How to decorate with royal icing gives you an easy technique and tricks for how to pipe your icing onto sugar cookies. So simple it’s perfect for beginners. Whether for your Christmas cookies, Hanukkah cookies, or your impromptu Saturday-afternoon baking spree.

Cookies being decorated with royal icing.
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Royal icing is a magic tool in decorating. When piped onto cookies, it sets hard and firm, allowing you to transport the cookies without smearing the decoration. You can get pretty intricate with the stuff, but even just a simple outline of a cookie does wonders for its looks.

There are a few tricks to doing it right, but they don’t take long at all to master.


Using a stand mixer to mix the icing makes it much smoother, but you can mix it all by hand in a large bowl and get loads of steps on your Fitbit.

For piping consistency, start with the least amount of water suggested. Add more water, a drop at a time, until you get to the right consistency. You shouldn’t have to struggle getting the icing out of the piping tip: the icing should flow slowly and, once piped, should keep its shape without any change in shape at all.

A piece of gingerbread being decorated with royal icing.

For a medium consistency, the icing, once piped, should relax a bit and should be relatively easy to nudge to meet up and “melt” into the icing next to it, but shouldn’t drip or flow.

A tree-shaped cookie being filled with royal icing.

For flooding consistency, the icing should flow easily but not be completely liquid. It should be the consistency thicker than maple syrup but thinner than honey. When piped, it should immediately flatten.

Originally published November 30, 2019

About Gesine Bullock-Prado

Gesine Bullock-Prado is an American pastry chef, TV personality, author, attorney, and former film executive. She is the host of Food Network’s Baked in Vermont, and author of several cookbooks, including Fantastical Cakes.

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