Courtesy of The Chopping Block

How to Marble Royal Icing on Sugar Cookies

Holiday baking never looked so beautiful
Christmas Cookie Decorating Tips and Tricks
Watch this quick cookie decorating class taught by chef Lisa Counts and Louisa Chu.
Courtesy of The Chopping Block

We've seen a lot of viral trends this year, from whipped coffee to three ingredient cloud bread. But some of the most classic kitchen creations never go out of style, and one that's as timeless as it is gorgeous is marbled royal icing on cookies. The swirly-twirly confections are mesmerizing and leave room for creativity. If you've held off on trying this techinique, you may be surprised to find out that it's easier than it looks (just watch the video above to see for yourself!).

Our 50 Best Cookie Recipes

For Lisa Counts, Executive Chef at The Chopping Block in Chicago, the devil is in the details. Sure, you can fling some frosting on a cookie, but for something truly special, it's all about those little touches. Marbling is one of those simple techniques that elevates a humble sugar cookie to something Instagram-worthy. And you can stop right there, or you can continue decorating if you want to pull out all the stops.

It all starts with the royal icing. Counts recommends using cream of tartar in the recipe, since it stabilizes the egg whites, aids the drying process and helps create a strong and glossy coating. 

Once your icing is prepared, it's time to add some color. There are a few ways to do this, and either way Counts recommends not going overboard; one or two colors are ideal otherwise you could end up with frosting that is muddy instead of vibrant. You can drizzle the food coloring (gel works particularly well here) directly into the bowl of white icing, then use a toothpick to gently swirl it around (don't overmix, or you'll just end up with single-color icing). Alternately, you can divide the white icing, mix dye into a portion, then drizzle the colored frosting into the white and swirl from there. In the video above, Chef Counts demonstrates a combination of those two methods, which produces a two-tonal light and dark blue effect.

After swirling the color, take a sugar cookie and dip one side straight into the royal icing. Very gently move the cookie back and forth to make sure it's well-saturated. Then lift it up face down, let the extra icing drizzle off and  — voilà  — you've got cookie art. 

If you want your cookies to marble in a consistent pattern, Counts recommends tilting the cookies in the same direction each time you lift them from the icing. This will cause the icing to pull to the same side on each cookie. Keep in mind that sometimes marbling can cause air pockets to form, but Counts says you can just use a tooth pick or shake the cooling wrack to pop them - or, if that doesn't work, sprinkles make great concealer. 

Not only does marbling add some flare to your holiday baking, it's also a great way to use up leftover icing. Once the marbled royal icing hardens, you can call it a day or go the extra step and pipe on those snowman hats or outline those Christmas trees (check out the video above for additional decorating tips). Need more cookie decoration ideas? Check out our complete list of the best ever Christmas cookie recipes, from sugar to peppermint swirl

For the Royal Icing 


4 pasteurized egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

Gel food coloring


In a large metal bowl of an electric mixer, use the whisk attachment to beat the egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar on high speed until frothy.

Adjust mixer to low speed. Slowly add the confectioners' sugar.

Increase speed back to high. Mix icing until thickened and there are glossy, stiff peaks.

To add food coloring, separate icing into bowls and add the desired amount of coloring to each bowl, incorporating using a rubber spatula.

While frosting cookies, cover icing you are not using with plastic wrap, as royal icing dries very quickly.

For the Sugar Cookies 


2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Place flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk together until well combined. Set aside.

Use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Add egg and vanilla to the butter mixture and thoroughly combine.

Add flour mixture to wet ingredients. Mix until combined.

Divide dough in half; flatten each half into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Dust your work surface with flour and roll the dough out to 1/8- to 1/4-inch thickness.

Use cookie cutters to cut out festive shapes and place on parchment-lined sheet trays.

Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until just golden brown around the edges.


Ice with royal icing (try out the marbling technique!), let the icing set, and then enjoy!