I use Royal Icing to decorate sugar cookies. It can also be used to create dainty royal icing roses, colorful butterflies, incredibly detailed and very intricate designs on cakes, cookies or gingerbread houses. I also use to build my gingerbread houses.
WHAT IS ROYAL ICING MADE OF?
Royal Icing is hard icing made from egg whites and powdered sugar. Often stabilizers like cream or tartar, lemon juice or vinegar are also added. As well as flavorings.
HOW IS ROYAL ICING DIFFERENT FROM BUTTERCREAM?
Royal icing dries into a hard candy like shell. Buttercream stays soft and creamy.
To make royal icing you need egg whites.
There are several types of egg whites you can use :
- Fresh Eggs : widely available
- Fresh Eggs in-shell pasteurized : not widely available, check with your local grocery store if they carry in-shell pasteurized eggs, available in the USA.
- Liquid Egg Whites (pasteurized) : widely available in the USA.
- Meringue Powder : consists of dried egg whites, cornstarch and stabilizers. Readily available.
1. Fresh Egg Whites
As I’m sure you’ve heard this before shell eggs may contain bacteria called Salmonella. It is best to avoid using fresh egg whites when making royal icing for children, pregnant women, or anyone with a weakened immune system. Learn more about Egg Safety.
In my life I’d eaten dozens of raw eggs as a child and I’d never gotten sick. I’m also guilty of eating a raw cookie dough.
Several years ago I suffered a violent food poisoning (not from eggs). And I know how vicious are these symptoms. It took me weeks to fully recover.
So, if you don’t have any other option but using fresh unpasteurized eggs to make Royal Icing, always make sure to use eggs from credible sources. In the United States new Egg Rule came to effect in 2010.
2. Fresh Eggs in-shell pasteurized
Though sparse, you can find pasteurized in-shell eggs in grocery stores in the United States. Shell of such an egg is stamped with a red or blue P in a circle.
These pasteurized shell eggs, according to FDA are safe to consume raw. You can learn more about Pasteurization process.
Whites of pasteurized shell eggs may appear slightly cloudy compared to fresh shell eggs.
3. Liquid Egg Whites
You can use All Whites Egg Whites, they are pasteurized and safe to use uncooked. You can find Liquid Egg Whites in the refrigerated section of your grocery store, usually somewhere around shell eggs.
4. Meringue Powder
To make icing for cookie decorating I primarily use Wilton Meringue Powder. It has a long shelf life and is safe to use uncooked. Meringue Powder consists of pasteurized dried egg whites, gum, cornstarch, stabilizers.
HOW TO MAKE ICING FOR DECORATING TASTE BETTER?
Because on its own it really doesn’t taste like much I flavor it heavily with extracts and natural flavors.
My favorite icing to use is my Fresh Lemon Royal Icing. I like to use fresh lemon juice. It adds a refreshing flavor. And cuts down on the sweetness of otherwise very sweet icing.
However if you are not a fan of lemon you can flavor it with other extracts. I prefer to add Vanilla Extract to pretty much everything. Always start with Vanilla Extract and then build it up with flavors to your liking.
My favorite is Vanilla, Lemon and Almond combo. Another popular flavoring is called Cookie Nip.
I also like all Vanilla Icing especially if icing flavored with Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Bean Paste. It’s absolutely delicious.
CONFECTIONERS’ POWDERED SUGAR
I prefer to use powdered sugar that I don’t have to sift. If your powdered sugar has lot of hard lumps it is best to sift it.
RECIPES FOR ROYAL ICING COOKIE AND CAKE DECORATING
- I will show you how to make icing using :
- Pasteurized Liquid Egg Whites
- Fresh Eggs ( these can be raw or pasteurized in- shell fresh eggs)
- Basic Meringue Royal Icing
- Fresh Lemon Royal Icing (my personal favorite) – RECIPE
BASIC MERINGUE POWDER ROYAL ICING RECIPE
Instructions to make Royal Icing are pretty much the same regardless of the egg whites you use.
Dry ingredients are added to the wet and mixture is beaten on low speed until it thickens. Then flavorings are added and once thick and shiny, royal icing is ready to be used.
FRESH EGG WHITES ROYAL ICING
I use a paddle attachment when using a stand mixer.
PASTEURIZED LIQUID EGG WHITES ROYAL ICING
Ideally you’d want to use a stand mixer when making icing. That being said I made one batch ( 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar batch ) with a hand held mixer with no issues.
