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Nov 27, 2015 10:31am

Julia Usher baking in her home kitchen
Blog Recipes and Tips From Julia Usher

Royal Icing with Consistency Adjustments

Royal Icing is hands-down my favorite icing for cookie decorating. The egg whites in Royal Icing make it faster drying than confectioner’s icing, where the liquid content is usually milk or cream, and better for fine detail work, as it’s less prone to spreading. Use this thick formulation as edible glue for adhering sugar dragées and fondant appliqué to cookie tops, or for piecing together large gingerbread structures. For outlining, topcoating, marbling, and other cookie decorating techniques, just thin with water until the desired consistency is reached. See Consistency Adjustments, right.

Yield: About 4 1/2 cups, enough to topcoat 4 to 5 dozen (3-inch) cookies

Prep Talk: Tinted icing is best used the day it’s mixed. (The color will dry more uniformly, without bleeding or blotching, this way.) Otherwise, the icing can be made 1 to 2 days ahead and stored in the fridge. Bring the icing to room temperature when ready to use and stir well to restore its original consistency. Once applied to cookies, the icing should remain at room temperature so it sets into a crunchy candy-like coating. Important: Unless you’re using the icing, always cover the surface flush with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming.


  • 2 pounds powdered sugar (Note: Use 10X, not 6X or less finely processed, powdered sugar. Your sugar should feel like soft talcum powder, and not at all gritty, or you may have trouble with it later plugging parchment cones or pastry bags. I typically use C&H brand, though most US brands are of the 10X-variety.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 5 large egg whites (or about 11 tablespoons or 5 1/2 ounces pasteurized whites*)
  • Flavoring, to taste
  • Liqua-gel food coloring of your choice, to desired shade

* To guard against salmonella poisoning associated with raw eggs, it’s best to use pasteurized whites (or hydrated meringue or albumen powder) especially when serving the very young or old, or those with compromised immune systems. Pasteurized whites are found in cartons, or pasteurized in the shell, in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores. If using pasteurized eggs in the shell, you may find the eggs harder to separate than normal, so you may need to use an additional egg white. If using meringue powder, use 2 teaspoons meringue powder hydrated in 2 tablespoons warm water for each large egg white called for in this recipe. Be sure to hydrate with warm water to completely dissolve the powder; otherwise, your icing may end up gritty.


1 | Mix the powdered sugar and cream of tartar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in the egg whites by hand to moisten the sugar. Fit the electric mixer with a whip attachment and beat the mixture on low speed to evenly distribute the egg whites. Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and continue to beat about 1 to 2 minutes, just until the icing is silky and very white. (The icing will lighten and thicken as you beat it.)

Take care not to beat the icing any longer than is needed to turn it crisp white, and to only beat it at high speed at this very thick consistency. Extended beating, especially of looser icing, can pump a lot of air into it, creating tiny (or not so tiny) bubbles that can be a pain to eradicate once incorporated.

2 | Beat in flavoring and/or coloring, as desired. Again, take care not to overbeat for the reasons noted in Step 1.

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How would you adjust this recipe for meringue powder?

By Kathy on May 17, 2012

Good question, Kathy. Most meringue powder packages include equivalencies that indicate how much meringue powder/water make up one large egg white. But to make the above recipe to roughly the same thickness, I hydrate two teaspoons of meringue powder in 2 tablespoons of (lukewarm) water for each large egg white in the recipe; so 5 large egg whites would be replaced with 10 teaspoons of meringue powder mixed with 10 tablespoons of water. I like to use lukewarm water to ensure that the meringue powder fully dissolves, as otherwise it can leave a gritty residue. Also, most meringue powder contains additional sugar, vegetable gum, and other preservatives. So while icing made with meringue powder behaves pretty much identically to one made with raw or pasteurized whites, it will be a touch sweeter and somewhat stiffer/spongier due to the additives. Hope this helps!

By Julia M Usher on May 17, 2012

sei bravissima…una fonte di ispirazione…fai delle cose che sembrano impossibile..!!

By Patrizia Gasparetti on July 29, 2012

Thanks so much, Patrizia. Glad you found my site/blog!

