Royal Icing Using Egg Whites:
2 large (60 grams) egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 3 cups (330 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
Royal Icing Using Meringue Powder:
4 cups (440 grams) confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar
3 tablespoons (30 grams) meringue powder
1/2 teaspoon extract (vanilla, lemon, almond)
1/2 - 3/4 cup (120 - 180 ml) warm water
Note: Food Coloring (I use Gel Pastes that can be found at cake decorating and party stores or else on-line)
For Royal Icing with Egg Whites: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites with the lemon juice until combined. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.
For Royal Icing with Meringue Powder: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder until combined. Add the water and beat on medium to high speed until very glossy and stiff peaks form (5 to 7 minutes). If necessary, to get the right consistency, add more powdered sugar or water. To cover or 'flood' the entire surface of the cookie with icing, the proper consistency is when you lift the beater, the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface of the icing for a few seconds before disappearing.
The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.
Makes about 3 cups
Royal Icing is a pure white icing that dries to a smooth, hard, matte finish. Besides its lovely finish it also colors beautifully which makes it a favorite of professionals who use it not only for frosting cakes and cookies, but also for intricate piping of decorations (flowers, borders, and lettering). Royal Icing is simply a mixture of powdered (icing or confectioners) sugar, lemon juice, and raw egg whites. However, because of the risk of salmonella when using raw egg whites, I have also included a recipe using meringue powder. Meringue powder is a fine, white powder used to replace fresh egg whites and is made from dried egg whites, sugar, salt, vanillin and gum. When beaten with water and confectioners sugar it has the same consistency as icing made with fresh egg whites. However, because royal icing made with meringue powder does not have as nice a flavor as icing made with egg whites, I suggest adding about 1/2 teaspoon of extract (vanilla, almond or lemon) when making the icing.
It is important when working with royal icing to keep it covered as much as possible as it dries out very quickly. Another way to prevent a crust from forming on the icing's surface is to add a few drops of glycerin (glycerol) to the icing. Glycerin is a sweet, odorless, clear, and syrupy liquid (chemically an alcohol) that comes from fats and oils. It is available in cake decorating and party stores (like Michaels). Once you are ready to frost your cookies you want to make sure the royal icing has the proper consistency. Too runny and it will run over the sides; too stiff and it won't spread nicely. So, for the right consistency to cover cookies, first test the icing by lifting your spoon and letting the icing drip back into the bowl. The proper consistency is when the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface for about 5 seconds before disappearing. Another way is to take a cookie and place a small amount of icing in the middle of the cookie. Using a small knife or spatula, push the icing to the edge of the cookie. If the icing runs off the edge, thicken the icing by adding a little more confectioners sugar. Do not add too much sugar at once. You want the icing to spread smoothly but don't worry about a few light streaks. They will disappear as the icing dries, and be aware that the icing can take several hours, or even overnight, to dry completely.
Now, let's talk about which type of food coloring to use. Personally, I like the concentrated gel paste dyes that are sold in small 1/2 or one ounce (14 - 28 grams) containers. Only a very small amount is needed to color the icing, and I measure it out using the end of a toothpick. Make sure to thoroughly mix the paste into the icing as you do not want streaks. You can buy gel pastes at cake decorating stores or stores like Michael's.
Note: You can purchase Meringue Powder, gel paste colors, and Glycerin (small 2 ounce bottles) in most cake decorating and party stores (like Michaels).