Of all the types of cookie icing, our thinned royal icing recipe is perfect for covering and decorating cut-out sugar cookies. Also known as flow-in icing or flood icing, this recipe dries icing to a smooth finish. Unlike softer cookie icings, thinned royal icing is durable once it sets, making it ideal for flooding and decorating sugar cookies. This recipe makes for the perfect Christmas cookie icing and is easy enough for bakers of all ages.
Sugar Cookie Icing Tips & Tricks
Use grease-free tools:
Make sure all tools and surfaces are grease-free or royal icing will not set properly.
Don’t substitute out Meringue Powder:
Meringue Powder is a must for this recipe. Do not substitute with raw egg whites (they can be a food safety issue) or dried egg whites. Neither option will produce the same results as Meringue Powder. Using Meringue Powder also allows you to make the icing up to two weeks in advance, and allows you to store cookies at room temperature without any of the safety concerns.
Sift your powdered sugar:
Powdered sugar tends to clump, so sifting it before making your icing allows for a smooth icing finish.
Do not overbeat the royal icing base. This will incorporate too much air, which will create bubbles and a foamy texture that will crack when it dries. Vigorous stirring will also create air bubbles.
Gradually add water:
More water may be needed than recommended in the recipe. Start with the recommended amounts and gradually add small drops at a time until you get the proper consistency. A clean medicine dropper can be used to add water slowly and carefully.
To remove air bubbles:
Let cookie icing sit for 15 minutes to an hour to let air bubbles rise naturally. Cover the bowl with a damp rag to avoid drying out the icing. Alternately, tap the bowl on the table several times to force the air bubbles up. Gently stir the top surface to release the air bubbles.
Cover your bowl and piping bags when not in use:
The icing dries quickly, so cover your tools with a damp towel when not in use.
Use a flat spatula:
Flat surfaces keep air pockets from forming, so using a flat spatula to stir your icing will help keep it smooth.
To speed up the drying process:
Cookie icing may take up to 2 hours to dry. To speed up the drying process, place the iced treats in front of a fan until the icing dries.
Store for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container at room temperature. Re-whip icing to bring back to desired consistency.
Easy Sugar Cookie Icing
- Electric mixer or handheld mixer
- Large Bowl
- Small spoon
Make The Base
- Beat all ingredients together until the icing becomes thick, shiny and smooth. 5-8 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 8-10 minutes at high speed with a handheld mixer.
For Cookie Outlining Consistency.
- Use medium consistency icing to make outlines. Add 1/8 tsp water for every 1/2 cup of stiff icing base. Use a flat utensil such as a small silicone spatula, angled spatula or straight spatula to mix. Stir slowly using a figure 8 motion until reaching soft or medium peaks. Avoid beating or mixing vigorously. Ice the outline of each cookie using a piping bag. This consistency is also great for detailed cookie decorating.
Consistency for Cookie Flooding.
- Use thin consistency icing for covering a cookie. Add 1/2 teaspoon of water for every 1/2 cup of base icing. Use the same mixing instructions for a medium consistency. Flood the inside of each cookie using a piping bag.
Flooding Consistency Test
- To check for correct thin consistency, take some icing on a spatula and drop it back down into the bowl. If it sinks after a full count of 10, then the thin consistency icing is correct. If not, add a couple drops of water at a time to your icing until reaching the proper consistency.
To Color (Optional)
- Add food coloring using a toothpick. It’s best to color your icing before diluting it to flooding consistency, as liquid coloring may contribute to watering down the consistency.
To Flavor (Optional)
- Add additional flavor with liquid flavorings like vanilla extract or almond extract with 1/4 teaspoon at a time. Taste as you go until you reach the desired flavor. Like coloring, add these flavors before thinning the icing.
Check Out More Cookie How-Tos:
Covering (also known as “flooding”) a cookie with thinned icing is one of the basics of cookie decorating. It might look intimidating, but it’s easy enough for beginners It involves outlining the shape of the cookie to create a dam and covering the surface with thin consistency royal icing. Piping an outline creates defined edges and holds the thin icing in place, preventing it from running down the sides of the cookie.
There’s no denying that half the fun of baking holiday cookies is decorating them! Learn how to decorate cookies like a pro with this guide to cookie icing.
We’re here to answer all these questions and more. From traditional buttercream to fondant, this collection of six cookie frostings will help you determine the best way to spruce up your holiday treats.