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Oct 22, 2016 11:20pm

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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

Hi Julia - once the top coats/decorations are completely dry, the colors should not bleed if you place in its own cellophane bag? I noticed on some other custom sugar cookies that others have made with outlining on top of their topcoat bled onto their white topcoat. I want to avoid this happening. Please advise any tips or advise. Thank you!!

By Genevieve on November 30, 2015

Hi, Genevieve, Yes, what you say is generally true. If everything is completely dry, no bleeding should occur if it hasn’t already. Though if the cookies get too hot in their bags, they can steam and that could cause trouble. Be sure the cookies are always being held at normal room temperature under dry conditions. Bleeding generally happens when colors are too loose to start and/or are dried under humid conditions, and therefore take too long to dry, so I always try to work with icing as thick as possible for the task at hand, and often speed-dry cookies by setting them in a food dehydrator for about 10 minutes at 95F. (The latter will just quick-set the top layer of icing though.)

By Julia M Usher on November 30, 2015

Hi Julia,

I’ve tried your royal icing recipe and I love it!! The taste and texture is so much better than other recipes I’ve tried in the past. I’m having a problem, though, where to get the royal icing to the glue consistency, it pumps too many air bubbles in and my end result ends up pocked with bubbles after drying (even after letting the icing sit for a bit and popping any bubbles that I see when piping).
I was wondering if you had any suggestions on what I could do to fix this? Should I let the icing sit to firm a little instead of beating for so long? Or should I use slightly more icing sugar? 2lbs converted into g (which is the metric used here) is 907g of icing sugar which I think might be not enough? Thank you!!

By Alix on December 19, 2015

Hi, Alix, Thanks! That’s the right quantity of powdered sugar, but perhaps you added too much egg white or beat too long with a too loose icing. I only recommend beating until the icing JUST turns bright white, which is usually a minute or so, or less. Of course, if you beat a thicker icing, you will incorporate less air, so you should double-check how much egg white you added (5 large whites is only about 5 ounces). Best of luck! And happy holidays!

By Julia M Usher on December 19, 2015

Hi Julie! I have pretty much switched my Royal Icing from the Wilton canned product to fresh made, using your guidelines and recipe. What a difference in taste! I actually LIKE it now! My question is this: I am using pasteurized whites and the 5 1/2 oz amount you recommend for 2 pounds of powdered sugar. It all works great but I notice that at least for me, the icing never dries to super hard, unlike Wilton based icing. I actually like the taste AND the texture but was concerned that if it was not super dried out that perhaps there was a lingering safety issue with the egg whites. I thought that perhaps I should cut back on the amount of egg whites I use but wanted to field your opinion on this. What do you think? Thanks, Julie!

By karen santora on December 21, 2015

Hi, Karen, Not sure why your icing didn’t dry all the way through with pasteurized whites. Mine does all of the time. Could it be you didn’t allow it to dry long enough? If it’s especially humid, the icing may take longer than overnight to dry all the way through. Cutting back on the egg whites will not resolve the issue, as it’s the protein in the egg whites that causes the icing to set more quickly. Perhaps you added too much water to thin the icing, and that’s what’s causing it to take longer to dry? But just guessing . . . hard to say, as I’ve never had this experience before.

By Julia M Usher on December 22, 2015

hi there,
thank you for all the information you provide.
I have a question about the royal icing,if I using the meringue powder instead of the egg white ,do I follow the same method in loosing up the mixture for the outlining the cookies ,gluing and and surface.
thank you alot

By shatha on December 26, 2015

Hi, Shatha!

Thanks so much! Yes, if you’re using my recipe, then you would need to follow the guidelines provided for getting the icing to the right consistency for various tasks. If you’re using another recipe, it could very well be looser or thicker than my base icing, and so the same consistency adjustments could not necessarily be applied to it.

By Julia M Usher on December 27, 2015

Dear Ms. Usher,
I hope you are fine. I read your recipe for the Royal Icing. Nonetheless, I wish to ask you how to thicken the mixture when it does not get hard after you decorate it.
Kind regards,

By Elia on December 30, 2015

Hi, Elia, This recipe will dry hard all the way through if you allow it enough drying time, so I don’t really understand your question.

