How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing
Welcome to the first in what I plan to be a recurring “How-To” series here on Brown Eyed Baker. While recipes are all well and good, there are some techniques that are best explained in a step-by-step method, with pictures included (at least this is how I learn best). As I was decorating my Stanley Cup Playoffs cookies last week I thought that doing a tutorial on how to decorate cookies with royal icing would be a great first How-To post.
I was always very good at baking snowmen, Christmas trees, angels and the like in December, slapping on some buttercream, a few sprinkles and calling it a day. Not that it isn’t good. It is definitely good. But then royal icing came onto my radar. The possibilities seemed endless – a completely smooth finish to the cookies and intricate designs? Now THAT looked fun! I’m here to guide you on a step-by-step tutorial on how to achieve any design you want on any shape cookie. Ready? Let’s begin!
Step 1: Find a Good Sugar Cookie Recipe
This might seem obvious, but not all sugar cookie recipes stand up well to heavy-duty decorating. If you don’t already have a favorite, let me point you to mine: Dorie Greenspan’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies. They’re incredible.
Step 2: Cool Cookies Completely
Again, maybe elementary, but we’re going step-by-step here. You can’t decorate cookies that have just come out of the oven. Or even cookies that are slightly warm. They need to be completely cool before you can move on to decorating.
Step 3: The Equipment
Now, you don’t necessarily need fancy equipment for decorating with royal icing, but investing in just a few decorating tips and couplers, some disposable pastry bags and squeeze bottles will make your cookie decorating experience exponentially more pleasant. Here is a run-down of what I typically use:
♦ 12″ disposable pastry bags. So easy to just throw away when you’re done instead of washing them!
♦ Decorating tips. For outlining the cookie I use a #3 tip and anything from a #1 to #3 for intricate designs on the cookie. It’s not a bad idea to have a few of each number, as I find myself using them a lot.
♦ Couplers. These make it easy to switch the size tip you are using in the same color.
♦ Squeeze Bottles. I use these for flooding my cookies. Since the royal icing is very thin at this point, it’s a much neater alternative to a cut-open pastry bag. Plus you can put the cap on and save any extra icing for next time.
♦ Small bowls or Tupperware (to color your icing)
Step 4: Prep, Prep, Prep!
This got me the first time I decorated with royal icing, and is especially important if you are going to be using multiple colors and different tips. I flew by the seat of my pants and ended up making a huge mess, it took twice as long as it should have, and I was trying to fish used tips out of pastry bags to re-use them somewhere else. Your plan of action:
♦ Write down how many different colors you will be using and take out that many pastry bags and couplers and prepare them. Also figure out what size decorating tips you will be using and fit them to the pastry bags.
♦ If you don’t have squeeze bottles for flooding, add additional pastry bags for however many colors you will use for flooding, in additional to the bags of that color you will use for detail work (if any).
♦ Have your icing colors ready and as many small mixing bowls (Tupperware works great for this) as you have colors planned.
Step 5: Make the Royal Icing
The recipe for royal icing is very simple:
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
6 tablespoons water
Mix all ingredients on low speed for 7-10 minutes or until the icing loses its shine. Add more water by the teaspoon if it appears too stiff. At this stage you want to be able to pipe it easily:
Step 6: Color the Icing
Divide the icing into your containers based on how much you will need of each one. Proceed to color the icing and then cover each container with a damp paper towel. It is key when working with royal icing not to allow it to dry out.
Step 7: Outline the Cookies
You will want to outline the cookies with whatever color you will be using to fill them in with. Place some of the icing into a disposable pastry bag fitted with a #3 tip and outline the outside of the cookie. I find that keeping the tip about ½-inch above the cookie while moving it allows the icing to lay on the cookie more easily.
You’ll want to make sure that the outline is pretty well set before moving on to flooding the cookies, but I generally find that by the time I am done outlining the first ones are already dry.
Step 8: Flood the Cookies
Take whatever color you are using to fill in the cookies and slowly start adding a few drops of water at a time, until the icing reaches an almost liquid consistency. The test here is to pick some icing up with a spoon and let it drizzle back into the bowl – the drizzle should disappear into the bowl within 10 seconds. Once you have achieved this, you are ready.
Either fill a squeeze bottle with the thinned icing or transfer it to a disposable pastry bag with a ¼-inch hole cut off the end.
Now squeeze in the icing to almost completely fill the inside the cookie.
Then take a toothpick and gently use it to distribute the icing to any empty spots.
Once you are done the cookies need to dry completely before moving on to any intricate piped designs. Some bakers will let them sit overnight but I generally find that a 2-3 hour rest will do the trick.
Now use whatever colors and tips you’d like to achieve the design you want!
♦ ♦ ♦
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Hi Michelle. I just followed your recipe to make cookies for a lacrosse team. This was my first time trying royal icing and I have to admit I struggled! My icing has no shine and it isn’t smooth and even on the cookies. Any suggestions?
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Congratulations, brilliant idea and timely
Can this be paraphrased?
How long in advance can I make these cookies and how do I best keep them?
Can these cookies be made in advance and frozen? We have a banquet coming up and I want to prep as much as possible.
Hi Ann, Yes absolutely!!
I need to bake and ice 800 2″ cookies for a wedding. Any suggestions for icing. I can’t outline that many cookies as I work full time.
I hope to try your royal icing recipe this week . I have trouble getting it right.
When I made my icing the icing didn’t seem to be shiny it was more of a dull finish. Any tips?
Hi Pam, Stirring in a little corn syrup will give the icing a bit more of a shine.
Is there a way to speed up the process of letting the icing set? Can you put it in the refrigerator?
Hi Kim, There really isn’t; letting it set at room temperature is your best bet. Putting royal icing in the refrigerator can have adverse effects due to the humidity.
This is great but how do I color the icing? Food coloring?
Hi Sara, Yes, I always use gel food coloring (Wilton and Americolor are great brands) for royal icing.
Thank you for your tips . Ironically I am making cookies for my sons hockey league. I usually do a hockey themed cupcake but this year I thought I would make my sugar cookies. I made my own hockey stick cookie cutter and will probably make team colored shirts. I have never worked with meringue powder or done any overly decorative piping. Fingers crossed I have a week to practice. I plan on viewing your cookie recipe and comparing it to mine. I ‘ve need had a problem with mine but it never hurts to check it out. Lisa
I would like to know if this recipe is what you would use to decorate all sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies. I bought an already made tube and it ran too much and then if all smudged when I tried to put them in little baggies.
Thanks for the pictures of how these cookies are decorated.
Does the powdered sugar need sifting? I am new to royal icing.
Hi Rima, I do not sift.
Wonderful tutorial, answered the questions I needed answered, perfection!
Thanks for taking the time to do this, and cutting out the extra info.
Could sprinkles be added right after flooding the cookies?
Hi Sarah, It should be fine, but I would wait a little while – the icing should be slightly set but not yet hard. If you do it immediately after flooding I fear the sprinkles would melt into the icing a bit and not set on top.
What do you use to make icing black?
Hi Norma, I use gel food coloring (black).
I was wondering if it is possible to use a buttercream frosting to decorate sugar cookies instead of the royal icing?
Hi Tanvi, You can if you just want to slather it on, but you won’t be able to do any intricate decorating with it, as you can with royal icing.
I always thought these cookies were hard but your directions make it logical. Can you freeze the cookies, either before or after they are iced?
Hi Denise, Yes, you can freeze them at either point!
I immensely enjoyed the step by step instructions. The completed project of the cookie was a little hard. I under-cooked some to get the desired texture. I think I will make this cookie again but would like to add more of the Almond Extract to give it more flavor. I have not frosted/decorated them yet. But will get back to you on that. Maybe it will allow me to place a photo of the finished product. I do your like web page its very GOOD. Keep up the good work.
This was wonderful! Thank you!
My grand daughter is into volleyball and I wanted to make cookies for in their “take home” bags. Following these instructions – I think I can actually Do It! Again my thanks for you simplicity in dealing with royal icing!
Can you substitute real egg whites for powered egg whites and what is ratio?
Hi Charwyn, I don’t think that’s possible.
Thanks for the great tutorial. I followed it exactly. I have 2 questions. I was disappointed that the royal icing didn’t look shiny after it dried. Also, I was doing candy cane shaped cookies and I tried to do the red & white striping with not much success. I did the two separate colors but they didn’t look good using the outline & flooding technique. Should I have skipped the outline for that or should I have done white over all and then after they dried put the red on top of the white?
Hi Sue, I’m not sure that my royal icing consistently dries shiny. As for the stripes, doing all white and then layering the red might work! Check out http://bakeat350.blogspot.com – Bridget has TONS of tutorials for different types of cookies and designs.
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I love this recipe! I’ve been using it for the last 5 years and it never fails. I recently moved and lost my copy of the recipe but thanks to Google and remembering the phrase “brown eyed” I found it in no time :)
i want to learn to write on cookies.
I found some Disney typeface online, published it, made it the
dimension I needed, and mapped them onto the gold/yellow paper.
Love your easy to follow instructions. Did you use a cookie cutter for the shirts?
Hi Emily, I did! It came in a set of sports cookie cutters from Wilton.
excellent article, esp the part about outlining the cookies first.
Thanks so much for this tutorial, it was so helpful! This was the first time my cookies turned out as planned, and I tried my best to be patient at each step. The pictures were extremely helpful as well. (PS The icing was delicious!)
Gosh, not sure anyone would read to the 467th comment, but here goes.
I have made sugar cookie cut outs with frosting for many years now. I make them at Christmas and Valentine’s Day. I usually just make a powdered sugar glaze, tint it, and use special sprinkles and colored sugar to decorate.
On Halloween I use a classic sugar cookie recipe, and decorate the circles as pumpkins and other ghouls. This year my kids wanted to do some other shapes for cut outs, so I decided to try the method above to get a cleaner look for the icing and decorations.
While the finished product definitely looked nicer, they do not taste as good, and the texture is brittle, not soft. I guess we prefer the way that the powdered sugar icing melts into the cookie a little. Also, it’s incredibly time consuming to outline, flood, then wait to dry, and finally decorate. Getting the royal icing to the right consistency is very tedious. I bought the squeeze bottles for flooding, and found that you could use the tip of the bottle to spread the icing, but filling the bottles, etc., was a PITA and wasted so much icing. To see a picture of our finished product, see: https://lynnehartley.shutterfly.com/1880
hello,, thanks for your reply, sorry but my question is still unanswered, my cookies(base) becomes soft after decorating n drying them how can they remain crisp…plz reply….thanks
Hi Naazi, You may want to experiment with some different cookie recipes. The decorating should have zero affect on the texture of the cookie. If yours are too soft, I would look for a crispier cookie recipe.
hii,, i liked your post very much but do share how you dry n store them n how it can remain crisp because after drying them my cookies become soft, i want it to be crisp…..i use the recipe without baking powder…..thanks for all the help
Hi Naazi, The icing should not get soft once it has dried completely. Storing the cookies in an airtight container should not cause the icing to soften.
I knew you were awesome, but I didn’t realize you were a yinzer! LOVE! :)
I don’t understand step 8 can you break it down for me after you decorate the outline ? Please thanks :)
Thanks so much, I found this very helpful.
I am ancient mother of three-year-old twins and just asked Siri why do the cookies I make always look like I’m in first grade? Siri led me to your website. I love the tutorial. . . it has given me hope and I will try your tips forthwith. Many heartfelt thanks.
I just want to say how much I appreciate this post about decorating cookies with royal icing. I have worked with it before and it has always been messy and somewhat frustrating. You streamlined the process and have wonderful tips! I followed your steps to make valentines cookies for my daughter’s class and they turned out so well! Thank you!
I still do not understand one point. Do I need to thicken the icing after I have flooded the cookies. Is the consistently of the icing used for flooding too thin to use for decorating?
Hi Janice, Yes, you are correct. The icing needs to be thickened after the cookies have been flooded. The consistency used for flooding is too thin for decorating.
Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!! I have ALWAYS wanted to know how to make the icing so smooth! Your directions were wonderful and so easy to follow!
Hi silly question but what is meringue powder not sure if I will find it in Australia is there something else ?? Normally I make royal icing out if icing sugar, egg white and cream if tartar thank you in adavance
Hi Jenny, Meringue powder is basically a dried egg white powder: http://www.amazon.com/Wilton-702-6015-Meringue-Powder-Can/dp/B000ZNOVCA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389284909&sr=8-1&keywords=meringue+powder. There are other royal icing recipes that do not use meringue powder, but I have not tried them. If you cannot get meringue powder, you may need to stick with one of those.
Can I package cookies with royal icing on them. Does the icing hold up well to some handling on store shelves or stick to the packaging , etc???
Hi John, Yes, you can definitely package cookies decorated with royal icing. Once the icing has dried it is rock-hard. You can stack layers with parchment or wax paper between them, wrap in plastic wrap, etc. As long as you let it dry completely, the icing will not stick to packaging.
This was super helpful! I can’t have dairy so I was trying to find a frosting to frost Christmas cookies that I converted to be dairy free! I never heard of royal icing, but I think I will give it a try!
Your step by step guide was extremly helpful, thank you. I haven’t decorated sugar cookies before and I’m so greatful I found your guide, I have my list ready for the store and I’m looking forward to decorating this weekend. I think will it go much smoother thanks to all of your tips. I’ll be trying out your soft and chewy sugar cookie recipe for my first batch! Your website has my become first stop when preparing to bake. Thank you for all the great recipes. p.s. Your soft pretzels are still my favorite item!
This tutorial was exremely helpful.
I cannot thank you enough for posting this. I was able to make beautiful cookies for a bake sale last year and now I am making cute cookies for my dayghters 2nd birthday.
Thank you again!
I loved this. It is explained wonderful and easy! Thank you for your expertise.
I just want to mention I am newbie to blogging and absolutely liked your blog site. Likely I’m going to bookmark your blog post . You actually have good articles. Kudos for sharing your blog.
I always failed miserably at decorating my cookies with icing.
Thanks so much for this post! Its really going to help a lot next time I attempt at it.
does this work on gingerbread cookies or is this only for sugar cookies?
Hi Jamie, You could definitely use this on gingerbread cookies!
Hi, thanks for sharing! How do I store left over icing? And hw long can it be stored for?
Hi Lisa, I keep mine in tupperware containers; I would use it within a few days. It can dry out if exposed to air.
When I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are
added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I recieve
4 emails with the exact same comment. There has to be an
easy method you are able to remove me from that service?
Hi! First of all this was very helpful. I have always been curious about how to decorate cookies in this method. I am curious about how much icing your recipe yields though? Once all is said and done with adding water of course. Thanks!
hi, we dont have meriunge powder available where i live. what can i use to substitute this?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a substitute for meringue powder in this particular recipe. I would search online for a royal icing recipe without meringue powder.
Brilliant tutorial! It helped my friend and I to bake gorgeous cookies for a baby shower. Thank you – your blog is wonderful :-)
Which sugar cookie recipe do you prefer: the all occasion or the soft and chewy ?
Hi Lauren, I would go with the soft and chewy.
I’m new at baking and trying to make some cookies for my daughter’s baby shower. I can’t not find the “merengue powder” nor ” Just whites” what can I replace this with? Thank you very much.
Hi Hilda, I’m not sure where you are located, but I usually find meringue powder at a craft store like Michael’s (not at the grocery store). If you can’t find it, there really is no substitution for this particular recipe; you may need to try Googling “royal icing recipe without meringue powder” and see what you can make work. Good luck!
Oops just saw 1 week awesome. Thanks.
I found this after calling around for graduation cap cookies for my sons party and finding $3.50 per cookie is the lowest price. So I. Will be trying this instead. How long do the cookies keep?
I tried following this recipe and my frosting had a more granulated appearance to it rather than the smooth shiny shine your cookies seem to have. Do you have any thoughts as to why or what I can do to correct the problem? Thanks!
Hi Priti, Did you use meringue powder, powdered sugar and water? Be sure you’re not using granulated sugar, as that would definitely be gritty. Otherwise, sift the powdered sugar if yours is clumpy, but everything should dissolve together into a smooth icing.
Oh my god, thank you! Yes, I was using granulated sugar by accident! I did it again with the correct sugar and it came out perfect, thank you so much for pointing out my silly mistake!
Why isn’t there a Link to save this to our recipe box?
Hi Rebecca, Ahh, probably because it isn’t formatted as an actual recipe. I will work on getting it revised so it can be saved. Thanks for bringing that to my attention!
Thanks! Looking forward to trying it and appreciate the quick and efficient directions!
Can the frosted cookies be frozen?
Hi Tracy, Yes! I always use this method from Bake at 350: http://bakeat350.blogspot.com/2012/05/yes-you-can-freeze-decorated.html
I really love cookies!
Hi, I was wondering about how much royal icing this ends up making. Planning on using it to decorate gingerbread men (also your recipe). Thanks!
Thanks so much for such a great tutorial, it was very helpful!
Let me join the crowd here and say this is exactly what I was looking for! I’ve read through all the comments and I don’t think I’ve seen this question, though: Any tips on wrapping and transporting these cookies? Can they be wrapped individually in plastic wrap and stacked? Thank you so much. Wonderful tutorial.
Hi Sherry, Yes, once completely dry, you can definitely wrap these individually and stack them for storage. I’m glad you found the tutorial helpful!
Thank you so much for posting this!! Very helpful!
Great, just what I was looking for!
wow wow wow!!!
that was awesome. Thanx a million
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!!
My daughters birthday is approaching, and I want to have beautifully iced sugar cookies. The local bakers are asking $2 per cookie!!! Now I’m going to be able to make my own!!!! With your guidance I have no doubt that I can do it!!! Thank you again!!!!
This might be a silly question, but when decorating football shaped cookies, is that a brown tinted icing or a chocolate icing? thanks!
Hi Pam, The icing for the football cookies is royal icing that I tinted brown.
What a great how-to! I do find the step-by-step picture helpful. Will definitely try your method.
I know you have gotten a ton of comments on this tutorial but wanted to add one more – thanks very much for the incredible detail that you put into this post. Following your instructions to the letter, I successfully made and decorated cookies for the first time and they were a big hit. Just wanted to say “thanks!”
This might sound really stupid but where did you get the squeeze bottles?
Hi Casey, Not stupid! I bought them at Michael’s :)
Great tips, I am actually getting some practice in now (before xmas) so I can make my cookies look amazing (hopefully*)!
I was wondering how many cookies this recipe is good for. I need to make about 45-50 cookies (they will be about 3″ cookies). How many times should I multiply this recipe?
Hi Sarah, I get around 2 dozen cookies from this recipe, but if I were you, I’d probably triple the recipe to account for cookies that might break, spread too much, etc. You can always eat the throwaways :)
Thank you so much for your step by step instructions on how to use royal icing. I am planning to do elmo and cookie monster cookies for my daughter’s 2nd birthday. I hope that using your instructions I am able to make some great looking and great tasting cookies. Thank you once again for the steps.
Thank you for the post! I plan on using this soon!
My Niece is having a wedding shower that is (sorry!) Red Wings themed. She got engaged at a Red Wings game and we are following that for her shower. I’m going to try your cookies this week and see if I can do a job as good as yours. I’ve called lots of bakeries and they want up to five dollars apiece for frosted cookies. Thank you!
Other than the convenience factor, is there any other reason to use disposable bags? The waste of those bags is just too much for the environmentalist in me!
Hi Natasha, For me, it’s much easier to use disposable bags when you are using tons of different colors. Definitely to each his own, though – if you are opposed to them, then you’ll just need to invest in a number of re-usable pastry bags (I’d probably recommend no less than 5 and probably more around 10 if you plan to decorate cookies often with different types of designs.)
I was really surprised at how fast the icing drys and the importance of the squeeze bottles. But overall very easy to do. I’m definitely going to do this again!
BTW, the recipe for the cookies rocks! Thanks for posting!
I have everything for decorating with royal icing… but I am so afraid of the idea… it seems so intimidating to me for some reason… maybe someday I will venture to the world of royal icing!
Thank you so much for this brilliant tutorial. I’ve been using your technique for over a year now and the results are brilliant! Absolutely the best tutorial on the topic ever!
Great tips! Super easy to follow. I had never decorated with royal icing and my cookies came out great! Couldn’t be happier with the instructions!
I loved your step by step guidelines !!!! Will decorate some cookies for my son’s graduation party (preschool)! I’m from Egypt btw, that means your tips are universal :)
Really good instructions, thanks for sharing.
SO unbelievably helpful! It’s official – you are my new favorite site! Thanks for the tips!
GOD BLESS YOU! I was ready to cry… or scream… or something! Your guides, step by step directions, and photos are amazing. You are an angel.
Ok. When you say to add water to the frosting for when you flood the cookie, do you mix it in by stirring it by hand? Or by using a hand beater? In experimenting… And not knowing what we were doing, we beated it on low and found that our frosting lost color and grew in size. ALOT! It would be helpful if it was specified to hand mix the drops of water in. Then at the end of decorating, you wouldn’t be left with a gallon of fluffy frosting. Thank you. This website was truly helpful though.
Hi there, I apologize for any confusion in the directions; when adding water to flood the cookies, it should be stirred by hand. I will edit the instructions so that part is more clear; thank you for the feedback!
i love icing!
i love this icing! xxx
i love this recipe
i love icing!!!!!!<3
Super helpful!!! going to be decorating with royal icing for the first time and had no idea what I was supposed to do with it-will let you know how it goes… I just discovered your blog and it looks great!
What is a coupler and how do you use it?
Hi Angel, These are couplers: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00272GS64/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=broeyebak-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00272GS64. They enable you to switch between different decorating tips while using the same bag. So you could go from a round, to an open star for shell borders, etc. The coupler comes in two parts, you put the base inside the decorating bag, then pop the decorating tip on top, and then screw on the ring. I would try checking YouTube for how-to videos if you’re not sure how to put it together. Sometimes it’s easier to see something demonstrated than read it explained (at least for me, it is!).
Love your tutorial! I am going to make about 50 decorated sugar cookies for my sons graduation. I am wondering if I can decorate the cookies with royal icing and then freeze them?
Hi Evelyn, I just recently discovered that you can! I always thought there would be an issue with the icing thawing, but this tutorial from Bake at 350 walks you through it perfectly: http://bakeat350.blogspot.com/2012/05/yes-you-can-freeze-decorated.html
I just want to thank you for doing this blog entry! I am making cookies for my son’s teacher and this is exactly what I need to help make the cookies! I have made sugar cookies before but they always look like my son did them :) Now I know how to make them look a whole lot better and I greatly appreciate you for that!
hi, i have one more question ( i wrote before) i wanted to kknow how to make sugar cookies from a cookie shape that will actually keep to its shape. i made airplanes for my sons birthday, but they exxpanded and ended up looking more like a cross than an airplane. any tips? thanks!!
Hi Sarah, I really like this recipe for sugar cookies, I find that they don’t spread much at all: https://www.browneyedbaker.com/2010/04/22/soft-chewy-sugar-cookies/. Some other tips though – make sure your dough is cold, and if it warms up at all from rolling/cutting, pop the cookie sheet (with the unbaked cookies on it) into the fridge or freezer for 15 minutes before baking.
I’m sorry if this has already been asked, but I was wondering if this process worked on shortbread cookies? I love the simple step by step instructions, and really want to try it for my daughter’s birthday party, I would just prefer shortbread cookies over sugar cookies.
Hi Heather, Sure, I don’t see why you couldn’t use this same method on shortbread cookies.
I’m making cookies for favors for my daughter’s baby shower, normally I decorate my sugar cookies with regular frosting. This time I wanted to do a more detailed decoration so of course I decided to try something new for the first time (3 days before the shower) I started to get nervous and was going to just go back to my standard method…but then I found your website and this how-to. WOW it’s incredible, the instructions are easy to understand and the pictures were perfect! You really did a great job with this and I’m looking forward to seeing more of your how-tos. Thanks to you my cookies turned out perfect, I can’t wait til everyone sees them at the shower!
Do I have to write onthe cookie before the flooding of the icing dries?
Hi Sally, No, in fact you definitely do not want to try to write on them before the flooding dries. If you do, the colors will bleed. Make sure the flooded cookie is completely dry and hard (I usually let them sit overnight) before you write on them or decorate them.
For Easter, I iced bunny cookies with white, and let the kids color on them with edible markers. They had a great time!
Thank you so much for your excellent step-by-step instructions! I made iced (Easter) cookies for the 1st time this weekend and they went down really well! My flooding didn’t ‘set’ too well, but they looked gorgeous!
This blog was SO helpful! My Aunt started designing these beautiful cookies and I asked her, “how did you do that?!” She wasn’t able to get back to me yet, and I decided to look up some things on my own. This was one of the 1st blogs I have seen. Although it looks like I’m a little late to the post, better late than never! Thanks so much for these step by step instructions! They are very clear! I can’t wait to get decorating…
Thanks for the great instructions, especially the flooding.
Excellent demonstration and instructions! Do you ever work with store bought icing? Something you only add water to? Just curious. Thanks for the great tips.
Hi Michele, I haven’t used store-bought icing as a base.
I would like to know how you get the black frosting. I have tried and tried and I always need to add a lot of black coloring to the white frosting. Is there something I need to know or should be doing to get it the color I want without having to use so much coloring? Loved your picture tutorial. It was a lot of help. I always wondered how these cookies turned out so perfect.
Hi Glenda, I just end up using a ton of the black gel color to get the shade of black that I need. I agree that it can be a pain a lot of times, but so far haven’t found an alternative. Happy Baking!
You could try making chocolate royal icing and then using black gel coloring to turn it black. Add 1/3 cup of cocoa for each cup of powdered/icing sugar. You probably will need to add a touch more of water to get the right consistency.
Sorry I’m a beginner at this, so this may be a stupid question… but after you’re done flooding the cookie and you let it dry, what type of icing do you use to finish the decorating? The thick Royal icing? If this is the case, can I re-thicken the flodding icing to get back to the piping consistancy?
Just to be clear… you make one batch of icing total? First it’s made thick… then you add color… then you thin the color version… then you make the thin color version think again? Is this correct?
Hi Bianca, No such thing as a stupid question! What I typically do is make one batch of icing. If you’re planning to color it, you can do that (dividing it up if you want multiple colors). Then you’ll need to thin it a little bit to get it to a nice piping consistency for the outline and any writing. Once you have finished your outlines, I then take some of that icing (not all) and thin it way down so that it is thin enough to flood. Once the flooded cookies are cooled, you can use the rest of the icing that you didn’t thin for flooding to do any writing or additional decorating. I hope that makes sense!
Great tutorial! I’m making about 75 sugar cookies for a bridal shower with royal icing. I need to have the icing harden and then write on top of it, but also have the writing harden. Any suggestions?
Hi Krysten, That’s exactly what I did in this tutorial. Once the flooding dries, you can go ahead and write on top of it. Writing usually dries and hardens completely within a few hours. Have fun decorating!
This is a great instructional post. I needed a really nice background for some fancy edible pictures to go on shortbread cookies and this is perfect. I really appreciate you for taking the time to do this.
Thank you for the step by step. It really helped me see what I was doing incorrectly. Just wish mine looked as good as yours. :)
I’ve wanted to do this for decades and never had anyone show me how. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. It’s obvious by all of the comments that you have touched many lives. Just think of all of the recipients of these cookies who will be happy also. Thank you again for spreading knowledge and sunshine!
Is there any substitute you can use besides royal icing?
I’m not too comfortable using it because of the egg white. You don’t get meringue substitute here. So, suggestions please?
Hi Tanvi, You can use Google to see what you can find with ingredients that are readily available to you. I know I have seen a recipe floating around that uses corn syrup, you might try that!
How early can I prepare and decorate my sugar cookies? I will be decorating 80 cookies for my daughter’s 1st birthday and don’t want to be doing it the night before (or morning of the party!) Thanks!
Hi Natalie, You could finish them a full day or day and a half ahead. For instance, if the party is on a Saturday, I would say the latest I would decorate them would be Thursday evening. Ideally, I would flood the cookies on Thursday night, let them dry overnight, and then add the details on Friday morning, let them dry, and then if you are packaging them as favors or anything like that you can do that Friday night or Saturday morning, or else just keep them until you’re ready to serve them.
This is my first time decorating cookies with royal icing, outlining and flooding. I’ve never even heard of “flooding” before so it was all new to me. Thank you for the step-by-step. It was really easy to do and my daughter even helped out! Thank you!!!! :)
Love your blog!!!
I hope you can help me- In my area we don’t have meringue powder, but we do have egg whites powder and I understand it’s like meringue powder if I’ll add some powdered suger.
Can you tell me if that is so, and what are the amounts to make the replacement?
Hi Shanny, You do add powdered sugar to the meringue powder to form the royal icing. I think the egg whites powder is probably very similar (minus the sugar) to the meringue powder and since you’re adding so much sugar anyway, I think you’ll be okay.
Thanks for the tutorial! I’ve only used royal icing once because it was such a disaster. The first time I tried it it either ran completely off the cookie, or ended up a terrible lumpy mess. I just figured it wasn’t for me. Very excited to try it again using your instructions!
Your tutuorial is just AMAZING!!! I am in charge of making cookies for my daughter’s Valentine’s Party and I cannot wait to use this recipe for the icing. Thank you so much for all the information and the wonderful tips! BTW, I just love you site!
I have always hated to bake sugar cookies because I can’t find a good recipe and decorating them, forget it! I have looked up so many recipes and instructions on how-to do cutout cookies and icing like in this tutorial but I have never found such a good one like you have here. Its idiot proof! I haven’t tried to make these yet, but I am going to give it a test try and if all is well, then I want to make the heart Vday cookies for my daughters pre-school class. I am terrible at piping lettering,.,any tips?
Hi Anna, Honestly, like a lot of things, the more you practice it the easier it will become. You want a consistency that is thin enough to easily flow out of the decorating tip, yet still thick enough to not bleed. I use a #1 tip for writing. Sometimes I use my left hand to help steady my right hand while I write.
This was INCREDIBLY helpful. I see you’re a Steelers fan, but hopefully you’ll still be happy to hear I used this to make Giants cookies for the big game this weekend. They didn’t come out as pretty as yours, but I think it was a good start. Thanks so much for sharing this great post!
These cookies are great! I live in Fiji and no one here probably does these kinda cookies because we don’t have meringue powder but i found a great substitute by using egg whites and they turned out to be fantastic! They look great and taste great too. I made a batch for my boyfriend who plays rugby, wrote his name on the cookie and his jersey number and he thought it was the cutest cookie he had ever seen. Will be making this alot!
this is EXACTLY what i was looking for! i’ve seen this technique all over cute cookies and i’ve just been needing to know HOW it was done! thank you!!
Great tutorial! Just tried to decorate some cookies for Valentine’s Day and the iciing wasn’t too thick so I couldnt flood my cookies. Gonna bake some more and try again.
At Nicki Sweetapolita has a tutorial on using the royal icicng on wax paper then transfering to a cake.
Thank you thank you so much for this easy to follow step-by-step guide. You just saved me over $200. I am planning and baby shower and wanted the baby themed cookies. You know the onesie or baby carriage with the pastel icing and they wanted $4 per cookie. I have 60 guests. I thought it would be impossible to get the smooth topping that looks like a machine made it. I will be testing this out today to see how they come out. Thanks again!! I love this blog!
Thank you so much for this!!! This helped me a ton and I really appreciate it.
Awesome! =) Can anyone tell me if the icing tastes good?
How does this royal icing taste in comparison to normal sugar cookie butter cream frosting? Also, I would love “How-to’s” about rolled fondant and decorating cupcakes- all of your cupcakes are so gorgeous!
I pulled up your recipe and instructions again this year to make Christmas cookies with our grandson. Still could not find meringue powder locally so this time I used egg whites and it worked beautifully! I love this website!!
Betty – have u gone to walmart & michaels? In their baking sections you will definitely find them =)
This was very helpful. I am making Christmas cookies with my 5 year old and have never used royal icing in my life. I am glad I googled it before starting to decorate. Gotta go to Wally world…..then we may be able to make cookies like the ones on the cover of all the magazines. ;)
I suggest, if you are going to decorate cookies with sprinkles that you may want on just one part of the icing, for example just the lettering and not the background on the pictures above, let the cookies dry several hours more than the 2 or 3 that you’d wait for piping designs.
I suggest, if you are going to decorate cookies with sprinkles that you may want on just one part of the icing, for example just the lettering and not the background on the pictures above, let dry several hours more than the 2 or 3 that you’d wait for piping designs.
This is a great tutorial. Iced sugar cookies scare me, its something I am always happy to buy from someone else. But your tutorial makes it seem possible. I just came here to get your recipe for royal icing for gingerbread men, but I’m book marking this to give fully iced cookies a try soon.
wow im soooo glad i found this post!!!
the cookies i made for my sons first birthday was a total flop. can’t wait to follow these steps next time!!
You are awsome! I love the step by step with pictures. As for a suggested topic: Decorating with Fondant.
Hi, I’m not sure I can get meringue. What can I use instead? Sorry if you’ve answered this question before.
Hi Zai, There actually isn’t a good substitute for using meringue in royal icing, as this is what causes it to harden. If you can’t find meringue powder near you, you could always order it online (it’s available from places like Amazon and baking supply sites). Alternatively, there are some royal icing recipes that use regular egg whites. I’ve never tried one so there isn’t one in particular I would recommend, but you could Google and poke around to see what you find.
I have always wondered how to decorate cookies like that! This is perfect. Thank you!
Thank you for this! I am a great cook and baker but I suck at decorating. My daughter and I are supposed to make penguin cookies next week and this how to guide is going to come in handy!
What’s the best way to get your thicker royal icing smooth??
Hi Kathryn, I add water a little at a time, maybe a teaspoon or so at a time, until I reach the desired consistency.
Well we do that when we need icing thinner for “flooding,” but we have been making little icing decorations to put on the cookies themselves, like the little flowers/snowflakes/ etc. you can buy. Since we are making these decorations (1in x 1in) we need pretty thick icing for it to hold its shape. Do you have any tips for smoothing thick icing out? We read somewhere to use cornstarch on the tip of your finger, but I found out it’s easier to just pat down a bit after a couple minutes. I was thinking maybe parchment paper, but the decorations are so small I’d risk messing something else up. I was hoping maybe there was a simpler way.
Hi Kathryn, I’m not sure I’ve ever done what you’re referring to. I’m sorry I’m not much help on this one!
This saved me TONS of time and the cookies looked way better once I started using your method. THANK YOU!
These are so cute! I’m totally making them for a Pen party!!!
Great & simple how-to, can’t thank you enough. I’m about to make my very first cut-out cookies and was mystified on what goes first & the time length I should leave the flodded cookies stay before adding the details.
Really appreciate you wonderful efforts. Many thanks ^_^
Wow! Love the step by step…I am sure to try this during the holidays! Thanks for great pictures too!
First off, thank you for this tutorial! I have a question regarding putting actual cartoon characters on the cookie, like a football team mascot, Dr. Seuss, Hello Kitty…etc. I’ve seen cookies that every cookie is identical and also different fonts. I’ve wondered if it is a stencil or cricut machine they are using. Do you know how I would accomplish this. I have done many cakes, but have not baked or decorated sugar cookies, but I’m now excited to try.
Hi Kristal, I’ve never done this, but I’ve seen some that use an icing printer to print out an image that can be laid on the top of the cookie. Otherwise, you could maybe find molds or something like that to imprint the images and then decorate using those lines.
I’ve tried your cookie recipe a few times because I LOVE soft sugar cookies. However, I can’t get the shapes to hold their form. Its like they melt and the cookie cut-out form doesn’t hold up. Is it because I’m not putting them on the upper and lower racks? Could my oven be too hot (set at 375)? They taste great, but for the purpose of creating specific shapes I’ve had a hard time accomplishing this.
I LOVE your decorating tips, though. They have helped me make great cookies for many parties.
Hi Katie, I would try chilling the cookies (on the baking sheet) for at least 15 minutes before baking. That should help them keep their shape. Also, if you don’t have one, I would recommend an oven thermometer to make sure your oven isn’t running hot.
Found you through Google! Many thanks for a great tutorial….but I’m wondering what method you use to put the icing you use for flooding into the squeeze bottles? I have used both disposable pastry bags and the bottles you suggest but find that, as much as I like the idea of the squeeze bottle for flooding, it’s really hard to get the icing in there to begin with. Any tips I can try?
Hi Mary, I usually just mix my icing in a tupperware container, and then slowly pour it into a squeeze bottle in a steady stream. Hope that helps!
I am really having fun making these for my friends. I am creating all kinds of intricate designs but I am hoping you can give me some advice. Did you ever have trouble with the colored icing seeping into the white icing? They seem ok when I flood them but after a day or two I see that the black or orange seeped into the white making small areas of discoloration. I would guess it is a drying issue. Did you ever have that problem and do you know of a magical number of hours to wait before putting white down next to a color? (or the other way around?)
Hi Sandra, If I flood in white I usually leave them to dry completely overnight before doing details in other colors. The other thing that could cause it is if your “other” color isn’t quite stiff enough – if the icing has a little too much water it will be more prone to running.
Thanks for the tips! Really great techniques. I can’t wait to try them for my saints cookies for Sunday football! Who dat!
Thank you so much for the tutorial! I think the key is in having the right tools. Besides, you will use them over and over, making cookie decorating enjoyable instead of a disaster.
Michelle, please help.
I love your cookie recipe and I am going along and decorating a number of cookies but I keep running into the same problem and I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I am using a tip and coupler but the tip keeps getting clogged. I don’t think I have any grease in the bag or the tip — my icing is definitely not too stiff. I am going along and it seems as though there is a small sugar crystal or it is drying out. I can’t imagine it drying out because it happens right in the middle of my decorating. I sifted the powdered sugar so the only thing I can think of is that the meringue is globbing. Is that possibly the problem? The only other thing is whether I should be burping the bag all along instead of just at the beginning. I am at a loss as to what the problem may be. I would appreciate your feedback.
Hi Sandra, If the tip opening is small enough, it could definitely get clogged, I have had this happen. Royal icing can dry very quickly, so as soon as you put the bag down to do something else, I recommend wrapping the tip in a wet paper towel to keep it from drying out. Also, make sure that the tips are thoroughly washed and dried, sometimes the smallest piece of dried icing left in there can cause headaches.
Thanks for replying so quickly. I don’t know exactly what was causing the problem but I did go ahead and dissolve the meringue powder in water first and then made sure that there was absolutely no clumps by smashing what was left undissolved between my fingers. Then I added the powdered sugar. I guess the fingers are the BEST tool! Anyway, I used a 1.5 tip and I absolutely had no problems! Yeah!
Can you tell me WHY we need to keep beating the icing until the shine goes away? I really appreciate your comments on the technical aspects of the sugar cookies and I was wondering about the icing.
Can you tell me why I need to keep mixing the royal icing until it loses its shine? It seems very well mixed way before 7 minutes.
Hi Sandra, While it will indeed be combined rather quickly, beating it for a significant amount of time helps with the ultimate consistency.
OK Thanks Michelle! I didn’t see this response before and I resubmitted the question. Please ignore.
The tutorial was absolutely amazing, the tips are so useful, THANKS!! I love it so much and planning to make cookies for my baby shower party. What can I use instead of the meringue powder? I don’t live in a Western country so it’s a bit tricky in getting the powder. Please let me know if there are any substitutes to it.
Hi Queenie, I have never used a substitute for the meringue powder, but I do believe you can make royal icing with egg whites. I would Google for some recipes, since I’ve never done it there aren’t any particular ones I can recommend.
Loved how everything is step by step. I learn best this way. Thanks :)
I have avoided sugar cookies like the plague. A couple attempts in the very distant past was horrendous. Everything went wrong from the cookie to the frosting. I actually want to try this with your wonderful tutorial helping me every step of the way. Thank you for all your hard work in doing this for us.Ü
Thank you for putting together such an informative piece on this subject…I tried years ago, made a huge mess and said never again…but now I’m off to the kitchen to try again after so many years, I’ll let ya know…lol…thank you again on a great piece…also awesome troubleshooting tips!!!! ; )
I used royal icing for the very first time tonight, and your tutorial was very helpful! I even used the cookie recipe you suggested. I’m so proud of my cookies, I can’t wait to share them on my blog tomorrow!
Your tutorial answered every question that I had. Thanks for the detailed, organized and informative directions!
This was pretty helpful, but I specifically was hoping for the NEXT step…. how you get it so perfect with the details. Especially with your onesies and stuff like that. When I am writing my frosting either pulls up, or it’s thick, or there is a peak when I lift up…. or it’s too thin and blends together. It would be nice to see you do the NEXT step to put it all together and get it so detailed. Like, how the heck to you draw a GUITAR?!?!?
Hi Angela, Thanks for the feedback! I will work on doing a similar tutorial for the details, maybe “part II”. For some of the cookies, like Pea in a Pod, I do illustrate the step-by-step decorating process.
your tips were all great! when i was looking for how to decorate sugar cookies i was expecting some crazy elaborate technique. i’m having a baby shower for my daughter in law and were doing a tea party theme and you ideas seem easy enough for me to try. thanks so much, i’m not freaking out so much now!:)
I love your website!! I have made many of your yummy sweets. I do have a question/problem, no matter what sugar cookie recipe I use, the cookies break sometimes as soon as the next day.Any ideas as to what I am doing wrong? I have a big project for a baby shower this comming weekend!! Thank you again.
Hi Liz, What do you mean that they break? Just sitting in a container, they break in half? Or the icing cracks? I’m not sure I really understand what you mean whey you say that they break.
Hi Michelle, The cookies just break either in half, or a corner breaks off. It happens both unfrosted and frosted. Its as if the cookies are too dry. It does not matter how thick or thin the cookies are made. I will try to email you a photo(although I am not computer savy) Thanks for your fast response. Liz
thank you so much your walk through was so very helpful. i am not a baker by far but wanted to make cookies for my sons baseball team. Thank you very much!!!!
I want to bookmark this page for my own reference, but being hardcore Lightning fans, I think my husband would freak out if he found a bookmarked page full of Pens cookies. :o) You did give me an awesome idea for our Eastern Conference Finals watch parties/traveling to Tampa goodies, though!
Haha! Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’m rooting for Tampa to beat Boston :)
These are so precious!!
Hi, whats the diference between Royal icing and color flow icing?
Michelle, did you ever think of outlining in chocolate? I am considering melting down some of those Wilton wafers (you can melt them right in the squeeze bottle) and outlining in chocolate, then flooding the cookie with royal icing after the chocolate has set. I haven’t tried this yet…what do you think? Does it sound like it would work?
I outlined my cookies last night to prepare them for flooding tonight and had problems with the icing not sticking to the cookies in several places. I followed the recipe on here for the royal icing and my cookies were completely cool. does anyone have any suggestions as to how to prevent this?
Hi Terri, The outlined icing didn’t stick to the cookies? Could you explain exactly what happened/how it looks, or include a link to a picture if possible? It will help me help you out :)
Thank you for this! I follow you in Google Reader, but stumbled across this by searching. It’s exactly what I’m looking for. Thank you again!
Thank you so much for this information on decorating sugar cookies. My first attempt was at Christmas a year ago and it took me several recipes to get a tasty cookie. As for the icing, I have been using a recipe that calls for confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, a little milk and light karo syrup and what a mess. but it is tasty! anyway, my daughter wants me to decorate cookies for my grandsons 1st birthday this weekend to look like john deere tractors. I was wondering what the difference in your royal icing and the icing i’ve been using would be? i’m not even sure it has a name, I just remember searching until i found recipe for sugar cookie icing and found this one. the icing actually dries hard enough that i’ve been able to use other colors for decorating though they are nothing compared to yours. i really want to try yours but was just curious if you’d ever heard of or used the icing i’m referring to. thanks again for this valuable information!
Hi Terri, I have not heard of the type of icing you described, but I can tell that the primary (and important) difference is that the royal icing recipe I use has meringue powder in it. That is the key ingredient and gives the icing it’s smooth texture and allows it to try super hard. I hope that helps; have fun decorating! :)
Thanks for your feedback Michelle. I completed my project over the weekend, 50 sugar cookies cut like a tractor and a red barn, and decorated. it took me forever but I did it although since it was my first time using the royal icing, i made mistakes and learned a lot! actually the icing i’ve used with the karo syrup dries hard as well but would not work for the outlining at all. the royal icing is much easier to make though. as for my other post about the outlining, for some reason in certain places the outline fell off so i went back to those places and outlined them again and had no bleeding at all. for my first attempt i thought they turned out ok. they weren’t as smooth as they should have been but i think if I keep at it I can eventually get there. This site has been a tremendous help to me. My daughter-in-law now wants some pink zebra print cookies for my grand-daughter’s 2nd birthday party coming up in a few weeks. Any suggestions? Also, do you use a stencil on your cookies to outline first or is it all freehand with you?
Hi Terri, I do everything freehand, although I do quite a bit of sketching and practicing beforehand, especially if it’s something I haven’t done before.
Brilliant! This was EXACTLY what I was looking for. Been wondering how to do that for AGES and love the detailed instructions. Thanks!
I get it now!! This tutorial totally answered all my questions!!!
Do you make 2 different batches of the royal icing to do one set of cookies? Meaning one batch for the flood icing and another batch for the piped decoration? I’m thinking that it sounds like if you make one batch, dividing it into piping and flooding, color it, etc, then do the flooding, by the time you are ready to do the piping wouldn’t the reserved piping icing have dried out? How do you keep that portion fresh overnight will the flood dries?
Hi Karen, It all depends on how much I need and how many different colors. Sometimes I will make a separate batch, but if I only make one, I cover the unused icing with a damp towel (to keep the moisture in) or you can put it in the piping bags, close off the top with a rubber band, and then put them tip-down into a glass with a little water so they stay hydrated.
Thank you so much for this!!!! I am going to be making cookie bouquets for my older sisters in college for their exam week. I was wondering, do you know how ot make it so that you get the flooded look with two different colors?(this is kind of hard to describe over the computer), but like if I had a round cookie with a pink background and I wanted to put polka dots in it without them being raised above the pink icing, would I just plop them in there?
Hi Megan, What a great sister you are! I do know what you mean, it’s hard to explain, but yes, you just plop them in right after you flood them and they’re still wet. A short explanation is included in this post by Bake at 350:
i’ve always wanted to decorate cookies and yours is definitely a great help. i’ll want to try it soon. can i also ask if you have any books to recommend to me, who is a beginner in cookie and cake deco? thank you very much! (:
Hi Jasmine, I actually have never checked out any books on cake or cookie decorating, but I find YouTube videos super helpful!
Thanks for making this step by step tutorial! Can’t wait to try it out!
This step by step instructional is amazing. I have been trying to make cookies with royal icing for years and they always turned out so messy. Thanks to this, I finally got it right. Thank you so much!!! Another tip that I learned is this: when filling the pastry bags: put the empty bag (with tip and coupler already in place) in a tall glass. Fold the top of the bag over the glass and then fill bag with icing. Once the bag is no more than half way full you can twist the top and take it out for use. This allows you to use both hands while filling the pastry bag with the royal icing. This is a great way to make a possibly messy task simple and spill proof. Once again thank you so much for taking the time to do this!!!
I’m going to try decorating cookies for a baby shower this weekend. This will be my first try at this………wish me luck! :)
So excited to do this! Thank you for the how-to!
Thanks so much for the detailed description! This is just what I was looking for!!!
I just found this website tonight and came across your recipe. I don’t remember when I’ve seen a receipe so detailed and friendly. You seem to enjoy what you do and don’t mind sharing it with other people. Thank you so much. I will be coming back for other recipes, especially yours.
I have decorated cookies several times with royal icing and honestly never knew that there was an honest to goodness technique to make them perfect! Thank you so much for taking the time to make this step by step tutorial….you are a godsend!
I was looking for a new frosting recipe when I came upon this website and royal icing. I made my cutout recipe 2 different times before I gave it a go with this procedure. If I use this frosting on cookies for my daughter’s baby shower I’ll need to practice, practice, practice more. My outlining was uneven; but the outlining definitely shows the shape of any cutout cookie (onesie’s, ducks, buggy, etc.), which is nice. My husband is sampling as I write this. Not sure he likes the taste when compared to the buttercream I usually do. SO, THE BIG QUESTION IS DO I GO FOR THE LOOK OR THE TASTE? Outlining and filling is definitely more work than slapping on some buttercream.
Hi Elaine, I would say that decorating sugar cookies with royal icing definitely is not done for taste. It’s definitely not as good as buttercream, but it’s the only way to intricately decorate sugar cookies and allow them to dry completely hard.
I have always wondered how to fill cookies like this with no lines! Thanks so much, this really helped!
that was helpfull information..
I will make me some cookies to decorate this upcomming weekend.
I just wanted to say thanks for sharing these great step-by-step photos to go with the instructions. I’m a visual person and tonight was the first time I used royal icing for Valentine’s Day sugar cookies and it was so easy. I actually flavored it with a little strawberry extract and then drizzled melted chocolate on top and they tasted phenomenal in addition to giving them a little hint of pink! :)
I have used a glaze to achieve the smooth glossy cookies but yesterday was the first try for this. I don’t know what happened but it looked normal going on, but did not dry quickly and this morning are still tacky to the touch. The consistency looks different too. It almosts tastes and feels a little like marshmallow. I don’t know if has something to do with the humidity in the air as we have had a lot of rain lately or not. Any thoughts or suggestions? Hope they dry more today or I am afraid they will stick to each other when stored on top of one another. Right now, they are in the cold oven.:(
Hi Cae, Hmm usually they dry completely overnight. The humidity could definitely be a factor, also could you have maybe thinned the icing too much? Those are the only reasons I can think of that it wouldn’t be dry by now.
I’m making an attempt at this royal icing thing and just wondered if the icing will stay soft in the piping bags. I’d like to outline and flood the cookies today, but then do the detailed work tomorrow. Will the leftover icing in the bags be good for tomorrow, or should I plan on making a fresh batch for the detailed work? Thanks!
You can keep the icing in the piping bags, but put them tip-down in a glass with a little water in the bottom to keep it moist. If you don’t, the royal icing will dry out and then the tip will get clogged. Happy decorating! :)
I made the ducky and onesie cookies for a baby shower and they turned out awesome! The mom to be and guests thought I had purchased them from a bakery! Thank you for the help.
I did find that for me, flooding worked best by using a baby spoon, adding icing and then pushing the icing with the back of the spoon. It was small enough to get in the corners and took less time than the toothpicks.
Thanks so much for this! It really helped me get over my fear of tackling “professional-looking” decorated cookies. The squeeze bottles are the BEST!
Thank you so much!!! I was looking for some tips on this (tried doing it on my own, and due to the fact that I did not know about the flooding part…. and adding water…. well u know, they didn’t come out the way they were supposed to).
This was really helpful and hopefully over time my cookies will come out looking like yours…. ;)
My mother worked in a bakery through college and growing up she would make “sweet and sour” sugar cookies with royal icing for nearly every holiday and event you could imagine!
Her trick to make the flooding part go much much faster is to thin the icing and then hold the edges of the cookie and dip the top of it into the icing, bypassing the outline piping entirely. She then runs her finger like a knife along the front to even it out and then lays them out to dry – it’s a little messier than the method above – but absolutely worth it when making them by the 100’s for large events!
I tried the sugar cookie recipe and your royal icing recipe last night and both were AMAZING! I cannot thank you enough for posting both in addition to your most useful play by play on how to decorate using royal icing. Thank you!
Awesome instructions! The pictures were super helpful. Thanks for doing this!!
VERY helpful! My daughter got some really cool Star Wars cookie cutters for Christmas. They emboss the top of the cookie with the pattern. But she got really frustrated trying to work with the royal icing. This website helped explain what she needed to know.
Wow that was fast! But, do I “glue” them when the royal icing is still wet or do I follow the steps above regarding the sprinkles? Should I let the icing harden, wet it slightly and then glue them on? Thanks so much! I can’t wait to do this!
Hi again! :) You will want to let the cookies completely dry before adding any extras on, then just a small dab of royal icing and “glue” on your additions. This is different than sprinkles, and you do not need to wet the icing at all. Just make sure it is completely try, then use fresh royal icing to glue on any additions.
Hi Brown-eyed Baker,
I am about to try these instructions in a few days, using them to bake cookie favors for my sister’s baby shower. They will be turtle-shaped cookies, frosted in minty-green royal icing. They are based on a design in her nursery. Anyway, I would like to add candy buttons (you know, the type that come on the rolls of paper) as decorations on the turtle shells (the turtles in her nursery are polka-dotted). Is it possible to use the royal icing to affix things to the cookies? Or, should I add a different type of icing to do the adhering on top of the royal icing?
Hi Laura, Royal icing is actually perfect for “gluing” things to the hardened/iced cookie. Have fun and enjoy the cookies!
