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Royal Icing Recipe & Video

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Royal Icing is a pure white icing that dries to a smooth, hard, matte finish. Besides its lovely finish it also colors beautifully which makes it a favorite of professionals who use it not only for frosting cakes and cookies, but also for intricate piping of decorations (flowers, borders, and lettering). There are two ways to make royal icing. My preference is to use one made from a mixture of confectioners sugar (powdered or icing), lemon juice, and raw egg whites. However, because of the risk of salmonella when using raw egg whites, some may prefer the recipe I have included using meringue powder. Meringue powder is a fine, white powder used to replace fresh egg whites and is made from dried egg whites, sugar, salt, vanillin and gum. You can purchase it on line, in cake decorating stores or Michael's or Joann's. 

When making royal icing it is important that it is of the proper consistency. When frosting sugar cookies, I like to first pipe a border around the outside edge of the cookie, as this will prevent the icing from dripping down the sides. For this border the royal icing needs to be thicker than the recipe given below which is used to spread over the entire surface of the cookie. To make a small batch, beat together one large egg white, one teaspoon of lemon juice, and about 2 cups (230 grams) confectioners sugar, or until the frosting is stiff (like a meringue) and of piping consistency. Then place the icing in a piping bag, fitted with a small plain tip, and pipe a border around the outside edges of the cookies. Let it dry completely before covering the surface of the cookie with royal icing. 

The royal icing recipe I have given below is for covering or "flooding" the entire surface of the cookie. The right consistency to cover cookies is when you lift the beater, the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface for a few seconds before disappearing. Another way is to take a cookie and place a small amount of icing in the center of the cookie. Using a small knife or spatula, push the icing to the edge of the cookie. If the icing runs off the edge, thicken the icing by adding a little more confectioners sugar. Do not add too much sugar at once. Conversely, if the icing is too thick, add a little water or lemon juice. You want the icing to spread smoothly, but don't worry about a few light streaks as they will disappear as the icing dries. Be aware that the icing can take several hours, or even overnight, to dry completely.

It is important when working with royal icing to keep it covered (with plastic wrap) as much as possible as it dries out very quickly. Another way to prevent a crust from forming on the icing's surface is to add a few drops of glycerin (glycerol) to the icing. Glycerin is a sweet, odorless, clear, and syrupy liquid (chemically an alcohol) that comes from fats and oils. It is available in cake decorating and party stores (like Michaels or Joann's).

Now, let's talk about which type of food coloring to use. Personally, I like the concentrated gel paste dyes that are sold in small 1/2 or one ounce (14 - 28 grams) containers. Only a very small amount is needed to color the icing, and I measure it out using the end of a toothpick. Make sure to thoroughly mix the paste into the icing as you do not want streaks. You can buy gel pastes at cake decorating stores or stores like Michael's and Joann's.

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For Royal Icing with Egg Whites: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites with the lemon juice until combined. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. (The right consistency to cover or "flood" sugar cookies is when you lift the beater, the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface for a few seconds before disappearing. Another test is to take a cookie and place a small amount of icing in the center of the cookie. Using a small knife, push the icing to the edge of the cookie. If the icing runs off the edge, thicken the icing by adding a little more confectioners sugar. Conversely, if the icing is too thick, add a little water.) The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air.  Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.

For Royal Icing with Meringue Powder: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder until combined.  Add the water and beat on medium to high speed until very glossy and stiff peaks form (5 to 7 minutes). If necessary, to get the right consistency, add more powdered sugar or water. To cover or 'flood' the entire surface of the cookie with icing, the proper consistency is when you lift the beater, the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface of the icing for a few seconds before disappearing.

The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.

Makes about 3 cups

View comments on this recipe on YouTube

Adapted From:

Yard, Sherry. The Secrets of Baking. Houghton Mifflin Company. New York: 2003.

Royal Icing Using Egg Whites:

2 large (60 grams) egg whites

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

3 cups (330 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

Royal Icing Using Meringue Powder:

4 cups (440 grams) confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar

3 tablespoons (30 grams) meringue powder

1/2 teaspoon extract (vanilla, lemon, almond)

1/2 - 3/4 cup (120 - 180 ml) warm water

 

 
 
     
 

 

 

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