Royal Icing

Royal Icing
The Spruce
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 20 servings
Yield: 4 cups
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
96 Calories
0g Fat
24g Carbs
1g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 20
Amount per serving
Calories 96
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 9mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 24g 9%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Protein 1g
Calcium 1mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Royal icing is used for cake and cookie decorations. It's especially handy for putting together gingerbread houses because it acts like hard glue. Sugar cookies, elegant wedding cakes, and special occasion candies can all be beautifully decorated with this icing. A must in the home baker repertoire, royal icing is relatively easy to make but there are some tips and tricks you'll want to follow for the best results.

Royal icing isn't supposed to be used as frosting because of its consistency. Instead, it's best reserved for decorative touches. Once you've mastered how to properly use it, you can make amazing designs on cookies and cakes. Make an afternoon of Halloween, Christmas, or Easter cookie decoration by adding food coloring to the basic white royal icing, too.

Be aware that, by definition, royal icing always has egg whites. Although technically vegetarian, this product in its original version isn't vegan. If you're buying royal icing in the store, know that it has other additives and stabilizers.

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Click Play to See This Homemade Royal Icing Recipe Come Together

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites (at room temperature)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • Optional: food coloring

Steps to Make It

Before You Begin

  • It is easier to separate eggs while they are cold. However, the egg whites should be at room temperature for this recipe. Also, make sure there are no traces of yolk in the egg whites.
  • While the egg whites are warming to room temperature, prepare the mixer bowl and whisk attachment by thoroughly washing and drying them. Egg whites perform best when there is no trace of oil or other residues on the tools so they should be impeccably clean.
  • If you are concerned about ingesting raw egg whites, make sure that you buy pasteurized eggs to minimize risk. Alternatively, use a royal icing recipe with meringue powder, a product with desiccated and pasteurized egg whites.
  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Royal Icing recipe ingredients
     The Spruce
  2. In the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer, place the egg whites, powdered sugar, and cream of tartar.

    Royal Icing recipe
     The Spruce
  3. Using the whisk attachment, beat all together on low speed until well combined, for about 3 to 5 minutes. Although you can use a hand mixer, be aware that it will likely take longer for the icing to reach the right consistency.

    Royal Icing recipe
     The Spruce
  4. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Restart the mixer and beat the mixture on medium speed until very thick, shiny, stiff, and white. This should take about 7 to 10 minutes. Check the texture to ensure that it is suitable for your needs. If you require a stiffer icing, add a little more powdered sugar at this point.

    Royal Icing recipe
     The Spruce
  5. If you want to dye your icing just one color, you can add a few drops of food coloring into the bowl and mix it for a few seconds until the coloring is evenly distributed. If you want to make several different colors, divide the icing into several different bowls and stir in the food coloring by hand.

  6. Use right away and enjoy.

Raw Egg Warning

Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.

How Thick Should Royal Icing Be?

The consistency of your royal icing should be determined how you'll use it:

  • Stiff, very thick icing is best for making decorations that need to hold a shape, such as ruffles, leaves, and flowers.
  • For piping outlines, details, and writing, the icing should be more like toothpaste. It will flow smoothly from the piping bag tip with no breaks in lines.
  • A medium royal icing that's similar in consistency to ketchup is thick enough to do outlines and some lettering, but also thin enough to flood some areas.
  • The thinnest consistency is called flood royal icing. It flows like honey and is good for filling large areas and creating smooth, flat surfaces.

Use Royal Icing Immediately

Royal icing dries to a very hard consistency, and it will begin setting as soon as it is made. Depending on the temperature, humidity, and amount of icing used, royal icing will dry within 15 to 60 minutes of application. To prevent the icing from getting hard before you use it:

  • Thoroughly wet a paper towel and place it over the top of the icing in the bowl. It is very important to keep the icing covered.
  • If you are using a pastry bag and piping tips with the icing, tightly twist the back end of the bag and wrap a wet paper towel around the tip when not in use.
  • Do not refrigerate products with hardened royal icing, as the icing can become soft and sticky.

What Does Cream of Tartar Do to Royal Icing?

Cream of tartar serves dual purposes in royal icing. It stabilizes egg whites, which helps the icing stiffen and harden, and it prevents the sugar from crystallizing. While there are many baking recipes in which a cream of tartar substitute will work, that is not a good idea when making royal icing.