Royal Icing That Doesn't Dry Rock Hard




Introduction: Royal Icing That Doesn't Dry Rock Hard

About: Creative sweets made simple. Learn how to easily make cake pops, cookies, and decorated sweets at Are you ready for sweet inspiration?

There is one thing every cookier needs in their arsenal… a favorite royal icing recipe. The royal icing recipe that I’m sharing with you today is my favorite because it is not only yummy (of course!) but it is the perfect texture. There is a not-so-secret ingredient that allows the icing to harden enough for stacking and shipping while remaining soft on the inside. No more biting into a beautifully decorated cookie and cringing because the icing is rock hard!

Step 1:

Begin by using a whisk to mix 5 tablespoons of meringue powder and 3/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar with 3/4 cup of warm water. Mix it for about 30 seconds, making sure that you get rid of all lumps.

If you are not familiar with meringue powder, it is used in royal icing as a substitute for raw eggs whites. Look, Mom, no Salmonella! It also helps to stabilize the icing and give it a nice texture. You can find it at your local craft store in the baking section or online. I started out using Wilton brand meringue powder, but have found that I prefer the taste of CK.

Step 2:

Now, get ready for a vicious arm workout! In a separate large bowl, sift two pounds of powdered sugar. I always make a mess doing this, so if you figure out how to do this without getting sugar everywhere, you’re a superstar in my eyes! Pssst… I heard an unconfirmed rumor that you can skip the sifting as long as you’re not doing piping with a really small tip.

Step 3:

Next, add the water mixture to the powdered sugar and mix it for about a minute to get it all combined. Then, add 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup, 1 teaspoon of glycerin, 12 drops of white gel food coloring, and your flavorings (I like to use 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon almond, and 1/4 butter). The corn syrup is an ingredient that is usually mentioned as optional in classic royal icing recipes. It adds a little gloss and elasticity to the icing. The glycerin is the not-so-secret ingredient that keeps the icing from being rock hard. You can find it in the baking section at craft stores or online. The purpose of the white food coloring is to make the icing a pleasant bright white instead of off white.

Now, put your mixer to work! Beat the icing on medium for about 6 to 8 minutes, until you can make a stiff peak that holds its shape. Pause and scrape down the sides of the bowl while mixing if needed.

Step 4:

If you are saving the royal icing for later use, I suggest storing it in Tupperware containers (that you use for icing only, see Keep Oil Out of Royal Icing for the lesson that I learned the hard way), covered with plastic wrapped, and sealed tightly.

If you are ready to start decorating, separate your icing into smaller bowls, color with gel food coloring, and add water (a tiny bit at a time) to get the consistency you want.

Well, what are you waiting for? Now that you’re a royal icing ninja, grab your sugar cookie recipe and get baking!

For a printable version of this recipe, visit Royal Icing Recipe at

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    22 Discussions

    I sit my large bowl in my sink and sift - if it gets everywhere that’s okay - I just rinse the sink out when I’m done

    Can you freeze cookies made with this royal icing or will it be blotchy when it's defrosted?????

    I have made this recipe and the icing is hard. Cream of tartar is a stabilizer as well and tends to create a hardening to royal icing. Cream of tartar is okay in buttercream, SMBC or IMBC. However, this is a hard icing. I tried it with and without cream of tartar. The only difference was the color of the icing. With cream of tatar, the icing color was more vibrant but if it's hard, it doesn't matter what the color is.

    1 reply

    I am SO excited to try this recipe. I usually use Royal on my sugar cookies, but I had extra buttercream from a cupcake order recently and I used it to frost a sugar cookie order. It crusted hard enough to package and line the cookies upright in the box. Well, those were amazing cookies and now I'm getting orders from people who were at that event. I can't do a bait and switch and give them super hard royal now, but I can't do buttercream transfers for every order. I'm hoping that this royal recipe with the glycerin and butter extract will give me a 'close enough' result. Of course, I'll still let people know in advance that it won't be exactly the same as what they had, but the cookie itself is so good, I don't think I it'll be a deal breaker. Thank you for posting this and wish me luck!!

    Great instructable. In step 3 you mention "1/4 butter" as a flavouring. is that butter or butter flavouring and how much 1/4 tsp? Tbsp? I hope to get to use this soon. Thanks.

    2 replies

    I have a couple of tips for no mess sifting. First empty the bag of confectioners sugar into a container that you can store it in and more importantly dip out with either a measuring cup or large spoon.

    Second use an old fashioned sifter. This is the kind with a crank on the side. Fill it over your sugar container, move it to your mixing bowl and slowly turn the crank. You won't have any mess.

    Thanks for the nice instructable.

    1 reply

    I use a sieve, about 4" across, to sift ingredients when I bake.

    Great recipe!

    Meringue powder already has the cream of tartar in it so I don't think you need to add more.

    That's an interesting product though a bit synthetic for my taste. One question, does the addition of milk tend to make it go bad eventually, especially if it is stored for any length of time in the fridge? When I was young it was traditional to have a multi-tired wedding cake that would be covered in royal icing. The bottom tier was cut and eaten at the wedding and the upper tiers were saved for the christenings of any future children, possibly three or four years later. The cake and icing survived the wait without refrigeration. Some of the wedding cake and the smaller christening cake(s) were cut up and put into little boxes and sent in the mail to family and friends who were unable to come to the wedding or christening. I don't think this is done anymore which is a pity.

    2 replies

    Anything with milk in it will eventually spoil and go rancid. Milk has fat in it which is what goes rancid. I make it a habit to always use water or corn syrup to thin any kind of icing because any icing that has milk in it has to be refrigerated or it will spoil. Not to mention that many people, including me, are lactose intolerant. Adding milk to the icing would send us running for the bathroom. I think the idea with milk is its creamyness and people want creamy icing too.
    Putting glycerin in royal icing is a very old trick and it could be that is what the wedding cakes of old had in them to keep them. Those cakes must have been wrapped up in something air tight otherwise the cake would have dried out after all those years. Now you've got me curious...

    Yes, I think that the addition of milk would cause this icing to have an expiration date. I have always thinned it by adding water so it lasts pretty much forever.

    Looks great! One suggestion? Maybe put a list of ingredients on the first page. I like to know what I need before I start and it is easy to miss things when you have to read through the recipe to find them. :)

    Put a large piece of parchment paper under the bowl. Then you can pour all the spilled sugar back into the bowl when you're done sifting. :)

    1 reply