Monday, November 14, 2011

Royal Icing Recipe

Royal icing is the awesome, hard-drying icing you see on all of the most awesome cookies out there. I have been working for months (literally) to get the recipe just right, so here it is.

What You Need:
Vinegar or lemon juice to wipe down equipment
1 lb. powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. meringue powder
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1-2 tsp. clear vanilla flavoring (or other flavoring of your choice)

(Click here for a Royal Icing Recipe using Egg Whites instead of Meringue Powder.)

Begin by wiping down all of the tools you will use with your icing (bowl, spatula, beaters, measuring cups/spoons, etc.) with a paper towel dampened with white vinegar or lemon juice. This will help remove all of the grease. Grease is the mortal enemy of royal icing. It will cause it to never dry completely... making you crazy in the process.

Measure powdered sugar. (preferably by weight. If you don't have a kitchen scale, approx. 3 1/2 -4 cups of powdered sugar will do.)

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the powdered sugar and the meringue powder.

Add the corn syrup and the flavoring to the 1/3 cup of water.

With the mixer on low, add the liquid to the powdered sugar mixture.

Once the powders have all been combined, mix the icing for about 4-5 minutes on medium speed until it holds a stiff peak...

... like this.

Always, always, always keep your royal icing covered with a damp cloth. This stuff dries out very quickly. So, if you don't have it covered, it will harden and you won't be able to use it. 

You always want to color your royal icing with gel-based icing colors. If you use an oil-based color (usually only used for candy, so you probably don't have any unless you bought it on purpose), it will ruin your icing.

This colored (or white) icing is what you will use for your outline. Grab some plastic wrap and put about 1/3 or 1/4 of the icing into an icing bag bullet to use for outlines.
(Besides the fact that the bullets make clean up so much easier, for royal icing, they are great because they help keep it from drying out while you're coloring and mixing the other icing.)

To get the rest of the icing to a "flooding" consistency, the consistency you want to make smooth, pretty cookies, you'll want to add water a little at a time- we're talking by the teaspoon or less- until any lines in the icing disappear in 8 seconds.

What that means is that you will thin the icing until it looks kind of runny. Get a dollop on the spatula or spoon. Drop a large drop into the cup of icing as seen above.

That drop should all but disappear like you see above in the slow count of 8-10. one...... two...... three........ ten.

I then pour this icing into a zip-top sandwich bag to flood my cookies.

To decorate with this icing, you want to outline your cookies with a tip #1, 2, or 3 (depending on how thick you like your outline to be). Allow that to dry for at least 20 minutes before you add the flooding icing.

The flooding icing usually takes several hours to overnight to dry completely. And some colors, like red and black occasionally don't dry completely. I'm still working the bugs out on those two. My last project, I got the red to dry... but still not the black, so I'm avoiding black to flood cookies with for now if I can.

You want to use this icing the same day you make it. If it sits for more than a few hours, you'll need to mix it up again. Sometimes just squeezing it in the bag will do, but if it's been more than 24 hours, you'll need to get it in a bowl and actually mix it with a spatula or mixer.

Royal icing is a pain to work with sometimes, just because it is a little fussy, but it's so worth it when you can stack all of your cookies, or send perfect cookies in the mail, and have the icing stay just right! Give it a try!

Would you like a printable version of this recipe for $1? Click here to purchase this recipe in an easy-to-view format. The link will take you to PayPal, where you will enter your email address, and after you pay, I will email you a .pdf verson of this recipe. Thank you!

Click the Links Below to See:
Other Icing Recipes & Tricks
Cookie Decorating Ideas & Recipes
My Complete Recipe Index

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  1. Have you tried the powdered food coloring for the darker colors? they don't add additional liquid, so the drying time should be improved.

  2. You know, I've tried the powdered colors, but I wasn't that impressed. Do you have a brand you like? And I will say that the black did finally dry-- a few days later in storage.

