Today I make royal icing. I’ve made it a few times before, sometimes with great success.
Other attempts have been, well let’s just say, I’m thankful confectioners sugar is not that expensive.
Yet it’s so easy to make. I have no idea how I can possibly screw it up but I have.
To make royal icing it takes little more than a few ingredients and some patience and patience is the part I’ve had to learn.
Some people use raw egg whites to make royal icing. I choose to use meringue powder, made primarily of pasteurized egg whites. I don’t do well with raw eggs so it’s just a personal preference. From what I gather reading various cookie blogs though, meringue powder is not readily available to everyone which kinds of sucks. I guess I consider myself lucky in that regard.
I bought the meringue powder online. There are a few brands available and based on what I’ve read Ateco seems to be one of the most popular brands, so that’s what I used.
Cream of tartar, believe it or not, is not a cream, is not sold alongside tartar sauce, nor does it have anything at all to do with the tartar you may have been scolded about at your last dental visit.
I point this out after one of my sisters actually worked herself into a tizzy scouring the seafood aisle of not one, but two grocery stores, in an attempt to find it. Disgusted, she returned home empty-handed. Hmm, I’m thinking she could have saved herself a lot of time and stress had she asked just someone. But that’s just me.
Cream of tartar is actually a fine white powder, available in the spice aisle of most grocery stores. It’s a natural by-product of the wine making process. Its purpose in cooking and baking is that it helps stabilize egg whites and aids in increasing the volume of the egg whites as they’re beaten.
There’s actually a lot more to it than that but honestly the rest is a mystery to me and something I simply have no interest in learning more about.
Today I’m using a recipe from Cake Central, an online cake decorating community that I had stumbled across a few years ago. If you have any interest at all in cake or cookie decorating you have got to check it out: So many talented and creative bakers who are more than willing to share recipes and tips. As I lurk in the background I’ve learned so much from them.
This royal icing recipe has been published and adapted by many people across the internet. It’s the Antonia74 recipe, and below I illustrate my adaptation of it.
I made this recipe as written by Antonia74, and I’ve added a few additional metric conversions.
Antonia74 Royal Icing Recipe
(Adapted from Antonia74 Royal Icing, Cake Central)
3/4 cup (6 ounces) warm water – approx. 100 degree F/38 C.
5 Tablespoons (71 grams) meringue powder
1 teaspoon (4.8 grams) cream of tartar
2.25 pounds (1 kilogram) confectioners sugar (icing sugar)
As always, it’s important to have all the ingredients measured and ready before starting. It’s what’s known as mise en place and it’s something I always do regardless of what I’m cooking or baking.
To begin, I weigh my confectioners sugar.
I measure out warm water, meringue powder, and cream of tartar. Now everything is ready as it should be.
I’ve removed the bowl from my stand mixer, and then add the water and the meringue powder to the bowl.
Now I’m supposed to whisk by hand until it’s thick and frothy; about 30 seconds.
I add the cream of tartar and whisk again for 30 seconds. It’s good and foamy now which is what I want.
I add all the confectioners sugar to the bowl at one time.
And then place the bowl back on the stand mixer and attach the paddle attachment.
At this point I cover the bowl with a damp tea towel just as I do when making cookies. I don’t like being covered in white powder. This also keeps the royal icing from getting dry.
Air is not friendly to royal icing. I want to keep the air out or the royal icing will get very dry and crusty, and I learned that it happens real quickly.
I put the mixer on the lowest setting and beat for 30 seconds or so, until the confectioners sugar becomes incorporated. Then I remove the tea towel.
I continue beating for a full 5 minutes. This is the step that can’t be rushed. It’s where I’ve screwed up in the past and learned how important patience is if I want to make royal icing.
So I let it beat while I clean up. It’s good to find something to do in the meantime. If I finish cleaning up and the 5 minutes hasn’t elapsed, I can grab a cup of coffee, a cocktail, a glass of wine, or anything else that will keep me from turning the stand mixer off.
After a full 5 minutes, I turn the mixer off. Using a rubber spatula, I scrape down the bowl to make sure all the confectioners sugar is being incorporated.
You can see in the picture below how some of it has stuck to the sides. I needed need to scrape it down.
I turn the mixer on the lowest setting again, and mix for another 5 minutes. A full 5 minutes! I have to remember that patience is key here so I find something to do while the mixer is doing its job. Another cocktail perhaps?
Now that I’ve mixed for 10 full minutes the royal icing will be thick and creamy. This is the texture I’m going for here as I know it’s supposed to be like stiff egg whites.
In the photo below there is a bit of confectioners sugar stuck to the paddle attachment. I guess I missed that when I scraped down the bowl. By now it’s crusted and I’ve learned enough by now to know that it will be a nightmare when I try to decorate.
I removed it carefully with a little rubber spatula.
As soon as the icing is ready I put it into a container and immediately cover it with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap is touching the icing to prevent any air from getting in. As noted, I’ve learned that this is critical.
Then I put the lid on the container.
My royal icing is ready to do with as I please. And this time it came out perfect!
I can move on to coloring, or tinting, my icing in the colors of my choice, and then thinning it to make what the cookie decorating world calls “flood” icing.
I am so excited to be at this point. Up until now I haven’t really encountered any major problems or had any outright disasters with this batch.
I’m not so confident from this point on, I admit, but I am ready to tackle whatever the future holds in the form of cookies and icing.
I feel like I’m well on my way to joining the big girls cookie decorating club and there’s no turning back now.