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Fresh Lemon Royal Icing

Fresh Lemon Royal Icing is my favorite to use for cookie decorating. It pairs nicely with sugar cookies, gingerbread, honey cookies and even chocolate cookies.

Stiff royal icing on a paddle attachment.

I created this icing recipe in an effort to add a bit more flavor to bland royal icing. And it just happens that lemon also helps to balance the sweetness of the icing.

Updated post from 2011.

FRESH LEMON ROYAL ICING

If this is your first time making royal icing using meringue powder let’s cover the basics first.

Royal Icing consists of meringue powder (dried egg whites, cornstarch and stabilizers and readily available), powdered sugar,  liquid (this can be water, freshly squeezed lemon juice, strawberry puree, raspberry puree or even coffee). To flavor royal icing you can also add additional alcohol or water based flavorings.

OTHER ROYAL ICING RECIPES

INGREDIENTS I USE TO MAKE FRESH LEMON ROYAL ICING

  • Water and freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice.
  • Then I add meringue powder, cream of tartar (optional).
  • Powdered sugar.
  • Lastly, I always add Vanilla Extract and often also Almond Extract.
  • Lemon, Almond and Vanilla, all together create a flavorful royal icing.
  • When royal icing is freshly mixed it should have a stiff peak.

DO I HAVE TO SIFT POWDERED SUGAR?

  • This highly depends on the brand of the powdered sugar you use. I used to get powdered sugar in bulk and it was impossible to work with. It had to be sifted.
  • Nowadays I get it in small quantities and since there are no lumps in it I don’t sift it.
Powdered sugar for cookie decorating

CAN I USE A LEMON JUICE FROM A BOTTLE?

Honestly the only bottled lemon juice that I would recommend is Volcano Organic Lemon Juice . I’ve used it for about 6 months and though I really like it there is nothing like freshly squeezed lemon juice. So after 6 months of testing I’ve decided to go back to freshly squeezed lemon juice.

I just can’t help it, freshly squeezed lemon juice is what I prefer. I have a Volcano as a back in the fridge, though.

WAIT A SECOND, YOU DON’T LIKE LEMON?

If lemon flavor is not your thing, it’s okay. You can still make royal icing using this recipe. In a place of lemon juice use water instead.

HOW CAN I FLAVOR ROYAL ICING?

Personally I always use Vanilla Extract and on most days I also add Almond Extract as well. I just love these 3 flavors together : Lemon, Vanilla and Almond.

You can use number of flavorings, however try to avoid flavorings that are oil based. Oil can interfere with how royal icing behaves, especially how it dries.

Extract in bottles.

STORAGE

Store royal icing in an airtight container. Covered with a plastic wrap to prevent crusting.

Fresh Lemon Royal Icing can be stored at room temperature for up to a month.

However, I store unused icing in the refrigerator. I prefer refrigeration as icing doesn’t separate as much as it does at room temperature.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY ” ICING SEPARATES” ?

What you see happening in the image below is called royal icing separation, liquid separates from the solids. Notice yellowish liquid on the bottom of the container. This is normal. You just need to remix the icing.

More liquid is added to the icing more visible and faster separation occurs.

If you have more questions about royal icing you can check ROYAL ICING FAQ post.

Separated royal icing in a plastic container.

CAN I FREEZE ROYAL ICING?

If longer storage is required you can follow these steps and  learn more about how to Freeze and reuse frozen icing for cookie decorating.

COLOR ROYAL ICING

Royal icing can be colored with gel food colors. I mainly use Americolor Brand, Wilton and also Chefmaster gel food colors.

I always recommend coloring stiff royal icing first and then thin it with water to a desired consistency.

HOW DO YOU MAKE FLOOD ROYAL ICING?

Learn about Royal Icing Consistency in detail : how to thin royal icing to different consistencies and how to use them in real cookie decorating projects (Video included).

MORE USEFUL ROYAL ICING TUTORIALS :

5 from 3 votes
Fresh Lemon Royal Icing
Prep Time
10 mins
 

Recipe for Fresh Lemon Royal Icing. This recipe make 6-6 1/2 cups. It will ice approximately 6 dozen cookies, about 3 inch in size. Remember to ice cookies with a satin smooth finish you need to add water to thick icing to make it more fluid. Be sure to refer to my Guide to Royal Icing Consistency, with useful video tutorial.

