trying them on your finished cookies. Or perhaps buy a package of smooth cookies, and practice on these until you’re more confident.

Royal Icing

Royal icing being piped onto a cookie by a young girl being helped by her mother, surrounded by jars of sprinkles, cookie cutters, and wooden spoons.

Royal icing is a holiday must, both for frosting Christmas cookies and licking straight from the spoon. It’s easy, requires just egg whites and sugar, and may make a pro decorator out of you.

Harriet Hastings and Sarah Moore

Prep 10 mins

Total 10 mins

Dessert

American

24 cookies

172 kcal

No ratings yet

If using fresh egg whites

If using powdered egg whites

Make the royal icing recipe

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the paddle or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer, combine the fresh or powdered egg whites and sugar, starting slowly to avoid clouds of confectioners’ sugar covering you and your kitchen. Continue whisking until the ingredients form a thick, smooth paste that’s bright white in color and has the consistency of toothpaste, at least 5 minutes.
  • You may need to add a little water to achieve the desired consistency. Making icing is not an exact science. We often end up adding a little more water or confectioners’ sugar to get the icing to exactly the right consistency.

  • ☞ READ THE ARTICLE: HOW TO DECORATE WITH ROYAL ICING
  • Piping icing is smooth and thick, a bit like the texture of toothpaste. This icing is used for adding fine detail and decoration, as on gingerbread cookies, and for piping borders, which form little “walls” around the areas of the cookie that you want to fill with the flooding icing, as on Hanukkah cookies. It has to be just soft enough to squeeze out of the piping bag, but also thick enough to hold its shape perfectly. To make it, you may need to beat just a little extra confectioners’ sugar or a few drops of water into your royal icing to achieve the right consistency for piping icing. If you don’t need to flood your cookies, just use the royal icing as-is or tint it with food coloring.
  • Medium icing shouldn’t drip or flow but rather hold its place yet still be easy to blend into the piped icing that you spread it next to.

  • Flooding icing is glossy and almost pourable. This icing is squeezed onto cookies to flood areas where a shiny, smooth effect is required. It’s well worth investing in a few small squeeze bottles to dispense the icing from; with their screw-on nozzles, they are perfect for directing the flow of flooding icing to exactly where it should be. To make it, gradually add enough water, a few drops at a time, stirring constantly, until you have a smooth, just pourable mixture that has roughly the same consistency, maybe a little thicker, as heavy cream.
  • You really need to use royal icing on the day that it’s made. If you’re not immediately using the icing, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to a few hours or, if you need, it can be stored in the fridge in piping bags or squeezy bottles. Keep in mind that the icing tends to separate a little and become less easy to handle after standing for more than just a few hours.

Serving: 1cookieCalories: 172kcal (9%)Carbohydrates: 43g (14%)Protein: 2g (4%)Fat: 1g (2%)Sodium: 25mg (1%)Potassium: 22mg (1%)Sugar: 42g (47%)Calcium: 2mgIron: 1mg (6%)

Originally published November 25, 2017

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