Culinary Institute of America Recipe
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Royal Icing

Use this recipe to decorate a gingerbread house or sugar cookie. Watch our video on how to fill a pastry bag.

Some notes about using royal icing:

  • Working quickly is very important as Royal Icing dries very fast once it has been piped.
  • Royal Icing dries very quickly. In order to keep it from hardening while you are working with it, store the icing in a sealed container with a damp paper towel directly on its surface.
  • If you don’t have a pastry bag available, simply use a heavy duty resealable plastic bag with one small corner cut off for the piping tip, to decorate your cookies or gingerbread house.
  • If the Royal Icing seems too thick, it can be thinned with a tablespoon of water.
  • It is best not to rush this process and to allow plenty of time between assembly steps so that the Royal Icing can properly dry.
  • Any leftover Royal Icing should be thrown out, as it contains raw egg white, and should not be saved for later use. You may prefer to use pasteurized egg whites in this recipe to eliminate any food safety concerns.
Royal Icing recipe by The Culinary Institute of America



Makes about 1 cup

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • Liquid or paste food coloring(s) as needed (optional)


  1. In the clean, grease-free bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low speed just until they become loose, about 1 minute. Add the cream of tartar and continue mixing on low speed until the whites become frothy, 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar gradually with the mixer on low speed.
  2. Continue to mix until the icing holds a soft peak and is dull in appearance, about 2 minutes. The icing is ready to use for piping lines. Or, add a small amount of water until the icing reaches a looser consistency for flooding, or filling in, an outline. If desired, divide the icing among smaller bowls and add coloring(s).
  3. If you won’t be using the icing right away, take the following steps to keep the icing from drying out: Clean the sides of the bowl or container to remove any drips; if a dry crust develops on the bowl, small pieces can drop into the icing and clog the tip of your pastry bag or parchment paper cone. Place a dampened paper towel directly on the surface of the icing and then cover the bowl very tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.

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