Royal Icing Recipes (update 1/18/19)
Updated January 18, 2019: A recipe alone will not guarantee success, unless you are an expert and understand how it behaves. Frosting your sugar cookies with Royal Icing requires that you learn how to develop specific skills, including manipulating the consistency for each element of your finished design. Do you want, for example, highly edible cookies, or decorated masterpieces that are appreciated for their artistry and taste?
For more information about consistency testing, see Testing Royal Icing Recipes for Consistency.
Recipe using raw or pasteurized egg whites
The following recipe is posted on JuliaUsher.com in Julia Usher’s article, Royal Icing with Consistency Adjustments.
2 pounds fine (**10x) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
6 large raw egg whites or 11 tablespoons (5.5 ounces) of pasteurized egg whites
2 teaspoons of flavoring, to taste
Directions from article: Mix the powdered sugar and cream of tartar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in the egg whites by hand to moisten the sugar. Fit the electric mixer with a whip attachment and beat the mixture on low speed to evenly distribute the egg whites. Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and continue to beat about 1 to 2 minutes, just until the icing is silky and very white. (The icing will lighten and thicken as you beat it.)
This frosting dries very hard and is insensitive to high humidity. For even harder frosting, add an additional egg white or two.
A survey of several recipes that use egg whites suggests that 2 to 3 egg whites per 4 cups of powdered sugar are commonly used, with 3 egg whites per 4 cups of powdered sugar being the most popular.
After being applied to cookies, this frosting is impervious to humidity, but high humidity does reduce the crispness of sugar cookies. For long-term storage, wrap your cookies in air-tight bags and/or place them in air tight containers
For more information on egg white-based Royal Icing recipes, perform a Google search on the phrase “egg white recipe royal icing.”
Recipe using meringue powder and corn syrup
This recipe is like the one that follows it, except you add a tablespoon of light corn syrup to the mix. This makes the icing firm, but not extremely hard. For a very well documented set of information, check the beautifully illustrated article by SemiSweet (Mike Tamplin) on SemiSweetDesigns.com.
Your objective is to thoroughly wet all dry ingredients, then finish mixing with your heavy-duty mixer’s flat beater or dough hook.
2 pounds of fine (10x) powder sugar
6 tablespoons of meringue powder
Using a third quantity of each, mix together by sifting it into a mixing bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Continue until these powders are thoroughly mixed.
A survey of several Royal Icing recipes with meringue powder indicate that approximately 3 tablespoons meringue powder per 4 cups (1 pound) of powdered sugar is common.
After the dried ingredients are mixed, add water via a spray bottle, a small squeeze at a time, rather than by measuring spoons. As the dry ingredients become moistened, glossy lumps form. Eventually a stiff, well-mixed (no lumps) white mass forms.
Royal Icing with meringue powder is simply a mixture of powdered sugar, meringue powder and water. The final result will be a very stiff, white, smooth mixture with a rolling (not flat) texture.
Thin this mixture later on when you prepare your icing for application. Refer to “How to Test for Royal Icing Consistency,” for additional information.
Add 1.75 to 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup to the mix about mid-way through the mixing process.
As light corn syrup adds moisture to your mixture, add it before you complete adding water. If you add it after, your mixture might become too liquid. If this happens, sift a small amount of additional powdered sugar into the mix until it becomes thick again.
A survey of several Royal Icing recipes using light corn syrup indicates that .85 tablespoon (slightly less than 1 tablespoon) per 4 cups (one pound) of powdered sugar is common.
Add flavoring to taste, possibly 2 teaspoons, mid-way through the stirring process.
Depending how much water you add, mix until the icing is like a smooth, thick paste.
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This recipe will not produce ultra-crisp Royal Icing. It’s best use is for flooding large areas, wet-on-wet designs, dots (pearls) and simple piping that does not require sharp precision.
Immediately after decorating your cookies, dry them under a fan for several hours, maybe overnight.
In normal humidity, they can be left out for a few days. In higher humidity, sugar cookies start losing their snap. The best long-term storage is to refrigerate the cookies in a air-tight container. If your cookies are very fancy and are to be used for a special event, consider individual packaging prior to storing in a tightly sealed container.
Can you use a hand mixer? If your mixer has a very strong motor and you use a beater with little resistance (a paddle or dough hook), yes, but I recommend limiting your mixture to 4 cups of powdered sugar at a time.
Want more information? Preform a Google search on the phrase “using corn syrup in royal icing.”
Recipe using meringue powder exclusively
This is a typical recipe for Royal Icing that uses meringue powder instead of egg whites. The resulting icing, however, has a duller surface than icing from the other two varieties.
6 tablespoons meringue powder
8 cups confectioners’ sugar (this is approximately a 2 pound, 10X bag)
Up to 2 teaspoons of flavoring, or to taste
10 to 12 tablespoons lukewarm water
In the bowl of a very strong mixer, sift powdered sugar and meringue powder together.
Using a paddle or dough hook attachment on low speed, mix the dry ingredients together (or mix by hand).
Add the flavoring.
Add the water a scant tablespoon at a time, mixing as you go on medium-high speed. Your icing will become very thick and form stiff peaks that do not change shape when left to sit.
This icing dries to a very hard, somewhat dull finish and, depending on the consistencies you develop, might not be as easy to use as the other two recipes seen here. Although you can keep your cookies at room temperature, refrigerate in an air tight container to preserve the fresh taste of the cookies themselves.
For more information on meringue powder in Royal Icing, perform a Google search on the phrase “royal icing recipe using meringue powder.”
Karen Little’s Comments
This article is updated periodically, with its most recent version noted by date.
I recommend that if you want to create very detailed designs, make an egg white-based icing. If you want a softer, more “eaterly” cookie that has a firm but not crisp icing and more relaxed designs, a corn syrup-based recipe is your best bet.
**Note: 10X refers to a finely milled powder sugar with cornstarch is added to prevent caking.
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