My Favorite Royal Icing Recipe

There is one thing every cookier needs in their arsenal… a favorite royal icing recipe. The royal icing recipe that I’m sharing with you today is my favorite because it is not only yummy (of course!) but it is the perfect texture. There is a not-so-secret ingredient that allows the icing to harden enough for stacking and shipping while remaining soft on the inside. No more biting into a beautifully decorated cookie and cringing because the icing is rock hard!

After trying several recipes for classic royal icing, I came across Sweet P’s recipe for Royal Glaze, a cross between royal icing and glaze. I loved her recipe because the icing did not harden as much as classic royal icing. I adapted her recipe slightly, making it the exact flavor and texture I wanted.

Royal Icing Recipe -

Begin by using a whisk to mix 5 tablespoons of meringue powder and 3/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar with 3/4 cup of warm water. Mix it for about 30 seconds, making sure that you get rid of all lumps.

How To Make Royal Icing

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If you are not familiar with meringue powder, it is used in royal icing as a substitute for raw eggs whites. Look, Mom, no Salmonella! It also helps to stabilize the icing and give it a nice texture. You can find it at your local craft store in the baking section or online. I started out using Wilton brand meringue powder, but have found that I prefer the taste of CK.

Now, get ready for a vicious arm workout! In a separate large bowl, sift two pounds of powdered sugar. I always make a mess doing this, so if you figure out how to do this without getting sugar everywhere, you’re a superstar in my eyes! Pssst… I heard an unconfirmed rumor that you can skip the sifting as long as you’re not doing piping with a really small tip.

How To Make Royal Icing

Next, add the water mixture to the powdered sugar and mix it for about a minute to get it all combined. Then, add 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup, 1 teaspoon of glycerin, 12 drops of white gel food coloring, and your flavorings (I like to use 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon almond, and 1/4 butter). The corn syrup is an ingredient that is usually mentioned as optional in classic royal icing recipes. It adds a little gloss and elasticity to the icing. The glycerin is the not-so-secret ingredient that keeps the icing from being rock hard. You can find it in the baking section at craft stores or online. The purpose of the white food coloring is to make the icing a pleasant bright white instead of off white.

Now, put your mixer to work! Beat the icing on medium for about 6 to 8 minutes, until you can make a stiff peak that holds its shape. Pause and scrape down the sides of the bowl while mixing if needed.

How To Make Royal Icing

Take a step back, lick your fingers, and smile at the fluffy white sweetness you have created!

How To Make Royal Icing -

If you are saving the royal icing for later use, I suggest storing it in Tupperware containers (that you use for icing only, see Keep Oil Out of Royal Icing for the lesson that I learned the hard way), covered with plastic wrapped, and sealed tightly.

If you are ready to start decorating, separate your icing into smaller bowls, color with gel food coloring, and add water (a tiny bit at a time) to get the consistency you want.

Well, what are you waiting for? Now that you’re a royal icing ninja, grab your sugar cookie recipe and get baking!

Royal Icing (That Won’t Dry Rock Hard)

5 tablespoons meringue powder
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup warm water
2 pounds powdered sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon glycerin
12 drops white gel food coloring
1 teaspoon oil-free clear vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon oil-free clear almond extract
1/4 teaspoon oil-free clear butter flavoring

Use a whisk to mix together the water, meringue powder, and cream of tartar for about 30 seconds, making sure there are no lumps.
In a separate bowl, sift the powdered sugar.
Add the water mixture to the sugar and mix for one minute.
Add the corn syrup, glycerine, food coloring and flavoring.
Beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks, approximately 6 to 8 minutes, pausing to scrape down the edges of the bowl if needed.

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74 Responses to My Favorite Royal Icing Recipe

  1. Tania Skinner says:

    It’s always good to see favourite recipes from the ‘experts’ (in my eyes :) ). Thanks so much for the post :)
    I have a question – I’ve only recently started decorating cookies (I use gingerbread) but I seem to be having a problem with the food colouring. I try to be very careful with how much colouring I’m adding but sometimes it seems that in order to get the perfect colour that you need, a lot of colouring needs to be added. When the cookies are eaten, mouths, teeth & tongues become coloured. I find blue is the worst for this so far, with red and green also showing signs of doing the same thing. Is there anything I can do or add to my royal icing to stop this from happening??

