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Royal Icing for Decorating Cookies

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Royal icing is perfect for detailed decorations and fun cookies. It is simple to make and versatile. I am also sharing my favorite shortcut method for using it to decorate cookies quickly!

plate of christmas shaped peanut butter cut out cookies decorated with royal icing.

Royal icing is great for making all sorts of different designs on cookies. The recipe for the icing itself is really simple. Using it can be intimidating though, so let me show you a quick and easy way to decorate cookies with royal icing.

This method lets you be creative without too much fuss and very little equipment.  Your cookies can be the hit of the holidays!

I originally posted about this after making some Jack cookies for Little Dude’s birthday, so I’ll let you read about that first if you are interested:

plate of cookies shaped like jacks toys and balls.

I have been looking forward to making these cookies for quite some time now.  In fact, I ordered the cookie cutter back in February.

I spent days looking around for a cookie cutter of a jack.  I wanted to make little take home bags of cookie Jacks for everyone. 

I didn’t think it would be that hard.  I was wrong!  So, I ended up ordering one custom.

I talked to the people at Truly Mad Plastics and they were a dream to work with.  (This is in no way sponsored by them, they probably have forgotten all about me by now.  But they were really easy to work with!)

We figured out what I wanted and they printed it out on their 3D printer.  While I was ordering, I went ahead and got the lab themed cutters I used to make fun test tube and Erlenmeyer flask cookies.

test tube and erlenmeyer flask cut out cookies decorated with colorful royal icing and sprinkles.

I decided to go ahead and make the cookies from my favorite sugar cookie dough.  I knew a batch would make more than enough and everyone loves them.  Why mess with a good thing?

This royal frosting recipe is nothing earth shattering.  It is the same one everyone uses.  I just haven’t posted it here yet, so I figured it was time!  Consistency is the key.

The original recipe makes a really thick frosting.  It is great to color it or store it that way.  But you really want to thin it out with more water before you use it.

Christmas shaped gingerbread cookies decorated with royal icing.

I am not going to claim to be an expert at this.  There are a million websites and youtube videos out there that are way better than I could dream to be.

But I like making simple cookies.  I make it as easy on myself as I can, while still making cookies that are cute enough to add a little fun to the dessert table.

Sugar cookies shaped like cupcakes and pospsicles decorated with red white and blue royal icing and sprinkles.

I usually try to just do a few colors at a time.  I mix the colors while the frosting is till thick and then add a few drops of water at a time until I get a consistency I like.

Then I pour it all into condiment bottles.  They are cheap and perfect for frosting! It is hard to get super fine details, but generally gets the job done for what I want.

Go to sugar cookies cut into christmas shapes and decorated like mittens, the Grinch, a candy cane, snowman and Christmas trees with royal icing.

After that you just need some imagination and time to make it all come together!

How to Make Royal Icing

1. In your mixer, whisk together the powdered sugar and meringue powder.

Mixer filled with powdered sugar and meringue powder being combined.

2. Drizzle in warm water and flavoring until you have the consistency of honey. It should be thick but fluid.

pouring warm water into sugar and meringue powder mixture.

3. Whip until light, fluffy and easily forms stiff peaks.

stiff peaks of bright white royal icing.

4. Divide into separate bowls for each color. Use gel colors to get your desired shades.

bowls of colored thinned out royal icing ready for cookies.

5.  To follow my easy decorating method, add water a drop or two at a time until you get 5 second frosting consistency.  When drizzled off the spoon back into the bowl, it should be stiff enough to pile up on itself. Then it should sink into the remaining icing and be flat in 5-6 seconds. Be careful when adding water, it is really easy to go to far and really hard to come back from it. 

6. Place frosting into clean condiment containers and use to frost your cookies! 

family decorating cookies with condiment bottles filled with colored royal icing.

If you are a frosting fanatic like me, check out my Frosting 101. It goes through the different types of frosting and links to all sorts of delicious recipes!