By Julia M Usher on July 29, 2012

Being made with egg whites or pasteurized whites (instead of meringue powder) will it affect the longevity of the cookie?

By ASLIN HERNANDEZ on October 23, 2012

Hi, Aslin, Another good question! No, the use of egg whites (pasteurized or other) vs. meringue powder does not affect the longevity (I assume you mean “freshness”) of the cookie itself. All formulations of the icing dry to a hard candy-like coating within about the same period of time. (Meringue powder is essentially dehydrated egg whites with additional sugar and some other de-clumping agents.) Of course, to guard against salmonella (which is carried within the egg itself), you should use pasteurized whites or meringue powder (2 tsp. meringue powder dissolved in 2 Tbsp. warm water is roughly the equivalent of one large egg white). You can make this substitution directly in the recipe above. Hope this answers your question!

By Julia M Usher on October 23, 2012

Yes it does! Thank you for the quick response. I’ve wanted to try a recipe with egg whites instead of meringue powder as I usually do, but I thought the cookies were not gonna be fresh for long. Will try this week. THANKS!!

By ASLIN HERNANDEZ on October 23, 2012

So how long would you keep cookies with this icing? Do they need to be refrigerated?
Thank you

By Marta on October 02, 2013

Hi, Marta, Most of my cookies have a shelf life of 1 to 2 or more weeks once baked and iced, if stored in airtight containers at room temp after the icing has completely dried. After this time, I begin to notice some drying and staling of the cookies, or that they sometimes pick up off-flavors from their storage containers/environment.

You do not want to refrigerate cookies that have been iced with royal OR confectioners’ icing, as sugar is hygroscopic (attracts moisture from the environment) and you run the risk of icing colors bleeding or mottling. Cookies can also soften, and I prefer a somewhat crunchy cookie.

Thanks for asking!

By Julia M Usher on October 03, 2013

Dear Julia,
I’ve just discover your website and I fell in love with it. I’m looking at your videos on your youtube channel and your works are amazing.  Your creations are really beautiful.
I could not resist and I also bought your book on amazon :).
I love decorating cookies but I usually use pasteurised dried egg white powder. I did a course in London a couple of years ago and they teached me to use it. In Italy people usually use fresh egg white but I think it’s safer to use egg white powder. I’d like to try your recipe as I’ve never added cream of tartar and I’d like to try.  Could you pls tell me how would you adjust this recipe for egg white powder? Do you think it is the same as meringue powder? (I usually dissolve 15g of Albumen in 75ml of water and than I add 500g of icing sugar) . Thanks a lot, all the best Maryon

By marion on September 26, 2014

Hi, Marion!

Thanks for the very kind words. I’m thrilled to hear you’re enjoying my site and videos.

I’m not sure if you saw, but I have both meringue powder and pasteurized egg white substitutions spelled out directly underneath the list of ingredients. Powdered egg whites are different than meringue powder - the latter has sugar, powdered whites, and other stuff in it, so you’d need more meringue powder to pure powdered white to achieve the same piping/drying characteristics in any given recipe. Usually the package will say how much water to add to the powder to achieve the equivalent of one large egg white. I’d use the ratio your packaging says and then use the equivalent of 4 to 5 eggs whites with the 2 lb of powdered sugar that I call for above. But it sounds like your recipe is very similar to mine . . . Cream of tartar acts as an egg foam stabilizer (which isn’t so crucial for this recipe), but it also tends to keep the icing whiter longer. But, honestly, it’s not going to make a big difference if you omit it from my recipe.

By Julia M Usher on September 26, 2014

Hi!  I just have to tell you how much I love your work and thank you so much for sharing with all of us!  I really appreciate it and am learning so much.  I wonder if you make haunted gingerbread mansions?  I would love to learn how to do it with your 3D cookie methods.  I think so many of them would make spectacular gingerbread houses for any occasion.
I especially wanted to thank you.  I am disabled and a retired nurse unable to afford to go to pastry school or take any classes since I live in a tiny rural town.  So your sharing really does help me fulfill dreams I’ve always had of making beautiful cookies for my family and friends.
I have always made candies, cookies and cakes at holiday time and taken them to places like our local hospital, nursing homes, police station, fire station, convenience stores….........any place where people have to work on the holidays.  Just to say thank you for what you do and hopefully make their day a little better even though they have to work instead of being with their families for holidays.  I worked as a charge nurse in a nursing home and many of my patients had no family or family that didn’t visit and I became their family and loved doing little things like this for them.  It gives me a real charge to make them smile and know someone out there really does care. So thank you for helping me to do this even though I can’t afford to take the classes I need to learn….....and thank you for being a great teacher!!!  I can’t wait to buy your books and am saving to do just that.
Have a wonderfully special and happy day.
Christina Ellenburg

