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Bowl of white royal icing with a spoon.

Royal Icing


This royal icing is ideal for decorating cookies that can be stacked. We keep half the batch thick for piping borders and fine details. We thin out the rest to flooding consistency for a super-smooth finish.


Units Scale

Royal Icing

  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 3 tablespoons meringue powder (not plain egg white powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon “clear” vanilla extract (not amber-colored vanilla)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sift to remove lumps

Optional: Gel paste food coloring (in desired colors)


Royal Icing –  Thick Consistency

Texture: This consistency is ideal for piping borders/outlines, and for fine decorating details like dots.

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment, add water and meringue powder. Whisk until frothy. Add cream of tartar and vanilla. Whisk briefly to combine. Slowly add powdered sugar and whisk until fully incorporated. The icing should have thick stiff peaks.
  2. Divide icing between 2 bowls. Keep the surface of the icing covered at all times with a damp paper towel.
  3.  Reserve 1 bowl of this thick icing. If desired, tint it with gel food coloring. Transfer it to a piping bag fitted with a small round pastry tip. I prefer a Wilton #3 (or Wilton #4).

Royal Icing – Flood Consistency

Texture: This consistency is thinner and looser. It’s perfect for frosting cookies. It dries into a hardened, flat, super-smooth surface. Once it dries (about 6 to 8 hours), the cookies can be stacked. 

  1. Stir 1 tablespoon water into the second bowl of icing. Continue adding more water (another 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons), a little at a time until the consistency is similar to toothpaste. 
  2. Keep the bowl covered with a damp cloth at all times. If desired, tint the icing. Transfer it to a piping bag fitted with a small round metal tip – like a Wilton #3 (or Wilton #4).


Cookie Decorating Tutorial: See the body of the blog post for helpful instructions on how to use thick and flood-consistency royal icing to decorate sugar cookies.

Important: When the icing is outside of a piping bag, keep the surface of the icing covered with a damp paper towel or a clean (old) cloth at all times.

If royal icing splits: Whisk the icing to restore texture. If it needs to be thinned out a bit, add a touch of water.

Great Option: If desired, you can thin out the entire batch of icing to flood consistency and use it for both borders and flooding. This is ideal if you have just 1 metal tip to work with, or won’t be needing the thicker type icing for adding any super-fine decorating details.

  • Prep Time: 5 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 Minutes
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Mixing
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Royal Icing, Royal Icing Recipe, How to Make Royal Icing, Royal icing for Sugar Cookies, Royal Icing for Cookies