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The best no-fail, homemade, 3 ingredient royal icing recipe for decorating sugar cookies. Use for gingerbread cookies and houses!
I love to make homemade sugar cookies and decorate them all fancy and personalized for all of my kiddos various events (I’m an overachiever in that way!) They are super easy to make and usually a big hit!
I’ve written a FULL tutorial of Everything You Need To Know About Royal Icing from what royal icing is used for, how to use it, how it compares to other frostings, and more! Royal icing is perfect for decorating holiday cookies.
I’ve received a lot of questions related to“what is royal icing”, and “why is it used for sugar cookies?” So before I get started showing the step-by-step tutorial, I feel it’s best to explain a little bit about royal icing and when you would use it.
Royal icing is really easy to make but can definitely be intimidating when you are not sure how the process goes. So let’s make this no fail, 3 ingredient royal icing recipe together!
Royal icing is a versatile icing made from egg whites (or meringue powder), powdered sugar, and occasionally added flavorings. It is commonly used for sugar cookies because it can be colored, it dries to a smooth, yet hard-like finish, making it ideal for decorating and creating intricate designs on cookies.
Cookies I Use Royal Icing On
SUGAR COOKIES: I use my mom’s sugar cookie recipe which is my most favorite! Roll out thinner and bake at 400 degrees for crispier sugar cookies or roll thicker and bake at 350 degrees for more soft and fluffy sugar cookies!
GINGERBREAD COOKIES: I use my grandma’s recipe. This recipe also makes perfect gingerbread houses because it’s firm.
- egg whites
- confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)
- cream of tartar or vanilla extract
- food coloring (optional)
NOTE: The images I show below are with cream of tartar. I have recently switched to using 1/2tsp of vanilla extra in place of cream of tartar.
1. Separate egg whites from yolks. Discard egg yolks and put egg whites in a mixing bowl. Measure out 3 ounces (typically around 3 eggs)
2. Mix/whip with hand held mixer with whisk attachment until light and fluffy
4. Add 4 cups powdered sugar
5. Mix/whip until you reach a toothpaste-like consistency.
6. If making colored royal icing, now is the time to add your food coloring. **a little goes a long way so start by adding a few drops at a time and then mixing. Add more food coloring as needed.
Adding vibrant liquid food coloring to a bowl of pristine white royal icing, creates beautifully colored cookie designs.
7. Using handheld mixer, blend food coloring into the royal icing
9. Have fun getting creative!!
Decorating with royal icing can be super fun! The creative possibilities are endless! I have a whole Pinterest board with sugar cookie decorating ideas! Come follow along for great inspiration!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I substitute cream of tartar with vanilla extract in royal icing?
Yes, you can substitute cream of tartar with vanilla extract if you prefer. Simply use 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract instead of cream of tartar. Clear, imitation vanilla extract is recommended for achieving a bright white royal icing color.
What is the perfect consistency for sugar cookie royal icing?
To achieve the right consistency for royal icing, you’ll want it to be similar to toothpaste. Add powdered sugar gradually while mixing until you reach the desired consistency. If it’s too thick, add a bit of water; if it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar.
How long does it take for royal icing to dry on sugar cookies?
The drying time for royal icing can vary depending on humidity and thickness it was piped on the cookie. Generally, it takes about 4 to 6 hours for royal icing to dry to the touch. For completely firm icing, allow it to dry overnight or for 12-24 hours. I always recommend making the cookies one day ahead of time and storing them in the refrigerator to ensure that the cookies are set and ready for your event.
Baseball cookies for my little man’s birthday!!
Royal Icing Recipe
- 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup
- Hand held Mixer with whisk
- Piping bag and tips
- Separate egg whites from yolks. Place egg whites into a mixing bowl
- Mix eggs until fluffy and airy
- Add in vanilla extract
- Mix in powdered sugar
- Mix until icing reaching a consistency of toothpaste *don't over mix