Royal Icing Recipes (update 3/22/19)
Royal Icing primarily consists of egg whites and powdered sugar, plus a little flavoring. Different recipes with similar ingredients, however, do not necessarily behave or taste the same.
If you are new to making Royal Icing, consider trying various recipes until you find one you can rely upon. In my survey of recipes found on the Web, I found approximately an equal number between the use of (pasteurized) egg whites and meringue powder.
If you choose one that works for you, is easy to mix, and doesn’t leave your iced cookies with pits, bubbles, or a dull look, stick with it. If, however, you are looking for better options, you’ll find this article useful.
I spent almost five months comparing different recipes, backed up by photos showing the results of using them. Since January 2019, I’ve been regularly updating my findings on this and other articles, so if you read this prior to March 22, 2019, you’ve seen some of my recommendations change. As of now, I am very confident that the recipe I recommend is the easiest to mix and the most trustworthy once spread on a cookie.
Note: For photographs and a discussion on how the following recipes differ, please see my article entitled “Comparing Royal Icing Recipes, With and Without Corn Syrup.”
In terms of taste, reliability, food safety, ease of mixing, and attractiveness, I recommend this recipe made with pasteurized egg whites. Similar recipes call for Cream of Tarter, which I do not. Should you want to test that missing ingredient, add 1/2 teaspoon of it to the ingredients below.
2 pounds of sifted fine (**10x) powdered sugar
11 tablespoons (5.5 ounces) of pasteurized egg whites (you’ll this product where eggs are sold)
2 “slight” teaspoons of flavoring, to taste
Place the egg whites and flavoring in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat until frothy.
As the egg whites become frothy, spoon in the sifted powdered sugar, beating on medium (so the dry powdered sugar doesn’t fly into the room) until mixed.
When the ingredients appear mixed, (they become bright white and smooth) beat on high for 3 or 4 minutes.
The resulting icing will be stiff, shiny, bright white and tastes like melted marshmallow. Despite its soft appearance, it does not flow like melted marshmallow. Instead, when you remove the beater or disturb it with a spoon, the surface stays “as is” and does not flatten.
Store the icing in an air-tight container. Consider placing plastic wrap over the icing, then snapping the top on the container. I recommend refrigerating it.
Variation with light corn syrup
This recipe tastes delicate when dried and is easy to handle when moist. You might want to add two “slight” tablespoons of light corn syrup to the above recipe to introduce more “stretch,” such as prized for string work. You will not, however, be able to obtain a very stiff consistency when introducing light corn syrup (at least, I have not been able to do so).
Use of a meringue powder substitute for pasteurized egg whites
If you read reviews of meringue powder, you’ll find opinions about different brands in terms of taste and handling. If consistency between batches is your aim, and you don’t want to experiment with different brands of meringue powder, use the pasteurized egg white recipe exclusively.
If you are absolutely new to making Royal Icing and you don’t know good from bad meringue powder, also use the pasteurized egg white recipe exclusively.
In terms of mixing, notice that the pasteurized egg white recipe does not require any delicate measurements of water for its initial batch. The meringue powder recipe does. For that reason, plus problems with different brands, and possibility of flaws in your final iced designs, I recommend that you avoid this product.
BUT, if you want to follow an instructor who uses meringue power, the following recipe will work.
2 pounds of sifted fine (**10x) powdered sugar
6 tablespoons of meringue powder
Water (added ever so slightly)
2 teaspoons of flavoring
Recommended: Optionally, add up to 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup. It stabilizes the mixture, provides a shiny surface and makes the end product less prone to pitting and tracks should you handle it too much.
Using a third quantity of each, mix together by sifting them into a mixing bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Continue until the powdered sugar and meringue powders are thoroughly mixed.
After the dried ingredients are mixed, add water via a spray bottle, a small spritz at a time, while beating with a a paddle blade. As the dry ingredients become moistened, glossy lumps form that look a bit like large cottage cheese.
