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Royal Icing [Fresh Eggs, Meringue|Liquid Egg Whites Recipes]

I use Royal Icing to decorate sugar cookies. And it can also be used to create dainty sugar roses, succulents, colorful butterflies or very intricate designs on cakes, cookies or gingerbread houses. In addition to decorating I also use to build all of my Gingerbread Houses and Centerpieces.

Ultimate Recipes for Royal Icing

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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.

EGG WHITES

To make royal icing you need egg whites. Depending on what is available to you can use different forms of egg whits to make traditional royal icing.

TYPES OF EGG WHITE 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 pasteurized egg whites, cornstarch and stabilizers. Readily available.
How to make Royal Icing with Pasteurized Liquid Egg Whites

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, my conclusion is that 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.

Egg White for Royal Icing

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 (made with meringue powder). I like to use fresh lemon juice in addition to Vanilla and Almond extract. Lemon adds a refreshing flavor. And it also 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. Use alcohol or water based flavorings.

How to Flavor Royal Icing

My personal favorite is a combination of Vanilla, Lemon and Almond. Another popular flavoring is called Cookie Nip.

I also like all Vanilla Icing especially if icing is 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. Powdered sugar contains a small amount of starch to prevent caking.

Powdered sugar for cookie decorating

RECIPES FOR ROYAL ICING COOKIE AND CAKE DECORATING

Instructions to make Royal Icing are pretty much the same regardless of the egg whites you use.

CLEAN THE BOWL :

Clean the bowl with vinegar and wipe it clean.

ROYAL ICING RECIPE USING MERINGUE POWDER

  • Meringue powder
  • Powdered sugar
  • Cream of tartar (substitute 1tsp lemon juice)
  • Lukewarm water
  • Vanilla

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.

In a bowl of you mixer whisk together lukewarm water, meringue and cream of tartar (you can omit if you don’t have, it’s used to further stabilize icing). Whisk until well combined and mixture is foamy. Next, into the bowl add all of the powdered sugar.

Recipe for cookie decorating icing

Mix icing on low speed. Scrape down the bowl to make sure everything is well combined. Mix until thick. On low speed mix in extracts. Once thick stop mixing and use or store icing immediately.

Icing for cookie decorating

FRESH EGG WHITES ROYAL ICING

  • Fresh egg whites
  • Powdered sugar
  • Cream of tartar (substitute 1tsp lemon juice)
  • Vanilla, Almond, Lemon Extracts

Crack the room temperature eggs and separate egg yolks and egg whites. Into a clean mixer bowl add fresh egg whites ( pasteurized egg whites will look slightly cloudy, this is normal). Next, on low speed beat in cream of tartar and gradually while mixing on low speed add powdered sugar.

Mixing

Mix till icing becomes think and then add extracts. Mix well and scrape the bowl to incorporate all the ingredients well. Once icing is thick store or use immediately. Store in an airtight container covered with a plastic wrap and covered tightly with a lid.

cookie decorating icing

LIQUID EGG WHITES ROYAL ICING

  • Liquid egg whites
  • Powdered sugar
  • Cream of tartar (substitute 1 tsp lemon juice)
  • Vanilla, Almond and Lemon Extracts
How to make Royal icing

Ideally you’d want to use a stand mixer when making icing. That being said when making a batch of icing using 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar it’s okay to use a hand held mixer.

Pour liquid egg whites into a bowl. On low speed beat in cream of tartar. Then gradually add powdered sugar. Don’t add all of the powdered sugar at once. Continue beating after each addition of powdered sugar until icing is thick.

Liquid Egg Whites Icing Recipe

Then beat in extracts. Mixing icing this way should take about 7 minutes or so. Store thick icing or use immediately.

Also, by the time you are done mixing with hand held mixer bottoms (or tops depends on how you look them; part that is exposed to air) of the beaters will be most likely crusted. Be careful not to add crusted bits into the fresh icing.

How to make icing

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.

Prevent Icing from crusting

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.

DECORATE COOKIES

  • 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. You can learn more in depth about royal icing consistency in my Ultimate Guide to Royal Icing Consistency.

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.

meringue separation

TO MAKE ICING AND TO DECORATE YOU NEED

USEFUL TUTORIALS :

5 from 1 vote
Ultimate Recipes for Royal Icing
Royal Icing Recipe
Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
10 mins
 

Based on ingredients available to make Royal Icing you can use

Meringue Powder

Liquid Egg Whites

Fresh Eggs ( raw or in-shell pasteurized)

Course: Dessert, Frosting
Cuisine: American
Keyword: piping royal icing, royal icing, royal icing flower, royal icing sugar cookie
Hanielas.com: Hani
Ingredients
Meringue Powder Royal Icing (make about 6 cups)
  • 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
Liquid Egg Whites Royal Icing (makes about 3 cups)
  • 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
Fresh Eggs Royal Icing -(makes about 3 cups) in-shell pasteurized or raw, in-shell pasteurized eggs can be hard to find, check your local grocery store if they carry such product.
  • 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
Instructions
Meringue Powder Royal Icing
  1. 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.

Liquid Eggs Royal Icing
  1. 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.

Fresh Eggs Royal Icing
  1. 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.

Recipe Notes

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.

 

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Polka dot decorated cookies with fresh royal icing.

