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Royal Icing

Royal icing is a hard and white colored icing produced from icing sugar, egg whites, and sometimes lime juice or lemon juice, used for decorating cookies, cakes, and candies. There are various recipe variations of the candy in terms of ingredients used. A few recipes may suggest the use of glycerin as one of the ingredients and a few may suggest adding different food coloring.


Powdered sugar (icing sugar) and well beaten egg whites are used as the main ingredients of royal icing. Lime juice or lemon juice is used at times for enhanced flavor. Often glycerin is used as one of the ingredients, so that the icing does not set too hard. When prepared in the form of decorative pieces like flowers, trees, jokers etc., a hard consistency of the icing is required; thus requiring no need of glycerin. Sugar is used as the sweetening agent for the icing. Cream of tartar is used for a creamy textured icing. Food coloring is used as an optional ingredient. Meringue powder can be used as the substitute for fresh egg whites.

Preparation Overview

The royal icing recipe involves beating together powdered sugar, cream of tartar, and egg whites until a stiff and shiny texture is attained. In order to make stiffer icing, more of powdered sugar can be added. Food coloring is added, if desired. Glycerin can also be added to the mix. In case, different colors of the icing are required, the colors can be placed in separate bowls, with the beaten icing mix divided into different bowls. The icing hardens very quickly. In order to delay the hardening process, it is suggested to cover the bowl containing the icing with a wet paper towel. Desserts with hard royal icing should not be stored in refrigerator to prevent the icing from becoming sticky and soft.

The simplest royal icing recipe involves beating together confectioner’s sugar, water, and meringue powder.

Culinary Uses

The popular uses of royal icing are explained below:

  • Royal icing can be used as a decorative agent, in the form of figures and flowers, for Christmas and wedding cakes. When used in cakes, marzipan is used below the icing for preventing discoloration of icing.
  • It is also used for decorating cookies and candies.


Royal icing can be stored in the refrigerator for around two weeks. It is suggested to beat the icing again before using.

Health Facts

Though fresh egg whites are traditionally used for preparation of the icing, at times meringue powder is used as the substitute, due to risk of being affected by salmonella (bacterium which causes food poisoning as a result of use of fresh egg whites). Ready to use, pasteurized, and refrigerated egg whites can be used as safer substitutes for fresh egg whites.