How to Make Decorated Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Making decorated sugar cookies with royal icing can be easy. Learn how using a few simple tools. The best part: They look totally professional.

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Cutout cookies are always a special treat since they require a bit more care to create than a basic drop cookie (though we love these easy cookie recipes too). Cut in cute or classic shapes, these cookies are a delight, but the most eye-catching part has to be the icing. It’s also the most finicky part of decorating cookies. However, frosting cookies with classic royal icing doesn’t need to be overly complex. We’ve got a few simple techniques that’ll have you making professional-looking cookies in no time. Make sure you know these helpful cookie decorating tips.

Easy Royal Icing Recipe for Cookies

Royal icing sounds fancy, but it’s actually really simple to make. Follow our easy royal icing guide where we break down the process step-by-step using our Test Kitchen’s go-to royal icing recipe.

Like most icings, you can alter the consistency with how much water or confectioners’ sugar you add. Depending on the decoration style you’re going for, you’ll want different consistencies.

  • For a base coat or flooding, you’ll want your icing to be a bit thinner.
  • For piped designs, use a bit less water (or a bit more sugar) for a thicker icing.

Whatever consistency you aim for, just be sure to avoid these common royal icing mistakes.

The Supplies You Need for Decorated Sugar Cookies

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Before you start decorating, you’ll want to stock up on a few basic supplies.

  • A shallow dish
  • Food coloring. For royal icing, you’ll want to opt for gel dye as it creates great, saturated color without diluting your icing. Get a 12-pack here.
  • Toothpicks
  • Decorating squeeze bottles. They’re easier to manage than piping bags, especially for children.

Royal Icing Decoration Method 1: Dipping

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The easiest way to decorate cookies with royal icing is to dip them. This method serves as a great base for all kinds of embellishments. And dipping cookies is just as easy as it sounds: Prep a thin royal icing, place it in a shallow bowl, then dip the top of your cutout cookies into the icing—done!

From here, you can set the cookies aside and let them dry completely or keep decorating while wet.

Royal Icing Decoration 2: Dipping and Swirling

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Another super-easy way to decorate with royal icing is to try a wet-on-wet method—essentially piping more icing over icing with a wet finish. To do this, grab either a piping bag or decorating bottle filled with thinner, colored icing. You can pipe this frosting on in a twisty, turvy pattern. Then use a toothpick and swirl the colored and white icing together to create a marbled effect.

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Use this same technique to create swirls and a herringbone pattern. For swirls, just pipe on dots and run the toothpick through them. You can make heart shapes this way or an interesting spiral design. For the herringbone, pipe straight lines of frosting and run the toothpick through the lines perpendicularly. The techniques are very similar to the way you might put a swirl in a cheesecake.

Royal Icing Decoration 3: Pipe Designs

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If you’d like a more intricate design on your cookies, you can create those too with the same tools. Instead of piping cookies while the base layer is wet, you’ll let the base dry completely.

Using a slightly stiffer royal icing—just add in some extra confectioners’ sugar—you can pipe on whatever design you like with either a piping bag or the decorating squeeze bottles. Our Test Kitchen likes a simple tone on tone design. White on white is great for winter—but you can easily make flowers, dots or other patterns using the same tools. The sky’s the limit.

Editor’s note: Experiment with your design on a piece of parchment paper to get the icing flowing before you decorate the actual cookie. And remember, practice makes perfect!

The Finished Product

No matter which method you use to frost cookies, you’ll end up with a polished result. Royal icing dries smooth and level, making your cutout cookies look absolutely professional.

Use Royal Icing on these Cutout Cookie Recipes
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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is a former Taste of Home editor and passionate baker. During her tenure, she poured her love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa also dedicated her career here to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.