However, if you loosen the icing for another task (i.e., flooding) and want to get it thicker again for a task like outlining that requires a thicker icing, you simply sift in more powdered sugar and stir gently until you achieve the desired consistency. So you add water to thin, and add powdered sugar to thicken again.

I hope I’ve answered your question.

By Julia M Usher on December 30, 2015

Hi Julia,

Compliments of the New Year to you!  I’m absolutely WOWED by your creations!

How much essence exactly, do you put in the recipe with the quantities you’ve given?  I’m just not getting the taste right.

Many thanks!!!  XXX

By Vanessa Todorova on January 27, 2016

Hi, Vanessa! Thanks so much for the kind words. I wish I could be exact about the flavoring in royal icing, but I would be remiss if I were to do so. Every flavoring (be it an extract, or an oil, or an emulsion) flavors with a different intensity. And even different flavors within a family of flavorings have different intensities. For instance, almond or anise extract are much more powerful than say lemon or vanilla. On top of all of this, proper flavoring is a very personal and subjective thing, especially in icing. This is why I purposely state “flavoring, to taste” in the recipe above. I’m a firm believer that bakers need to get in the habit of tasting their products and adding flavorings to suit their personal preferences, and which take into account the particular intensity of the flavoring they are using.

By Julia M Usher on January 27, 2016

Thank you so much for your quick response, Julia!  :-)  That’s definitely understandable!

Can I use this recipe for cakes as well?  I have a friend who is lactose intolerant and this icing would be very ideal if it can be used for cakes.

Thank you so much for all that you have done for us in sharing your knowledge!

By Vanessa Todorova on January 27, 2016

Vanessa, This icing dries to a hard candy-like coating, so it is not ideal for icing full sides of cakes; it’s great for piping smaller detail work on buttercream or fondant, but it would crack if you iced the whole cake with it and tried to cut through it. Thanks again for the kind words.

By Julia M Usher on January 27, 2016

Hello, I just love your site/blog and am pretty new to the cookie making so your site has become a lifesaver. I just made a batch of firefighter cookies that I need for Saturday.  I let them dry for the 24 hours, but today, I woke up to find that they are starting to get this “sparkling/bleeding” effect which I’m afraid will result it them bleeding. I laid them out overnight and was going to either store them in an airtight container and then cello bags, but because it is so humid over here, how can I avoid them bleeding out?  Especially if I put them in the cello bags?  PLEASE HELP!!


By Julie Lamas on March 31, 2016

Hi, Julie, Sorry for the delayed response - it’s a super busy time here! I hope my message catches you in time to make a difference with your cookies. First, thanks for the kind words! Second, I definitely wouldn’t contain or bag the cookies until the icing is completely dry, as that will only delay their drying and exacerbate bleeding. If bleeding has already started, it can be hard to stem it, but you can try drying the cookies on a low temperature (95F) in a food dehydrator or oven (if your oven temp goes that low). I often accelerate drying, especially on humid days, in my dehydrator. The bleeding could also be a result of using icings that were too loose to start, so next time, try pushing the icing as thick as you can for the task at hand. The thicker the icing, the faster it dries, and the less prone it will be to bleeding. Best of luck!

By Julia M Usher on April 01, 2016

I have a bit of a particular question.  I am making a box as a gift but instead of using cookie as the base I will be using pastillage along with royal icing and fondant, that way they can keep the box for long time.  My question how long does something made with sugars last, will is start crumbling after a while or change colour?  Do you have any suggestion on a product I could use to act as a sealer maybe or anything like that?  I really want them to be able to keep for a long time and I just love the look of royal icing etc..

Thank you so very much for your time.
Best regards,

By Chanelle Lavigne on April 06, 2016

Hi, Chanelle! Yeah, if you display a sugar item for a very long time, colors will fade and the royal icing details can sometimes fall off, or the icing “glue” at the seams can dry and come apart. Unfortunately, there’s little way to reverse the natural course of everything deteriorating with time! All I can suggest is to keep the item out of direct sunlight to minimize/delay fading. Or to seal the item in an airtight container when not on display. With regard to sealants, I tried a few a long while ago, and they all left spots or shiny areas on my cookies (and smelled horrible, even the supposed edible ones), so I don’t use them and can’t recommend any that work well without doing damage to the original product. Wish I could be of more help. Best of luck!

