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Royal Icing for Decorated Sugar Cookies

Jul 13, 2020

We all know what a beautifully decorated sugar cookie looks like. It's a work of art that seems almost too pretty to eat. The way to get from plain ole cookie to edible art is royal icing! I'm sharing some of my favorite tips and tricks about royal icing to help you create some of your own cookie art!

When it comes to being a cookier, having a delicious roll out cookie recipe is the foundation for your success. Second only to that is your royal icing. If the cookies are your foundation, the royal icing you use to decorate your sugar cookies is the backbone. Making and using this unique icing is simple once you get the hang of it, and that's what I want to help you do! 

What is Royal Icing?

First things first: What makes this icing different from other icing? The biggest difference is that royal icing is great for decorating cookies. It dries into a smooth and glossy finish, which makes it easy to package and stack your cookies. When first mixed, royal icing (RI for short) should be thick. Making it thick allows you to store it easily in the freezer or on the counter and mix to your desired consistency when you need it. Just add your preferred gel color and water to make piping and flooding consistencies from the thicker RI. HINT: Use a spray bottle to add in small amounts of water. It is better to thin it down with water than it is to thicken it back up with more powdered sugar because if you have already mixed in your gel colors, it can alter your color. The colored RI will darken overnight, so don't add too much. TIP: Some cookiers prefer to put their flooded cookies in front of a fan on low setting and some use a dehydrator to help them dry quickly and have a nice shine.

Royal Icing Recipe
Royal icing for sugar cookies consists of just four ingredients and is simple to make! Powdered sugar, meringue powder, emulsions for flavor, and water are all you need. There are tons of royal icing recipes out there! I think I have tried just about all of them. I like the royal icing recipe from Wilton. I double it when I need a large batch and add a flavorful twist. I love to use almond emulsion, lemon emulsion and vanilla extract in my cookies which gives an added level of flavor. I also add almond and lemon emulsions to my icing because I love the way they taste together! In my experience, the almond flavor is like cilantro: you either love it or you hate it, so try it in a small batch first. Another thing to keep in mind is that vanilla prices have sky-rocketed lately. I don't stick to a particular brand, I just focus on cost. You'll want to play around with your own icing recipe tweaking it until you find a combination that you absolutely love. 

Meringue Powder
Many royal icing recipes use meringue powder (MP for short) which is an awesome alternative to raw egg whites. Raw egg whites pose a food safety issue that using meringue powder eliminates. It is easier to work with and more consistent than egg whites too. My favorite brand is LorAnn Meringue Powder. I've tried several but this is the one that I always go back to. If you've never tried this MP before, I promise that it will change your cookie decorating life in wonderful ways!

Decorating with Royal Icing
And now for the fun part - decorating! There are a few different ways to use your icing. Some cookiers like to use 2 consistencies, one consistency to pipe the outline around the edge of the cookie and then use a loose consistency to flood or fill in the area inside. This requires 2 bags of RI, one for piping and 1 for flooding. Other cookiers like to use 1 consistency that is around 20 seconds(meaning when you pick up your spoon in the bowl of RI and let the RI drip off that it settles back into itself nice and smooth in 20 seconds) and pipe then flood all at once. This requires 1 bag of RI of the same consistency. The most important thing is to get a nice smooth and flat base. It helps if you use a scribe tool to help smooth out the RI when needed. You can add decorative details by piping or stenciling on top of your base after it is dry or maybe you'll want to try using the wet on wet method of decorating your cookie. Just pipe, flood, and then add other colors of flood icing right onto the wet base icing and it will meld together making a fun cookie! Dipping and marbling cookies is popular too. These two methods are faster. You can also create RI transfers for cookies by piping shapes directly onto acetate or wax paper. When the transfers are dry, you can "glue" them onto the cookie with a small dot of royal icing. Pretty flowers can be piped using piping tips too. For flowers, you will need a stiff consistency of icing so that your decoration is strong enough to create the look you want and also transfer safely to your cookie. 

Using Royal Icing with Cookie Stencils
Ok, now this is where things get really fun! Cookie stencils are my favorite thing about decorating. They help you to add uniqueness and consistency to your creations. And, since you can learn to design your own, the possibilities for what you can create are endless! To use a cookie stencil, you just place it on top of the cookies that have been prepared with base icing and then scrape your royal icing over top of it or use an airbrush with edible color to spray through the stencil. When you remove your stencil you have a beautiful design! The best part is that you can repeat that design exactly the same way on as many cookies as you want. If you would like to learn more about designing and using cookie stencils and cookie cutters, check out The Colorful Cookie Club where I will teach you everything you need to know! As a member you have access to over 400 video tutorials and FREE digital stencil and cookie cutter downloads. Plus, I do a Facebook LIVE tutorial and Q & A every week.You also become a part of our members only Facebook group where you can ask questions, share ideas, and be supported by an amazing group of cookiers! *The beautifully stenciled monogram cookies at the top of this blog post were made by Kim Greer, a member of The Colorful Cookie Club.


Cookie decorating has brought so much happiness to my life! I love the creative possibilities and the joy that cookies brings to others. I also love the people I have met in the cookie community. My favorite part is helping people learn about cookie decorating and stencil designing so that they can discover the same joys that I have.

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