This basic royal icing recipe is super simple to make and tastes yummy, plus, when it dries, it doesn’t become rock solid like many royal icing recipes out there. Rather, it has a soft to medium bite.
This recipe is not the only royal icing recipe I use, but it is definitely one of the favorites. It took me a while to tweak it to the point that it was just right. And since it’s so quick and easy and simple to make, it has become my go-to to share with others, especially during cookie decorating classes.
About Royal Icing
Royal icing is different than other icings because it hardens when it dries. This is what makes it perfect for decorated cookies as the design you pipe or spread onto the cookie canvas stays put after drying.
The negative with royal icing is that it can sometimes become very hard (or have what is called a hard bite). My recipe calls for corn syrup which acts in the icing to soften the bite, instead making it more of a soft to medium bite. This is desirable because that means the cookie is easier to bite into and enjoy without breaking your teeth!
Meringue powder is the key ingredient in royal icing! Some royal icings are made using pasteurized egg whites, but most decorators prefer powdered meringue powder as this is less expensive and holds up better. My favorite brands of meringue powder are Genie’s Dream and CK.
In cookie decorating, several consistencies are used: flood, medium, and stiff.
Flood consistency is what I use the most. This is icing that is runnier and will merge back into itself to create a smooth top. This merging is measured in second. If you take a spoon and drizzle some of the icing from the spoon back into the bowl with the rest of the icing, count how many second it takes to merge back into itself. That’s how many second the icing is. I personally prefer around a 20 second icing, which is closer to a medium consistency, but still merges smoothly back into itself. My medium flood consistency also results in puffy icing which looks quite lovely. The ultimate consistency you choose to go with can vary based on individual preference and where you live (humid environment vs. dry environment).
Medium consistency is thicker, but not super thick, icing. This is best suited for things like writing, leaves, outlining, and borders.
Stiff icing is the thickest of course. It holds its shape well so its perfect for flowers, sharp lines, and stenciling.
Those are just the basic consistencies. There is a wide range depending on how much or how little water is added.
When adjusting the consistency of your icing from stiff to medium or flood, you want to add the water in tiny amounts as sometimes a little can go a long way. One way I’ve found to do this is to use a spray bottle (cleaned up and designated just for cake and cookie decorating uses) with water and spritz the water in a little at a time.
Fresh royal icing, especially after just being mixed, can sometimes have air bubbles. The best and easiest way I have found to eliminate them (besides popping them after icing the cookie) is to let the icing sit, covered as described next, overnight. By morning, most of the air bubbles will have risen to the surface of the icing. Stir them down with a spatula.
Royal icing dries out easily. That’s what you want. But you don’t want that happening while in your bowl. So, to keep your icing wet while in use, place a damp towel or paper towel over the top of your bowl then put plastic wrap over that to keep the towel moist. Lift this towel and plastic wrap set up to the side long enough to get icing out of the bowl then put them over the top.
Prevent Leaking and Drying in the Bags
After filling your piping bags with your icing, you don’t want them oozing out everywhere neither do you want them drying out. There are a couple ways to prevent this.
First, to keep things from oozing out or drying out from the top of the bag, tie the top, put a tiny rubber band (such as loom bands) on it, use a bag clip (my favorite method), or shut it with a bag taper.
Next, to keep things from leaking out the open top of your tipless bag, place the tip up against a damp paper towel. Or use a sewing clip to pinch it shut. If you are using a tip, press it against the damp paper towel like I just mentioned or use a tip cover (though I find these to work better for storage purposes).
TJ’s Yummy Royal Icing
- Add all of the ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer) and stir a bit with a spatula or spoon until just moistened (this pre-stirring prevents the "poof" of powdered sugar making it look like a snow flurry ran through your kitchen).
- Add additional water a tiny bit at a time (I use a spray bottle of water and spritz it in) as necessary to reach the desired consistency.
- Beat on medium for about 5 minutes or until most of the sheen has gone.