    • Janine says:

      Tania, you are not alone. This has happened to me too. Most recently with my Star Wars cookies that had a navy background. The only solution I have been able to find is to use less icing. Since icing will darken over time, you can try making it the night be for with less coloring. Also, if you are making black, you can try starting with chocolate icing so that you will need less coloring. Hope this helps!

  2. I’ve never had much luck frosting cookies – this icing looks perfect
    Heather@French Press recently posted..Homemade Sweetened Condensed MilkMy Profile

  3. Donna B. says:

    I have never made royal icing mainly because of fear of “rock hard” icing….(I use mp buttercream)….but you’ve got me wanting to try this, Janine…….excellent tutorial! Thank you.
    Blessings, Donna B.

  4. Pamela says:

    Thanks so much Janine for this..I will be using this when I make my sugar cookies that I want to decorate.
    Pamela recently posted..Jelly Donut Cupcakes (Whole Wheat)My Profile

  5. Always looking to try new royal icing recipes. Your cookies are gorgeous!! Thanks for linking up at Pin It Thursday!
    Emily @Sweet Bella Roos recently posted..Pin It ThursdayMy Profile

  6. Kathleen says:

    Was wondering if you know if the white food coloring affects this recipe much, considering i have every other color but white. Can I leave it out or will that affect the rest of the colors added? Love your site!

    • Janine says:

      You can leave it out. I didn’t always use it. I do find it makes my white less of an off white and I think it might help if you use flavorings that are not clear.

  7. Bonny says:

    I found your recipe from the I heart naptime linky party, and I’m looking forward to trying it because it doesn’t have raw egg in it. My family’s recipe (which you can find on my WWE wrestling cake post) has raw egg whites, which always makes me a bit nervous. When I make my next cake that needs royal icing, I will be trying this one. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Wow! that’s a lot of ingredients and I don’t think we can get most of it here in the UK. I just use icing sugar, egg white and lemon juice. maybe it’s what I’m doing wrong?
    Ruth at number 29 recently posted..Elmer love!My Profile

    • Janine says:

      Sound like you are using more of a basic royal icing recipe, Ruth. I know my recipe has a lot more ingredients but I really love the fact that it doesn’t dry rock hard. And I get rave reviews on the flavor!

      • viv blake says:

        Some of the ingredients are totally unknown to me either in UK or in France. I do use glycerine plus the usual egg white, icing sugar and lemon juice but it still goes rock hard. I’ve tried boiled Italian icing, but that just falls off the cake!
        viv blake recently posted..My life as a poemMy Profile

  9. I have never seen a recipe with glycerin and corn syrup. This sounds interesting and I am going to try it out this weekend:) Thanks for sharing and I love the fun edges on your photos! Your site is so cute and fun:)
    The BearFoot Baker recently posted..You say Hedgehog, I say Porcupine!My Profile

  10. oh I am keeping this one on file, I have always used glaze because I didn’t like hard royal icing.
    sue @ cakeballs, cookies and more recently posted..Filling CupcakesMy Profile

    • Janine says:

      I hope you like it, Sue! It will definitely dry harder than glaze but will be softer than classic royal icing. Hopefully it will be a happy medium for you!