By Julia M Usher on April 06, 2016

Hi, I love your post on royal icing. However, I have an experience that makes me think it is possible to make a meringue mixture without baking and use it in place of royal icing.
I use 2 egg whites with 250g of sugar and place on a bain marie till it thickens stirring all the while ( just like I would make swiss meringue buttercream but without the butter). This recipe is very thick so depending on usuage, you might have to thin it down with very little water. It becomes exactly like thick royal icing. I use it to pipe names and messages on cake and it dries very fast exactly like royal icing. I haven’t used it to fully frost a cake yet but that is next on my agenda.

By Helen on April 13, 2016

Hi, Helen, Yeah, it sounds like you’re piping with a Swiss meringue, and I have no doubt it sets relatively firm, as the protein in the egg whites will do that. (They’re what contribute to royal icing’s fast-drying properties.) I suspect though that, as the meringue cools, it will get harder to pipe (as it stiffens and is sticky, unlike royal icing) so it may not be as usable for long cookie decorating runs that may take many hours. The heating process also isn’t to temperatures high enough to kill salmonella, so I don’t think it has an advantage that way either. But, I’ll be interested to hear more about your results. Thanks for sharing!

By Julia M Usher on April 13, 2016

Hey Julia! I’m in love with your youtube videos, and love how simple this icing is. We don’t have the cream of tartar where I live, and I read you suggested lemon juice as a substitute, so I can’t wait to try it!

I was wondering how hard this dries? I was also wondering if this is good to fill into silicone molds? Would it dry so I can just remove the silicone afterwards? Also, would the decorations made with this icing be safe to freeze to re-use after?

Piping isn’t really my strong point but your videos have been very helpful in that regard :) Keep up the amazing work!

By Sam on April 30, 2016

Thanks so much, Sam! It dries very hard; if you want a softer bite, you can add a little corn syrup, but this may delay drying time and also lead to more color-bleeding. You can put it in silicone molds, but remember that the underside of the mold is usually going to be your top side, and the underside of royal icing (in molds or made as transfers) never dries as smooth and shiny as the upside; it will be a more porous surface. Once the icing is completely set, there is no need to freeze the decorations, as they are not perishable. I hope I’ve answered all of your questions. Thanks for stopping by!

By Julia M Usher on April 30, 2016

Hello. I LOVE making royal icing transfers to add to cookies, but seem to encounter 2 problems. I will make an entire face royal icing transfer (of Incredible Hulk, for instance) to add to a dry top-coated cookie. I use the method of dabbing dots of fairly thick “glue” icing consistency on the back of the transfer, then placing it on the top coated cookie.
Problem 1) even though the top coating on the cookie seems level, if I only dab dots of “glue” on back of transfer, the transfer will break if fragile, since the thick glue will not allow the transfer to sit flat against the cookie, but has gaps where no icing was used. Should i flood the entire back of the transfer with a looser consistency of glue?
Problem 2) the spots! this is so distressing. After several days of allowing the attached transfer to dry on the cookie, some of the transfers will begin to show spots that seem to get bigger over time. (However, one transfer’s spots seem to minimize after a couple of weeks of drying.) I don’t think it is butter seeping from the cookie, as the topcoating on the cookie had no spots. It is definitely something going on between the “glue” and the transfer. Also, one time i used black “glue,” and after a few days, the transfer begin to show black areas where the “glue” seeped through. I also think perhaps flooding the entire back of the transfer with white glue may prevent spots—the entire transfer may be “discolored” where glue seeps through, but at least it will not look like the transfer has the measles! LOL!
Any help you can give me is greatly appreciated.

