This royal icing recipe post is courtesy of our contributor Leah…Royal icing is one of my favourite icings for decorating (even cakes). While it is not as decadent and rich as some of the other icings, it has many benefits. It is a better icing for detail work as it spreads a whole lot less than many of its competitors and dries relatively quickly and firmly. This allows it to be versatile. It has been a standard icing throughout the ages and appears in some of the most intricate pastry work – like royal wedding cakes (just Google ‘Lambeth Method’ and you will see what I mean). While not necessarily the top of the list when it comes to flavour and texture, it more than makes up for it in the wide variety of uses.
In its thickest form, it can easily be used as a glue type paste to attach fondant to things, cake tier to cake tier, etc. Thinning it with water makes it useful for outlining, marbling and other cookie decorating techniques. The recipes are straight forward, but what takes practice is getting the consistency correct. With enough practice (and for me, a lot of “whoopsies”) you will quickly find what works for you as a royal icing recipe.
Don’t be intimidated by all the different names you see online (i.e., 10-second icing, 15-second icing, etc). Many cookie decorators call the same consistency stage different things. Often videos on platforms such as YouTube can give you a visual of what you want the icing to be.
We will delve into how to make this royal icing recipe, but keep in mind that there are oodles of great recipes out there and each cookie decorator has a preference. Some contain corn syrup, or glucose, gelatine, others meringue powder. I take the approach that as long as it works for you, and it tastes great – why not?
The recipes I use are relatively simple and based on my years as a pastry chef. Royal icing recipes are numerous, but this recipe is simple, is a standard of the pastry chef and contains ingredients most people already have in their house.
Printable Royal Icing Recipe:
- 2 pound (908 g) of powdered sugar
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- 5 large egg whites (if using pasteurized egg whites, follow conversion on box)*
- Flavoring (to taste) - this can be almond, lemon, orange, vanilla, etc.
- Coloring - gels and pastes work the best. Little Wilton pots are sold readily at Michaels and Walmart. I personally prefer Americolor for colouring icing. Wilton colours however, are my favourite for painting cookies (we’ll look at that later).
- *Egg whites - as the egg whites are not cooked in this recipe, it is safer to use pasteurized egg whites (the cartons in grocery stores), but not necessary. I’d mostly recommend it for the young and the elderly, and anyone who has a compromised immune system. My personal preference is dehydrated egg whites - but I haven’t found a supplier in Canada so I bring mine in from the USA.
- Meringue Powder is another option as well and comes with instructions on how to make Royal Icing. There is nothing wrong with using meringue powder. I personally find it can taste funny, and the list of ingredients longer than it should be. If you do use meringue powder, make sure it is dissolved/rehydrated before adding it or the icing will be lumpy.
- Place powdered sugar and cream of tartar in an electric mixer.
- Stir in the egg whites by hand to moisten the sugar (all the sugar should be moist, but the mixture shouldn’t be thin. Adjustments may be made at this point. If it is too dry, add another egg white - but be aware that you may have to add a bit more icing sugar.
- Place whip attachment onto beater (I personally find a Beaterblade that scrapes the sides of my bowl tends to insure a perfectly smooth icing).
- Beat on low speed until the egg whites are mixed throughout.
- Turn the mixture on high speed (yes - it will create quite the racket) for three minutes. The icing should be silky and very white at the end. If using a whip attachment - just whip until light and silky (~2 minutes). You do not want to add too much air, as it can create air bubbles later. With my Beaterblade, I find this isn’t a problem.
- Now add flavouring and colouring. Royal icing can have a chalky flavour, so flavour it to taste. Keep in mind that flavours like Vanilla are delicious, but will mildly colour the icing as well. The clearer the colour of the flavouring the more white your icing will be.
- Scoop out what you need at this point into individual containers (one at a time). When not actively using the icing in the mixing bowl, cover with a damp towel or paper towel to prevent it from drying out. Mix the colours needed individually and mix them to the necessary consistency. Place them in icing bags and then make the next colour.
Tips and Tricks:
Tinted icings tend to be best if used the day you mix them. Black and red however, are best if you leave them for about an hour. If you mix a dark grey or a medium red, place it in a bag and walk away, you will return in an hour to those colours darkening significantly into black and red. It saves on food colouring.
Royal icing can be made a day or two ahead and stored in the fridge, but should be room temperature when used. In order to prevent the top from drying out, I usually apply plastic wrap directly to the surface and then seal it in an airtight container.
Consistency is essential for an royal icing recipe, and different techniques have different consistencies. So we will delve into that another time.
There are oodles of ways to decorate cookies – with glazes, buttercreams, fondant, etc. and we will work our way through that in future posts. Food is as much of an art as it is a science, so let your creativity blossom and just go with it. Worse case scenario – you can eat your “whoops.” You may even find yourself messing up on purpose as an excuse to indulge.
A big Thank You to Leah of Iced…Bake Shoppe for sharing this delicious tutorial with us. For more creative ideas, you can follow her on Facebook. You can also order delicious desserts from Iced…Bake Shoppe for your next event. They ship throughout the US and Canada!