Decorate cut out sugar cookies with this smooth, hard-drying royal icing! This recipe uses 5 simple ingredients including meringue powder, which eliminates the need to use raw egg whites and helps the icing dry quickly (making them able to be packaged or stacked!). This easy royal icing for sugar cookies can be customized to any color, making it perfect for decorating Christmas cookies, birthday cookies, or occasion cookie gifts.
In a large bowl, add the powdered sugar and meringue powder and mix together. Using an electric mixer on low speed, add in the extracts and water (1 tablespoon at a time) and mix until smooth.
If you're planning to color the icing, this is the stage where you should mix that in. If making multiple colors, divide the icing into smaller bowls and place a damp paper towel over the bowls you don't plan to use first.
The goal with the royal icing is that it's thick enough that it won't run off the side of the cookie, but thin enough that it will meld together. So how do you know when that is? Well, you use a timer. In this tutorial, we're making what is called "15 second icing". This means that when you run a knife through the icing, the icing should go back to how it was within 15 seconds (see photos above in post).
* Because the goal here is to achieve the perfect consistency, this is why you want to add the food coloring before you start adjusting the thickness of the icing. Otherwise, if you add it afterwards, you risk watering it down and needing to readjust.
If the line doesn't disappear within 15 seconds, don't worry! Making royal icing is all about adjustments and just because it isn't perfect on your first knife test, doesn't mean it has failed. In fact, most of the times I make royal icing it DOES need an adjustment based on the weather or how accurately I measured the powdered sugar
If it takes longer than 15 seconds = Too Thick = You Need To Add More Water
The TINIEST amount of water can take your icing from being too thick to the perfect consistency. Because of this, you don't want to use a teaspoon scoop to add the water. Instead, fill a cup with room temp water. Dip the spoon you are using to mix the icing into the cup of water, then stir it into the icing. This essentially adds just a few drops of water to the icing, which is what you want. Re-test with your timer and continue adding "dips" of water until you reach the 15 second mark.
If it takes shorter than 15 seconds = Too Thin = You Need To Add More Powdered Sugar
Just like the water, the tiniest amount of powdered sugar can take your icing from being too thin to the perfect consistency. Use a 1/2 teaspoon scoop and stir in 1/2 teaspoon of powdered sugar into the icing. Re-test with your timer and continue adding 1/2 teaspoon of powdered sugar until it reaches the 15 second mark. If you find that it's now taking longer than 15 seconds, simply add a couple drops of water..
Once you have achieved the perfect consistency, it's time to decorate! First and foremost, be sure to cover any bowls of royal icing with a damp paper towel that you don't plan to use right away. Next, add royal icing to piping bags.
For more detailed instructions on how to pipe, follow photo tutorial above in post.
Once iced, allow cookies to dry (uncovered) for at least 6-8 hours (I typically leave them out overnight). Drying time will vary depending on the temperature and humidity in your home. For quicker drying & for a shinier finish, place a fan 4-6 feet away from the cookies (you just don't want a strong, direct wind on the cookies).