I have a great tip in regards to the dough…immediately after mixing the dough, divide dough into 2 pieces, roll out between wax or parchment paper to your desired cookie thickness. Put flattened dough on cookie sheets (leave paper on dough) and leave in the refrigerator 2-3 hours or overnight. Once the dough is hardened, remove paper and cut out cookies! The dough stays very cold, there is less spreading and you don’t have to try and roll hard dough!
great tutorial + great recipes = a really great christmas cookie baking and decorating experience for me and my family. thank you for bringing out the martha stewart that i always knew was inside me!
Amazing instructions and pictures. Thanks so much for posting this. I made cat and dog cookies for my daughter’s birthday party favors and they turned out great–but how did you get the lettering to come out so well? Did you use a #1 tip or something even smaller? Whenever I tried to draw fine lines, the icing flow would “skip” and/or the line would be too thick (way thicker than yours, even using a #1 tip)…
Hi Maia, I do sometimes use a #1 tip for writing letters on cookies. Depending on how large I want them I either use a #1 or #2, but mostly #1. As for the icing skipping, this used to happen to me too. The icing needs to be just a little less stiff, so try adding a touch more water. That should help it flow nicely out of the piping bag. It can take some trial and error (and patience!) to get a feel for the consistencies, but it eventually comes. It took me awhile!
I was looking for a simple royal icing recipe and cookie decorating ideas to use with my 4 year old grandson. I found your website most helpful and appreciate the detailed instructions. Will be making cookies this weekend!!!!
Yay! What a wonderful activity to do with your grandson! Have fun!
i love your instruction…but mmm i’m wondering if you can make the ‘how to’ on macaroons i can’t seem to bake these babies they turned out either flat & rough or footless >_< , i've tried many many tips from the net but i simply couldn't get it right.. what went wrong? i'd really love to see the detailed step by step on this one…
Thank you for the great tutorial on royal icing. I do a lot of baking and this was one of the best set of instructions I’ve ever used! My turkey sugar cookies turned out beautifully.
So happy to hear that Mary! Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Thank you, Michelle, I’ll try that. We need a hairspray for sprinkles!! hahaha
I have a problem when using sprinkles on royal icing on cookies or buttercream icing for cake. If I put the sprinkles on when the icing is damp, the sprinkles bleed into the icing. If I let it dry a bit, then the sprinkles do not stick. Do you have a solution for that?
Hi Georgia, What you’ll want to do is let the royal icing dry. Then, brush it very lightly with some water and then add your sprinkles. Let it dry completely, and then shake off any excess sprinkles.
Thanks for such detail explaination on icing decoration. I’m totally dummy in this. I will bookmark this for sure.
Thank you for the helpful tips and demo. I am looking into picking up cookie decorating as a hobby and this was very helpful for me.
This was beyond helpful!! You should have seen me trying to microwave my icing to make it pourable!! Ha ha ha :)
Yay so glad you found it helpful! Woo for cookies! :)
I just made footballs using your tips, which were extremely helpful. The only trouble I had was that some of them dripped down the sides. Is this because I didn’t pipe a thick enough line in some spots?
I also used the all-occasion sugar cookie recipe. Delicious once they’re baked. I had trouble with the dough, though. I couldn’t get the cookies off of the wax paper, even after chilling them for an extra 30 minutes. I ended up using my cookie cutters in a makeshift way, but my footballs are anything but perfect and smooth. Any tips?
Hi Lauren, the icing running off the edge could definitely be attributed to the border not being thick enough. I usually use a #2 tip with consistent pressure to pipe the borders. Also, making sure that the borders are dry before flooding is another important step.
Regarding the cookies sticking – if you roll out the dough between pieces of wax or parchment paper, you need to be sure to flour all of the surfaces really well.
very informative. I however do not like cookies decorated with royal icing. tried the ones from stores. Haven’t tried it home. I am wondering whether we could do the same thing with buttercream – making it thin and various consiastency? if so how do you thin buttercream for flooding? adding more liquid or melted butter?
Unfortunately the consistency of buttercream is totally different and doesn’t have the same properties as royal, so it would not dry smooth and hard.
This is so helpful! Wonderful tutorial, thanks!
I have been a “decorating fool” since I’ve seen your tutorial about decorating cookies with royal icing!! I do have a question though, it seems that the top layer of royal icing gets hard and almost dried out on the cookie after just a day or two.Like when you bite the cookie, it is almost like a candy coating. I did cover the cookies with plastic wrap. Any suggestions? Thank you so much.
Hi Liz, The royal icing is actually supposed to dry rock hard. That way you can easily decorate on top of it.
Thanks so much for posting. It is a very helpfel recipe.
But I was wondering,
Is there anything I can use to replace the meringue powder?
Would cream of tartar work?
Hi Alex, Hmm that’s a good question. The meringue powder is really essential in the icing, as it is what allows it to dry hard. I have never substituted it with anything and am not sure that cream of tartar would work in this instance. Is there a particular reason you don’t want to use meringue powder?
When letting the cookies sit before decorating, do we need to store it in a container or just leave it in the open?
Hi Zahra, You can let it sit out. I always just lay them out on my dining room table. The icing keeps the cookies moist.
Thank you for the great step by step instructions!!!
This is an awesome tutorial! I definitely have to try this for the next time I make sugar cookies! Thanks!
This is FANTASTIC!! I have looked all over the internet to get the simplest directions to decorate sugar cookies with royal icing (since I’ve never used royal icing before), and your tutorial and photos make this seem very easy. I’m baking 150 pink ribbon cookies (6″) for my co-workers to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Thanks for your time!!
You are very welcome Evelyn! What a nice gesture to make all of those cookies! Have fun!
Your tutorial is absolutely FABULOUS! I am the worlds worst baker… I followed your instructions and recipes to a T and not only were me cookies edible, they were adorable and delicious too!! I have a pic of the pink & zebra cookies in this post, http://peasandthankyous.blogspot.com/2010/10/neenies-7th-birthday-pink-zebra-art.html, and I linked back to you. Thank you sooooo much for this tutorial!!
You are very welcome, Jill! Those cookies are absolutely adorable, you did fabulous work!! Love your site too!
Thank you so much for the detailed instructions on decoarting the cookies. I recently made cookies for my granddaughters birthday and school party but the cookies were rounded and uneven. I notice that the cookies I purchase and your cookies are flat. Any ideas as to why my cookies are uneven which makes it difficult to decorate them as well as takes away from the appearance?
Hi Janice, I have found that cookies sometimes turn out bumpy and uneven when the dough is too warm before getting it into the oven. I would try refrigerating the cookie sheets for 15-20 minutes before popping them into the oven and see if that helps!
LOVE your site!! I am getting ready to start decorating cookies for a cheerleading competition. I just have one question how far in advance do you think I can make and store these cookies?
Hi Amie, Thanks! These cookies can definitely be done in stages over several day. What I typically do is make the dough one day, then throw it in the fridge to chill. The next day I bake the cookies. If I have time I will outline and flood them. Then let them dry overnight and do the details on top. Once they are decorated you can store them in an airtight container or bag (just be careful stacking!) for 1-2 days. Have fun!
Thank you so much for your steo by step intructions. I decided to make football related cookies to send to my son. he recently left for college at University of Miami. I had time on my hands. Your guidance made this a fun, rewarding experience,The cookies look awesome. Go Canes.Thanks, ALyse
I am new to cookie decorating and making. I have never been able to bake cookies let alone decorate them. This is so helpful, i am going to start this week so i will let you know how i did, wish me luck.
Great tips! I’m so glad I stumbled across your website. In my area decorated sugar cookies start at $3 each and that adds up quickly. I want to use some edible pearls and glitter on the cookies that I will be making. At what point in the process should I add them? Should I do it right after I flood with the royal icing or wait for them to harden a bit? I’m worried that if I add them to quickly the pearls will sink. Please advise. Thanks!
waow thank you so much…i love your site
Just wanted to thank you for your step-by-step tutorial. While I’ve been baking for years, I’ve never tried the intricate designs that you show here,(beautifully I might add). I now have a list of items to go get and do a test run before I need to do the real thing.
Thanks so much, your tutorial is the best I’ve found after looking for quite a while.
FABULOUS step by step directions. I followed your tips on outlining, thinnig the icing and everything in between. While my bridesmaid cookies were adorable and cute, it’ll take soem time before they are as cute as your playoff jerseys!
This is such a great tutorial! Very helpful tips for the future when I decide to bake some sugar cookies of my own. Thank you!
this is my second comment and am adding it because I was reading further into your site and noticed something you said about placing your cookies back in the fridge before baking. I’m like you, in that I cut my cookies a bit thicker than the 1/4 in. I’m sure I’ll get chastised for this but I do not chill my dough prior to rolling and cutting. Since they are a bit thicker they come up fine so I cut them out, place on a c. sheet and then in the fridge to chill. then onto the oven. believe it or not it saves time chilling only about 15min. I make up three or four sheets then pop them in and rotate them out of the oven for a quick process to get lots of cookies. hope this is helpful!
thank you so very much for the informative demonstration on decorating with royal icing! I have tried and tried with other instructions and these ones are by far the best. I am going to attempt some baby shower cookies for my stepdaughter’s shower and feel quite confident now in what i”m about to do. thanks again and God Bless!
I have been decorating cookies with royal icing for awhile but I always have the same issue. Dark colours, especially black, bleed into adjacent colours. I did a bus cookie outlined in black (I allowed the black to dry almost 24 hours before I added the next colors) it looked great for a few hours but by the next day it was a mess because the black ran so badly. What is the solution to this problem? Is it because of humidity? Help…
THis was a very helpful tutorial. I now have more confidence to make favor cookies for my daughter’s 2nd birthday. One question, any tips for using two colors to flood coat? Or doing polka dots with royal icing?
Love your site. Helped a lot with your tips on royal icing. Thanks.
I wouldn’t add cocoa powder to your royal icing, it would affect the consistency and the way that it sets on the cookie. I have made black jersey cookies and things like that and always start with just basic royal icing and keep adding the black gel until you get the black shade you are going for. Also remember that colors will darken as the icing dries.
This is helpful!I want to make black royal icing. I will be using quite a bit of black because I am making Groom cookies and black is used for the tux. Would you suggest to start with chocolate royal icing? Just add about 1/3 cup coco powder? Let me know! Thanks!!!
I am scared to death as a 1st time royal icing user & your wonderful step by step’s are a life saver! I printed them & the pictures & will attempt 60 wedding cake cookies for my future dgt-in-law’s bridal shower. I wish I could give you a big hug for giving me a little more confidence. Thanks so very much.
This was wonderful, thank you! I would never have thought to do many of these steps, such as outlining, thinning out the icing flooding, and using a toothpick. VERY helpful tips. These will go a long way for me; I am so glad you posted this. Thanks again!!
