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Easy Royal Icing Recipe for Sugar Cookies

Make a delicious frosting that hardens with this easy royal icing recipe! It’s perfect for decorating classic sugar cookies with.

Easy royal icing on heart shaped cookies.Easy

This royal icing recipe is the best frosting to use when decorating sugar cookies. I’m a huge fan of creating treats for every occasion, especially delicious ones like these.

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When I was a young girl, one of my most favorite things to do around the holidays was decorate sugar cookies with my grandma. She was the most creative person I know and was always baking yummy treats or making fun crafts.

Her traditional sugar cookie recipe is one that I have used my entire life. This classic sugar cookie recipe makes the most deliciously perfect cookies every time!

We need the best sugar cookies to use as a base when decorating with this easy sugar cookie icing! So start by baking a batch of these cookies and then lets get to the fun part, decorating!

The easy royal icing recipe is mixed in a stand mixer.

Here are the supplies that I recommend when making this easy sugar cookie frosting.

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Royal Icing Supplies

  • KitchenAid Stand Mixer – a large mixing bowl and electric mixer works just as well however a KitchenAid stand mixer has been a staple in my kitchen for years.
  • Mixing bowls – glass mixing bowls are my favorite because I can see what is happening while mixing.
  • Measuring cups and spoons – I am forever losing and buying new ones!
  • Icing bottles – I much prefer to use icing bottles over piping bags whenever I am decorating my sugar cookies.
  • Icing tips – having a variety of icing tips ready to use is helpful! I routinely use piping tip #2 and #4.
  • Wire drying rack – this one is perfect for allowing the icing to dry quickly.
  • Cookie scribe or toothpick
Royal icing is dripping off of a wooden spoon to show the thickness of the icing.
  • If the icing is too hard, add more water one drop at a time.
  • If the icing is too soft, add more powdered sugar one teaspoon at a time.
  • Use icing bottles rather than a piping bag, I have had many mishaps where the end of piping bags flops over or drags into decorated cookies. Squeeze bottles are also easier to store and fill in my experience.
  • Icing can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to two weeks. To use, mix the royal icing with a hand mixer so that it becomes smooth and shiny again.
  • Flood consistency is reached when a spoonful dropped onto a flat surface takes 10-15 seconds to become completely smooth.
  • Getting the right consistency can be tricky the first time, so be sure to test out a little bit of the icing before putting it into squeeze bottles.
Powdered icing sugar, meringue powder, and an icing bottle are needed to make royal icing.

Simple Ingredients

Here are a few of the basic pantry staples that you will need to get started with this easy recipe.

  • Confectioners powdered sugar – also known as icing sugar.
  • Meringue powder – most commonly found at Michaels.
  • Clear vanilla extract – important if you want crisp, white icing.
  • Cream of tartar
  • Gel food coloring

Tip: Gel food coloring works best for a vibrant color but liquid food coloring drops would work to tint the icing as well. Liquid coloring may dilute the icing so be sure to check the consistency and add more powdered sugar if needed.

Icing sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer to show the process of making an easy icing sugar recipe.

Instructions

1. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, combine sugar, cream of tartar and meringue powder. 

Icing ingredients are mixed in a stand mixer.

2. Add 8 tablespoons of water and the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes on low. 

The ingredients for the easy royal icing recipe are mixed together in a stand mixer.
The whisk attachment is lifted to show the thickness of the easy royal icing recipe.
A close up image of the easy royal icing in a bowl of the stand mixer.

3. Continue to add water one tablespoon at a time until the icing slowly drizzles from the whisk when lifted. **Watch the video to see what this looks like!

4. Separate the icing into small mixing bowls and add gel food coloring to reach the desired color.

5. Mix well and pour the different colors into icing bottles.

This makes enough icing to decorate two batches of sugar cookies! Place plastic wrap over the top of the icing when you are not using it so that it doesn’t start to harden.

Easy royal icing in a liquid measuring cup.