By Christina Ellenburg on October 07, 2014

Hi, Christina!

Thanks so much for the kind words and for your lovely story. I love that you make a point of brightening others’ lives with your sweets! :)

By Julia M Usher on October 07, 2014

Mrs. Julia
What name of the chocolate do you use? And where can I get the clear paper you use to do your Stenciled cakes. I want to try and make cakes with decorations to sell because I have a student loan I need to pay off. Can you give me some ideas. I also want to know your royal icing and Italian icing recipes.

By michelle jennings on October 15, 2014

Hi, Michelle. If you look under the video descriptions for my videos (on YouTube), you’ll find extensive notes and links on the sources for those videos - that’s always the best place to go first. I use many brands of chocolate, but you want to use a real chocolate where the fat is 100 percent cocoa butter, with no palm oil substitutes; otherwise, the chocolate (“fake” chocolates) can set too fast. Brands like Callebaut, Ghirardelli, Guittard, and Valrhona work well. The acetate can be found online - just Google 3 mil acetate; the link is also in that video description. My royal icing recipe is directly above (you commented underneath it!) and my buttercream recipe is also on this blog. Just go to Blog -> Recipes -> Icings, and you will see it. Best of luck!

By Julia M Usher on October 15, 2014

Hi, do you know if it will work if I just buy meringues from the pastry shop and then process them?

By Rina on October 22, 2014

Hi, Rina, I doubt that would work, as meringues are completely baked, usually with a different type of sugar than what’s used in royal icing too. I’m not sure you could re-hydrate meringues to make a smooth icing (that would set) without ending up with a gritty mess. The above recipe is so easy too - I actually think you’d be making more work for yourself by trying to start by recreating it with meringues.

By Julia M Usher on October 22, 2014

Julia estoy maravillada con las cosas que usted hace y me gustaría preguntarle cual es el papel wafer y como puedo conseguirlo aca en ecuador

By Onela Aquin on November 24, 2014

Hi, Onela, I’m not sure if I understand your question, but wafer paper is an edible paper made of potato starch. It’s used to make flowers and other decorations on cookies and cakes. I’m not sure how you can get it in Ecuador, as I live in the US and have never needed to send any to Ecuador! But it’s widely available online; it’s even on Amazon. Perhaps one of those sources will ship internationally? Here’s one of the Amazon links:

By Julia M Usher on November 24, 2014

Hello, how to recover a crisp royal icing? (because of overbeating)

By Olga on November 25, 2014

I have used this icing many times, and I am by no means a professional, it is easy to handle and the decorations come out beautifully !Instead of water
I used Wilton clear vanilla extract. I use this for all my decorating needs as well as for flooding its great!

By royal Icing on November 26, 2014

Olga - I have never heard of a “crisp” or crunchy icing coming from overmixing - usually this is a result of not covering the icing and so it develops a crust as it dries out. I’m not sure how to advise you, as I’ve never seen such a thing.

Thanks, Royal Icing, perhaps I misread your comment, but did you say you used extract instead of water in this recipe?! I could see this if you were only loosening the icing a very small amount, but to reach my flooding consistency, this could amount to quite a lot of extract, which can get costly . . . and depending on the extract, could result in an overwhelmingly strong flavor. But, as I said, maybe I misunderstood you.

By Julia M Usher on November 29, 2014

Hi Julie:  I am interested in using the royal icing to decorate cookies, as you do so beautifully.  So, my question is:  is there another substitute way or receipe to create royal icing so it will not be so hard to eat?

