How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing

How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing ~ Tips and Techniques

I posted my recipe for Royal Iced Sugar Cookies here. Today, I am sharing some tips and techniques for how to decorate with royal icing. Royal iced sugar cookies are fun, unique and impressive. You can make them as simple or as detailed as you want. And the choice of shapes, colors and designs is endless.

I am not a professional cookie baker or decorator. But after making these numerous times over the past few years, I would like to share some tips to help others who might be intimidated by royal icing. Trust me. I have zero artistic ability. If I can do it, you can do it! A little prep work and you will be on your way to baking and decorating beautiful cookies. Try to get a feel for what types of colors and what size decorating tips you will be using and have a plan before you start the process.

I make these over the course of a few days. On day one, I bake the cookies and store them in an airtight container. Day two, I decorate. And on day three, I package them. These cookies will last for up to two weeks stored in an airtight container. I like to package the cookies up individually in small cookie bags. Then you can ship them in a sturdy box.

Royal Iced Sugar Cookies ~ so pretty and fun for the holidays!

(1) First, gather your supplies:

  • batch of sugar cookies – make sure they are completely cooled
  • batch of royal icing
  • Icing gel colors
  • Small airtight containers for each of the icing colors
  • Spoons
  • Toothpicks
  • Disposable pastry bags
  • Tips (#2 and #3 are my favorite for piping border icing)
  • Squeeze bottles

(2) After you have prepared a batch of royal icing with the desired consistency, color your icing with gel coloring. I have the student kit from Americolor as well as a few other colors I purchased when needed. For the cookies, I like to use a softer, pastel color. Add a small amount of gel coloring a little at a time until you reach the desired color. For these cookies, I used the small ornaments as color inspiration.

Royal Iced Sugar Cookies ~ so pretty and fun for the holidays!

(3) Using a pastry bag, pipe a border around the edge of the cookies. Let stand a few minutes to let icing set. (When you are not using the icing, let it stand in small amount of water so that the tips don’t harden. I use a pastry bag holder with small bowls of water underneath to rest the tips in.)

How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing ~ Tips and Techniques How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing ~ Tips and Techniques

(4) After piping the edge of the cookies, mix a small amount of water (a few drops at a time) into the remaining icing to achieve a smoother consistency. The icing should drip of the spoon easily when lifted and should disappear back into the bowl of remaining icing within 10 seconds. Keep adding small amounts of water until the desired consistency is reached. If you get to the point where you think the icing is too thin, just mix in a small amount of powdered sugar to thicken it.

Let the icing stand a few minutes to let any air bubbles settle to the surface. Gently stir the icing to pop any bubbles that form.

(5) Using a spoon, carefully flood the area to fill the cookie within the border. If the icing does not spread to the edges completely on its own, use a toothpick to help smooth it into the edges. Pop any air bubbles that form on the cookies with a toothpick and they will disappear. (You can also fill squeeze bottles with the icing or use a pastry bag to flood the cookies. I prefer the spoon method but do whatever works for you.)

How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing ~ Tips and Techniques

How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing ~ Tips and Techniques

How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing ~ Tips and Techniques

(6) Allow the cookies to set for at least 12 hours uncovered to allow the icing to harden completely. Once they dry, you can add more detail with additional piping, as desired.

Royal Iced Sugar Cookies ~ so pretty and fun for the holidays!

A few additional tips:

  • Meringue powder: I have used several varieties of meringue powder. I prefer the Ateco brand meringue powder because I notice that it results in a slightly smoother finish. However, the other brands will work fine.
  • For me, it took one or two batches before I got a feel for what the consistency should be and the best way to flood the cookies.
  • The royal icing will keep for quite some time. I keep it in the fridge and then mix again just prior to using.
  • Always keep your icing covered and your pastry bag tips sitting in water. It helps to prevent the icing from drying out.
  • Have a plan. The cookies take a little time and it helps to be prepared. Plan when you are going to bake them, frost them and serve them. Also, decide what shapes and colors you are going to use, and what details you will include.

I hope that these tips and techniques help. I know it might look intimidating, but trust me when I say that if I can do it, you can do it! Just go for it and make some delicious and beautiful cookies!

*Disclaimer – please note that this post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you were to make a purchase through one of these links, I would receive a small commission.  Thank you for your support of Spoonful of Flavor!


  1. Kristi @ Inspiration Kitchen

    I’ve never been successful at making iced cookies – but this tutorial is GREAT! I love the look of the finished cookies, but maybe with some practice I can make lovely cookies like these. These look fantastic Ashley!

