Royal Icing: Pictures of Consistencies (to be updated in February)

Example of Royal Icing flooded cookies

Creating the right consistency of Royal Icing for use in your frosting design projects is similar to creating the right consistency of clay to make pottery. From the initial batch, you either add water to make slip and slurry, or powdered sugar (which is pottery’s equivalent to adding more clay) to make it thicker.

TO BE UPDATED BY MARCH: I now exclusively recommend Royal Icing to be made from pasteurized egg whites, although raw egg whites behave similarly. As my pictures are from various recipe batches, I need to replace them using my recipe of choice.

Similar to using a starter for yogurt or sour dough bread, create a single “starter” batch of thick Royal Icing from which other consistencies and colors are derived.

Following any of the recipes shared HERE or on the Internet, your first batch will be thick. You can tell that it is thick because when its dropped into a bowl with a spoon or from a beater, thick Royal Icing slowly drapes into mounds, then continues to flatten.

The following pictures show the stages of settling:

The picture below shows this batch completely settled into a flat glossy surface.

“As is,” this batch was too thick to pipe borders (outlines) on sugar cookies through a piping bag and tip, so using a spray bottle, I spritzed a tiny amount of water into it to make it more pliable.

  • Piped borders, like the ones seen below, outline areas into which flood consistency Royal Icing is flowed.
  • How much water is used to change the consistency from thick to flood? Only a tiny amount. As you work with Royal Icing, you’ll discover that it is very easy to add too much water and if you do, you need to thicken the batch again by sifting a small amount of powdered sugar back into it.

Creating Soft (flood) Icing: Flood icing is used to quickly fill in designated areas with smooth surfaces.

To make flood icing in orange and blue for this example, I scooped icing out of my original white batch, then added a tiny amount of water to it so, after thorough mixing, the icing leisurely settled into a flat surface in somewhere between 10 and 15 seconds. When satisfied, I split this batch into two and for this example, tinted the new batches with orange and blue gel food coloring.

Should you make note of how many seconds it takes to flatten? No, because various recipes and the humidity of your work environment affect timing. Most important is that you observe the behavior of your mixture. If the icing runs off a spoon like gravy, it is too wet. If it flows off a spoon in chunks (similar to medium thick icing), it is too dry.

Your consistency is OK if it flows in a fluid manner (like thick, hot pudding) and you can pour it inside a cookie’s Royal Icing border, then nudge it so it meets the inside edges of the border, but doesn’t spill over it.

  • Flood large areas by using a piping bag with a fairly large tip, such as a Wilton Piping Tip size 8, or drop it from a spoon or rubber spatula (among many utensils suitable for the job).
  • Nudging can be accomplished with a tooth pick, a slim pointed object, or even craft sticks.

What if your icing is not OK and you can’t flow or nudge it? Is your icing ruined? No! Simply add a tiny amount of water to your batch, mix and test. If it flows too much and is runny, sift a small amount of powdered sugar into the batch to thicken it, stir, then test.

Creating Very Stiff Royal Icing: This consistency is used for piping detail and does not change shape after being manipulated or extruded through a piping tip. As you can see below, peaks and crevices do not change unless they are manually pushed.

To stiffen a batch of Royal Icing, sift a small amount of powdered sugar into it, stir, and test. I developed the blue flow icing used in this example from the above batch of stiff icing to demonstrate how easy it is to change the consistency of Royal Icing from very stiff, to medium, to flow and back again.

Avoiding Consistency Problems: Adding too much water makes the icing runny. To correct, sift some powdered sugar into the batch, mix thoroughly, and test. Too stiff? Using a spray bottle, spritz a tiny amount of water into the batch, mix and test. A little water goes a long way.

Avoiding Application Problems: I recommend using the egg white or the light corn syrup-added recipes as I had trouble with the meringue-powder-only recipe which tends to pit and dent. For all recipes, however, if you notice bubbles appearing, prick them with a toothpick or pick as soon as noticed, or possibly, gently shake the cookie to encourage the flood frosting to settle down. Move quickly as the skin on the icing sets quickly. If you take too much time, you’ll introduce wrinkles or tracks on the surface.

Karen Little’s Comments

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