Be sure to set aside enough time to decorate your sugar cookies, you may even want to spread it over a few days. When adding details it’s important to wait until the layer of flooded icing is completely dry otherwise the icing may crack and the colors will bleed.

How to Use Royal Icing

Red, light pink, and white icing in icing bottles.

1. Have icing prepared and ready in icing bottles.

Three heart shaped sugar cookies ready to be iced.

2. Place cooled cookies on a flat surface for decorating. Having them lay on a piece of paper towel helps to prevent the cookie from moving around too much.

Sugar cookies iced with a thin bead of icing in 3 different colors.

3. Line the outside edge or area that you want to fill with a thin bead of icing. This helps to create crisp edges.

The icing is filled in on sugar cookies with 3 different colors.

4. Flood the area with icing. Use a toothpick or scribe to coax the icing into corners or spaces and pop air bubbles.

One cookie has white icing, one cookie is iced with red icing and white stripes, and the third cookie is iced in light pink with red dots.

5. Using the wet on wet method, add fun details like polka dots or swirls.

The white icing stripes on the cookie iced red are pulled with a toothpick to create a zigzag design.

6. A toothpick or scribe can be used to move icing while it is still wet.

Heart shaped sugar cookies.

7. Allow the icing to completely dry or harden before adding details that you want to stand out or appear lifted.

Iced sugar cookie hearts.

Allow the icing to harden for at least four hours before packaging or storing the cookies. The iced sugar cookies may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days, in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to three months. I like to place them in a single layer with wax paper between each layer so that they don’t stick together.

Sugar cookie hearts in a cellophane bag with a printable "Love You More" Valentine tag attached.

These look amazing wrapped in cellophane and packaged up with a bit of twine. This is the best sugar cookie icing for holiday cookies! It’s easy to add festive sprinkles to the top of the cookie too.

This simple recipe gives the best smooth finish and makes the perfect dried icing every single time. Be sure to check out this awesome gingerbread eggnog icing too, perfect for your next batch of gingerbread cookies!

Cookies in a box decorated with an easy royal icing recipe that hardens.

If you love this Easy Royal Icing Recipe, please give it a five star review and help me share it on Facebook or Pinterest so that others can enjoy it too!

Recipe

Easy Royal Icing Recipe for Sugar Cookies

The Best Royal Icing Recipe

Make a delicious frosting that hardens with this easy royal icing recipe! It's perfect for decorating classic sugar cookies.
4.63 from 27 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Author: Heather Painchaud
Servings: 2 .5 cups
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Ingredients

  • 4 cups confectioners powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp meringue powder
  • 8-12 Tbsp room temperature water
  • 1 tsp clear vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • Gel food coloring

Instructions

  • In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, combine sugar, cream of tartar and meringue powder. 
  • Add 8 tablespoons of water, the vanilla and beat for 1 minute on low. 
  • Continue to add water one tablespoon at a time until the icing slowly drizzles from the whisk when lifted.
  • Separate the icing into small mixing bowls and add gel food coloring to reach the desired color.
  • Mix well and pour into icing bottles.

Video

Notes

Gel food coloring works best but liquid food coloring drops would work to tint the icing as well.
This makes enough icing to decorate two batches of sugar cookies.
Watch the video to see what the perfect consistency looks like.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 13kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Sodium: 1mg | Sugar: 3g
about heather

Hello, I’m Heather!

I'm an active mom of twin boys who is always looking for opportunities to inspire creativity through fun crafts, do-it-yourself projects and delicious recipes. This blog has been an integral part of supporting my little family and I am so grateful to have you become a part of our journey! Let's create together... Read more...

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Clear liquid vanilla and cream of tartar are mentioned in the ingredients but not in the directions. I added them anyway and will see if I like the results.

Recipe says it makes enough to decorate 2 sugar cookie batches. My batch of cookies makes 16, 3-3/4” cookies. Would you estimate one batch to be enough? I need 5 different colors for my cookies. Thank you!!