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9 Tips for Decorating Cookies with Royal Icing

Cookies Arranged on Plate

Looking for a way to decompress? Decorating cakes, cupcakes, and cookies can be an excellent stress reliever. It is almost like a form of therapy. It gives you a sense of fulfillment in your work, sparks your creativity, and calms your mind.

Royal Icing

Cookies are one of my favorite things to decorate. I love decorating them with royal icing, which has a smooth finish once dry. With Valentine’s Day approaching, I decided to make some heart-shaped sugar cookies decorated with pale pink royal icing. They make a special treat for family and friends.

Finished Cookies

Royal icing has an aesthetically appealing look and a great taste. Plus, it is simple to make. Use the following tips to ensure your finished product turns out well.

Tips for Making and Decorating with Royal Icing

  1. Do not substitute the meringue powder with raw egg whites.

Meringue powder is made of mostly dried, pasteurized egg whites. It is much safer than using raw egg whites to make royal icing.

  1. Do not overbeat.

Overbeating the icing will create more air bubbles. After mixing the icing, let it sit for around 15 minutes to let the air bubbles rise naturally.

  1. Create your desired consistency.

You can add more powdered sugar or water (in ½ teaspoon increments) until you reach your desired consistency. For outlining cookies, the icing should be thick but not so thick that you cannot pipe it comfortably. For flooding, it is better to have a thinner consistency for even distribution and smoothness. A good rule to follow is the 10-second rule. After making your icing, let some of it drop from your spatula into the bowl and start counting. The icing should take about 10 seconds to settle in with the rest. If it does, you know the icing is a good consistency for flooding.

Icing Consistencies

  1. Cover royal icing when not in use.

Royal icing forms a crust quickly. Cover it with plastic wrap or a damp paper towel to prevent crusting over or drying out.

  1. Outline cookies first, then flood them.

Some choose to forgo the outlining stage and go straight into flooding. I find that outlining the cookies produces a neater finished product. Pipe a border around the cookie about 1/8 to ¼ inch from the edge of the cookie. After outlining your cookies, go back and flood them with the thinner consistency of royal icing.

Outlined Cookies

Flooded Cookies

  1. Fill in open spaces.

As you flood the cookies, you may notice that the icing does not quite meet in some areas. Use a toothpick or angled spatula to help the icing spread evenly over the cookie.

Filling In Cookie

  1. Allow plenty of time for the royal icing to dry on the cookies.

Let the cookies sit out in the open for at least 2 hours. Royal icing forms an outer crust quickly, so the icing will appear dry and even feel dry to the touch. However, the icing may still be soft underneath, so it is susceptible to getting dented or smashed. Once the icing is dry, you can add any piping or decorations.

  1. Use a stiff consistency for piping.

If you decide to pipe flowers, leaves, or other decorations, add more powdered sugar to your royal icing. A stiffer consistency gives your decorations more stability and a crisper look.

  1. You can store unused royal icing for another time.

If you have leftover icing, you can store it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Before using it again, re-mix and add more water until it reaches its correct consistency. Do not freeze royal icing.


Royal Icing

Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 1.5 cups


  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 4 tablespoons water, room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon clear butter flavoring
  • ½ teaspoon clear vanilla flavoring
  • Optional: gel food coloring


  1. Stir together the powdered sugar and meringue powder in a stand mixer or using a hand-held mixer.
  2. Add in water and flavorings. Mix on low to medium speed for approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Add gel food coloring, if desired, and mix until well incorporated.
  4. Separate icing into two bowls, one for outlining consistency and one for flooding consistency.
  5. Add more powdered sugar in small increments at a time, if needed, to one bowl of royal icing for an outlining consistency.
  6. Add more water in small increments at a time, if needed, to one bowl of royal icing for a flooding consistency.


The following materials are useful for decorating royal icing cookies: a mixer (stand or hand mixer), cookie cooling rack, piping bags (disposable or regular) or squeeze bottles, decorating tip 2 for outlining, and tip 4 for flooding. I also used decorating tip 66 to pipe leaves and 224 to pipe flowers.

 Finished Cookies

I hope you find these tips helpful for your next project! Decorating cookies with royal icing can have frustrating moments, but the result is rewarding. Set them out at your next party or gathering. Or give them away to your friends, neighbors, or relatives. Your finished product will be a meaningful treat for others.


1 comment

  • Beautiful photos and great instructions! These cookies would be a lovely choice for Valentine’s Day or other special occasions.


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