Sugar Cookie Icing

royal icing recipe

My favorite sugar cookie icing makes gorgeous “professional” looking cookies that stack and travel well. This icing recipe was given to me by my friend Donnah, who makes incredibly beautiful sugar cookies. I got to go to a class at her home with friends a couple of years back, and we made these snowflake sugar cookies. Aren’t they pretty!?

Have you ever had a tasteless, rock-hard sugar cookie icing?  This is NOT that recipe.  I do not believe in unflavored cookies or icing.  Nosiree-Bob.  This is a delicious icing, that is the perfect amount of “crisp” when you bite into it.  It’s a great match for the easy sugar cookie recipes here.

I use this recipe for “fancy” cookies like this, when I need ABSOLUTELY crisp-white or vibrant colored icing, or when the cookies need to travel well.  But for our yearly kid-decorating-frenzy, I use this simple sugar cookie frosting recipe.

Both royal icing, and buttercream frosting can be made thick or thin, they can be spread on, painted on, or piped on.  They can both be flavored with many different extracts.  The BIG difference between the two is in the finished texture after they dry.  Buttercream type frostings stay softer when they dry, because of the oils in the butter.  This sugar cookie icing is a crispy-hard texture, and has no fats in it at all.  And that makes it very durable.

Royal icing is the type that professionals use to frost and decorate their cookies, because it dries in a crisp, perfect finish that is not easily messed up by stacking. If you’ve ever gotten a cookie as a wedding favor, this is probably the type of sugar cookie icing that they used.  Royal icing is often also used to assemble gingerbread houses because of its strength.

Sugar Cookie Icing
Prep time
Total time
This is a classic royal icing recipe...use either meringue powder, or real egg whites (pasteurized for safety). Keep your mixer and utensils completely grease-free to achieve the correct consistency here. Meringue powder can be found where Wilton cake decorating supplies are sold. This recipe makes 3 cups of sugar cookie icing.
Recipe type: Dessert
  • 4 c. (about 1 pound) powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons meringue powder or 1 egg white
  • 5-6 Tablespoons of warm water-see notes below
  • ½ t. flavoring extract
  • gel-based coloring-optional
  1. For stiffer icing, or if you're using a heavy duty stand mixer, use only 5 T of water.
  2. Add all ingredients to a mixer bowl.
  3. Beat until icing forms peaks: 7-10 minutes on low speed with a heavy duty mixer, or about 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand held mixer.
  4. Divide as needed for thinning and coloring.
  5. The un-thinned icing is perfect for piping details, lines, and dots.
  6. After base-coating with thinned icing, allow icing to "set" for 15-20 minutes, and then continue to add piped or painted layers.
  7. When you're done decorating, allow cookies to dry overnight before stacking. A flat, clear storage bin is a good "topper" over the cookies as they dry.
Thinning Icing for Base Coating: Thin by adding 1 teaspoon of warm water per cup of royal icing. Use a grease-free spoon to stir in, and continue to add warm water, just ½ t. at a time. You want it to be about the consistency of elmers glue, where if you drizzle the spoon over the top of the bowl, the drizzles disappear in 5-6 seconds. Like this:
This icing can be painted on, or poured over cookies.
These are my most awesomely naughty recipes!


The snowflake cookies take advantage of the pure, whiteness of this sugar cookie icing, but you can also have lots of fun tinting it all different colors!  Check out my Cookie Cuteness board on Pinterest (will open in a new window) for lots more *ADORABLE* decorating ideas…the birthday cake toppers and the little mini-gingerbread houses are SO cute!  Most of these are decorated with a very similar sugar cookie icing recipe.

Enjoy! And I want to see your cookies!