Royal icing is a type of dessert icing which dries to a hard, glossy finish. It will be solid white when dry, unless it is colored. This simple icing can be used for cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and a range of other baked goods, and in addition to being spread onto desserts, it can also be piped into fanciful shapes. This icing is extremely easy to make at home, and it is useful to know how to make this icing, because it is fast and extremely versatile.
There are two different recipes for royal icing. The traditional recipe uses raw egg whites, and it has been utilized for quite a long time. For people who are concerned about the health risks of raw eggs, an alternative recipe uses meringue powder, a pasteurized and dried egg product which behaves much like the egg whites in the finished product. In both cases, be aware that this type of icing dries out very quickly, so it needs to be made right before it will be used, and handled with care.
To test consistency of royal icing, dip a spoon into a bowl of it and then drizzle the icing slowly off the edge of the spoon. A small ribbon of icing should form, subsiding back into the bowl after around five seconds. If you have trouble making workable icing or your icing gets crusty, add a few drops of glycerin to the icing as you make it to keep it from getting brittle.
To make traditional royal icing, combine three cups of sifted confectioner's sugar with two beaten egg whites and two teaspoons of lemon. If you wish to color the icing, you can add food coloring once it has been combined. Many people like to separate their royal icing into a number of small bowls, coloring each individually and using the icing to create various designs on their baked goods; make sure to cover any icing which is not in use.
To make royal icing with meringue powder, sift together four cups of powdered sugar and three tablespoons of meringue powder. Add one half teaspoon of an extract such as almond, orange, lemon, or vanilla, and then up to ¾ cup water. Add the water slowly, testing the icing to see when it has reached the ideal spreadable consistency. This safe version is highly recommended if you are icing baked goods for people with compromised immune systems, as it ensures that there is no trace of potentially dangerous bacteria.