By Susan George on May 18, 2016

Hi, Susan! I like transfers too! Yes, your guesses about what to do are correct. (1) Smear or paint a looser icing “glue” on the back of long/bigger transfers to ensure they lay flat, or drop them onto loose icing (though you have less control over placement with the latter approach). (2) I never glue anything with black icing, because if you misplace the transfer and want to move it, the black icing will always leave a stain. And, in your case, it sounds like it bled through the transfer. I’d suggest white icing, and as thick as possible, as the thicker the icing dries, the less time colors have to bleed into one another. Best of luck!

By Julia M Usher on May 19, 2016

hi! thank you so much for your informative recipe! how can this be adjusted for a chocolate royal icing? i am attempting to use black gel food coloring to get a deep black icing, but have heard it is best to start with a darker (chocolate) base. really appreciate your help and advice!

By melissa on June 08, 2016

Hi, Melissa, You know, I’ve never found it necessary to add cocoa powder to my royal icing to get a dark black. I use Chefmaster Coal Black, and it is quite concentrated and colors well without a bad aftertaste as some brands of coloring have. I know some people do add cocoa powder to get away without using as much black food coloring, but it would be best to ask those people what they do, as I have never tested this recipe with it. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

By Julia M Usher on June 08, 2016

Hello, I was wondering if you have a recipe for a smaller batch?
I never tried this before and I don’t wanna mess up with a big batch
And I would really like to try this recipe

By Euaruu on June 09, 2016

Hi, Euaruu!

I believe I answered your question on YouTube already, but if not, just cut the recipe in half. You’ll obviously need to weigh the whites in order to do this accurately. In fact, it’s best to weigh everything.

By Julia M Usher on June 09, 2016

Hi Julia,

I came across your recipes and decorating tips and they are fantastic! I have learned so much. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for royal icing that does not use eggs/meringue powder and provides the same ability to work with and finished look? This icing is great for piping/decorating and I am having a difficult time finding a vegan recipe that provides the same look, finish and ability to decorate well.

Thank you!

By MP on July 18, 2016

Hi, MP! First, thanks for the kind words! For a vegan alternative, you could try any number of variations of confectioners’ icing (aka glaze), which is basically powdered sugar with some other (non-egg white) liquid in it, like water or milk or juice. However, it is the protein in the egg white that gives royal icing its quick-setting and high tensile strength (stretchy) properties, and which enables it to hold a tight line without much spreading. Confectioners’ icing can definitely work (and many cookie decorators use it), but it dries less fast and not all the way through always, so it is more prone to colors bleeding and is not as easily stamped or stenciled with royal icing (as those techniques require completely dry topcoats). Confectioners’ icing also spreads more. Anyway, that’s the best vegan solution I have to offer. Best of luck and happy decorating!

By Julia M Usher on July 18, 2016

I love this blog and I am eager to try to decorate cookies using your recipe. Do you have a specific sugar cookie recipe that you use that works well? Also, how thick do you usually make your cookies?


By Jess on July 28, 2016

Hi, Jess! Thanks so much! Yes, I do have a favorite sugar cookie recipe that I make in many flavors, but it is only available for sale in my books and app. You can find out more about those products under the STORE area of this site. Thanks for your interest!

P.S. I usually roll my cookies about 3/16 inch thick, thinner than many others. But I don’t like thick, underbaked cookies, as I think they can be kind of pasty. I prefer more crunch.

By Julia M Usher on July 29, 2016

Dear Julia
First of all I’d like to say I’m a big fan of all you’re work
I have a question and just wondered if you’d be able to help me
I have just started up a catering blog and have planned to do iced cookies so I practiced making black cauldron cookies and after I had iced them when I ate one the food colouring came off on my teeth
I was using a gel paste

Why would this be and what can I do to change this

Kind regards
Jack webster

By Jack webster on August 17, 2016

Hi, Jack, Thanks so much for the kind words. And sorry for the delayed response to your question, but I just returned from a teaching trip in Indonesia and am struggling to catch up with a large backlog of work. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of food coloring - if you use a lot to make a dark color, the icing will dissolve in your mouth and get on your teeth and tongue. And black is going to show up more than paler colors, of course. Some people tint their black icing with cocoa powder to start and then add somewhat less black food coloring to make a truly black color; this helps reduce the issue of black food coloring on teeth, but it does not eliminate it completely. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

By Julia M Usher on August 18, 2016