Royal Icing for Cookie Decorating

Cookie decorating is more than an adventure, it’s a journey.  I’ve come a long way, and I feel like I’ve learned a lifetime of tips and information in just a few short years.  I’ve used this knowledge and experience to change and tweak some of my methods and recipes.  My royal icing is the perfect example.

When I originally shared my recipe, I was working from home, decorating twenty to thirty dozen cookies a week.  The original recipe definitely reflects that.

Eventually, life changed as it tends to do, and I realized that most people will never ever need a four quarts of royal icing at once.  So, here’s what that happens in my kitchen these days.  It’s basically the same except half as much, with a few minor tweaks.

Sweetsugarbelle Royal Icing

Royal Icing

Yield: Approximately 5 cups


  • 2 pounds {one bag} confectioner's sugar {907 grams}
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder {approximately 53 grams}
  • 2-3 teaspoons oil-free extract or emulsion
  • 1/2-3/4 cups warm water


  1. Begin by stirring the flavoring into half the water.
  2. Using a paddle attachment, gently mix the sugar and meringue powder. It's not necessary to sift the sugar beforehand, but you can if you like.
  3. With the mixer on it's lowest setting slowly add the water/flavoring mix to the dry ingredients. As the water is added, the icing will become thick and lumpy.
  4. Continue to add the remaining water {this may or may not be the entire amount} until the mixture reaches a thick, honey like consistency. At this point, turn the mixer to medium speed and whip 2-4 minutes until this icing is thick and fluffy. Mixing time can vary greatly so watch carefully and stop mixing when the icing is this enough to form a soft peak.


Don't be afraid to experiment by adding corn syrup, glycerin, or cream of tartar to the mixture. Use a fan for a smooth shiny finish. Royal icing can be affected by many variables. With a little time and patience, you will find your perfect match.

First lets talk about the most obvious differences in my recipe/method between then and now:

  • I generally use the paddle attachment rather than whisk to mix the icing:  A couple of years ago, I received an email from a reader who made royal icing flowers for a living.  She gave me a few pointers how each attachment affected the final product.  What stuck with me most was her observation that icing mixed with a paddle does not separate as quickly as icing mixed with a whisk.  I didn’t do any in-depth scientific experiments, but based on her knowledge and experience I gave it a try and liked the results.  This doesn’t mean that on days when my paddles are dirty or lost that I won’t use a whisk, I just lean more toward the paddle these days.
  • I don’t make super stiff icing anymore:  This change was born out of practicality.  When I first began making royal icing, I followed the Wilton recipe to a T.  Then a couple of years ago, I took on a rush order {PS-I no longer take orders} for three-thousand double-sided mini-cookies.  By the end of it, I had a stress fracture in my right wrist.  It was then I realized it was much more work to begin with such stiff icing, especially since I rarely used that consistency anyway.  Now, I stop mixing when the icing reaches a consistency that’s pretty close to piping.  If I need stiff icing, I just add sugar.  Much easier on the old wrist, and I may be able to put off the carpal tunnel surgery a few more years.
  • I store my icing on the counter rather than the refrigerator: Again, wisdom from someone with more experience.  When I baked cookies for the public, I used to worry that my icing would spoil.  In my mind, meringue powder equaled eggs, which equaled food poisoning, so I was extra careful.  Then, while chatting with a veteran cake decorator, I learned that I was being overly cautious by storing it in the refrigerator.  Her forty years of experience was good enough for me.  Her exact explanation is a little complicated {see link at the bottom of the post}, but if it’s any consolation, I haven’t killed anyone in the two years since moving my icing.

I took a few photos for those of you who like a visual.  Begin by adding the confectioner’s sugar and meringue powder to your stand mixer.  Using a paddle attachment, turn the mixer to it’s lowest setting {unless you like the Powder look} and gently stir together the dry ingredients.

Sweetsugarbelle Royal Icing Step 1Before moving on, mix the flavoring {I use a mixture of almond and vanilla, with a touch of butter}  and half of the water.  Turn the mixer to slow-medium speed and carefully add to the dry ingredients.  The mixture will become thick and sticky…don’t panic, this is normal.

Sweetsugarbelle Royal Icing Step 2Continue adding the remaining water, little by little, until the icing reaches a thick, honey-like consistency.  If you reach this BEFORE all of the water is gone, that’s okay.  It’s not necessary to add it ALL.

Sweetsugarbelle Royal Icing Step 3Turn the mixer to medium high and whip two to three minutes until the icing forms soft peaks.  I like using a spray bottle of water to fine tune the final consistency.

Sweetsugarbelle Royal Icing Step 4Store in a covered bowl or airtight container until ready to use.  The icing can be left at room temperature or stored in the refrigerator.  It’s totally up to you.

My very first icing post was originally called, “All Roads Lead to Rome” which pretty much means that there are several ways to get to the same point.  This is especially true with royal icing.  If my method isn’t for you, there are several more recipes out there.  Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what works best.

For more interesting reading, be sure to check out the following posts: