m. c. de marco: The New Kitchen Cookbook

Royal Icing

It sound so simple, but technically royal icing is raw egg, so the Internet is full of recipes using specialty ingredients like meringue powder or powdered egg whites. You have to dig for egg whites and cream of tartar. Since I don’t like digging, here it is for the record.

Royal icing varies in consistency according to the application: gingerbread house gluing, outlining, or flooding. You can add more confectioners' sugar or tiny amounts of water to move back and forth along this scale.

The recipe is for one egg’s worth of icing, for maximum flexibility. An average-sized batch would be three or four eggs' worth.


  • 1 raw egg white
  • 1 ½ c. confectioners' sugar
  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
  • ¼ tsp. flavor extract (optional)
  • food coloring (optional)


  1. Sift the sugar and cream of tartar together.
  2. Add all ingredients except food coloring to the stand mixer bowl with whisk or paddle attachment.
  3. Beat 1–2 minutes on medium or high until you reach your desired consistency, somewhere around soft peaks forming. (There are various tests for icing consistency if you’re not sure what you want.) Add water gradually if it’s too stiff.
  4. Optionally divide and/or add food coloring. If using liquid food coloring, do it in the mixer so you can add sugar to compensate.


You don’t need to make any changes for pasteurized egg whites, except measuring them by egg count. Don’t forget to lick the bowl!

Here’s a typical meringue powder recipe.