Thursday, April 12, 2012

Royal Icing 101

I've been making sugar cookies for such a long time that I've gotten into a bit of a cookie rut.  After struggling through a batch of Easter sugar cookies, I decided that it was time for me to take a look at my sugar cookie techniques and find ways to improve.  I started searching the internet for websites and blogs that addressed sugar cookies with Royal icing.  I've used Royal icing for a long time and I was surprised to find out that there were so many different ways to prepare it.  (I've always stuck to the traditional Wilton recipe.) 

My goal was to find a way to make my cookies look more polished and professional.  I love the durability Royal icing but I was never a fan of the flavor so I also wanted to improve on the taste of my cookie icing.  I stumbled on a blog called that was extremely detailed and helpful.  I got a lot of tips and some much needed motivation from the website so I got to work on a batch of sugar cookies. 

Royal Icing
1 bag of powdered sugar
1/3 cup meringue powder
1 cup of water
1 Tablespoon extract  (I used almond)

Combine sugar and meringue powder in bowl of mixer.  Combine warm water and flavoring.  This step of combining the flavor and the water seems obvious but I had never done it like this before.  It was a much better way to flavor the icing than I had done in the past.  I like to use either vanilla or almond but any flavor will do as long as it isn't oil based.  

A couple of years ago, I took the Wilton cake decorating class and my instructor was really specific about how Royal icing should be prepared.  She recommended using a hand mixer on medium - low speed or a standing mixer with a flat beater on the lowest speed.  She emphasized over and over again that you didn't want to incorporate too much air into the icing.  I followed her instructions faithfully for years and it's only been recently that I discovered that you can get great Royal icing results by incorporating more air into the mixture.  I learned that people were getting great results by using their Kitchen Aid whisk on high speed.  I decided to give this new method a try and don't tell Wilton, but I liked this new method even better. 

Mix on medium speed for 3-4 minutes until the icing reaches a thin toothpaste consistency. 

At this point, I turn my mixer up to high and continue beating for another 3-4 minutes.  What I end up with is a fluffy meringue like mixture that holds it's shape. 


Now I start to work my way backwards to create 2 different icing consistencies - one for piping and one for flooding.  (Flooding is another word for filling in the outlined cookie.)

I started by coloring my Royal Icing with gel food coloring. 

Add small amounts of water to the icing to create a smoother, glue-like consistency.  I used to do this by pouring teaspoonfuls of water from a pitcher into the icing but I recently learned about the squirt bottle technique and I love it.   No more adding too much water by mistake and getting the icing too thin - just give the icing a couple of squirts and stir until you reach the desired consistency. 

 The Royal Icing that I use to outline each cookie is kind of a toothpaste consistency.

I put this icing into a disposable pastry bag fitted with a #3 pastry tip.

I thin the remaining colored icing with more water to a more syrupy consistency.

I put the thinned Royal Icing into a squeeze bottle.  (Another new technique that I learned on

I repeat this process with each color that I am going to need for my cookies before I ever start decorating.  Sometimes it takes me up to an hour to prepare all of my icings but trust me - it's easier to prepare them all at once.


I like to flood my cookies with a paintbrush.  I find it easier to get the icing into small spaces when I use a good quality paintbrush.  Take my advice - invest in a good brush from a craft store. 

 Once the cookies are outlined and flooded, let them dry completely.  This may take several hours. 

Once the Royal Icing is completely set, I add the next layer of icing.  In this case, I wanted to add a yellow center to each daisy.  I piped a yellow circle in the center of each flower using the slightly thicker yellow icing.

Next, I filled in the center with the thinner icing.

Finally to add a little extra flair to my cookie, I sprinkled some yellow sanding sugar to the centers.

Allow the sugar to set on the cookie for a couple of hours then brush off the excess with a dry paintbrush.

I like to give the cookies one final touch by outlining the petals with white royal icing.

For those of you that are not familiar with Royal icing, it's a very stable cookie icing that dries stiff and hard.  It took me a while to get used to working with it because it can be a little tricky to get it to the right consistency.  I liked this recipe though because it really was easier to work with than the traditional Wilton recipe.  I'm back in my sugar cookie groove!



  1. I am a Royal Icing fanatic and love doing this as a hobby. I will be using the brush and trying your recipe. Thanks for the tips.

  2. hi. is it possible to make royal icing successfully with a hand mixer? thanks

    1. Yes, You can absolutley do the same thing with a had mixer. Have fun and thanks for stopping by the blog.

  3. I always get so hungry when I am baking or cooking

  4. I recently tried royal icing for the first time and I didn't like the taste but I didn't try mixing the water and flavor together first. Glad I came across your post! Will definitely try for my next attempt for a baby shower!

  5. I have been doing royal icing with cookies for a while now. I've never seen the paintbrush way to flood and will definitely try it (I get a lot of anxiety about flooding with piping bags, bottles, etc.). What type/size brush do you use? Thanks!

  6. thanks for this great analysis. One question: when you call for a "bag of powdered sugar"--is that a 2-pound bag? Thanks.

    1. Yes. I do use a 2 pound bag of powdered sugar.