Annika Eats

How To Make Royal Icing

The perfect royal icing is one that has stiff peaks made out of egg whites, icing sugar, vanilla and little lemon juice. A must have recipe for cookie decorating. 

When I first made royal icing it washy hand and must tell you that it can be a serious work out to make by hand. In saying this, I absolutely loved hated it. Apart from the process I felt it was too sweet and got hard pretty fast, there was crust on it and it made no sense to me. As an icing in my mind was meant to be silk smooth, luscious etc. 

It wasn’t until a few years later did I realize the importance of royal icing when I was making a Christmas cake for a competition. I need to decorate some cookies and “stick” some edibles onto my cake board and also I needed to make a crumb coat of royal icing on my Christmas cake it keep her fresh for a long period of time. So I went back to the recipe of royal icing but this time I used a machine and I tweaked the recipe for my benefit. So let us understand Royal Icing a little before we make it. 

What is Royal Icing?

It is a stiff white icing made from egg whites and icing sugar. It sets rock hard once dry and is used in traditional wedding cakes, over cookies, Christmas cake and as decoration for various confectionery items. It is also known as decorators icing, sugar icing, egg white icing and wedding cake icing. 

Why is it called Royal Icing?

As per the internet, the designation “royal” was added after the icing was used on the large, elaborate cake made for Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. The icing was developed by Elizabeth Raffald in 1769. However there are traces of this recipe that go back to the 1600s. 

What are the types of Royal Icing?

There are 2 main types of royal icing, this depends on the usage and purpose of the icing. They are: Stiff royal icing (what we will make today – used for piping and creating sugar flowers etc) & Flooding royal icing (it is runnier, perfect for filling cookies and cakes etc). The stiff royal icing can be spread with a spatula over cookies, pies etc. 

Let us talk ingredients for Royal Icing

A traditional royal icing needs eggs whites and icing sugar. My recipe uses egg whites, icing sugar, vanilla and a little lemon juice. I have used fresh egg whites to make this recipe, however you can use the egg whites from a bottle as well. Many people use meringue powder or egg white powder to make this recipe, you absolutely could do that but I prefer using fresh egg whites as it is more accessible if you are a home cook. 

The recipe calls for icing sugar, you cannot substitute this ingredient. It needs the fine sugar to make that silky smooth finish. Icing sugar is also known as confectioners sugar or powdered sugar. It must be store bought and don’t try making it at home. The vanilla is mostly powdered so it doesn’t affect the color or texture of the royal icing but you can extract or paste. The lemon juice here is just added to make the royal icing whiter. Sounds weird but it is very true. 

What equipment do you need to make Royal Icing?

We need an electric beater or stand machine to make this icing. If you are making a small batch you could attempt this by hand using a whisk but I wouldn’t recommend doing that. It is a lot of effort and you cannot compromise on the beating. The sugar needs to be incorporated into the egg whites well or else the mixture will not hold its shape later. I also use a rubber spatula to clean the sides of the bowls while beating. 

How to make Royal Icing?

We start by beating the eggs whites until frothy. Divide the icing sugar into 3 parts (roughly) and add one part the frothy egg whites. Beat well and scrape down the sides. Once all the sugar is incorporated add the second batch if icing sugar and repeat the same process. When you add the third batch of sugar, add the vanilla and lemon juice. Beat well and make sure you have stiff peaks, still peaks are basically when you lift the beater from the bowl and the icing holds a little peak on the beater like a tiny mountain. If the icing is droopy or not holding its shape then beat it some more and add more sugar if needed.

How to store Royal Icing?

Once the icing is made, transfer it to an air tight container and cover it with cling film before closing. The cling film needs to touch the icing as this will ensure it doesn’t harden. 

How to use Royal Icing?

You can use this icing to decorate cookies for Christmas, I have my maple sugar cookie recipe which is perfect for this. You can also use this to drizzle over the pumpkin pecan crumble muffins, it is perfect with most of the Christmas cookies I have on my page. 

Pro tips to make the perfect Royal Icing 

Clean bowl-

Make sure the bowl and beater is clean and dry before you start to beat the egg whites. Any grease will affect the icing whip up to stiff peaks. 

Egg whites-

Ensure you have only egg whites in the mixture, even a little egg yolk will affect the over texture, color and flavor of the icing. 

Icing sugar-

You cannot skip on this step. If your icing sugar is lumpy, sift it ahead of time to avoid lumps later after beating. 

Scrape the bowl-

This is important as we don’t want any of the icing sugar getting hard on the sides of the bowl which will create a lumpy icing. 

Coloring-

I would recommend using color pastes or powders that are low in liquid content as we don’t want the icing to get runny. This is not a flooding icing, it is a stiff piping icing. 

Now that we have covered How To Make Royal Icing, you can have a look at the recipe video on my socials but let’s get to it. 

If you try this recipe out, don’t forget to share it with me on instagram so I can see how it turned out. I’d love nothing more than to chat with you on your cooking/baking.

How To Make Royal Icing

The perfect royal icing is one that has stiff peaks made out of egg whites, icing sugar, vanilla and little lemon juice. A must have recipe for cookie decorating.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Course Bars, biscuit, Cake, cookie, Icing
Cuisine British, French, German

Equipment

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Electric beater
  • Rubber spatula

Ingredients
  

  • 3 Egg whites 90gm
  • 550 gm Icing sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp Lemon juice

Instructions
 

  • We start by beating the eggs whites until frothy. Divide the icing sugar into 3 parts (roughly) and add one part the frothy egg whites. Beat well and scrape down the sides.
  • Once all the sugar is incorporated add the second batch if icing sugar and repeat the same process.
  • When you add the third batch of sugar, add the vanilla and lemon juice. Beat well and make sure you have stiff peaks, stiff peaks are basically when you lift the beater from the bowl and the icing holds a little peak on the beater like a tiny mountain.
  • If the icing is droopy or not holding its shape then beat it some more and add more sugar if needed.

Notes

  • Check the props for all the information.
  • If the icing Is too runny add more icing sugar but one tablespoon at a time. If the icing too thick add a drop of water into the mixture. Don’t add more, always add less and beat it well before adding more.

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