I am afraid that people are not going to want to eat the cookies when they are rock hard.  If they were for decorating purposes only, as for a Christmas tree, well that would be a different story.  But I want to create cookies with beautiul designs on them AND have people want to eat them, hoping they dont break a tooth.

So, do you have any suggestions?



By Brian Jouris on November 29, 2014

Yes, a crust! It`s formed as soon as I finish mixing it (or immediately after, I mean, it begins to dry TOO fast)! How can I recover the royal icing (if you don’t know, maybe someone else)?

By Olga on November 29, 2014

Olga - Well, I doubt the crusting is from overmixing. Mixing incorporates air and thickens the icing a bit, but crusting is usually due to leaving the icing exposed to air too long. Try removing the crust, adding more water, and covering the icing immediately (flush with plastic wrap). If you feel it’s due to overmixing, then don’t mix it as much. I only ever beat my recipe 1 to 2 minutes as noted above.

By Julia M Usher on November 29, 2014

Brian - I assure you no one has ever broken a tooth on my royal icing! :) I apply it in a thin layer and it dries crunchy, but is completely palatable. However, if you want a softer icing, try adding a touch of corn syrup to it. But be warned, the icing will take longer to dry and you may have more trouble with colors bleeding as a result.

By Julia M Usher on November 29, 2014

Dear Julia|
Your talent exceeds anyone else on the internet.  Some day I hope to achieve the aspect of quilting. 
I’ve watched your video, made many notes, etc., but I am a bit OCD on measurements. . .if I weigh the egg whites, (as your video states, 5 to 6 ounces) for this recipe, does the quantity of pasteurized egg whites change the structure of your formula as shown on your video?  Do I use 5 ounces or 5 1/2 ounces or 6 ounces?
Thank you so much.

By Barbara Wagner on December 11, 2014

Hi, Barbara! Thanks for such a wonderful compliment!

Regarding the royal icing: 5.5 ounces egg whites (fresh or pasteurized) should get you to my starting consistency, though you may want to start with a little less so you don’t overshoot. You can always add powdered sugar to thicken this icing if you overshoot, but it always seems to take much more than I would expect to restore consistency. That said, you’ll also want to add water gradually when loosening the icing for various tasks. Happy decorating!

By Julia M Usher on December 11, 2014

Hi Julia, I’m from Uruguay but I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I’m a baker since 2008. I found you videos on youtube and I just want to tell you that your work its amazing! you are great! you teach very well and its so much easy for me to learn with your videos. Sorry for my english, it’s no so good. I wish you the best and Thanks!

By Daniela on December 19, 2014

Thanks, Daniela! I really appreciate your kind words. (Your English is GREAT!)

By Julia M Usher on December 20, 2014

Hi Julia. I actually wanted to halve the recipe as I have a smaller amount of cookies. Any suggestions would be appreciated, but I need it real quick, infact I need it today within an hour!
Thanks, Aryana

By Aryana on February 14, 2015

Hi, Aryana, Sorry if I didn’t reply within the hour, but it is morning here and I just woke up! Most of the ingredients above are given in both volume and weight, so just take the weight measures and cut them in half, and proceed exactly as directed. It’s really that simple! Best of luck!

By Julia M Usher on February 14, 2015

Greetings Julia!

I just love your site and videos. I have watched the royal icing videos a few times each, but I can’t seem to find the answer to one important question. If I were to make a cookie with two different colors (flood the cookie, then pipe a design on top), how long would the flooded or top-coated layer take to fully dry? Should the cookies be in an airtight container while the initial flooded/top-coated layer dries? Also, how long do the piped designs take to dry? I suppose I have to figure out how far in advance to begin making these cookies before gifting them (maybe individually wrapped in bags). Thanks!


By Therese on March 28, 2015

Hi, Therese! Thanks so much!

That sounds like three important questions! :)

Drying time, of either topcoat or details on top, depends greatly on several things - the thickness (consistency) of the icing to start, your ambient humidity, how thick (deep) the icing is laid, and how you dry the icing (air dry or with the assist of a dehydrator or some other drying device). Generally, I let my topcoats dry overnight (sometimes longer) IF I need them to dry all the way through before I take the next step. Sometimes I dry them less long, or not at all before applying the next layer, i.e., if I am doing a wet-on-wet technique. You should never contain the cookies to dry, or they won’t dry and colors can bleed. Dry them uncovered at room temperature. I hope I’ve answered your questions.