One thing to remember when using a hand held mixer. Add powdered sugar gradually.
Also, by the time you are done mixing with hand held mixer bottoms of the beaters will be most likely crusted. Be careful not to add crusted bits into the fresh icing.
Icing is thick.
MY ICING IS TOO HARD WHEN IT DRIES, CAN THIS BE FIXED?
To remedy hard bite of dry icing you can add up to 1/4 cup of corn syrup to the recipe (2lb powdered sugar batch). And half of that amount to smaller batch recipes. Beat the corn syrup in with the extracts.
If making piped flowers and other decoration like butterflies, roses and such, I’d definitely keep the corn syrup out of the recipe.
STORING ROYAL ICING
It is very important that you protect icing from crusting. Thick icing crusts fairly quickly.
It is essential that you cover it with a damp towel or store it in an airtight container covered tightly with a plastic wrap, until ready to use.
HOW LONG DOES ICING LAST?
Icing made with Meringue powder lasts for up to a month at room temperature. I prefer storing icing in the fridge.
Use icing made with pasteurized liquid products without 5 days, store it in the fridge.
Icing made with egg white from fresh eggs should be used immediately.
- COLOR YOUR ICING – You can color icing with food colors. I recommend using concentrated food gels. If possible color icing before you thin it with water.
- DECORATING COOKIES – To create smooth designs on cookies icing has be prepared for cookie decorating You need to thin thick icing to more fluid consistency. This is achieved by adding a room temperature water to the icing. It is best to use a spray bottle to add water. Using a spray bottle helps to control the amounts of water added. When a spoon is used as it is really easy to add too much water all at once.
- USEFUL TUTORIALS
- ROYAL ICING FAQ – covers wider range of topics, from coloring, troubleshooting, tips and tricks on drying, bubbles, bleeding and more
- FREEZING ROYAL ICING
- SMALL BATCH ROYAL ICING
ICING FOR DECORATING SEPARATES
Separation is a common icing phenomenon. Notice in the picture below liquid is settled on the bottom and solids stay atop. This is absolutely normal.
Icing has to be stirred or mixed again to restore the consistency. I usually use a fork or a firm spatula.
Based on ingredients available to make Royal Icing you can use
Liquid Egg Whites
Fresh Eggs ( raw or in-shell pasteurized)
- 4 1/2 tbsp Meringue Powder
- 8 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp cream of tartar substitute 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup + 2tbsp lukewarm water
- 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 tsp Almond Extract
- 1 tsp Lemon Extract
- 1/3 cup Liquid Egg Whites
- 4.5 cups powdered sugar
- ½ tsp cream of tartar substitute 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- ½ tsp Almond Extract optional
- ½ tsp Lemon Extract optional
- 3 egg, separated
- 4 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar substitute 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- ½ tsp Almond Extract optional
- ½ tsp Lemon Extract optional
In a bowl of your mixer whisk together water, meringue powder and cream of tartar. Add powdered sugar and mix on low speed with a paddle attachment. Mix till thick. It can take up to 10 minutes. Beat in extracts.
Whisk together liquid egg whites and cream of tartar. On lows speed, gradually beat in powdered sugar. Mix for several minutes, mixture will gradually thicken and become glossy. Beat till thick then add extracts. It should take about 7 minutes or so.
Separate egg yolks from egg whites. In a bowl of a stand mixer beat together egg whites, cream of tartar and gradually keep beating in powdered sugar. Mix on low speed till thick. Then beat in extract and continue mixing until thoroughly mixed in. Icing should be thick and glossy.
Make sure your tools are grease free. Wipe them dry with vinegar.
I generally use stand mixer to make royal icing. If using 1/2 pound batch(4.5 cups powdered sugar) you can also utilize a hand held mixer. Be sure to add powdered sugar gradually.
Once Royal Icing is prepared it can be colored, thinned down to more fluid consistency for cookie decorating. You can then fill your piping bags and decorate as desired.
If you plan on using royal icing later be sure store in an airtight container covered tightly with a plastic wrap to prevent crusting.
TO MAKE ROYAL ICING AND TO DECORATE YOU NEED
- Stand Mixer
- Hand Held Mixer
- Measuring Cups
- Measuring Spoons
- Piping Bags
- Food Colors
- My Favorite Cookie Making/Baking tools
- Favorite Decorating Tools
- Favorite Cookie Cutters
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