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Recipe of the Day: How to Make Royal Icing

Decorating cookies? You'll need this recipe
Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

Like building gingerbread houses, cookie decorating is a holiday right of passage. Watching your sugary, snowmen-shaped confections emerge from the oven, ready to be slathered with icing will make your tummy rumble and your mouth salivate. This recipe for royal icing is perfect for decorating your cookies with top hats, carrot noses and more.

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The best part about this royal icing is that it dries hard and quickly, allowing you to make a flurry of holiday shapes and customize them as your heart desires. Want to give Rudolph his shiny red nose? The secret is royal icing. This icing is also the ideal thing to hold together gingerbread houses and make whipped snow for them to sit on. Just beware, this icing uses raw egg whites, so it's not ideal for babies, pregnant women or high-risk individuals.

To make royal icing, you'll need just 10 minutes of free time and a few common pantry staples: like eggs, confectioners sugar, cream of tartar and vanilla extract. Want to make your holiday cookies very merry? Mix the icing with food coloring to create wonderful shades of red, green and blue, perfect for Santa's coat and snowy scenes.

Get started by mixing the egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla on high speed until frothy. Adjust the mixer speed to low and slowly add the confectioners sugar. Return the mixer speed to high and mix the icing until it's thick and forms glossy, high peaks. 

Use royal icing to customize your cookies once they are completely cool. Be sure to cover the icing you aren't using with plastic wrap so it doesn't dry up. Got extra time on your hands? Don't stop the cookie baking extravaganza there, try out more of our best Christmas cookie recipes, from sugar to peppermint swirl

Royal Icing


4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
4 pasteurized egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Food coloring, if desired


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

Adjust mixer speed to low. Slowly add 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.