By Julia M Usher on March 29, 2015

Been decorating cookies for years now! Never loving my royal icings (tried everything!) And for the first time ever, i fell completely in love with this RI recipe! It just became my ultimate favorite!  Well done!

By Maries on May 08, 2015

Oh, so glad to hear this, Maries! :)

By Julia M Usher on May 08, 2015

Hi Julia,

my daughter and I looooooovee your art in decorating. We are just now learning and baking. I wanted to ask is merenque powder and eggwhite powder the same to work with? Wat do u pervere to work with?

We used eggwhite powder and followed the box instructions 2tbs powder 3cups powdersuger 60ml water, but the icing does not firm up.

Thnks for your inspiration, hope to hear from u soon.

Gr. Nathalie

By nathalie on July 09, 2015

This is the perfect recipe for icing, thanks so much for sharing it with us!

By London Accountants Lady on July 09, 2015

Hi, Nathalie. No, egg white powder and meringue powder are not quite the same thing. Egg white powder is typically pure dehydrated whites, whereas meringue powder often has other ingredients in it (like cornstarch or anti-caking agents). I typically use neither; I prefer pasteurized whites in liquid form, as they’re often cheaper and dry slightly more shiny. Egg white powder is harder to find here as well. I can’t explain why your icing did not eventually dry, as it’s the protein in the eggs that contributes to a quick set. Perhaps you did not add enough of it? Or when it’s humid outside, the icing can take much longer to dry. Perhaps you didn’t wait long enough? Again, I can’t really say, without having been there.

By Julia M Usher on July 09, 2015

Oh, and thank you so much for the kind words, Nathalie. Thank you too, London Accountants Lady!

By Julia M Usher on July 09, 2015

Hi Julia -

I just stumbled across your blog and recipe here.  Looking forward to trying it out this weekend!  Question for you though:  I took cake decorating classes years ago and we did the royal icing technique.  They stressed making sure all utensils were grease free because grease can break down the icing into soup.  I don’t see any mention of that here, so I wanted to ask if that is valid for your recipe?  Not that I am planning to cover myself in shortening or anything, LOL.  I just want to make sure I take all necessary precautions when it comes to this icing.  Any help is appreciated!!!

By Andrea on September 04, 2015

Hi, Andrea! Sorry for the delayed response; I am on vacation this week.

Any fat in egg whites will prevent them from beating to soft or stiff peaks, so what you learned is really most critical when making a meringue/egg foam. It’s less critical when making my royal icing - even though it’s primarily egg whites and sugar, the same components as in meringue, it’s not reliant on a stiff meringue for its structure. But I always start with clean bowls and utensils anyway, and keep all yolk out of the white, as any fat will slow drying time of the icing.

By Julia M Usher on September 05, 2015

Hi Julia,
I have to decorate 50 cookies 10cm×12,5cm, how much royal icing should I prepare? I need different consistencies, but, approximately, how much sugar do I need? thanks in advance.

By Stefania on September 22, 2015

Hi, Stefania, This is a really hard one to answer accurately without knowing your cookie design, as yield is SO very dependent on the number of colors and consistencies you are mixing - a lot of icing gets lost in the mixing of colors/consistencies and filling of bags. But one way to ROUGHLY figure it out is to compute the area of cookies you need to decorate (3.9 x 4.9 inches x 50 cookies) and divide it by the area of cookies that I say this recipe will ice (pi x 1.5 x 1.5 inches x 35 cookies). By that calculation, you’ll need roughly 3.8 times what is called for here, or about 4 batches. ANOTHER way to do this, which is probably more accurate, is to mix a batch (and weigh the total batch) and ice one cookie as you would decorate it (weighing that cookie before and after it is iced); then determine the weight of icing consumed in one cookie and therefore how many batches will be needed. Remember, extra icing can be frozen if you’re worried about making too much (though I rarely do this).

