Cookie Basics: Part Two

Did you know royal icing has its roots in, well, royalty? Queen Victoria is credited for popularizing this sugar paste when she used it to embellish her wedding cake in 1840. Since then, royal icing has been a staple for many decorators and I’m no exception! Royal icing is perfect for detailed piping work because it can be used in large or small spaces, depending on the consistency that you use. I use royal icing on my sugar cookies because I can create beautiful designs that actually taste good, too.

Below I’ll show you how to make stiff consistency royal icing and the variations to achieve different consistencies.


30g meringue powder 440g confectioners’ sugar ½ to ¾ cup warm water 1 tsp vanilla extract*

*Optional. When using dark-colored extracts, your icing may not be pure white when finished.


In a large bowl, sift together meringue powder and confectioners’ sugar. Add your sugar/meringue powder to your mixing bowl and set on a low speed. Slowly add water, one tablespoon at a time, to ensure you don’t add too much. You may not need all of the water. If you are using extract, now is the time to add it to your icing.

Increase the speed to high and mix the icing for about 10 minutes until stiff peaks form. This recipe makes about three cups of icing.

For medium consistency: Add water in small amounts until soft peaks form and icing falls from your spoon in clumps.

For flood consistency: Add water until icing flows smoothly, but slowly, off your spoon.

For more information on consistencies, check out this blog post by amazing cookie decorator, Sweet Ambs, here.


The trick to achieving the right consistency is to add water is small amounts to your icing. To do this, I use the spray bottle technique by One Tough Cookie. It provides great control and even distribution of water into your icing. Read more about her technique here.

When not using your icing, cover it with a damp cloth or paper towel to prevent a crust from forming. For longer storage, put icing into a food storage container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the icing. Do not refrigerate.


You may have heard of 15-second royal icing that is used to fill cookies without outlining them first. This is because the icing is firm enough to hold its shape, but not so loose that it runs off the cookie. The general rule of thumb here is to run a knife through the center of the icing and count until the split disappears. If you’re between 12-15 seconds, you should be good to go!