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decorated sugar cookies in a white Christmas theme in a snow bank of sugar

Royal Icing for Decorating Sugar Cookies

Royal Icing is used to create these elegant, decorated sugar cookies.

Course: Basic, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 36 Cookies
Calories: 123 kcal
Author: Dédé Wilson


Thick Royal Icing:

Medium Royal Icing:

Thin Royal Icing:


  1. Have cookies baked and cooled as directed in Basic recipe for classic Rolled Sugar Cookies.
  2. For any Royal Icing: Place confectioners’ sugar and egg whites (or substitute), and water, if using, in a clean and grease-free bowl. Whip on high speed with electric mixer until thick and creamy, about 6 minutes. (If using a stand mixer, use the balloon whip attachment). Tint, if desired, with food coloring. Use a toothpick to pick up small amounts of color; you can always add more.
  3. Thicker icing is used for bold 3-D type effects like hair anything that you need to stand out in clear relief and detail. A dab of thick icing will be stiff enough to hold a peak. If piped through a star tip it will cleanly hold its shape.
  4. Medium icing can be used to pipe a complete border around the cookies’ edges (to form a retaining wall, which will then be filled with Thin textured icing). Medium icing can also is used to create some details to already dry icing (such as adding eyes to an already iced and dry cookie). A dab of medium textured icing will hold its shape when piped.
  5. Thinner icing is used to cover cookies completely, or to cover partial sections that have been outlined with a thick textured border. Two colors (or more) of thin icing can be swirled together to create a marbled effect. It will have the texture of thick cream.
  6. To Ice Cookies: If you want to completely cover the cookies, Make both Medium and Thin textured icing in the same color. Scrape the Medium into a pastry bag fitted with coupler and a very small round tip (such as Ateco #2) and pipe an outline, either all around the edge of the cookie, or to define a section you want to cover with icing. Make sure to create a solid line all the way around. Allow to dry, then fill the outlined section with the same color Thin icing. Allow the icing to flow into the area within the outlined area.
  7. If you want to add sparkle, you can sprinkle on coarse sugar to the wet icing.
  8. After this thin icing dries, you can embellish with thicker textured icings. We used a Medium texture for the lines on our snowflakes, scarves and buttons on our snowmen and tree decorations. See photographs for ideas.
  9. Cookies may be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 month; these are best stored in single layers separated by waxed or parchment paper.



  • I like to use plastic disposable decorating bags because they are new and pristine. We use royal icing for its hardening qualities, which would be compromised if it came to contact with any fat. Used pastry bags can be hard to get squeaky clean.
  • You can further embellish iced cookies by sprinkling sugar and colored sugars on still wet icing, or embedding gold and silver dragees (a small silver/gold ball for decorating cookies or a cake) or red-hot candies in wet icing.
  • Royal Icing is made with raw egg whites. If you prefer, you can use powdered egg whites, which are available in any well-stocked supermarket in the bakery supplies aisle. Reconstitute according to manufacturer’s instructions. You can also occasionally find containers of pasteurized egg whites in the refrigerated dairy aisle of the supermarket.
Nutrition Facts
Royal Icing for Decorating Sugar Cookies
Amount Per Serving
Calories 123 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Fat 3g5%
Sodium 1mg0%
Carbohydrates 23g8%
Sugar 15g17%
Protein 1g2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.