This all said, my yield for this recipe is based on solid coating with ONE color, and as I said, much icing gets lost in mixing colors and filling bags . . .

By Julia M Usher on September 22, 2015

I made royal icing with meringue powder and decorated 300 sugar cookies. The problem is, they will not dry! It has been 48 hours and they are still sticky. Is there any way to salvage them and get them to harden or should I start over. Do you have any suggestion on why this happened? It wasn’t humid in CT, and I have done this before with no problem. I’m not sure what went wrong.
Thanks in advance!

By Heather on October 25, 2015

Hi, Heather!

It’s hard for me to say what happened as well without having the benefit of seeing how you mixed the icing or observing your conditions. But if you say it wasn’t too cold or humid, then all I can surmise is that you didn’t have enough meringue powder (i.e., egg white) in your recipe; it’s the egg white that causes the icing to dry especially fast. You could try waiting longer to see if the icing dries (if you have the time). The cookies should still taste fine (though I would test one if I were you), so perhaps you won’t have to scrap them. The icing only needs to be completely dry if a technique (like stamping or stenciling) requires it, or you have to package the cookies. Best of luck.

By Julia M Usher on October 26, 2015

Hi Julia
1st i have to say i so totally love that i bump in your page searching on you tube, your work and videos are super insipiring to me, i already ask for your book as Christmas present and hoping to take some personal proyect for christmas cookies from one of your videos.
you say the icing can be made ahead 1 or 2 days, do you store any leftover icing? How and for how long?


By Yadi on October 27, 2015

Hi, Yadi!

Thanks for the kind words. I usually make my icing in exactly the quantity I need so I have little left over, as I like to mix and use it the day I mix (I find the colors set more stably this way for some reason). But if you have to store it, cover the surface flush with plastic wrap and then foil and then store in the fridge. It will stay okay refrigerated for a few days, though some separation may occur, and you will need to bring it back to room temperature before use. Some people freeze it for longer periods, but I do not for the same reasons I do not like to store it much more than one day in the fridge.

By Julia M Usher on October 28, 2015

Hi julia,I’m so happy that I found your site…you’r such a talented teacher,Ive learned from you almost every thing about cookies,from videos and recipes and all are sooooooo good and easy to follow,I never had the apportunity to learn that here in our city in lebanon ,because there is no classes to enter, its not a public yet, and I like to run a cookie business,I like to thank you alot for all what I’ve learned from you..
My question is ,the icing sugar here is not so fine like bakingpowder, it is some how gritty, when making the RC I can see and feel the gritty thing,and the results on cookies are not as yours and not silky and creamy , we dont have cream of tartar here and even if we have it I cant use it because its made from wine , is that the reason why my icing is not ending up well, and is there any substitution for that, and why sometimes I see shiny icing IT LOOKS PRETTY FOR SPECIAL PARTIES??
I wish you all the best..and thank you again….

By Nour al houda on November 19, 2015

Hi, Nour! Thanks so much for your kind remarks. I’m thrilled that you’re enjoying my videos. The cream of tartar in my recipe acts a stabilizer (to some extent) and keeps white icing whiter longer, but if you were to omit it, or replace it with strained lemon juice in the same quantity, there would be no trouble with the recipe. And for the icing to dry with a satin sheen, it can’t be dried under humid conditions - the drier your ambient drying conditions, the shinier the icing will dry (to a point). I usually quick-set the outer layer of the icing by setting the cookies in a food dehydrator (set at 95F) for about 10 minutes, and this is usually enough to give my cookies a satiny finish. However, your biggest issue is likely the gritty powdered sugar - that can be a very big issue. Almost all of the powdered sugar here in the US is very finely processed, but I have found very variable quality powdered sugar elsewhere in the world. It can be extremely difficult (to impossible) to get smooth results with a gritty sugar, as the icing tends to separate. You can try processing/grinding the sugar in a food processor for a few minutes before mixing the icing; this helps a little (in my experience with sugars in other parts of the world), but it typically won’t get it as fine as what we have here in the US. I wish I could be more helpful - if you can source a finer sugar from elsewhere, that may be your best bet. I hope I’ve answered all of your questions, and thanks again for writing! :)

By Julia M Usher on November 19, 2015