Serving size 2 tablespoons

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, French
Keyword: fresh lemon royal icing, royal icing
Servings: 48
Hanielas.com: Hani Bacova
Ingredients
Metric Version
  • 1 kg powdered sugar sift if needed
  • 70 grams meringue powder
  • 5 grams (1tsp) cream of tartar optional
  • 55 ml strained fresh lemon juice
  • 110 ml tap warm water
  • 10 ml (1tbl) Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp (5ml) almond extract optional
Cup Version
  • 2 lb (7-8 cups) powdered sugar, sift the sugar if needed
  • 4 1/2 tbsp meringue powder
  • 1/4 cup  strained fresh lemon juice  one lemon
  • 1/4 cup +2tbsp tap warm water
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar optional
  • 1 tbs Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Almond extract optional
Instructions
  1. Make sure all your tools are grease free!
  2. I wipe my tools with a piece of paper towel and vinegar. Wipe dry with a clean towel.
  3. Sift the powdered sugar if needed, if powdered sugar has big chunks make sure you sift it, otherwise I don’t sift.
  4. Whisk meringue powder with fresh lemon juice and warm water, until slightly foamy, add cream of tartar,  whisk well and then add all the powdered sugar at once. Using your stand mixer, on the lowest setting, using paddle attachment, mix for about 3-4 minutes, add  vanilla extract, continue mixing for another 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl once and beat again.
  5. When icing is done it should be stiff. Try not to overmix.
Recipe Notes
HOW MANY CUPS DOES THIS RECIPE MAKE?

About 6-6 1/2cups, will ice 6 dozen cookies, about 3 inch in size.

I ONLY NEED A LITTLE BIT OF ICING, HOW DO I MAKE A SMALL BATCH?

Here is the recipe I use Small Batch Royal Icing

HOW LONG DOES THIS ROYAL ICING RECIPE LAST?

Fresh Lemon Royal Icing can be stored at room temperature for up to a month. Or you can freeze it, too. How to Freeze Royal Icing.

CAN I STORE IT AT ROOM TEMPERATURE?

Store royal icing in an airtight container. Covered with a plastic wrap to prevent crusting.

Fresh Lemon Royal Icing can be stored at room temperature for up to a month.

However, I store unused icing in the refrigerator. I prefer refrigeration as icing doesn’t separate as much as it does at room temperature.

I DON’T LIKE LEMON CAN I JUST USE WATER INSTEAD?

If lemon flavor is not your thing, it’s okay. You can still make royal icing using this recipe. In a place of lemon juice use water instead.

CAN I USE LEMON JUICE FROM A BOX?

Honestly the only bottled lemon juice that I would recommend is Volcano Organic Lemon Juice . 

DO I HAVE TO SIFT POWDERED SUGAR?

Is powdered sugar you are using lumpy? If you yes, sift it. I use powdered sugar that doesn’t have lumps and I don’t sift it anymore and I have not issues with icing.

I HAVE TONS OF LEFTOVER CAN I FREEZE ROYAL ICING ?

If longer storage is required you can follow these steps and  learn more about how to Freeze and reuse frozen icing for cookie decorating.

I DON’T HAVE MERINGUE POWDER CAN I USE FRESH EGG WHITES INSTEAD?
DO YOU HAVE MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT ROYAL ICING?

Check my Royal Icing FAQ.

I’M NEW TO COOKIE DECORATING DO YOU HAVE A TUTORIAL ON HOW THIN ROYAL ICING AND PREPARE IT FOR COOKIE DECORATING?

Here is a great post Guide to Royal Icing Consistency – I explain different icing consistencies and their use in cookie decorating. Post include a video tutorial that show examples of different consistencies used for real cookie decorating project.

This post was originally published on October 26th, 2011. In 2019 I updated this post with new step by step process photos, written text.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no cost to you. I only recommend products that I use and love. Learn more about my affiliate policy here.

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48 Comments

    1. Hi Kathyann,
      This recipe is not suitable for icing the cake. You can use Swiss Buttercream, American Buttercream, Italian Buttercream, German BUttercream to frost the cake.

  1. This recipe is so good. However, is there away to create it so that it’s not so thick?
    Thank you Hani for all the good recipes.

    1. Hello!
      If you’d like to make it thinner you just need to make a little bit of water. This recipe makes stiff royal icing that is suitable for piping flowers and gluing gingerbread houses.
      For different consistencies please refer to my Royal Icing Consistency post.

  2. I’m really new to this cookie decorating and have never used royal icing before, and I’m 51!
    Want to make bridal shower cookies for my daughter and after much online searching I’ve chosen your recipes. What if I don’t have a stand mixer? I only have a hand mixer. Will that work? Also, in Canada I have yet to find meringue powder. I’m still looking.

    1. Hi Jody,

      you can totally use a hand held mixer. Have you tried online? Or Michael’s craft store to get meringue powder?

    2. Bulk Barn carries it – you’ll find it with the spices. Online, try Flour Confections or How Sweet Is That (two Canadian stores I’ve recently discovered – HSIT has a huge cookie cutter selection too, tho I do find their prices a bit steep). Hope this helps if you’re still looking!

  3. Hello! Please help LOL!
    I did the small batch recipe as written, but mine is very dry… I feel like maybe we need more wet ingredients somewhere.
    I added…
    2cups powered sugar, 1TBSP meringue power, 3 and 1/2 TBSP of lukewarm water, 1/2 tsp of vanilla, 1/8 tsp almond extract and 1/8 tsp of lemon juice.

