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This royal icing recipe is what I used to decorate my gluten-free sugar cookies and my gluten-free gingerbread cookies. It can be easily thickened or thinned out to suit any type of cookie decorations you have planned.
But what I love most about making royal icing with meringue powder is that we don't have to use raw egg whites. Plus, meringue powder makes it stable so I never have a bad batch.
You need just a few ingredients to make this delicious cookie icing!
- Powdered sugar (aka confectioners sugar)
- Lukewarm water
- Meringue powder
Meringue powder is a mix of cornstarch and dried egg whites combines with a stabilizer. It is used as a substitute for fresh egg whites and corn syrup in royal icing. Meringue powder can be found in the baking aisle of the grocery store.
Meringue powder is used in place of raw eggs for safety and convenience.
See the recipe card for quantities.
⏲️How to Make Royal Icing
It may not seem like much water, but I promise this recipe works perfectly every time!
Step 1- Whip
In a medium bowl, beat meringue powder and water with an electric mixer on medium speed until peaks form.
Step 2- Sugar
Reduce speed to low, gradually beat in powdered sugar until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Don't overbeat or whip your frosting at a high speed. Low and slow is best!
Step 3- Color
Add more water to thin the icing, and more confectioners sugar to thicken it.
Divide between bowls and color as desired.
Step 4- Decorate
Decorate your cookies as desired. It will take 1 to 2 hours for the icing to harden.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips
- Sifting the confectioners sugar and meringue powder will reduce the chance for lumps in your frosting.
- Do not use plain powder egg whites. You need to specifically use meringue powder which contains cornstarch and other stabilizers.
💭 Flavor Variations
Royal icing is typically unflavored and very sweet. I find that a bit of extract really helps cut the sweetness. I typically use vanilla, but you can use any flavor you want as long as it isn't an oil-based flavoring (like lemon extract).
For lemon royal icing you need to replace half the water with fresh lemon juice.
Other flavoring ideas:
- Rose water (in place of some of the luke warm water, go light)
🧁 How to Color Royal Icing
Gel food colorings are recommended for their ability to get rich colors without affecting the texture of the icing. If you regularly use icing for decorating cakes and cookies you will want to invest in a kit of gel colorings.
Otherwise, I find the basic 4 pack of gel colors to be enough.
If you are doing highly decorative white designs, you may want to try white gel food coloring to ensure an opaque and bright white design.
Natural food colorings are typically powder or water-based. They are fine to use, just be aware you made have to add extra water or sugar to your icing to adjust the consistency.
Royal icing dries darker so be sure to color your frostings just slightly lighter than you want them to end up.
There are many websites and YouTube channels that can teach you all the tips and tricks of decorating elaborate sugar cookies.
I keep things more simple. You will need the following items:
You will need more bags and couplers if you use more colors. Consider getting a decorating kit to get you started.
I recently bought these squeeze bottles with decorating tips for frosting. Not only did it make frosting a breeze, but they kept the icing from drying out when I was doing cookie decorations over several days.
Unlike traditional egg white royal icing, royal icing with meringue powder can be stored at room temperature for up to two weeks.
Some recipes say it shouldn't be frozen, but I haven't had issues with short-term (i.e. about a month) freezing. Simply store in a plastic bag with the air pushed out. Defrost at room temperature.
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Royal Icing with Meringue Powder
- 4 cups confectioners' sugar aka powdered sugar
- 5 tablespoons warm water
- 3 tablespoons meringue powder
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract optional
- Food coloring optional
- In medium bowl, beat meringue powder, water and vanilla extract with an electric mixer on medium speed until just past frothy and small peaks are forming.4 cups confectioners' sugar, 3 tablespoons meringue powder, 2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 5 tablespoons warm water
- Reduce speed to low, gradually beat in powdered sugar until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.
- Divide icing into different bowls and add food coloring. Gentle stir with a clean spatula. Spoon into icing bagsFood coloring
- OPTIONAL: Let icing rest for 30 minutes to allow air bubbles to escape naturally
- Keep icing covered with a wet kitchen towel at all times.
- Allow 1 to 2 hours for decorated cookies to dry.
- Keep any leftover icing in a plastic bag with the air pushed out. Icing should be kept frozen or at room temperature.
Check out our Royal Icing Recipe web story!