Using Royal Icing Made With Corn Syrup

I began making Royal Icing decorated sugar cookies in December 2017, struggling to understand how it was made and once made, how it behaved.

Yes, there are a lot of articles, photos, and videos on the subject, but I could not duplicate the success of the people who shared their techniques.


As my frosting dried, I had the following problems:

  • Dull frosting surfaces
  • Holes caused by burst bubbles on the dried frosting surface, some rather large
  • Hard and crunchy frosting texture

Like many new cookie decorating enthusiasts, I read numerous articles on the subject, which led me to a recipe on Julia Usher’s Cookie Connection. This recipe, shared by a woman known as “Karen-SugarDeaux,” adds Corn Syrup to the standard recipe and it solved all my problems.

There are several variations of a standard Royal Icing recipe that use meringue powder or real egg whites. The primary difference between those recipes and this one is the addition of corn syrup. Here is what the initial batch of corn syrup-based Royal Icing looks like after being mixed:

Example of Royal Icing made with corn syrup

Following the corn syrup-based recipe, which is posted HERE, you’ll find that the finished frosting slowly streams off the beater, is soft, and while it piles in mounds, it doesn’t form stiff peaks. More specifically, these are the behavioral differences:

  • The initial batch looks smooth and mounded and does not create stiff, dry peaks when lifted out of the bowl.
  • After you adjust a batch for “flow-consistency,” allow it to spread over your cookie with only a few nudges to fill gaps. Do not shake a freshly frosted cookie or depend on pushing the frosting around because the thin top layer dries quicker than it does when using standard Royal Icing. If you do shake or nudge the frosting, it creates permanent swirls in what should be a smooth surface.
  • Once applied to a cookie, burst large bubbles immediately. Do not wait several seconds after the application to do this, however, as you’ll disturb the frosting’s thin surface. Fortunately, the un-burst bubbles will be trapped under the frosting’s “flowed” surface and they will not break.
  • Changing the frosting consistency for different applications during your decoration process is easy.  Simply add a little water to increase its flow or a little powdered sugar to make it stiffer. Taste does not suffer for these ingredient adjustments.
  • If you plan on doing a wet-on-wet design, do it quickly on a cookie-by-cookie basis. Finish each cookie before moving on to the rest.

After cookies are frosted and dried, their surfaces remain glossy and have a soft bite rather than a hard crunch.

Sugar Cookies decorated with Royal Icing made with corn syrup

For the most perfect initial consistency, measure the water by weight instead of using a liquid measuring cup. Digital weight scales cost between $10 and $15 and should be regarded as a kitchen essential, especially when you need to adjust a recipe.

I dry all phases of cookie decoration under a fan and in summer, our home is air conditioned. Unless you suffer from very high humidity, cookies can be stacked after five or six hours, but 12 hours or more is best.

Use transfers to add more complex decorative designs to your cookies without worrying that you might make mistakes and ruin your cookies as described in my article Create Royal Icing Designs Without Cookies. Quite possibly, however, Royal Icing transfers made with corn syrup require a longer period to dry than those made with a standard recipe. Mine need at least 24 hours. To test for doneness, lift a transfer off the parchment or wax paper. If it does not break and its center is completely dry, the remaining transfers are ready to use.

To store frosted cookies after they are thoroughly dry, place parchment paper between layers in a tightly-covered container and keep them refrigerated to retain freshness.

More Information

For more information on Royal Icing and sugar cookies, review the suggestions I make under my Crafts tab. There you’ll find links to articles and videos that will help you refine your skills. Suggestions for additional articles and videos are always welcome!

Questions or comments? Ask Karen Little at