    1. Hello,
      when you say very dry, is it very thick and homogenous or is it so dry that powdered sugar is not mixing in? Former, is normal, you’ll need to thin icing further with water to bring it flood consistency or
      if you need to pipe flowers you’ll use thick consistency. If it’s the latter then that’s unusual but definitely can happen, maybe powdered sugar has more starch than usual etc. So in that case I’d add 1 tsp of water and mix again.
      Try not to add too much water all at once as it may thin the icing too much.

  4. Love your site and all your videos. Big fan here.
    Does this RI dry hard enough to allow for painting with gel color mixed with Everclear. I like the idea of an icing with a softer bite but want to make sure it’s still suitable for painting.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Donna,
      Yes, icing dries hard. For a softer bite icing you can use up to 1/4 to 1/3 cup
      of corn syrup per batch of royal icing, and you can still paint it with edible paints. Thank you and happy decorating.

  5. Do I have to do anything differently using this recipe to use it for constructing a gingerbread house? Thank you!

  6. Thank you very much for this information this is a huge help for beginners like me. More power! <3

  7. Hi! In my country lemon it’s not easy to find, instead can I use lime juice? How can I adjust the amount of lime juice (the green one without seeds – Tahiti type) to correct the acid flavour in Royal Icing?

    1. Hi Bruna,
      I think it depends on the taste, you can control acidity with the amount of juice added. It’s hard for me to say how much of lime juice you’ll need. I’d try using the 1:1 ratio first.

  8. Hello, I need your help. Could you tell me what is the amount in grams of ingredients?. Thank you

      1. Thank you for your reply Hani. What exactly does the corn syrup do for the icing? Does the icing still get firm on the cookies so you can stack them or put them in individual bags? Does the c.s. give the royal icing a shine? I read that once you flood royal icing onto cookies, place a fan in front of the cookies to help dry and make them shine. Does the fan help to keep the shine?
        Thanks again.

      2. Hi Margaret,
        you can add up to 1/4 to 1/3 cup corn syrup per big batch of royal icing(1kg powdered sugar) or add few tablespoons. Corn syrup makes royal icing dry with a softer bite. Yes you can still stack the cookies once the icing dries.It also gives the icing satin finish. Yes, drying in front of the fan, or with the ceiling fan promotes faster drying resulting in shinier finish. You also find lots answers in ROYAL ICING FAQ

      3. Hi Hani im confussed, does the recipe have corn sirop and when i have to added to this recipe.

      4. I don’t always add corn suryp. To make royal icing with a soft bite you can add up to 1/4 cup of corn syrup. Add it after dry ingredients(meringue,cream of tartar, powdered sugar) and wet ingredients(juice/water) are blended together.

    1. You can use chickpeas liquid to make eggless royal icing. Use about 6 tbl of the liquid strained from the canned chickpeas. Whisk it until foamy then add about 5 cups powdered sugar and beat until thick. Flavor with vanilla, lemon etc. Color with food colors. I’ll have recipe up in a few weeks.

      1. Hi Hani: Instead of fresh lemon juice can I use lemon extract instead? How much should I use? Thank you.

      2. Hi Suzy,
        absolutely. Depending on how strong lemon flavor you like I’d start with 2 tsp Vanilla and 1 to 2 tsp lemon extract.

  9. I have a royal icing recipe that has glycerin and corn syrup in it. I like this icing because it doesn’t dry rock hard, but you can still package and stack them. Do you think I could use these two ingredients in your lemon royal icing recipe?

    1. Hi Lee, I have been looking for a recipe like that. Would you be willing to share that here? Thank you in advance!

  10. I just found this one. I am vegan and I don’t have meringue powder but do already have arrow root and xanthan gum. Can’t wait to try Hanielas tips.. her decorating is spot on!!!!!!! So beautifully done

      1. Hi Laurel,

        I have a heavy hand when it comes to Vanilla in royal icing and I use 1 tablespoon. But I have also used 1 teaspoon when I’m running low on Vanilla and it’s still delicious, especially with addition of almond. When not using almond extract I like to use 1 tablespoon of vanilla for sure.

  11. How far in advance can I decorate the fresh baked cookies with royal icing for a birthday party and thank you? I am using you awesome vanilla cookie recipe and royal icing. It's alway's been a big success! Thank you for sharing you "successful" recipes and decorating tips. You are a wonderful gift to me as an amature baker for my grandchildren! God's blessings!

  12. Thank you very much for the recipes you’ve shared. I’ve seen almost all of your videos on utube, most of them twice. You are extremely talented and gifted in many culinary deliciousness categories. May God continue to Bless you.

  13. Hello dear thanx for yr wonderfully tutorials pls I want to make cup cake for my son and I want to decorate it with Lebanese flag it's for school project can u help what type of icing I should use for the decoration .

  14. Does the lemon juice effect the way to royal icing behaves? I have read not to use lemon extract because of the oil but love lemon flavor.

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