Go to sugar cookies cut into christmas shapes and decorated like mittens, the Grinch, a candy cane, snowman and Christmas trees with royal icing.

Royal Icing

Servings: 120 Servings
Author: Carlee
Royal icing is perfect for detailed decorations and fun cookies. It is simple to make and versatile. I am also sharing my favorite shortcut method for using it to decorate cookies quickly!
5 from 11 ratings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons meringue powder
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or favorite flavoring
  • Warm water
  • 2 Tablespoons corn syrup* optional
  • Food coloring gel


  • Start by emptying the powdered sugar into your mixer bowl with the whisk attached. Add the meringue powder and put on low for a couple of seconds to mix it.
    2 pounds powdered sugar, 5 Tablespoons meringue powder
  • Warm up about a 1/4 cup of water and add the flavoring (and corn syrup if using). While the mixer is on low, slowly pour it in. Get a little more warm water in your measuring cup.
    2 Tablespoons corn syrup*, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Slowly drizzle in a little bit of water at a time until you reach the consistency of honey.
  • Then turn the mixer up to medium-high for a few minutes. The mixture should get glossy and airy. It is done when it can hold a stiff peak.
  • At this point, you can scoop the icing into air tight containers and keep on the counter for up to a couple of weeks. I usually put it into a variety of smaller containers, so there isn’t much air between the icing and the lid and so I don’t have to keep getting icing from the same big container. I am not sure if this matters at all, but it is what I normally do.
  • When you are ready to use the frosting, scoop what you need into a glass measuring cup and color. It is best to do all of what you need for a certain color at one time so that it is consistent, it will be nearly impossible to match the color later. If you want to outline and flood, you’ll want to adjust the whole thing (by adding a drop of water at a time) to your outline consistency. Take out what you want for outlining, then continue to thin what is left until you have your desired flood consistency. Be sure to add slowly, it’s hard to fix if you’ve added to much.
  • Repeat step six for all of your colors and go to work frosting!


*Make sure your flavorings don’t contain oil. We usually use a mix of vanilla and lemon or almond.
Some people swear by adding corn syrup. I have done it both ways and don’t see much of a difference. So whether or not I add it to a batch mostly has to do with if I have some on hand and if I think of it.



Serving: 1servingCalories: 32kcalCarbohydrates: 8gSodium: 1mgSugar: 8g

Nutritional Disclaimer

“Cooking With Carlee” is not a dietitian or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories and other nutritional values can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.

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5 from 11 votes (8 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating


Tuesday 2nd of June 2015

What a lucky kiddo - your little guy must have loved these! I had no idea you could have cookie cutters custom made! Thank you for the tips, and for the delicious recipe!


Tuesday 2nd of June 2015

It's a little bit dangerous to know how easy it is to get a custom cutter! Just imagine the possibilities ;-)


Tuesday 2nd of June 2015

Looks delicious!!


Tuesday 2nd of June 2015

Thank you, they were a big hit at the party!


Sunday 31st of May 2015

These are so cute. I love frosting cookies, but I always make a big mess. This made it much easier.


Sunday 31st of May 2015

I have learned that if I keep to around 4 shapes and 4 colors of icing (and don't try anything too fancy), I can see the project through. Any more than that takes too long for me to maintain focus! I have been having a lot of fun messing with it, but I am still new and know that my skills are limited!


Saturday 23rd of May 2015

It is a lot of fun to play with. I'm in awe with what some people can do with it!


Friday 22nd of May 2015

What fun cookies, Carlee! Thank you for sharing your recipe, I never can get the right consistency of royal icing! These tips made it much easier. Enjoy your Holiday weekend! ~Christine


Friday 22nd of May 2015

Thank you! When I used to try doing two consistencies for outlining and flooding, I always ended up with a mess. Now I do one that is in between and that works much better for me! Have a great long weekend!