Royal Icing Recipe

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Royal Icing is the best frosting for gingerbread houses and decorated sugar cookies because it hardens.  Today I'm sharing my favorite royal icing recipe--the one my family has used for decades, and the one I used on Food Network's Holiday Gingerbread Showdown

Royal icing on a metal beater standing on a wooden surface.

In fact, I'm going to share three different versions of my royal icing recipe:  one made with meringue powder, one made with regular egg whites, and one made with powdered egg whites.  That way, you'll be able to make royal icing, no matter which ingredients are easiest to find in your area.

Gingerbread houses assembled and decorated with royal icing.

Royal icing is the delicious, edible glue that holds gingerbread houses together.  And it makes really pretty decorations for the houses, too.

Shades of pink royal icing in piping bags on a white surface.

And, of course, it's great for decorating gorgeous sugar cookies.

Ingredients for Royal Icing Recipe on a wooden surface.

Easy Royal Icing Recipe Ingredients:

Red kitchenaid mixer making Royal Icing Recipe

Combine dry ingredients together.  Add the wet ingredients, and mix to combine.  As soon as all of the ingredients are wet, turn the mixer to high and beat for several minutes until the royal icing is stiff and fluffy.

Royal Icing on a green spatula in front of a brown wooden backdrop

You can always thin the icing with water if you need it to be thinner, so I always mix my royal icing to be very stiff at first.

large pastry bag filled with Royal Icing

Royal Icing Recipe With Egg Whites

The classic recipe for royal icing--the recipe we used for years before meringue powder made it so much easier--calls for using egg whites.  

  • 1 bag (two pounds) of powdered sugar
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch salt

This traditional royal icing recipe just uses egg whites instead of the meringue powder and water.  Mix it up in exactly the same way.

I find this version of royal icing to take longer to beat to stiff peaks, but it does get there!  Keep mixing!  

Important:  be sure you don't get the smallest DROP of egg yolks in the icing, or it will not set!  Break your eggs in a separate bowl, so if you do accidentally break a yolk, you can just throw out the eggs, not all of the icing ingredients.  If you break a yolk, you must discard everything in that bowl (make an omlette or something)--DO NOT attempt to use it in the icing, even if you think you've gotten all the yolk out!  The fat in the egg yolks will prevent the icing from setting properly, and your project will fail.

Royal Icing Recipe with Powdered Egg Whites

A few months ago I moved to England from the US, and meringue powder is much harder to find here.  Fortunately, powdered egg whites are easily available, and work just as well.  Just look for a brand that is 100% egg whites, with absolutely no other additives.

  • 1 bag (two pounds) of powdered sugar
  • 24 grams powdered egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 168 grams of water

Again, the technique to mix the icing is the same.  

Bowl of royal icing covered with a damp kitchen towel.

Be sure to cover your royal icing with a clean, damp kitchen towel as you're working to keep the icing from crusting over.

Two piping bags full of royal icing, with the tips covered by a damp kitchen towel.

Even the tips of your icing bags need to be kept covered with a damp cloth or the icing exposed to the air at the end of the tip will harden and clog the tip.

Six pastry bags full of different colors of royal icing next to two undecorated sugar cookies.

Decorated Sugar Cookie Tutorials You Might Like:

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Other Ways to Use Royal Icing You Might Like:

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Comments

If all things were equal, and you had all of the ingredients for each different style, which would you make? Can you tell subtle differences between them? Does one try a tad bit softer?

I'd say that the meringue powder and powdered egg white version are equally easy and convenient, and yield an identical product.  I'd make that version ALMOST every time over the kind made with real egg whites.

The only time I bother with the fuss of using real egg whites is if I'm doing delicate piping and I need that tiny bit of extra strength that the icing made with real egg whites (liquid form, straight from the egg) has.  If I were making a delicate, lacy piped icing fence, for example.  And even then, I'd make 10 versions of the item, because at least several would probably crack as I'd try to use them.  Royal icing is always delicate!

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Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

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