Royal Icing

This is the traditional icing for glazing cookies, piping decorations, or assembling the walls of a gingerbread house. It's light and fluffy; the more you beat it, the stiffer it becomes. For a thinner version, simply thin with a bit of water until you have a consistency that will flow evenly over the cookie. Let it dry to a hard, shiny surface, then you can pipe over it or use food-safe markers to decorate. To color the frosting, we recommend gel paste or powdered colors. Liquid food coloring can dilute the frosting so much it separates and becomes grainy. Be sure to store any frosting you're not using in a tightly covered container; it becomes quite hard as it dries. We make this big batch of frosting, then divide it into smaller amounts to tint different colors.

Prep
15 mins
Yield
3 cups
Royal Icing

Instructions

  1. Place the meringue powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the cool water, and stir slowly to allow the powder and salt to dissolve. Allow to sit for 5 minutes for the powder to hydrate (see tips below).

  2. Mix on low speed at first, to create a network of very fine bubbles. Add the sugar, increasing to medium and then high speed over several minutes. Beat until the icing is fluffy. You can adjust the sugar or water as needed to get a stiff, glossy icing that holds a tall peak.

  3. Cover the bowl with a damp towel, and cover that with a layer of plastic wrap to keep the icing from crusting over.

  4. If desired, divide the frosting into smaller containers and mix with gel food coloring. Add the colors drop by drop until you reach the desired color.

  5. To use for piping, put a tip in the bottom of a disposable pastry bag. Using a coupler will allow you to change tips with ease.

  6. Use a tall, heavy-bottomed glass to hold the pastry bag while you add the frosting. Take care not to fill the bag more than half full.

  7. Close the back of the pastry bag with a twist tie or spring clip, to keep the icing from backing up over your hand when you squeeze it.

Tips from our Bakers

  • After stirring and allowing the mixture to sit, rub a little between your fingers to feel for lumps or grittiness. Old meringue powder won't dissolve properly even when whipped with sugar, and your icing will be grainy and sandy.
  • To make a hard cookie glaze, thin some of the frosting with a little more water. Dip the top of a cooled cookie into the frosting, then sweep across the top with a spatula to remove the excess. At this point you can sprinkle the wet glaze with colored sugar and let it dry, or put another color on top and swirl it through with a toothpick.
  • Here is a royal icing recipe using egg white. It is from our 200th Anniversary Cook book. 1 egg white, 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Beat all of the ingredients until it forms peaks.
  • When decorating, here are some of the tools you may find handy to have on hand: craft paintbrushes for spreading frosting; toothpicks for drawing one color through another; tweezers for placing sugar decorations, and colored sugars for sprinkling over wet icing.
  • To keep the frosting in a pastry bag from hardening at the tip, place the pastry bag inside a second, uncut bag. This will shield the open tip from the air, and keep the frosting from leaking out.