  11. That is so nice of you to share! Plus, the secret ingredient tip is very helpful! Thanks for linking up.
    CuteEverything recently posted..wonderful wednesday link party #14My Profile

  12. Thank you so much for linking up to Tasty Thursdays last week. Hope to see you again this week!! The party is live at

    Nichi – The Mandatory Mooch
    Nichi – The Mandatory Mooch recently posted..Tasty Thursdays #3My Profile

  13. I am gonna pin and zip this……I can’t wait to try it……..Thanks for linking it up @ CountryMommaCooks link and greet party…..hope to see you again tomorrow : )

  14. You are being featured at tonights Link and Greet party at CountryMommaCooks…….check out the sneak peek on CMC’s Facebook page : )

  15. Julie says:

    Great tutorial! Your icing looks amazing. Thanks for sharing on Marvelous Mondays!
    Julie recently posted..Kickin it on Klout Link Party #1My Profile

  16. Ashleigh says:

    I’m new to making decorated cookies, and this recipe sounds fabulous! One question, though. When you say it’s doesn’t dry as “rock hard” as regular royal icing, does it still dry hard enough to stack cookies when they’re dry? I’d hate to work on all those details then have them smush together when I packaged them up. Looking forward to trying your recipe!!

    • Janine says:

      Yes, Ashleigh, it definitely does. I ship my cookies all the time and have never had an issue. I just let it dry for about 24 hours before packing.

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  19. Donna Armstrong says:

    I’m always worried about the “almond” ext as far as nut allergies. Should I not be worried?

    • Janine says:

      Donna, my understanding is that pure almond extract can contain almond oil or proteins that may be an issue for someone who is highly allergic. But, sometimes almond flavoriings are not actually derived from almonds. It is best to check with the manufacturer to be sure.

  20. Laura Pokas says:

    Thanks for sharing. I am always game for trying a new twist on classic RI. I look Cookie Crazie Pam’s glaze, but now I want to try Sweet P’s Royal Glaze along with your favorite from this post.

  21. Laura Pokas says:

    Forgot to ask you if you’ve noticed an extended drying period with this icing over classic RI. Thanks in advance for your reply.
    Laura Pokas recently posted..Joey Caretti October 5 update…My Profile

    • Janine says:

      It dries pretty quickly. I do notice that if I have a thick layer and it’s humid out it takes a little longer to dry. In those cases, I just set the cookies under a ceiling fan and that seems to speed it along. I’ve also heard a suggestion to speed up drying by setting the cookies in an oven with just the light on.

  22. Jes Lahay says:

    Hi Janine, where do you get/what brand are your oil-free flavorings? I’m having trouble finding oil-free.

  23. Laura Pokas says:

    With regards to the no sifting of powdered sugar unless using fine tips, I skip the sifting all the time now and use Lisa at The Bearfoot Baker’s tip that you can find here for straining through a nylon stocking. Works great!

    • Janine says:

      That’s an awesome trick, Laura! I will definitely have to give that a try. I love how Lisa really emphasizes that you should use a stocking that hasn’t been worn before. :)

  24. Pat says:

    Hi, I was wondering how you use the same consistency for piping and flooding. You don’t add any water to it before flooding? How do you get it to be smooth when you flood?

    • Janine says:

      Pat, as often as I can, I use a 12-count consistency icing. It is thick enough for outlining and thin enough for flooding. I hate mixing all the icing in two different thicknesses! Sweetopia has a great video tutorial showing how to do this. You can check it out here:

      Hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions!

  25. agnes says:

    thanks for this recipe, i want to know if i can use it to decorate cakes and also make some character designs

    • Janine says:

      Agnes, I don’t recommend icing an entire cake with royal icing. It doesn’t stay soft like frosting. However, if you are looking for an icing that will be stiff so you can add details to a cake, this royal icing recipe is perfect for that. If your character designs are icing transfers, this royal icing recipe is great for that also.

  26. Laurel says:

    How long does it take to harden/set-up?

    • Janine says:

      Hi, Laurel. The royal icing will be pretty well set after a few hours. If I am shipping cookies, I try to let it really dry for a day or over night.

  27. Victoria says:

    Hey Janine do you have a favorite type of cookie to use with the royal icing. I want to make some Easter egg shapes, but my sugar cookie recipe seems to be too soft. And the cookie cutter shapes come out horrible. Any tips? As you can tell I’m a newbie baker :p Thanks!

