How to Make Royal Icing

6 of 12 in Series: Christmas Tree-Trimming Party

Royal Icing for decorating sugar cookies is easy to make and can be tinted any color. Cookies decorated with Royal Icing harden to a solid finish, making the cookies perfect for hanging on the Christmas tree, stacking in tins, or mailing to friends.

Royal Icing

Preparation time: 8 minutes

Yield: 2/3 cup

1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted

1 large egg white (or an equivalent amount of reconstituted powdered egg white) *

  1. Using a balloon whip attachment, combine the confectioners sugar and the egg white in a mixer’s bowl on low speed. Turn the speed up to high and whip until the icing is thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add a little water for a thinner consistency or more sugar for a thicker consistency.

  2. Use the icing immediately or refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to one week. You will need to re-beat the icing before using.

Although Royal Icing can be stored, it’s best used fresh. It’s so quick to make that preparing it right before you use it isn’t difficult.

* If you have a compromised immune system or are very young or elderly, your doctor may suggest not eating raw eggs. Meringue powder, which can be purchased at craft stores and anywhere cake decorating ingredients are found, can be used in place of egg whites. Substitute 5 tablespoons meringue powder, reconstituted per the manufacturer’s instructions, for one egg white.

Here’s what you need to know about making and working with Royal Icing:

  • You can use food coloring to color Royal Icing. Paste colors are best. They can be found at craft stores that have a cake-decorating section or they can be bought through mail order companies. Use tiny bits at a time, as the coloring is very concentrated. Just add a dab, beat it in, assess the color, and then add a bit more coloring, if desired.

  • Very dark colors can be difficult to achieve. If you add too much color, the icing begins to taste a bit off. Be judicious.

  • To completely cover a cookie with icing, make a thick icing and pipe an outline all the way around the border of the cookie. Use a pastry bag with a #2 tip. Allow the border to dry, then flood the cookie with a thinner icing.

  • Two colors of icing can be marbled together. Make an outline in one color. Partially flood the interior with that color and the rest with an alternative color. Draw a toothpick this way and that through the two colors to create a marbled appearance.

  • Flavoring may be added, as well as coloring. Vanilla extract is an obvious choice, but it adds color. Look for colorless vanilla extract or use artificial vanilla. Another option is almond extract, which is colorless.

  • After making Royal Icing, keep it covered with a damp cloth or a crust will form.

  • While the icing is wet, you can sprinkle colored sugars on top for color, texture, and sparkle.

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