  3. Great tutorial! I can't wait to try it!

  4. I tried this the other day and it was really good. I'm trying different frostings to find out what I like. So far this Royal Icing recipe is great for cookies. Does it work for making flowers for cakes? And how do you get your colors such a deep vibrant color? Do you use more of the Wilton gel colors or do you have a color chart you found somewhere?

  5. Thanks, Stacy! Glad to hear!!

    It would work to make flowers. This is not as stiff as the recipe Wilton makes for its stiff consistency to make, say, roses. So, if you want to do those, you may need to add a little more sugar. But I think it would actually hold up pretty well for almost anything else.

    And as for the colors, I do generally use the Wilton gel colors. And, honestly, the best thing to do is to color the icing and let it sit for a while (a few hours to overnight) that helps allow the colors to deepen a little, especially when you're talking about Red or Black. However, when you use lots and lots of coloring, you have to watch that they actually dry. I'm still working to get black to dry completely in less than 3 days!! I also end up mixing colors a lot. Coloring icing is one of my least favorite things to do in the whole wide world!!! - Beki

    1. When you say you let them sit for a while, do you mean in the ziploc bags?

    2. Yes, it always needs to be covered or it will dry out. Thanks for asking!
      - Beki

  6. How does this taste. is it like the one you find in store bought decorated cookies-hard ones-pretty to look at but so yuck.( tey sell cute ones in target) i think those icing makes the cookie taste like that. does yours taste good. do they dry hard as rock,making the cookies hard too. please reply to

  7. This icing doesn't have a really rich flavor, but you can add whatever flavoring you like to it if you like. I like just the vanilla, but you could add any alcohol-based extract, and you'd be fine. (Butter flavoring, almond flavoring, etc. as long as it's not oil-based.)
    The icing does dry hard, but unless you apply it very thickly, it's never hard to eat.
    I say try it. Maybe try a half batch, and hopefully you'll love it!!
    Good luck.
    - Beki

  8. hello
    can i omit meringue powder

  9. You can't really omit the meringue powder for this recipe to work... but I am planning to try in the next few weeks an egg-free, hard-drying icing recipe. I have my concerns, so we'll see if it works. Stay tuned!
    - Beki

  10. I would just like to say thank you! Feels like I've spent a life time online, looking for this! I'm new at the cookie decorating, and I had to may questions! Spent hours on how to decorate, but never on how to get the right consistency for the right job! I didn't know that the outline was different from the flooding. When I found this out I searched and searched for someone to break down the difference! You have made my day! I wanted this Christmas to be special, because we are moving from Georgia to Kansas in March. And this will ber out last Christmas with my parents and their last Christmas with my 3 1/2 yo son! Thank you so much! Have a Blessed day!

    1. Thank you for your kind comment!
      Good luck with the cookies!
      - Beki

  11. Lol Um My Name is Tiffany, :/ didn't know it was my husband who was logged in... :)

  12. AHHHHHH This is my fourth time using this icing recipe and when you say you worked for months to get the ratios just right, man do I believe you!! It is perfection and definitely my go-to recipe. I put in a bit of almond extract and that's my favorite! Thanks a ton for sharing! It has helped prevent many a slow-drying cookie encounters. <3 you rock!

  13. when i do red or black, i add the coloring to the water... and make a 1/2 batch... or 1/4 batch. I havent had it stay damp when i do it that way.

  14. For getting the right shade of red:
    I am doing to be dying my icing red, I noticed on your post about getting the right red you suggest letting it sit over night as the color will deepen. Can you let royal icing sit over night or will the consistency change when left to sit for that long? I would also assume that royal icing cannot go in the refrigerator?
    Thanks, Beki!!

    1. Right!
      If you don't want to use as much coloring, it will deepen overnight, but you will have to re-mix it. You won't need a mixer, just a spatula or knife and some good mixing in a bowl will do fine.
      The other tricks with getting red:
      Start with yellow or brown OR
      Add 1 tsp or so of cocoa powder.
      And no, you do not need to refrigerate royal icing.
      Good luck!
      - Beki


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