  28. Tassy at Cookies Galore says:

    Thanks for this! The last few cookie orders I had, my royal icing dried so hard you could chip a tooth. Customers still raved that the cookies were fabulous but I don’t see how. I tried using 1/2 the merengue powder than usual thinking the merengue powder was the culprit. No dice. I have 2 dozen Spider-Man cookies due thus weekend and I’m gonna try this RI recipe. Got the ingredients today. Is it normal that I found the glycerin in the laxative area of the pharmacy dept at wal mart??

    • Janine says:

      I hope this royal icing recipe is what you are looking for, Tassy.

      I usually get my glycerin in the baking section at craft stores. So just make sure what you got is food grade and meant for consumption.

      • Tassy at Cookies Galore says:

        I’m afraid to use the glycerin I bought now that I have done some research. Here in Podunk town we don’t have a Hobby Lobby or other craft store. I guess I have to go with my rock hard royal icing because I cannot stand trying to decorate with merengue buttercream. :-\

  29. Tassy at Cookies Galore says:

    I checked the ingredients and its pure glycerin. I am a nurse actually and know that liquid glycerin (please excuse me) when given rectally acts as a laxative.

    I could not find it either in the craft section or baking section at either store I want to :-\

  30. kristen Rizzo says:

    What is the most glycerin you should add? I added I think too much and it’s sort of chalky texture once the RI is dry. I found 1 tsp not enough though

    • Janine says:

      I’m not sure what the max is, Kristen, but you can certainly play around with adding more until you have the icing the way you like it. The recipe for Sweet P’s royal glaze calls for 1 tablespoon.

  31. Tassy at Cookies Galore says:

    Do you have a problem
    With this icing bleeding. Like the big contrast colors like white on black?

  32. Ritika says:

    Hi Janine.. Could you pls guide me on which extracts and flavorings to get as I’m new to Royal Glaze n wanna try out this recipe. Are the following ok to use?
    1. Almond Flavoring Clear by CK products OR Bakery Almond Flavoring Clear
    2. Butter Flavoring All Clear

    Or you wud recommend using Wilton’s or Lorann’s??


    • Janine says:

      My personal favorite is LorAnn’s but the others that you have should be fine. Just check the ingredients to make sure there’s no oil in it. Oil and royal icing don’t mix. :)

  33. Dolcy says:

    Hi! I’m just a newbie baker, can i use eggwhite instead of merengue, can i also use it to decorate a cake?

  34. Up in Arms! says:

    Hi there! This recipe seems so delicious, and I was wondering if you can use this to ice a cake. I am taking this class using the basic royal icing i.e. egg whites, lime juice, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla essence, but I’m looking for the best recipe to ice a cake, one where the icing will not melt but will stay firm enough to keep it’s shape. I live in a tropical country (Trinidad and Tobago) so the weather is always in oven temperature mode and so far, royal icing is the best to use i.e. it doesn’t melt quickly, but the worst to eat after it’s dried. The cake looks gorgeous, but well you know the effects of eating candy hard icing. Can you kindly suggest me something?

  35. Stephanie says:

    I made this recipe to decorate cookies that I made and although the taste is very pleasant they aren’t setting completely. How long does the icing take to cure completely? I stuck them in the fridge this morning which seemed to help a bit, but then my outline icing started cracking. I used Wilton meringue, Wilton glycerin, Wilton Vanilla, (didn’t use almond and instead did vanilla only) and Wilton Butter flavor. The only other thing I did differently was cut the recipe in half since this was a test batch. I used my Kitchenaid mixer and glass bowls for any mixing, and one of my large silverware spoons. to mix the colors in, which were also Wilton gel colors added with toothpicks. So I don’t know where I went wrong. Any help would be great. Thanks!

    • Janine says:

      Stephanie, after a few hours the icing is pretty hard. If I am packing, stacking, or hopping mine, I let them dry overnight. Is there oil in the flavoring that you used? I’ve done that before :) It will cause the icing not to set. You also have to be very careful to make sure none of your tools have any oil on them. Even a drop with ruin your batch of icing. I have bowls and spatulas that I use only for royal icing to avoid this issue.

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