As soon as lumps start appearing, I recommend adding 1.75 to 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup, but this ingredient can be skipped.
Add flavoring to taste
Continue mixing until you’ve made a very thick, stiff white mixture
Use a mixing speed that makes sense to you. Start with a low speed so the dry ingredients don’t fly about, and increase the speed as the mixture becomes more moist.
The water you add to this recipe determines your success. Just tiny amounts of water can change the consistency of your icing from stiff to soft. Your objective, then, is to initially produce a very stiff, bright white icing that, when disturbed by a spoon or mixer paddle, does not quickly flatten. If you add too much water, your icing will quickly settle into a flat surface. You can correct this by adding more sifted powdered sugar to the mix, but in the beginning, err on the side of not adding enough water.
The initial batch of Royal Icing is quite thick, demanding a heavy-duty mixer. If you are on a budget, the Hamilton Beach 63325 6-Speed Stand Mixer is a good buy.
A survey of several Royal Icing recipes with meringue powder indicates that approximately 3 tablespoons meringue powder per 4 cups (1 pound) of powdered sugar is common.
A survey of several recipes that use pasturized egg whites suggests that 2 to 3 egg whites per 4 cups of powdered sugar is standard, with 3 egg whites per 4 cups of powdered sugar the most popular. Two-tablespoons of liquid egg whites equal the whites of one large egg.
For a very well documented set of information related to the initial batch of Royal Icing, check the beautifully illustrated article by SemiSweet (Mike Tamplin) on SemiSweetDesigns.com.
Drying and storing Royal Icing of any type
- Freshly decorated cookies taste best, with my preference being within three days of being iced. Icing on stored decorated cookies becomes harder and more crispy as they age.
- While crispy icing is pretty, pay attention to the quality of your cookie. Cookies exposed to high humidity become limp, with some softness appearing under the icing.
- Royal Icing can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Place a plastic covering directly on the icing, then seal the container over that covering with an air-tight lid.
- After applying icing to cookies, the best practice calls for drying the icing under a fan, especially if you use meringue powder. Depending on icing thickness, room humidity, and whether or not the recipe calls for light corn syrup, cookies dry within a few hours to up to 24.
- To keep cookies crisp, store iced cookies in an air tight container with parchment paper between them or in individual, air-tight bags.
- Check to make sure there is no condensation in your container or bag when storing iced cookies in the refrigerator.
- Work in an air conditioned environment. Avoid making Royal Icing or frosting cookies with it when the humidity in your environment is high. Check your atmosphere on a digital humidity monitor. Even heated rooms can suffer from high humidity, especially a kitchen.
- Under normal to low humidity days, iced cookies can be left out for a few days, during which period the icing becomes harder. On high humidity days, if the cookies are left out, you will lose the cookies’ crispness and possibly destroy your work.
- Pictorial article by SemiSweet (Mike Tamplin), SemiSweetDesigns.com
- Cookie design master, Julia Usher, www.juliausher.com
- Blueprint, formerly Craftsy, has several excellent fee-based courses on the use of Royal Icing on cookies. I learned from
Better Basics for Exceptional Cookies by Stephanie Kappel. Also excellent are courses by Amber Spiegel. Many of the tutorial instructors here also have websites and YouTube videos.
Royal Icing with Consistency Adjustments, Blog by Julia Usher, www.juliausher.com
Toolbox Talk: Corn Syrup in Royal Icing, research article by member LIESBET on “Toolbox Talk,” a site by Julia Usher, www.juliausher.com
Make good use of Google and YouTube searches to find numerous articles and tutorials developed by people excited about skill sharing. Royal Icing Tutorials
To see a list of all articles in this series, CLICK HERE
**Note: 10X refers to a finely milled powder sugar with cornstarch is added to prevent caking.
Questions? Comments? Additions? Corrections? Write to Karen Little at karen@Littleviews.com
Written for Littleviews-Crafts.com by Karen Little, publisher. All rights reserved, but feel free to re-publish this article after contacting Karen so she knows where to find it.