  2. Kelly

    This is such a great tutorial Ashley 🙂 Decorating can definitely be intimidating and takes time to plan and I love how you broke all the steps down so clearly with helpful pictures! I only decorate cookies around the holidays too or for very special birthday parties too since it can be so time consuming but it’s wonderful to see the end results. Your cookies look so gorgeous and would bring a big smile to anyone’s face who sees them 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing and hope you have a wonderful weekend!

    • Ashley

      Thanks, Kelly! I hope you have a wonderful weekend also.

  3. Consuelo @ Honey & Figs

    I’ve always wanted to make cookies like these, thanks for the awesome tutorial!
    And have a wonderful weekend! x

    • Ashley

      You should definitely try them, Consuelo! Enjoy the weekend!

  4. Natalie @ Tastes Lovely

    Ok, after seeing your picture from the first post with the outline of the icing I was like, “Oh! That’s how you do it without it running everywhere!” Could have used that last year when my cookies turned out all goopy and runny. Ha! So helpful. Thanks for sharing Ashley!

    • Ashley

      Yes, the border is a necessity with these cookies. I hope you try them again, Natalie!

  5. Ashley

    Great tutorial Ashley! I love making these type of cookies and get better at it each time! I think my biggest struggle now is the piping of the outline – I can never keep my hand straight! lol Ah well : ) Happy weekend!

    • Ashley

      Your cookies always look great! No matter how much I practice, I can’t ever keep my hand straight either!

  6. Kelli @ The Corner Kitchen

    Seriously awesome tutorial! I have zero experience working with royal icing….I think because I’m secretly sort of intimidated by it. But, next year I will totally concur this!

    • Ashley

      Thanks, Kelli! I’m sure your cookies would turn out perfect. I hope that you try them sometime.

  7. ela@GrayApron

    That will come handy for sure…I know nothing about royal icing. Pictures are beautiful 🙂 ela

  8. ATasteOfMadness

    I have tried icing cookies with no avail. These look perfect, nice tips 🙂

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  10. Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl

    Great tips, especially for those icing challenged (raises hands). Also can I say how much I love those pastels you are working with here?!

  11. Zainab @ Blahnik Baker

    Thanks for the great tips. I need to try again decorating cookies. Your colors are beautiful and you are definitely a pro.

  12. Jessica @ Jessiker Bakes

    Ashley this is so useful! This is basically how I decorate my cookies also. These look so flawless, well done again!

  13. Amy @ Elephant Eats

    Your cookies came out adorably! And i love the colors 🙂 Iced sugar cookies are the best, but they are definitely time consuming.

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  18. Sarah

    Baking powder wasn’t called for in the cookie recipe. When I baked these cookies, they spread out and looked like a tortilla.

    • Ashley

      Hi Sarah! That is correct, there is no baking powder in these cookies. It sounds like maybe you needed to chill the dough longer. The dough needs to be chilled until firm before baking or else the cookies will spread.

      • Sarah

        I chilled the dough overnight. It wasn’t the right consistency. Definitely not like sugar cookies. It had a cream cheese texture.

        • Ashley

          Sorry to hear that, Sarah. It is hard to say what went wrong then because none of the ingredients in these cookies should make it have a cream cheese texture. I hope you get a chance to try again! Here is a reader who made these cookies recently with great success

  19. Patty

    I used your recipes and instructions to make volleyball cookies for my daughter’s team. They turned out perfect! Thanks for the great instructions and tips! I wanted to post a picture, but here is the link to my pin: Thanks again!!!

    • Ashley

      Hi, Patty! Thank you so much for the picture, the volleyball cookies look awesome! I am so glad to hear that you loved the recipe and used the tips!

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  21. Catherine

    Do you leave them in the refrigerator for the 12 hours to dry or out of the refrigerator?

    • Ashley

      Hi, Catherine! I just leave them on my dining room table or kitchen counter to dry. Do not put them in the fridge.

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  24. creativejewishmom/sara

    I have been wanting to do this for years. maybe this is the year to do this with hanukkah cookies! thanks for sharing on craft schooling Sunday!

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  27. Freda Sultana

    Hi there, im from Australia and we dont have meringue powder here. Im wondering if there may be a substitute for it. Thanks.

    • Ashley

      Hi, Freda! I apologize for the delay. I just saw this comment. You can use dried egg whites or even fresh egg whites instead. One fresh egg white is equal to about 1 tablespoon of meringue powder. If you use dried egg whites, substitute 1 tablespoon dried egg whites for 1 tablespoon meringue powder.

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