Royal icing is the secret to a decorated cookie’s beauty. Sure, like any beautiful thing, there is often more than one singular secret to beauty, but royal icing is a big piece of it.
Royal icing is a sweet, hard-drying concoction that is made from two basic ingredients: egg whites and confectioners sugar. The egg whites can be found in three basic forms: liquid egg whites, dried egg whites, or meringue powder. Generally, I’m in the “dried egg white” camp. Many cookiers are in the meringue powder camp. Some cookiers, like Julia Usher, are in the liquid egg white camp.
Compared to meringue powder royal icing, dried egg white royal icing dries faster, shinier, a little firmer, and stronger. The “stronger” part makes this royal icing recipe ideal for royal icing onlays/transfers and structural pieces where pieces are made without the support of a cookie.
If you can find dried egg whites, give this recipe a chance. It works the same as meringue powder royal icing, but it really decreases my anxiety when piping intricate onlay pieces!
Dried Egg White Royal Icing
Your royal icing will be less likely to clump if your confectioners sugar is labeled as “10x.” Most brand names, and some store brands, have this label, but others do not. 10x confectioners sugars have been sifted more finely and have fewer clumps than other brands. In some countries, dried egg whites are sold as albumen.
2 Tbsp. dried egg whites
5 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. warm water
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
5-1/2 c. confectioners sugar
1–2 tsp. flavoring
- Whisk together the dried egg whites and warm water together in a small bowl. The mixture will be disturbingly clumpy. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.
- After the 30 minutes, again whisk the mixture together. Strain the mixture through the finest strainer you have into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Discard any remaining clumps.
- To the strained mixture, whisk in the cream of tartar until it looks like it has dissolved.
- Add the confectioners sugar. Mix the icing at slow speed (Kitchen Aid mixer speed #2) for 8 minutes.
- Add the flavoring. Continue mixing the icing for 2 more minutes (10 minutes total). The mixture will resemble toothpaste.
- Make sure your royal icing is made in a clean metal or glass bowl. The bowl should be free of all fats or grease. This also goes for your tools, like spoons and beaters, that come in contact with your royal icing. Plastic bowls can hold onto fats, and contact with fats may ruin your icing.
- Be sure to use an oil-free flavoring. Royal icing depends on the strength of egg whites. Fats, like oil or butter, will break down your icing and ruin it. Vanilla extract is oil-free, but lemon extract is not (it contains lemon oil). Check the ingredient label on your flavoring.
- Keep the icing covered at all times. I find it best to press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the royal icing. This limits the exposure of the icing to the air and will prevent the icing from drying out.