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This classic and simple royal icing recipe is a cookie decorating staple with a smooth consistency that sets quickly without hardening too much. Made with meringue powder it has a delicious taste and a smooth texture that’s perfect for flooding and piping cookies.

Slather this icing over sugar cookies or use it to decorate your gingerbread cookies to perfection. It is simple to make and tastes delicious!

Royal icing in a glass bowl with a spreader.

Royal Icing Recipe

There are some recipes I make so often I have them memorized because they’re either classics or ones I truly can’t live without and this royal icing is one of those recipes. Hello, everyone, this is Aimee Mars and I’m excited to celebrate the holidays with as much food as possible and plan on never running out of cookies to decorate.

I absolutely love this royal icing recipe because it’s easy to make and it makes cooking decorating fun for myself as well as my kids. Whether you plan on making beautifully decorated cookies or just want a fun project for your kids this royal icing recipe is for you. I also have a sugar cookie recipe too and I always use this royal icing.

Ingredients in Easy Royal Icing

There are only 3 main ingredients in this royal icing recipe making it extremely easy to prepare. These are also ingredients you can always have on hand too.

  • Powdered Sugar
  • Meringue Powder
  • Water
  • Food Coloring (optional)

How to Make Royal Icing

  1. Sift the Powdered Sugar: using a sifter or by pouring the powdered sugar through a fine-mesh sieve, sift the powdered sugar.
  2. Beat Ingredients: beat all the ingredients using a handheld mixer or an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Check the consistency of the icing and add more water or more powdered sugar if needed.

Royal icing in an electric mixing bowl.

Do I have to use Meringue Powder?

No. Traditional royal icing contains raw egg whites, which you can use instead of the meringue powder. Though meringue powder still contains egg whites, it’s a little easier to work with. It also creates the same smooth consistency that hardens easily as using egg whites.

What Should the Consistency for royal icing be?

With just 3 main ingredients, powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water, you can easily manipulate this recipe to get a perfect consistency. Sometimes you need to add water and sometimes you need to add powdered sugar. To know if your royal icing is the perfect consistency use the whisk attachment or a spoon to lift or scoop icing out of the bowl. Let it drip back in and if it melts or mixes evenly back in you have the right consistency. If the mixture is too thick and more water 1 tablespoon at a time. If the icing is too thin add more powdered sugar also at 1 tablespoon a time until the correct consistency is reached.

Can this icing be used for flooding and piping?

Yes. This royal icing recipe is extremely easy and can be used for both piping, which is the outlining of the cookie, and flooding, filling it in. The consistency of the icing is just thin enough to easily spread and just thick enough to outline (pipe) the edge of the cookies.

Should I use gel food coloring or liquid food coloring?

For this recipe, I recommend using gel food coloring because you end up with much more vivid coloring and you don’t need to use as much. The liquid food coloring will still work, however, I recommend decreasing the water by about 1 to 2 tablespoons if you choose to use it.

Can this icing be made ahead of time?

Yes! You can make this icing about 2 days ahead of when you plan on using it. Store it in an air-tight container and keep it in the fridge to keep it fresh. Just before using it stir the mixture.

Can I add flavoring or extracts to this icing?

Yes. If you’d like to add a flavor such as vanilla extract to this royal icing you can. Make sure the flavoring isn’t oil-based though. I recommend using about 2 teaspoons of flavor and then decreasing the water by 1 tablespoon.

Iced sugar cookies using royal icing.

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Royal Icing

5 from 1 vote
By: Aimee Mars
This classic and simple royal icing recipe is a cookie decorating staple with a smooth consistency that sets quickly without hardening too much. Made with meringue powder it has a delicious taste and a smooth texture that's perfect for flooding and piping cookies.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 3 cups


  • 4 cups Powdered Sugar sifted
  • 3 tablespoons Meringue Powder
  • 9 - 10 tablespoons Water at room temperature
  • Gel Food Coloring optional


  • Sift the powdered sugar first by measuring it out and pouring it through a sifter or by pouring it into a fine-mesh sieve and shaking it through.
  • Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a handheld mixer beat all of the icing ingredients together on a high speed for about 2 minutes. Check the icing by lifting the whisk to see if the icing drips back down and smooths easily back into the icing in the bowl. If it does the icing is ready. If the icing is too thick add more water 1 tablespoon at a time. If it's too thin add more powdered sugar 1 tablespoon at a time.


This royal icing sets or hardens on the iced cookies in about 2 hours' time when sitting on the counter. To speed this up place the iced cookies in the refrigerator.
To keep the icing from hardening while you're decorating a bunch of cookies lay a damp paper towel over the top of the bowl until you're ready to use the remainder.


Serving: 1cupCalories: 638kcalCarbohydrates: 160gProtein: 3gSodium: 59mgPotassium: 45mgSugar: 157gIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @alyssa_therecipecritic or tag #therecipecritic!

Collage of royal icing being made.

About Aimee Mars

Spending time in the kitchen is a childhood memory that stems as far back as I can remember. The dots connecting those days to recipe development and food photography though, are winding and loopy. Just months after my clothing line in New York City, which was a childhood dream, came to a screeching halt I found myself at home as a new mom with a newborn. Desperately seeking a creative outlet, I began with the familiar and comforting act of cooking. A new passion of recipe development was ignited, and my blog became a place to break bread and to share these recipes with everyone. My family of four and one very convincing dog who loves to beg now enjoy our meals, and scraps, in Charleston.

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