Royal Icing can turn regular sugar cookies into little works of art! Smooth and shiny, royal icing and flood icing is actually simple to make and decorate with too!
Royal Icing and Flood Icing
Do you ever wonder how bakeries get that shiny, smooth, perfect icing on cookies? They are beauties and can look really complicated. But here’s a secret: they aren’t complicated at all. In fact, this smooth royal icing recipe is simple to make and easy to use. It’s perfect for decorating Christmas cookies.
What is Royal Icing?
Royal icing is just a mixture of powdered sugar and egg whites. You can add flavoring or meringue powder also. It hardens quickly and creates a shiny, smooth consistency that is perfect for those beautifully decorated Christmas cookies.
Royal Icing with Meringue Powder
In this recipe we use meringue powder but you can use egg whites instead. As a substitute, use 3 egg whites and 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar. I prefer to make royal icing without egg whites because it is more consistent and for safety reasons. I have never gotten sick using egg whites before but still, I try to use meringue powder whenever I can.
What is Royal Icing Used For?
You can use royal icing for so many different recipes. Try them all!
- The BEST Christmas Cookies
- Gingerbread Houses
- Gingerbread Cookies
- Panoramic Easter Eggs
- Peanut Butter Easter Eggs with Royal Icing Flowers
Does Royal Icing Taste Good?
Personally, I like the taste of royal icing, but it’s not the most flavorful out there. But what it lacks in flavor it makes up for in beauty and ease. If you want a rich creamy frosting, our delicious cream cheese frosting (found here) takes the cake…or cookie in this case. Using a thin layer of royal icing on a cookie is the perfect amount; it’s still sweet icing and it makes your cookies shine. If you want decorative and ornate, go with royal icing. But for a rich, flavorful cookie, top it with a dollop of cream cheese frosting and a few sprinkles if you’re feeling festive.
Can Royal Icing Be Used on Cake?
Royal icing serves a great purpose, but not on a cake. It hardens completely and would not taste good on a cake. The only time you want royal icing on a cake is if you make flowers or other decorations and transfer them to the cake after they harden.
Can Royal Icing Be Flavored?
Absolutely! Almond, vanilla or coconut extracts are all delicious ways to flavor up royal icing. Just make sure to use CLEAR extracts so you don’t mess up the white color.
How to Get the Perfect Consistency for Royal Icing
The more you mix the icing, the stiffer it will get. If you want to make it like a mortar for gingerbread houses or to hold panoramic eggs together, you can get away with beating it a minute or two longer. That stuff is going to be HARD. For flooding or lining Christmas cookies, just mix until combined.
How Long Does it Take for Royal Icing to Dry?
For projects like gingerbread houses or panoramic eggs, you’ll want to let the icing dry overnight. But if you’re just wanting to decorate with layers on cookies, let it dry for at leas an hour in between.
How Long Does Royal Icing Last?
While fresh royal icing is best to use for cookies, you can store egg white icing for up to a week in the refrigerator. But it must be covered with a damp towel to avoid drying out and hardening. Meringue powder royal icing can last up to a month if kept refrigerated.
Can Royal Icing Melt?
Royal icing doesn’t melt like buttercream frosting does. In fact, once set on your cookies or gingerbread houses, there should be no trouble. But if it’s hot or humid while you’re decorating, the texture can get a little runny. Just make sure to fix the piping consistency and decorate away!
What is Flood Icing?
Once you’ve outlines your cookies, you’ll make “flood” icing. Basically you water down the icing just a bit so it’s easier to spread on the cookies. See the recipe card below for details.
How to Get the Perfect Consistency for Flood Icing
As you’ll see in the recipe card below, add just a tiny bit of water (a teaspoon or so) at a time, while stirring constantly. You’ll know it’s perfect when you can pull up a spoonful of icing and have it drip down the bowl.
How to Frost Cookies with Royal Icing and Flood Icing
You can decorate Christmas cookies like a pro– it’s easier than it looks! For sake of ease, we usually keep the royal icing white and use that for the outline but you can add color if you would like. Place the icing in a piping bag with a #3 round tip and outline the cookies. Then, thin the remaining icing out, place it in separate bowls, and add the food coloring.
Once you have the flood icing thinned and colored, pour the icing into individual squeeze bottles. Fill in the outlines on the cookies with the flood icing and then use a toothpick to fill in any little gaps. Add sprinkles for more dimension and design. Be creative and have fun!
What To Do if Your Royal Icing is Too Thick
If it’s not the right consistency for your liking, add a tiny bit of water, a little at a time. You may even want to use a spray bottle to make sure you don’t add too much water too quickly.
How to Make the Perfect Royal Icing and Flood Icing
In a stand mixer, combine the meringue powder and water. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium-high until the mixture becomes foamy and has a little bounce-back to it.
Remove the bowl from the stand and sift the powdered sugar into the bowl (this is important if you want smooth icing). Place the bowl back on the stand mixer and beat on low until well combined.
Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add corn syrup and extracts.
Restart the mixer and beat the mixture on medium/high speed until very thick, shiny, stiff and white. This should take about 7-10 minutes. You want the peaks of the icing to stand straight up without flopping over at all.
If you want to dye your icing just one color, you can add a few drops of food coloring into the bowl and mix it for a few seconds until the coloring is evenly distributed.
If you want to make several different colors, divide the icing into several different bowls and stir in the food coloring by hand.
Royal icing dries to a very hard consistency, and it will begin setting as soon as it is made. To prevent the icing from getting hard before you use it, thoroughly wet a paper towel and place it over the top of the icing in the bowl. It is very important to keep the icing covered! Likewise, if you are using a pastry bag and piping tips with the icing, twist the back end of the bag tightly, and wrap a wet paper towel around the tip when not in use so the icing will not dry in the tip.
Depending on the temperature, humidity, and amount of icing used, royal icing should harden within 30-60 minutes of application.
Once you have used all of the royal icing you plan on using (or have set aside the amount of royal icing you need) add about a teaspoon of water at a time to the royal icing that you would like to make into flood icing, stirring constantly, until you get the right consistency.
You want to be able to pull up a spoonful of icing and have it drip back down into the bowl and combine with the rest of the icing within just a few seconds (see image above). You don't want to have it lay on top of the remaining icing for long, you also don't want it to absorb immediately. There is a fine line here, which is why you only want to add a little bit of water at a time so you don't overdo it.