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Royal icing can be so pretty, but at the same time it can be absolutely finicky. It does take a “touch”, but it’s one that practically anyone can master – I truly believe that!
My first experience with royal icing was in one of the Wilton cake classes I took. Even though I still use the basic Wilton recipe, I’ve tweaked it slightly based on what works for me.
You will find all my tips and tricks in this post, and I have tried to be as specific as possible. But if you do have any questions, or your royal icing doesn’t work like it’s supposed to, please feel free to leave a comment and I will answer as best I can!
It might take a few tries to get it right, but eventually you will get the hang of it. And just think how pretty your cookies will look!
How to Make Royal Icing
Step 1: Mix meringue powder and water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk until slightly foamy.
There are a lot of recipes that say you must use a paddle attachment, and then there are those who say use the whisk. I’m not sure it matters, as I’ve tried it both ways, but I lean towards the whisk for mixing, and a paddle for colors if I need to.
If you don’t have meringue powder, you can just as easily find it on Amazon. or buy with a 40% coupon at a local craft store. I have searched for substitutions, but never found one that I was absolutely pleased with.
Step 2: Add in powdered sugar and cream of tarter, and mix on low speed for 10 minutes. The icing should take on a matte-like appearance.
Step 3: Transfer icing into separate containers based on how many colors or consistencies you want to use. You want a fairly stiff consistency for piping the outlines and decorating the tops of each cookie, and a more watery consistency for “flooding” the inside.
Step 4: Add a tsp at a time of warm water to the stiffest consistency that you want to use for outline and decorating, and stir by hand until fully incorporated
When adding color, use gel icings rather than liquid, as they tend to set better. Only use a little at a time until you reach the color desired.
Step 5: Using a pastry bag. pipe around the edges of each cookie . Hold the tip close to the surface and slowly, but smoothly, follow the shape of the cookie. The farther away from the cookie you are, the more squiggle lines you will have!
Step 6: Store tip down in a glass with just a little bit of water in the bottom to keep it from drying out. You will use these later for decorating.
Step 7: Add a tsp at a time of warm water to the other consistencies to water down and use for “flooding” each cookie. You want it to be thin enough so that the icing drips off the spoon easily and then smooths in with what’s in the bowl within 5-7 seconds. If you make the icing too thin, just add more powdered sugar to thicken it up again.
Let icing sit for at least 10 minutes, then stir with a spoon to pop any bubbles that may have formed.
Step 8: Transfer icing to a squeeze bottle and “flood” the inside area of each cookie, pushing the icing around edges with the tip of the bottle, and filling in holes where needed. Allow to set at least 1-2 hours.
Step 9: Use the remainder of the thicker icing for piping decorations on top of the cookies, again, using Wilton tip #3. Let dry for about an hour, or until hardened, then pack carefully into a tupperware container, or into individually packaged treat bags for gifting.