If you’re looking for an easy royal icing recipe that you can use for outlining and flooding your sugar cookies, then you’ll love this recipe. With just four basic ingredients and a simple process, you can easily ice your sugar cookies with a beautiful, smooth finish.
You don’t need to be an experienced cookie decorator to make pretty, decorated sugar cookies. With a good royal icing recipe, a little practice, and a steady hand, you can learn how to flood sugar cookies for a clean, professional look on your cutout cookies. My easy royal icing recipe tastes as good as it looks, drying to a lovely sheen, while staying soft underneath so that your cookies taste as delicious as they are lovely.
This post concludes my short series on perfect sugar cookies. So if you’re in need of a great sugar cookie recipe, be sure to read Perfect Chocolate Sugar Cookies and Perfect Vanilla Sugar Cookies.
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- Powdered Sugar. Sweetens and thickens the royal icing, while the fine texture makes a very smooth icing.
- Meringue Powder. Meringue powder is made of pasteurized, dried egg whites, so it takes the place of raw liquid egg whites that are used in traditional royal icing recipes. It creates a stable and sturdy icing that dries quickly on top of cookies. Meringue powder also has a long shelf life, so even if you only use it occasionally, you can store it in your pantry for several years.
- Water. Water thins out your royal icing to various consistencies for piping and flooding.
- Vanilla Extract. Use a good-quality vanilla extract for the best flavor in your royal icing. You can also use any other flavor of extract that you like, such as almond or lemon.
- Gel Food Coloring. As an option, you can color your royal icing with any color you like. For the cookies pictured in today’s post, I used Americolor Soft Pink to create a lovely blush color.
See the recipe card at the end of the post for the full ingredients list and instructions.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, sift the powdered sugar to make sure it’s free of lumps. Add the meringue powder, water and vanilla.
- Mix with the paddle attachment on medium/low speed for 2 minutes. Lift up the paddle and check the consistency of the icing by letting the icing drip off the paddle and back into the bowl. If the icing that drips off disappears in the bowl of icing in 5-10 seconds, then it’s the right consistency for flooding. If it doesn’t disappear, then the icing is too thick, and you should add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time. But if the icing is so thin that the drizzles immediately disappear, then it’s too thin, and you should add more powdered sugar, a couple tablespoons at a time.
- If coloring your icing, add a few drops of gel food coloring and mix it in to achieve the desired color. Remember that color will darken a little when the royal icing dries.
- Scrape the icing into an airtight, lidded container. You can use the icing immediately, or store it at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
- My recipe makes enough icing to ice approximately 2 1/2 dozen cookies.
How to Ice Sugar Cookies
- Arrange your cooled sugar cookies on a baking sheet.
- Fit a piping bag with a small round piping tip, such as #3 or #4, and fill the bag with royal icing, not filling it more than 1/2 – 1/3 full. It’s helpful to twist the end of the bag and secure it with a clip or rubber band, as royal icing has the tendency to drip out the top of the bag if not secured.
- Hold the piping bag at a 45 degree angle, and use a steady hand to pipe an outline around the edge of one cookie. Immediately fill in the center with icing. If necessary, use a toothpick, or a “scriber needle” to smooth out the icing.
- The surface of the icing will begin to set quickly, so if you plan on adding sugar pearls or a sprinkling of sparkling sugar, do so before the icing sets.
- You should dry your iced cookies uncovered, at room temperature. The faster they dry, the better the icing will look, so it’s helpful to set a small fan in front of your tray of cookies to speed the drying process along, which will take several hours.
- Once the icing is firm, you can store your cookies in a lidded container, each layer of cookies separated by a sheet of parchment paper.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I substitute anything for the meringue powder?
Meringue powder is made of pasteurized, dried egg whites, and it creates a stable and sturdy icing that dries hard on top of your cookies. The only alternative to using meringue powder is to use a recipe that calls for raw, fresh egg whites.
Where can I buy meringue powder?
You can likely find meringue powder at your local craft stores, such as Michaels, Hobby Lobby and Joanne’s. I’ve also found meringue powder on the baking aisle at Walmart. And of course, you can buy pretty much anything on Amazon, including meringue powder.
Does royal icing set and dry hard?
Yes, the icing will set and dry hard on the surface. However it will remain a little soft underneath so it’s very easy and pleasant to bite into.
Why is my icing not shiny?
Cookies need to dry out in the open, uncovered, to dry properly. The faster the icing dries, the smoother and prettier it will look, so it’s helpful to use a fan to speed along the drying process.
How should I dry my iced cookies?
You should let them dry in a single layer, uncovered, in front of a fan.
Can royal icing be over-mixed?
If you over-mix your royal icing, or mix it on too high of a setting, you’ll whip too much air into the icing. Mix your icing on medium low speed, just until smooth.
What is the difference between royal icing and buttercream frosting?
Buttercream frosting is creamy and soft, although the surface will dry and crust over. Royal icing sets and hardens to a firm texture.
Can I make royal icing in advance?
You can make royal icing in advance, and store it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. The mixture may separate, and you’ll need to mix it up again until smooth.
How should I store iced sugar cookies?
Once the icing has fully set and dried, arrange cookies in an airtight container. Separate each layer of cookies with a piece of parchment paper. The cookies should stay fresh for a week or two, but you can also freeze them for 3-6 months. Freezing and thawing the icing may cause color bleed, though.
Can I double this recipe?
Yes, you can easily double this icing recipe. I scaled my recipe down to yield just enough icing for about 2 1/2 dozen cookies, since I rarely need a large batch of royal icing.
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Basic Royal Icing – for Outlining and Flooding
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- Stand Mixer with Paddle Attachment
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 ½ tbsp meringue powder
- 3 – 3 ½ tbsp water, room temperature
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- gel food coloring, optional
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, sift the powdered sugar to make sure it's free of lumps.Add the meringue powder, water and vanilla.
- Mix with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 2 minutes.Lift up the paddle and check the consistency of the icing by letting the icing drip off the paddle and back into the bowl. If the icing that drips off disappears in the bowl of icing in 5-10 seconds, then it's the right consistency for flooding.If it doesn't disappear, then the icing is too thick, and you should add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time.If the icing is so thin that the drizzles immediately disappear, then it's too thin, and you should add more powdered sugar, a couple tablespoons at a time.
- If coloring your icing, add a few drops of gel food coloring and mix it in to achieve the desired color.
- Scrape the icing into an airtight, lidded container. You can use the icing immediately, or store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
- Yield. This recipe makes enough icing to ice approximately 2 1/2 dozen cookies that are 2 – 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
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