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Nov 25, 2010 10:38 AM

A softer Royal Icing

Happy (American) Thanksgiving!

I am making gingerbread cookies for decorating my Christmas tree. Usually, I use Royal Icing to decorate the cookies but I was wondering if there is a way to make my icing less hard when it dries out? The recipe I have calls for water, powdered sugar and meringue powder. Is there another recipe that would dry out well and that I could use to make decorations but that could still be eaten? The recipe would also have to be color friendly, ie: any added color should not be messed up when the icing dries.


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  1. I use a royal icing recipe that calls for shortening that makes for much better eating. I also add almond extract

    The recipe is:
    4 T meringue powder
    1/2 cup water
    7 cups sifted powdered sugar
    1/2 cup shortening
    1 tsp almond extract (or clear vanilla)

    Beat the meringue powder and water until semi-stiff peaks form (5-7 minutes) . Add everything else and beat until smooth, starting on low speed and increasing as the powdered sugar is incorporated.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sarahjay

      Thank you very much!

      will this harden enough so I can use the cookies for decoration (to hang on a tree, for example)?

      1. re: hala

        It will crust over and should stay softer inside, at least for a while. It's a very similar recipe to what I use at the bakery, just smaller

      2. re: sarahjay

        Thank you Sarahjay!

        Here is a picture of some of the cookies that I took to a church event. I burnt some of the cookies, but the icing was perfect.

        I wanted to make a batch of regular icing thinned out with maple syrup to compare, but I discovered that I had run out of syrup.

      3. You can thin your royal icing with a small amount of corn syrup to make it more spreadable and less brittle.

        1. Thank you to both of you!

          1. For me the great advantage of royal icing is that it does get hard and therefore is more stable once dried. When my kids were little (and we lived in a desert!) I used to decorate the tree with gingerbread clowns, Nutcracker Suite characters, and big fat popcorn garland. In the arid climate of Las Vegas, I was able to store them from year to year. The very hard royal icing held up great!

            If your reason for wanting a softer royal icing is because you plan on some of them being eaten, why not make some for eating and some for the tree? If a gingerbread man with hard royal icing accidentally falls from the tree, my experience was that they didn't break or chip. A softer interior to the icing probably would.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Caroline1

              We have young children too and we also decorate our tree with cookies :) You are right, royal icing is perfect for the job as the cookies get pretty tough. However, this year we are expecting DH's entire extended family (30-40 people) over for New Year's Eve. There will be a LOT of very young children and I don't want to hide the tree. So, I thought it might be prudent to make sure that the cookies are tooth- safe in case some of the kids (or their grandparents) decide to eat them.

              1. re: hala

                Bless your very generous heart! And I hope the family is planning on coddling you all day New Years day. Breakfast in bed, a glass of bubbly with your bath, a massage, and someone besides you to clean house. Have a GREAT New Year's Eve!

                1. re: Caroline1

                  Gosh, i guess i forgot to mention I am not cooking. It's a pot luck.

                  Thank you for the sentiment, though. I will suggest breakfast in bed and bubbly to my husband:) Why did I not think of that on my own? But I cannot claim that I worked hard since everyone is bringing food and usually my inlaws will come early and leave late so that they can help with the clean up:) That is why I can easily have 40 people over: I never have to do all the work alone when family is here.

                  1. re: hala

                    Wow! Do you ever know how to pick a husband! I married twice, and both times had in-laws from hell. Good for you! And yay for your in-laws too!

            2. This is a recipe I use with Sally Ann cookies. I hardens like a royal icing into a shiny, smooth layer but stays soft underneath. Warning, I don't know how it pipes--I just cover the tops of cookies with it. It also takes color very well:

              1/2 c granulated sugar
              1 1/4 tsp gelatin (less than an envelope)
              1/2 c water
              2 c powdered sugar
              1/2 tsp vanilla

              Mix the sugar and gelatin in a saucepan, then add the water. Bring to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes on low.

              Sift the powdered sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar/gelatin mixture and beat with a hand mixer on low till blended, then on high for about 10 minutes, till smooth and opaque. Add the vanilla.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Erika L

                Thank you Erika,

                I will try this recipe next year, or once I get my hands on some gelatin :)

                1. re: hala

                  I have heard of people using glycerin.

                  1. re: twodales

                    Check out the Delia Smith recipe here:

                    Note: I use pasteurized eggs for this recipe