There's one thing every good cookie decorator needs in their arsenal... a favorite royal icing recipe!
The royal icing recipe that I’m sharing with you is my favorite because it is not only yummy (of course!) but it is the perfect texture. There is a not-so-secret ingredient that allows the icing to harden enough for stacking and shipping while remaining soft on the inside. No more biting into a beautifully decorated cookie and cringing because the icing is rock hard!
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Begin by using a whisk to mix 5 tablespoons of meringue powder and 3/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar with 3/4 cup of warm water. Mix it for about 30 seconds, making sure that you get rid of all lumps.
If you are not familiar with meringue powder, it is used in royal icing as a substitute for raw eggs whites. Look, Mom, no Salmonella! It also helps to stabilize the icing and give it a nice texture. You can find it at your local craft store in the baking section or online. I started out using Wilton brand meringue powder, but have found that I prefer the taste of CK.
Now, get ready for a vicious arm workout! In a separate large bowl, sift two pounds of powdered sugar. I always make a mess doing this, so if you figure out how to do this without getting sugar everywhere, you’re a superstar in my eyes! Pssst… I heard an unconfirmed rumor that you can skip the sifting as long as you’re not doing piping with a really small tip.
Next, add the water mixture to the powdered sugar and mix it for about a minute to get it all combined. Then, add 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup, 1 teaspoon of glycerin, 12 drops of white gel food coloring, and your flavorings (I like to use 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon almond, and 1/4 butter). The corn syrup is an ingredient that is usually mentioned as optional in classic royal icing recipes. It adds a little gloss and elasticity to the icing. The glycerin is the not-so-secret ingredient that keeps the icing from being rock hard. You can find it in the baking section at craft stores or online. The purpose of the white food coloring is to make the icing a pleasant bright white instead of off white.
Now, put your mixer to work! Beat the icing on medium for about 6 to 8 minutes, until you can make a stiff peak that holds its shape. Pause and scrape down the sides of the bowl while mixing if needed.
Take a step back, lick your fingers, and smile at the fluffy white sweetness you have created!
If you are saving the royal icing for later use, I suggest storing it in Tupperware containers (that you use for icing only), covered with plastic wrapped, and sealed tightly.
If you are ready to start decorating, separate your icing into smaller bowls, color with gel food coloring, and add water (a tiny bit at a time) to get the consistency you want.
Well, what are you waiting for? Now that you’re a royal icing ninja, grab your sugar cookie recipe and get baking!