This easy royal icing recipe for sugar cookies is SO ridiculously simple to make! No egg whites, no meringue powder, just four simple ingredients whipped up with a hand or stand mixer. So you can get down to decorating cookies with your kids with less mess and fuss…
This recipe was created in partnership with Tum-E Yummies — a fun, fruity drink option made with kids in mind. Thanks for supporting me and the brands I love!
Easy Royal Icing Recipe
Iced sugar cookies — yay or nay?!? If I’m being completely honest, I’d have to say I’ve never been a huge fan.
I feel like such a Grinch saying that, but I prefer my sugar cookies not-too-sweet, soft, and fluffy, like these old-fashioned sugar cookies I shared years ago.
On the other hand, I LOVE decorating sugar cookies. As do my kids — they adore gathering around the table to decorate cookies as a family during the holidays! We make it into a party with fun color-coordinated drinks and other snacks to nibble while decorating.
But let me clarify — we’re not talking the ultra detailed, royal icing piped cookies you’re seeing all over Pinterest right now.
Yes, they are totally amazing and beautiful! And I could literally spend all day watching videos of talented bakers decorating them. However, this mama does NOT have the time or patience for that, nor do my kids…
Royal Icing For Sugar Cookies
We keep our cookie decorating FAR less ornate, with just a few simple strokes of icing and sprinkles to highlight the shape of the cookies.
And we DO use royal icing — but it’s a bit of an unorthodox recipe. It doesn’t use egg whites (no stressing over what to do with all those leftover egg yolks), and it doesn’t use meringue powder (I really hate one trick pony ingredients).
Instead, it uses corn syrup to give it a crusty finish that has the most gorgeous glossy sheen. I bet you have some in your pantry right now, yes? Try it — you may just ditch your classic royal icing recipe for good. Seriously, this icing is SO ridiculously easy to make when you eliminate the eggs whites and/or meringue!
Best Royal Icing Recipe Tips
While I’m far from a royal icing expert, I do have a few tips to share that will help you get the best results from this easy royal icing recipe:
1| The icing will be very thick to start, like surprisingly thick. This is OKAY! It’s easier to thin it down than it is to thicken it back up. Just add water, a tiny bit at a time, to thin it down. A simple spray bottle of water works wonders for this task. And if you thin it too much? Simply add more confectioners’ sugar as necessary.
2| Not sure what the consistency should be for piping? An easy way to check is to simply use a spoon to scoop up some of the icing and drizzle it back into the bowl. If ten seconds have passed and you can still see where you drizzled it, it’s too thick. On the other hand, if it combines before ten seconds have passed, it’s too thin.
3| Royal icing sets up very quickly. Keep the bowl covered with a piece of plastic wrap pressed down directly on top of the icing in between uses. This also means that if you’re using sprinkles with your royal icing, you should apply them immediately after piping. Otherwise the icing will set up, and they’ll just bounce off.
4| For novice cookies decorators (like me!), skip the fancy piping bags and tips. I achieved these gorgeous snowflake cookies with just a standard ziploc bag. I spooned the icing into the bag, zipped it up, and then snipped a tiny piece off the corner to pipe.
Ziploc bags can be a bit difficult for younger kids to manipulate, though, so I have another fun hack to share for them…
Squeeze Bottle Royal Icing Hack For Kids
Piping royal icing onto sugar cookies with plastic ziploc bags works great for adults and older kids. But I noticed my younger kids getting frustrated when decorating their cookies with them. The ziploc bags were hard for them to control, and the icing ended up flowing too quickly.
As I looked through the cabinets trying to find a solution, I noticed the Tum-E Yummies drink bottles they were sipping from while decorating. Maybe they would work in a pinch?
I grabbed a few empty squeeze bottles, washed them out, and used the plastic bags to squeeze the icing into the mouth of the bottle. Then I replaced the squeeze top, and voilà — an instant DIY cookie-decorating tool for kids!
The tip makes it much easier for them to control placement of the icing, and when they need a short break, they can just close the top and return to it when they’re recharged.
If your cookie decorating party is a bit less spontaneous, you might consider picking up several of these mini squeeze bottles. The tops snap closed tightly, which will help keep the royal icing fresh. And the size is perfect for splitting up a batch into multiple colors.
NOTE: If you’re planning to color this royal icing, I highly recommend using gel food coloring to get the most vibrant colors without thinning the icing too much.
And a BIG thanks to Bakermom for sharing in the comments that using this white gel food coloring will help you create a true white royal icing that is perfect for Santa beards and such.
P.S. One more #momhack I’ve learned over the years… Placing sugar cookies on a quarter-sheet cookie tray while decorating will prevent the sprinkles from running all over your kitchen!
How To Make Royal Icing
Soooooo, have I mentioned how EASY this royal icing recipe is, yet? Just kidding — but I really just can’t get over it.
Simply whip together confectioners’ sugar, a little milk, some corn syrup, plus a touch of pure vanilla extract, and then thin it out with a touch of water to the perfect consistency.
THAT’S IT! Can’t wait to hear what you think…
P.S. Looking for a lighter and fluffier frosting for your cakes and/or cookies? Check out this ah-mazing whipped buttercream frosting recipe!
I’d love to see how you’ve used this easy royal icing recipe on your favorite sugar cookies… Tag me @Unsophisticook on Instagram or use the hashtag #Unsophisticook so I can check it out. Enjoy!
Wednesday 24th of May 2023
Can you use edible markers on this icing?
Thursday 25th of May 2023
Yes, edible markers should work after the icing dries!
Saturday 8th of April 2023
Can the cookies be left out with this icing at room temp?
Tuesday 11th of April 2023
Yes, they can be left out at room temp!
Thursday 29th of December 2022
Can u sub the milk w buttermilk?
Wednesday 4th of January 2023
Hi Rebecca! Yes, you can substitute buttermilk for the milk. The tang it provides is actually a great way to offset some of the sweetness from the confectioners' sugar in the icing.
Tuesday 20th of December 2022
Can I use for gingerbread houses?!
Wednesday 21st of December 2022
Yes, you could use this for gingerbread houses! But you'll want to make it thicker by adding additional confectioners' sugar.
Monday 19th of December 2022
Can almond milk work as a milk substitute? I found this when searching for an eggless recipe because I’ve got a kid coming over with egg AND dairy allergies
Monday 19th of December 2022
Hi Erica! I haven't tried it, but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work. I'd recommend using an unsweetened variety.