I updated this post from 2010 with new photos, written text and new recipes.

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40 Comments

  1. Hi, if I’m using pasteurized liquid egg whites to ice my cookies, how long can the iced cookies stay at room temperature? Do the decorated cookies need to be refrigerated at some point?

  2. Can you use fresh egg whites for decorating gingerbread houses that will be on display for some time or does the icing go bad?

  3. I have a cookie business and always use meringue powder but with this Vivid mess I’m not able to go to the store to get more. I do have free range chickens. So I will be using fresh egg whites. AFTER I decorate the cookies and they are completely dry how do I store them for my costumers? Can they stay out on an air tight container or do they have to be stored in the fridge?

    1. You can store them as usual. I know it’s difficult to get supplies right now. Hope you can get some meringue soon.

  4. I love to watch your videos! I am trying royal icing for the first time for a baby shower and I was wondering if I could make & decorate the cookies ahead of time and then freeze them? I’ve frozen my cookies before and they come out fine, I am more asking how the icing will hold up.

    1. Hello Ashleigh, yes you can freeze decorated cookies. Be sure to freeze them in freeze safe containers/ bags. Allow cookie to thaw completely before opening container or bags.

      Have fun and Happy Easter.
      Stay Safe.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing. The recipe was so user-friendly and worked great.
    Your videos are so inspiring!

  6. Hi Haniela! Thanks for posting this recipe, I absolutely love the consistency and it’s so easy to work with. I used the liquid egg whites when I made this (i had only ever used meringue powder with different recipes before I found yours). The only problem I ran into that I can’t seem to figure out is this icing dries SO fast! By the time I finish piping a circle outline, it’s already starting to crust. This makes it difficult when I flood too as I am not able to mix it in and get an even layer with a scribe. Help! How do I slow down the crusting?

    1. Hi Nihana,
      Sorry to hear you are experiencing these issues. Ambient temperature or air circulation. Are you working close the heater or a fan. I can affect how fast icing is crusting. Try adding little bit of glycerin or corn syrup to your royal icing, it can delay crusting time a little bit. And I’d recommend adding some white food coloring as well. Hope it helps. Hani

  7. Hello! I am new to decorating cookies with royal icing and this is great info!! I wondered if you could tell me to make them shiny?!?

    1. Hi Sarah, thank you!
      How to make icing dry shiny
      Try to speed up drying time by using fans to promote air circulation, it helps significantly with sheen finish on cookies iced with royal icing.

  8. Hi Hani thanks for sharing your recepies and hints with us they are very useful. I have searched for the meringue powder here in Paris but cannot find it. Can you tell me how much egg powder and starch do I need to make my meringue powder please.

    1. Hi Mimma,
      you can use dehydrated/powdered egg whites to make royal icing. Have you checked the packaging on dehydrated egg whites you have? Often a recipe is printed on the back. If so, I’d follow that recipe to make royal icing.
      Otherwise I’d use
      3 tablespoons powdered egg whites (15ml liquid measure)
      6 tablespoons warm water
      4-5 cups powdered sugar (500grams)
      1tsp lemon juice or cream of tartar (this is to stabilize the egg whites)

      1. Thank you for this alternative recipe. I live in the UK and meringue powder is not widely available either, only on Amazon and it’s quite expensive. This comes in very handy. Cheers!

  9. Haniela, have you ever had a problem with bleeding when using liquid egg whites? It seems no matter what I do or how long I let each area dry I still have issues with bleeding.

      1. I use americolor. I have tried everything. Using a fan or heater. Adding corn syrup, mixing colors hours before use. All colors seem to bleed even yellow.

      2. Try adding some white food coloring to the base of the royal icing. I personally prefer using meringue powder.

  10. Thank you for everything you do!
    Just wondering what bags you use? Also, do you use 1 or 2 bags per colour for outlining and flooding?
    Thanks again!!

    1. HI Kate,

      I usually use 1 piping bag for outlining and for flooding. I like to use 15 second consistency for flood and outline.

  11. Hi, my meringue powder has cream of tartar listed as an ingredient, do I still add the tsp cream of tartar? Thanks.

  12. What can I use instead of meringue powder? How much and will it change how the icing looks and dries? I’m so confused about what to do.

    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.

  13. This is very helpful since this is my first attempt at cookie making. So, I mixed the icing per your recipe and recommendations. I don’t have a stand mixer (but seeing the need for one!) I mixed with a hand mixer for 10 minutes. I was afraid to go longer as you said not to over do it. My icing didn’t turn out as thick as yours. It’s more like the outline consistency. Any suggestions for my second try? Oh, I did use Cream of Tartar as this is a humid climate. Any suggestions will be appreciated.
    Thank you:)

    1. You can add little more powdered sugar, and if you need to thin it down use little bit of water and a spray bottle. HOpe it helps.

  14. Your recipe for this icing along with your sugar recipe are my go to recipes! Thank you for sharing these. They are wonderful! You are so talented!

  15. Hi I just made this and it's freaky tangy like vinegar. I ended up tasting the cream of tartar and that's where out came from. Is it supposed to be that way our could my cream of tartar be bad?

  16. Hi Haniela!
    I use Antonio74 recipe too even her cookie recipe and I found them very good. Thanks for posting your techniques.
    Jeannie

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