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Royal Icing

Curious to learn how to make royal icing? Our Test Kitchen experts have mastered this royal icing recipe for this stunning cookie decoration. Royal icing is different from other types of icing because it dries quickly and has a super-smooth finish—perfect for decorating! —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
  • Total Time
    Prep/Total Time: 10 min.
  • Makes
    about 1 cup


  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons water
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons meringue powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Food coloring, optional


  • In a small bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, water, meringue powder and cream of tartar; beat on low speed just until combined. Beat on high for 4-5 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Tint with food coloring if desired. Keep unused icing covered at all times with a damp cloth. If necessary, beat again on high speed to restore texture.
  • To decorate, place icing in a pastry bag. For border decorations and dots, use a #3 round pastry tip. For small detailed decorations, use a #1 or #2 round pastry tip.

Royal Icing Tips

How do you store royal icing?

Store royal icing in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. The icing may start to separate, but that's ok. Beat the icing on low speed before using to bring it back to an even consistency. You can also freeze royal icing for up to 2 months in resealable bags. Press all the air out before sealing the bag. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and beat at a low speed before using.

Can you overmix royal icing?

Yes, you can overmix royal icing. You might be tempted to mix your icing on high speed, but this incorporates too much air into the icing, which will leave a crunchy, sponge-like finish instead of a smooth finish. To avoid overmixing, beat the icing on low speed using a wire whip attachment.

How do you get royal icing to the perfect consistency?

There are mistakes that almost everyone makes with royal icing, and the incorrect consistency is probably the most common. There really is no right or wrong consistency, because how thick or thin the icing should be depends on how you want to use it. If the icing is too thin, add more confectioners' sugar 1/4 cup at a time. If it's too thick, add more water (a teaspoon at a time) until you get to the right consistency.

How do I know how thick or thin to make royal icing?

If you're using royal icing to pipe outlines, it should be on the thicker side. Run a butter knife through the icing; it should settle back into a smooth surface in about 20 seconds. If you're using royal icing to flood cookies, it should be on the thinner side. This icing should settle back to a smooth surface after 10-12 seconds. When using royal icing to pipe flowers and intricate shapes, it should be thick enough to hold its shape without settling back to a smooth surface after running a knife through it. (We recommend using different sized coupler tips to try out new designs!)

How long does it take royal icing to dry?

It takes 8-10 hours for royal icing to dry completely and be ready for packaging (better yet, let them stand overnight). Wait 1-3 hours for royal icing to dry so you can add another layer of frosting without it bleeding into the first layer. Set up a small fan near your cookies to help speed the drying process along.

Can you soften royal icing?

To keep royal icing soft while working with it, use a damp cloth to wrap the tips of open piping bags and cover bowls of icing when not using.

Research contributed by Peggy Woodward, Taste of Home Senior Editor, Food
Nutrition Facts
1 teaspoon: 24 calories, 0 fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 3mg sodium, 6g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 0 fiber), 0 protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1/2 starch.

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  • brandy1619
    Dec 9, 2014

    I'm looking for an icing/frosting that I can decorate on my cookies and then freeze.The ones I've tried discolor after I defroz the cookies.

  • sgronholz
    Dec 10, 2013

    I tried this icing on my gingerbread cookies this past weekend and was thrilled with the results! I will definitely make it again.

  • KaSm
    Jun 28, 2010

    There are two royal icing recipes. Which one is better?

  • alexa621
    Dec 22, 2009

    I added some vanilla and almond extract and it was really good! I was expecting it to be more functional than tasty for some reason, glad I was wrong!

  • sugarbooger111
    Dec 8, 2009

    Cream of tartar is best known in our kitchens for helping stabilize and give more volume to beaten egg whites. It is the acidic ingredient in some brands of baking powder. It is also used to produce a creamier texture in sugary desserts such as candy and frosting, because it inhibits the formation of crystals. It is used commercially in some soft drinks, candies, bakery products, gelatin desserts, and photography products. Cream of tartar can also be used to clean brass and copper cookware.

  • Kamal
    Dec 30, 2008

    No comment left

  • dmmg
    Dec 12, 2008

    how can I make meringue powder myself it is possible? Thank you.

  • Kimmer66
    Dec 10, 2008

    Does this frosting have a good taste? How does it compare to the other frosting choices? I've never worked with this before but heard it was best for cut-outs and ginger people. Thanks!

  • winchel1
    Dec 9, 2008

    what is the cream of tarter for in royal icing? I have made tons of royal icing and have never seen it added in a reciepe before