Royal Icing for Decorating
Updated: Apr 15
It was back in high school when I first discovered royal icing. My home economics teacher taught a special course in Grade 12 (or it could be Grade 11, I honestly cannot remember) titled “Foods and Celebrations.” One of the foods we made was rolled sugar cookies decorated with stiff royal icing and then flooded with royal icing. Ever since that course, I had always made these cookies at least once a year for the holidays.
WHAT IS ROYAL ICING?
Royal icing is a hard white icing that is made of egg whites, icing sugar (powdered sugar/confectionary sugar), and sometimes lemon or lime juice. Royal icing is perfect for gluing together gingerbread houses as they dry hard and stiff, it is the perfect edible adhesive. It is also good for making stiff decorations such as flowers and figurines. However, the egg whites in the recipe could pose as a health risk as there is a small chance of salmonella poisoning with the egg whites. It is for this reason that meringue powder, or ready-to-use pasteurized egg whites are used. Substituting with these can produce similar results.
MERINGUE POWDER or DRIED EGG WHITES?
Meringue powder is a dry powdered egg white with cornstarch and food gums. Dried egg whites can be used to substitute meringue powder in the same amount, but meringue powder is much more stable in decorating as it has stabilizers in the mixture.
WHAT IS CREAM OF TARTAR?
Cream of Tartar is known for stabilizing egg whites while whipping them. A pinch of cream of tartar will help strengthen and increase the volume of egg whites as they are beaten.
WHERE TO BUY MERINGUE POWDER OR DRIED EGG WHITES OR CREAM OF TARTAR?
Dried Egg Whites can be purchased at Gourmet Warehouse.
Cream of Tartar can be purchased at Gourmet Warehouse or in the spice aisle at grocery stores.
WHY THE RANGE IN THE AMOUNT OF WATER?
The range in the amount of water is due to the different consistencies of royal icing. You may need stiff consistency or flood consistency. Each consistency has a different purpose. I always start off with making a stiff consistency and then adjust the water slowly to get to a flood consistency by slowly adding more water a tablespoon at a time. Stiff Consistency: The mixture will hold stiff peaks. It is perfect for borders, brush embroidery, pearls, etc. Flood Consistency: Is a smooth consistency that does not hold a form and floods area outlines. The consistency is perfect that it can smooth out on it’s own within 15 seconds, but will not run off the edge of a cookie.
Royal Icing for Decorating
Makes 3 cups stiff icing
1/3 - 1/2 cup warm water*
1/4 cup (40 grams) meringue powder**
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar***
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups (440grams) powdered sugar (icing sugar or confectionary sugar)
In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine 1/3 cup of warm water, meringue powder, and cream of tartar.
Mixing on low speed until the mixture gets bubbly and is well mixed. About 2 minutes.
Add the vanilla extract and mix (low speed)
Next add half the powdered sugar and mix (low speed) for 30 seconds.
Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix (low speed) until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes.
When you raise the whisk, the icing should be stiff and not fall at all. This is the perfect consistency for outlining and adding details. If you’d like to use the royal icing for flooding, add a tiny bit more water for a thinner consistency.
* If preferred, make with room temperature egg whites from two large eggs - make sure to omit the water and meringue powder
** feel free to substitute with dried egg whites
*** feel free to substitute with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or lime juice