Very helpful! I have done limited cookie decorating and had never heard the tip about outlining your cookies in icing before flooding them. I have always had trouble making them neat around the edges and now I know why. Thanks. Also, I would love some more instructions from you on decorating with royal icing, geared towards those of us with minimal artistic abilities.(aka tricks to make my cookies look fabulous, even though I can’t draw very well, and my letters are usually crooked).
I’m so happy to hear that this tutorial will be of great use to you! I would say that you could decorate and bag them about 2-3 days ahead of the wedding. Congratulations to your daughter!
Thank you so much for this wonderful tutorial!!!!! I have been all over the web looking at royal icing sites and yours was the first that made sense. I felt i was right in the kitchen with you!! I have one question. My daughter is getting married in the middle of June and we are making weddin cake cookies as favors at the reception. The cookies are all made and frozen. How soon can I decorate them and leave them bagged in indvidual bags before the big day? Thanks so muc!
Yes, you can store royal icing ahead of time in the refrigerator. Store it in a Tupperware-type container, with plastic wrap pressed down against the surface of the icing so that it doesn’t dry out.
You can definitely put royal icing in squirt bottles, in fact that’s often what I use to decorate since it’s much less messy!
And yes, you can substitute powdered egg whites for the meringue powder.
Enjoy your decorating!
Can you make and store royal icing ahead of time in fridge for a cookie decorating party? Is it okay icing to use with preschoolers in squirty bottles or should I use something else??? Can you substitute egg white powder for meringue powder?
This was really helpfull! I like that you included pictures so I knew what everything was supposed to look like.
Finally! I now know how to do this correctly! I have struggled with this. thank you for your post!
This is a great tutorial! I bake and decorate sugar cookies all the time. I was hoping to perfect my icing technique and this step by step how-to really gave the few extra tips I needed. Love your blog!
You could do that, but depending on the icing dries on the wax paper, it’s possible that the icing design won’t sit exactly flat on the cake. That’s the only downfall I could think of, though! Have fun decorating!
this was an awesome how to!!!… out of curiosity. if i decorated the icing right onto a piece of waxed paper and let it dry do you know if it would then be possible to transfer the designs onto say a cake with a pancake flipper?… i can’t decorate straight on the cake because of time constraints, but i really like how royal icing allows for more intricate design.
Thank you so much- I just tried to decorate some cookies with royal icing and failed miserably. I will have to try again :)
Thanks so much for sharing! I plan on doing cookies on a stick for my daughter’s birthday. This will save me lots of grief!
Great detail in this post! Loving the hockey jerseys.
I think the step by step instructions are wonderful. I can’t wait to decorate some cookies with my girls. Thanks!
Thanks for the great tutorial! I have just discovered beautiful wafer paper to put over the royal icing on cookies,is it hard to work with?
So cute! And what a great post. Very informational and I love the step by step instructions (with pictures). I think I’m might just have to try my hand at decorating cookies this weekend! Thanks you so much for this. :)
Can’t wait to try this out this weekend !
I just happened upon this post searching for tips for icing easter sugar cookies. It is extremely helpful PLUS I live near Pittsburgh and am a huge Pens fan!
This was sooo helpful!!! My aunt had a baby shower last weekend and I used your tips to decorate baby onesies! they were so cute and everyone loved them! they turned out awesome! thanks again! your directions were so easy to follow!
i scare i can’t find Meringue Powder in my country. So can you tell me any things can substitude it? Thanks =)
Such a great “how to”!! I try to teach two little granddaughters,how to cook,and decorate cookies and cakes.We have started on pastries,shapes and forming.These are sorta hard to find.I try to teach them,”Home”,can be so warm and wonderful,if you make that way!! Many now days,can’t even boil water,and I know its because of lazyness,and maybe a few,have never done it,and fear failure.We sure need to start building back,good homes,baking and cooking at home.Thank you for all your time and work!! I really love the site,its hard to wait for your next post!! May God Bless,you and your site!!!
I would say you could have them finished and packaged on Friday and they would still be good for Sunday. The royal icing helps to keep the cookies soft and fresh. Have a great baby shower! :)
IF i have a baby shower on sunday afternoon…how much in advanc can i make and decorate them and pack them… please let me know it will be great help coz i need to take out time to make/decorate these and also make food :-)
I have never used actual egg whites, and would recommend that if you do so you either use pasteurized eggs (so that bacteria is gone), or that you heat them to a temperature of 160 degrees F while beating them. Since I have never used this method, I can’t speak to how the icing itself will turn out, so proceed at your own risk ;-)
Oh My! Thank you so much! I am decorating Valentine’s Day cookies for a friend’s party and it’s been a very long time since I’ve done royal icing. This was an amazing help. Thank you very much!
hey …. love your cookies they’re really pretty. i have a question regarding using egg white verses mering uepowder when making royal icing. I saw a video with someone using egg white and icing sugar to make their icing. i guess what i’m asking is that fine to do? what if your in a hurray and don’t have the meringue powder handy is it safe just to use the egg white beaten until foamy then add the icing sugar?
I’m so happy to hear that this tutorial was helpful for you! I do apologize for being late in my reply, but yes, they will definitely stay soft for up to 5 days or a week. Enjoy the shower! :)
I am preparing to make valentine’s cookies for my daughters class. The plan it to make cookies to look like conversation heart candies… Your instructions seem great, I will let you know how successful I am! Keeping my fingers crossed…
Excellent tutorial – thank you very much. I just decorated Mardi Gras cookies with my 4-year-old and they look awesome. I’ve only ever used royal icing for putting together a gingerbread house, so your guide was most helpful. Thank you!
Oh my lord… this was everything I ever needed to know about using royal icing! I’VE BEEN SO LOST! Thank you so much!
This is a great step by step! I did my first trial run and it was pretty succesful. I’m making some cookie favors for a shower. Do you think if I bake the cookies today and decorate them, they’ll stay soft for a shower 2-3 days away??
I have worked with Royal icing a couple of times, and the first time I too had a BIG mess in my kitchen. Your tip to make the flooding icing thinner will help. Thanks
I have just spent the whole day making cookies for my friends baptism. I love you bottle idea for the flooding….less mess and so much easier probably to work with. Plus you don’t have to worry about the royal icing drying at the end of your bag.
I find that spotting (or faded areas) sometimes pop up when I have thinned the icing a bit too much. Next time try not thinning the flooding icing as much as you normally do and see if that helps. Let me know how it turns out!
You are correct – the cookies are not covered when they are left to dry. As long as you are using a recipe that gives you a soft sugar cookie (like the one I refer to in this post), your cookies should not get hard. I have never had that happen. In fact, the icing will serve as a type of barrier to keep the cookies moist.
Thanks for the great tutorial!! I love the step by step and all the tips and tricks! I can’t wait to make a few cookies tonight!
How can i prevent spotting after everything is done?
I love to decorate cookies with my two girls. I have ALWAYS flown by the seat of my pants. It really does take more time and more work than it needs to be. I want to be having FUN! Thanks so much for this info. Too bad for me I found it after Christmas but we like to make cookies at Valentines Day too! Love your site. :)
You mentioned that some bakers let the cookies dry over night after flooding. I assume the cookies aren’t covered, because the icing is wet, during drying…is that correct? If so, is there any danger of the soft cookies getting a little dry?
This is exactly what I was looking for. I am making cut out cookies for the first time and I want the icing to look great. This is just what I needed :-) Thank you!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been decorating cookies for years, only using buttercream – I had absolutely no idea how to use (much less make) royal icing. Your step by step was incredibly helpful – my cookies turn out PERFECT!!! These are the most helpful instructions I have found! Thank you so much!!
Thank you for including pictures with your step by step. I made decorated sugar cookies for me daughter’s baby shower, they were alright but now I know could have been better had I let the icing dry before I finished decorating. Trying out your tips today, my youngest daughter having friends over for a cookie decorating party.
You know, I’ve never frozen them after I have decorated them. Like you, I’d think it would be better to freeze before you decorate (which I have done) but if you end up freezing these let me know how it goes. The only thing that might happen could be the royal icing losing consistency and bleeding when it thaws.
In any event, I’m glad you found the tutorial helpful!!
Can you freeze frosted cookies? I’m sitting here, and my cookies are drying, and I’m thinking… d’oh… should I have frozen first, and frosted later? Let me know! Thanks for the great tutorial.
Thank you for sharing! Awesome tips and pictures. Love the tip for flooding the cookies. Lets hope the pens make it to the final this season so I can make these jerseys for our party! and mini stanley cups..hmmm..in the mean time, I will try this sugar cookie recipe and icing for Christmas cookies. Thanks again.
thank you so much for the wonderful step by step instructions! i’ve always wondered how these type of cookies were made and am now anxious to get started on the royal icing. i’m not nearly as artistic as you so mine will likely be fairly straight forward but it will beat the usual buttercream frosting!
THANK YOU!! This is exactly what I needed!
You can definitely use the schedule that you outlined – your cookies will be perfectly fine by Saturday. Once they are decorated and dry you can store them in an airtight container. Mine have stayed for up to a week.
have you ever frozen them before? i am doing them for a first communion party and i am trying to get some food done ahead so i can spend more time cleaning closer to the party…
never mind, i just looked at the other post where this is linked to. it says 2 months. thanks for such a great tutorial! i am excited to try this way -i too have cookies that look like a 2 year old decorated them…
Hi Missy, Just wanted to clarify that you should not freeze them after you have frosted and decorated them – the icing will bleed when it thaws. You can freeze the plain, undecorated cookies, but they should only be decorated within a few days of serving. Enjoy!
thanks so much! i did catch that in the other post! about to get started baking now!
I use Wilton food coloring gel for my icing coloring. The red and black can definitely be tricky – you need to use quite a bit of it to get the full color. Also keep in mind, though, that the colors of the icing will typically darken a bit over the course of a day or so. I hope this helps!
Thank you for posting such great instructions! The photos are perfect!!
How long do the cookies stay good for? I was planning on making some cookies for an open house that I am going to on Saturday and was just wondering when I should start to make them in order for them to be dry/ready by Saturday evening. I was thinking of baking on Wednesday evening, flooding them on Thursday evening and then finishing the decorations on Friday evening. Will the cookies be stale by Saturday?
Great tips! Thanks! :D
Your tutorial was great….and the royal icing recipe has worked great. What type of food/icing coloring do you use? I just purchased the wilton icing coloring and I can’t seem to get certain colors to brighten up (ie. my red looks like fushia). Thanks again!!
Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this information!! I am so happy to know how to do this now!!!
WHOA. That’s too weird! I just happened across this from a link on your onesie cookies. I JUST made 20 football jersey cookies and colored them tonight! I was planning on adding the kid’s numbers to the jerseys tomorrow really early so that they are dry for their football party tomorrow :0) Great tutorial!!
Good morning, Happy late Halowen(: !!
