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Royal icing is frosting that's made from confectioners' sugar, egg whites, and flavorings, and used in many ways to decorate cookies and cakes. The biggest difference between, say, buttercream frosting and royal icing is texture: buttercream is creamy and soft; royal icing hardens to a candy-like texture. Which might make you wonder: Is it edible? Indeed it is! This easy royal icing recipe is edible and great for decorating or flooding sugar cookies, piping festive holiday decorations on a gingerbread house, or attaching decorations (like flowers or buttercream roses) to the tops of cakes or cupcakes. Watch the video to find out how to make royal icing, and read on for storing tips and easy recipe instructions.

By Kristen Evans Dittami, Amy Zavatto

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Read the full recipe after the video.

Recipe Summary test

hands-on:
5 mins
total:
5 mins
Yield:
Makes 1 cup, enough to frost about 36 cookies
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How Long Royal Icing Takes to Dry

It takes royal icing six to eight hours to dry completely. Once you flood, spread, or pipe it onto your cookies, let them stand at room temperature. However, royal icing will start to dry mid-use if you're not careful. To prevent hardening while you decorate, keep your icing covered with a damp cloth while you work and give it a good stir every so often to keep it from hardening. If necessary, add a drop or two of water to regain the desired consistency.

How Long Royal Icing Lasts

Royal icing can last for up to three days when refrigerated. Royal icing can last longer than three days when stored in the fridge, but for best results, try to use or eat it within those three days. If not, you may find an unpleasant texture change in your icing. Royal icing lasts in the freezer for up to one month, though you will have to thaw it completely before using it.

How to Store Royal Icing

If you've used fresh or dried egg whites, you'll want to store your royal icing in the refrigerator. Royal icing made from meringue powder can be stored at room temperature. You can freeze royal icing in clean resealable freezer bags with the air pressed out. Thaw at room temperature when ready to use.

When storing royal icing, glass or ceramic containers are the best kinds to use. Once transferred, gently press a piece of wax paper, parchment, plastic wrap, or a damp paper towel over the surface of your icing to completely cover it, then tightly cover the container with a lid.

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • In a large bowl, combine the sugar, egg white, and water. Mix the ingredients together with a wooden spoon, until the icing is thickened and smooth, about 2 minutes.

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  • The icing will keep up to 2 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Before using, beat it with a fork. Stir in very small amounts of water if it seems too thick.

Tips

Royal icing can be thinned simply by adding water (or lemon juice), or thickened by adding confectioners' sugar. Add liquid or confectioners' sugar in small increments, such as half teaspoon at a time, and mix thoroughly before deciding whether to add more. Use thinner, spreadable royal icing for "flooding" cookies for background work, and thicker royal icing for "piping" lines and making rosettes.

To make your royal icing colorful, a few drops of food coloring will saturate your royal icing with any color of the rainbow. Just remember that a little coloring goes a long way—if the color isn't as dark or saturated as you want, keep in mind that it will darken as the icing dries.

Nutrition Facts

26 calories; sodium 2mg; carbohydrates 7g; sugars 7g.
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