To be honest, I really didn’t know that royal icing was “fancy” or that many people rarely or never use it. We just called it “frosting” and it was the only way I knew how to frost cookies! Royal icing will dry into a smooth, hard finish that looks very professional. Any little bumps or imperfections will smooth out perfectly. Maybe this is why Mom let my sister and I decorate her cookies as children…because she knew we couldn’t mess up with this icing…hmmm…
There are two main variations of royal icing recipes: using egg whites, and using meringue powder. I use egg whites. Yes they are raw. And yes there could be a slight chance of getting salmonella. And it sounds a little weird to be eating raw eggs mixed with sugar. But I’ve also been known to
always sometimes eat raw cookie dough, brownies, etc and I’ve never gotten sick (knock on wood). If you are worried about it…just go with a meringue powder recipe! Which I don’t have…so I’m not much help in that department. Maybe one day I’ll try it.
A little guesstimating is required with this recipe. When adding the powdered sugar, you want the consistency to be smooth and liquid. If it is too runny though, your icing will slide right off the side of the cookie. A good test to check the consistency is to see if the ribbon of icing falling off your whisk/spoon/etc reabsorbs back into the icing. If it immediately disappears: it is too runny. Add a little more powdered sugar. If it sits on top for more than a few seconds or feels too stiff at all: just add a few drops of water. At the proper consistency, the ribbon of icing should rest on the surface for a second or two before disappearing.
I use McCormick food coloring; both the original and the neon (love the neon!). Separate your icing into bowls for each color and mix in the food coloring. See the little bubbles that form? Let the icing “rest” (10-15 min) to get all of those bubbles out before frosting. If you’re wondering about the orange color and why in the world I’d need orange Christmas cookies…that was my attempt at gold 😐 One measly drop of pink (PINK! Not red) into my yellow made a perfectly sherbet orange. Roughly 8 million drops of yellow later, I still had orange. I thought I could get over it, but I couldn’t. I ended up just making a new batch of yellow. Lesson learned.
Now I’m not a big fan of sprinkles, so I generally tend to decorate my cookies with more icing. Remember to keep whatever colors you’re not currently using covered so they don’t dry out. Using small squeeze bottles filled with extra icing (found at Michael’s in the baking section) pipe on whatever decorations you’d like. Feel free to get creative…it can be fun! Let the base color sit a few minutes until the top is hardened so the colors don’t run together. Let the cookies dry overnight (uncovered!) so the icing has time to set. And don’t worry about the cookies themselves drying out, the icing helps keep in their moisture. Once completely dried the cookies can be easily stacked without messing up their designs.
Happy holiday baking!
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp flavor (peppermint, almond, etc) *optional
- Mix egg whites, 2 cups powdered sugar, lemon juice and flavor (if using)
- Check consistency of icing (see above). If it still seems too runny, continue adding small amounts of powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. If icing becomes too thick, add a few drops of water
- Mix in food coloring
- Let icing “rest” covered 10-15 min. Gently mix again to remove any air bubbles
- Frost cookies and decorate as desired
- Let dry uncovered overnight before storing