The Best Royal Icing Recipe

The sweetest, most addicting royal icing you will ever taste! Say goodbye to gross, fake tasting royal icing that resembles cement more than a sweet treat. Flavored with vanilla, butter, and almond, this recipe smells just as good it tastes.

royal icing

As for the texture, it ranges from fluffy to smooth. The texture depends on how thick or thin it is. Overall, it has a very silky and creamy feel when fresh and a clean but soft snap when it dries on a cookie.

Outline with piping consistency icing

Back in my wedding cake days, royal icing was part of the weekly routine. But I have to say, royal icing is easier to work with now than it was 11 years ago. That is largely in part to experience, knowledge, and a lot of practice!

Don’t panic though. You don’t have to have any experience to work with royal icing. I have taught several royal icing classes, and most students have little or no experience at all.

Does everyone get it perfect the first time? No!

Do they have fun? Yes!

I always tell my students that practice makes perfect, so don’t sweat it if your cookies or royal icing don’t turn out like a professional’s the first time around.

Royal Icing Outline on cookie with some flood icing
Begin to flood along the outline

How to Make Good Royal Icing

  • This recipe is best if you use cold egg whites. The whites foam and whip up much better than room temperature whites, which makes your icing and your life easier in the kitchen! You will always have superior icing if you use egg whites over meringue powder.
  • Say goodbye to meringue powder! I know long ago meringue powder was the way to go, but not anymore. Meringue powder doesn’t make as fluffy of an icing, and I find that it gets far more air bubbles when piped, making more work for you when decorating cookies and cakes.
  • Also, icing made with meringue tastes more “fake” for some reason. I don’t know about you, but I like my food to taste the best it possibly can, especially if I am going to go through all the effort of making icing, decorating with it, and patiently waiting for it to dry so it can be devoured. Quality ALWAYS matters.
More flooding
Fill in completely
  • Flavor is EVERYTHING when it comes to royal icing! The number one thing students say is how delicious this icing tastes. It doesn’t resemble the royal icing cookies you get at the store in any way. The icing is light and sweet, and I have never met a person who doesn’t like it!
  • This royal icing takes no more than 5 minutes to whip up once the powdered sugar is in the bowl. Add the powdered sugar 1 pound at a time, and turn your mixer on low to start so that the powdered sugar doesn’t explode out of the bowl.
  • You will need to add water, but how much varies each time. If your egg whites have more water content, you will not need as much water. If it is humid where you live, then you won’t need as much water.
  • Have 1/2 a cup of water ready, and add a tablespoon at a time and then a teaspoon at a time when the icing gets lighter and fluffier. Your icing should hold stiff peaks when done.
  • If your mixer sounds like it is being overworked, add a few teaspoons of water at a time until the icing loosens up. You should hear a change in the motor of your mixer when it is not straining anymore.
Royal Icing heart cookie
Let dry completely

Questions You Might Have About Making the Best Royal Icing

  1. Q: You recipe calls for an Emulsion. What is an emulsion?
    A: Great question! An emulsion is a flavoring that doesn’t contain alcohol, allowing the flavor to stay more concentrated. When you use flavorings with alcohol (extracts), especially for baked goods, some of the flavor is lost as the alcohol evaporates during the baking process. In royal icing, this isn’t as much of an issue because we don’t bake the icing, but the flavor is really nice.
  2. Q: Can I use extracts instead?
    A: Yes! If you can’t find emulsions in your area, then extracts will work as well.
  3. Q: Can I use pasteurized egg whites?
    A: Yes you can. If you are worried about using raw egg whites, use pasteurized instead. This is a great option.
  4. Q: Is it safe to use raw egg whites?
    A: There is always a risk when using raw eggs, however small it might be. With that being said, use egg whites at your own discretion. You know you and your comfort level, so do what works for you. From my understanding, there isn’t really much of a risk in eating royal icing once it has dried out, but again, there is still a slight risk. You can still use meringue powder for this recipe, but it won’t be quite as well.
  5. Q: How do I use royal icing?
    A: Great question! You can use it to ice cookies, cakes, and make decorations. There are 2 general consistencies: piping and flooding. Piping is the outlining icing, and flooding is what fills the cookie.

For more info on royal icing sugar cookies, check out my Ultimate Guide to Royal Icing Cookies. It has tons of helpful information!

What do I Need to Make Royal Icing Cookies?

All of the tools listed below are tools I use every time I decorate. Seriously, I don’t know how I would decorate without them!

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The BEST Royal Icing Recipe

royal icing flood consistency

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  • Author: Camille
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Icing for 34 dozen cookies 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 4 large egg whites, cold
  • 2 lbs. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp butter emulsion (or butter flavoring)
  • 1/4 tsp almond emulsion (or almond extract)
  • Cold Water
  • Gel food coloring (Americolor)

Instructions

12 Comments

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  6. Hello! Thank you for posting this recipe ? my daughter and I have wanted to use royal icing to decorate cutout cookies for years and was super excited with I came across this post.

    I am a bit confused because I’m your blog you state that it is best to use cold egg whites. However, once I got to the recipe, the first ingredient lists egg whites at room temperature.

    Can you clarify this for me?

    Thank you ??

    • Hi Annie,

      I updated that info in the recipe! It should say cold egg whites 🙂 Sorry for the typo, and thank you for asking!

  7. Hi Andrea,

    It should say “cold egg whites.” I just updated the error. So sorry for the confusion!

  8. Can I freeze this royal icing? If so for how long would you say?

    • Hi Lisa, yes you can freeze royal icing for up to 3 months as long as it’s wrapped well and is in an airtight container. After thawing, mixing it in your mixer again to bring the texture back to where it needs to be.

  9. Do these cookies freeze well once set?

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