Thanks so much Michelle. You were right on sugar.. I was not using the fine powdered sugar. I did another batch with icing sugar and it came out perfect.
Hi Tania – The type of sugar that should be used for the royal icing is powdered sugar, which is softer and finer than granular sugar. What type of sugar did you use? Not using powdered sugar would be a reason why it looked a little “crusty”. I hope this helps!
Hi Emily – You hit the nail on the head – thinning the icing too much to flood the cookies will definitely cause a lot of little bubbles. It has definitely happened to me before. That would also be why they took a long time to dry, breached the dam and weren’t a deep enough color. I hope you’re not discouraged and I’ll give the cookies another shot!
Hi, I made the cookies and followed the above recipe and instructions for icing them. They looked good, but not the way in picture. I mean, my icing after drying, was not very shiny and smooth. It looked smooth while wet, but was little crusty after drying. What do you think I must be doing wrong? Do you use some very fine sugar for it?
Also, my cookies took forever to dry. My last night batch is still drying.
can you please advice where I could be doing wrong. Thanks!
Thank you so much for such GREAT instructions! I do have a question though–I followed your directions, but I think I thinned my “flooding” icing a little too much. The cookies took forever to dry, some icing breached my “dam” and most importantly, tiny bubbles were in all of them, and did not go away upon drying. Will thinning the icing cause these bubbles? I didn’t even shake the icing in my squeeze bottle so I can’t imagine where so many bubbles came from! Also, I was using very light colors and I added more “flooded” icing when they started drying a little and I felt I could still see cookie showing through the icing. I know now that was overkill–well let’s just say I learned A LOT just trying this out on my own! But the bubbles are my major concern. Any ideas?
thank you So much! i have always wanted to decorate cookies but have never known how. i’ve even asked others but never gotten a response. i can’t wait to try with you step by step instructions.
Late to the party here but honestly this post just rocks!!!! I have been baking for y e a r s and have not had great luck with Royal Icing and cookies. Should have been obvious to thin the icing you flood with but nooooo never read it anywhere nor saw it demonstrated! Thank you, Thank you!!!! Keep up the great work! Meesh :D
Beautiful job! My husband is also impressed with the jerseys and wishes there were some Chiefs ones lying on the countertop right now. (I told him they should win first, which didn’t go over well.) Anyway, thanks for the tutorial. It’s very helpful!
Great step by step instructions. Now I can achieve the professional look I have searching for. I make cookies for the local highschool football team every week and have been looking for this sort of instruction so I can make personalized cookies for each team member. Thanks for sharing your experience.
So glad you found this helpful! These cookies are absolutely edible! The royal icing dries smooth and hard. I have never used this recipe to make cookies on a stick, so I can’t attest to that, but if you try it definitely stop back and let us know how it turns out!
Does this sugar recipe that you use, can be used for making cookies on a stick? This is something I am excited to try, but need a good cookie recipe.
I have used a sugar cookie recipe out of the old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for 35 years. Don’t leave out the orange zest. Everyone loves the subtle flavor. If you can’t find it, send me an email and I’ll get it to you.
Thank you for having step by step, found this very helpful compared to other sights.
Do the cookies with royal icing get really hard to eat & are they edible?
Suzanne – I’m glad this tutorial was timely and useful for you! I recommend the gel coloring, as the liquid can tend to affect the consistency and taste too much. I use Wilton brand, and have also heard good things about Ateco.
Thanks for the wonderful tutorial! I want to make sugarskull cookies for a Halloween party and this tutorial is just what I have been looking for since I had no idea on how to go about decorating them. You make it sound very easy! Do you recommend a certain type of coloring such as liquid or gel?
Thank you X 100! This is a fantastic tutorial.
Hi Debbie – I’m thrilled that this post has given you the courage to do decorated cookies for a baby shower! I can’t wait to hear how they turn out!
Loved your detailed instructions and photo illustrations. I want to make sugar cookies for an upcoming baby shower. You’ve given me the courage. thanks!!
I just spent 2 hours delicately painting my biscuits. Once i was done, they still looked like a 2year old had done them :-) so i decided to see how to do this properly (on the net) and came across your website! what a relief!! you have made my next attempt so much more promising. Thank you this was exceptionally helpful.
Wow! This is such a great post of Royal Icing, thanks for sharing the tips.
I will this great step by step with my boys this year
I’m so glad you found this helpful and were able to use the instructions to decorate your cookies! Thanks so much for coming back and letting me know!
The detailed instructions were great! I never would have guessed that it was so easy to decorate cookies like that, I made some for July 4th and they went over really well!
Chenyin – I purchased the cutter in the “Football Theme” cookie cutter set by Wilton at Michael’s craft store. I imagine you could find the same product at any arts and crafts store that sells Wilton products like Hobby Lobby or JoAnn Fabrics. You can also buy them off of Wilton’s website here:
where you buy the cutter?
BigSis – You are welcome, so glad that you found it helpful!
Thanks so much for a great tutorial! I’m bookmarking it on Delicious so that I don’t lose it!
CATHY — Consistency depends on which part of the decorating phase you are talking about. The original consistency should be good enough for piping an outline with a #3 tip (remember that temperature and humidity levels will affect the consistency so you may need to add more or less water). Aside from outlining, if you are doing detailed work with a #1 or #2 tip the icing will need to be a little thinner to keep the icing from breaking. And then of course for flooding the entire cookie you will need the icing even thinner still (see Step #8). I hope this was helpful!
This is super helpful. Step 2 seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve let my impatience get the best of me and cause me to dive into the decorating before the cookies were completely cool.
Love it! I’ve been wanting to tackle royal icing but have been a bit scared, thanks for the easy step by step!
Great tutorial Michelle! Thanks. I always seem to have problems when it comes to the ‘flooding’ part.
I really enjoyed your interview with Donna Diegel on the Examiner.
I am rooting for the Penguins – Go Crosby!
Thank you so much for a such a wonderful tutorial. I have been wanting to make them but have been a little scared. Thanks for the detailed steps.
Oh yes, very helpful! I’d love to see more posts like this.
How purty! You did a beautiful job! I’d never be able to make mine so neat. I’m impressed!
Great how-to for cookie decorating! I am more of a cookie baker than cookie decorator and admire the patience and artistic abilities this takes.
Great tutorial! Cookie decoration is my weak point. Great instructions and photos too! Thanks, looking forward to more wonderful tips tutorials and of course recipes too!
From a Fellow Pittsburgher. GO PENS! This time the cup is ours!
Thanks for taking the time to put together such a helpful post! I’ve never decorated sugar cookies like this before and I really enjoyed all your tips! So cute!
I have been really curious about how to decorate cookies nicely, so thanks for sharing. It also helps that I should already know how to do most of it! :)
I’ve been trying to put together a “how-to” for decorating sugar cookies but I’m horrible at preparing for it so I’ve never felt to expert-like to post about it. I think I’ll scratch the draft I have in my blog and instead just link to this! Thanks!
I always wondered how everyone got their cookies to look so neat. Mine always look like a 2 year old did them. Thanks for the tips.
this is great! I was planning on making decorated sugar cookies but didn’t know where to start. Might be a dumb question, but when you decorate it, do you use the original consistency of the royal icing or the thinned out one?
Hi Cathy, I just wanted to tell you that, I believe she said to use the icing as per the recipe for the outline, then add drops of water Until an almost liquid consistency to fill in. It is step 8 ” flood the cookies. :) . Good luck! I made some cookies a few hours ago and wish I had read this before I did. One other great tip is to ice the bottom if the cookie instead of the top. The top of the cookie edges slope down, whereas the bottom of the cookie is flat. Not only is it easier to ice and looks neater, but the bottom is pretty as well. ( no little crumbs ). Hope this helped you. Crista
i just discovered Brown Eyed Baker while doing a “royal icing for sugar cookies” google search. I loved this instruction and plan to text my skills tomorrow night.
But after reading your comment, i just had to respond and THANK YOU for the suggestion to ice the cookie bottoms. I grew up in a family of cookie bakers, i.e. my mom and her mom. They would start making cookies the saturday after Thanksgiving and wouldn’t stop till the week of Christmas. thousands upon thousands of cookies would be made in my grandmother’s avocado green kitchen.
Great memories I hope to share with my family.
sorry for the brief family history of a perfect stranger but as a fellow baker i thought you would appreaciate the traditions baking can create.
Thank you again for the tip.
Thank you for the tip on decorating the bottom of the cookie. We made round sugar cookies today and are decorating as “softballs” for an end-of-season party tomorrow. I used ready made cookie dough and the top is not smooth….the bottoms are. Thank you!
To flood cookies you make your royal icing just like the recipe says for the outline. Save some of the same for detail work after you flood the cookie. When you thin your icing you want to do it just a teaspoon of water at a time and stir it. When you lift the icing up you want it to stream back down into your bowl. When the stream hits the icing in the bowl you want the stream to disappear in about two and a half seconds. Less is too runny and three seconds or four is harder to look with.
I love this post!!! Please keep giving details that might seem obvious because it’s those things that most bloggers leave out and some of us (me) need the extra help :)
I especially like seeing the supplies needed. Back in March I bought some disposable bags and some tips but didn’t know I needed couplers. I still am not clear on how the bag will attach to a coupler and tip, but I’m thinking the coupler might come with instructions for how to do this?
Thank you, Thank you! I’ve always wanted to know how to do this and now I can! Can’t wait for more How-to’s from you.
Great job and tutorial. Mine never look this good!
Well done, I think you did a great job explaining how to decorate sugar cookies. You were detailed and organized in your presentation. The pictures gave visual instructions for those, like myself, who are visual learners.
This was very helpful! Your step by step instructions and the pictures were great! Now I feel that I know what I will be doing when I try it myself. Thanks!
This was really helpful. I look forward to reading the rest of your “How To’s”
Awesome! I tried decorated cookies just once and it took me forever.
Yours are great.
Love the Pens cookies! I’m a born and raised Pittsburgh fan- love em!
Oh, and I would love to learn about meringue. Do you have any experience with that? My grandma made a chocolate pie with meringue on top and I never got the recipe. Thought I would attempt that this summer. Any info you have to share would be appreciated.
This is really great—thank you for sharing! I love sugar cookies but my icing always drips down the sides. These are awesome tips:) Thanks again.
Loved the step by step instructions and the tips you have given.
I have a question regarding coloring the royal icing. Do you use gel paste or liquid food color to tent the icing? I haven’t tried your decorating suggestions, but it’s exactly what I was looking for and I appreciate the in-depth expalantions.
Thanks so much!
I use the paste or gel to tint mine. You can add whichever you want. The key to using royal icing is to make sure you don’t have any oils or grease touch it or else it won’t set up. Store it in glass or metal bowls, not plastic, as plastic will hold on to fats. Good luck!