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Royal Icing Sugar Cookies – Master Guide

Join me while I share everything you need to know about making the perfect sugar cookies and how to decorate them with royal icing. Whether you’re an experienced baker looking to hone your skills or a beginner eager to learn, this comprehensive guide will equip you with all the techniques and tips needed to create beautiful and delicious treats.

In this blog, I’ll walk you through each step of the process, from mixing the cookie dough to mastering the art of decorating with royal icing. You’ll discover the secrets to achieving flawless cookies with smooth, glossy icing that’s perfect for any occasion, from birthdays and holidays to everyday indulgences.

A person holds a royal icing sugar cookie decorated to look like a lemon slice, with detailed yellow and white icing, against a background of other citrus-themed cookies and lemon slices.

Why Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing?

Sugar cookies are versatile and delightful treats that serve as a blank canvas for creativity. With royal icing, you can transform simple cookies into edible works of art. Perfect for any occasion, from birthdays to holidays, sugar cookies decorated with royal icing are guaranteed to impress.

Products I Use

Click here to view my Amazon Storefront and see all of the products I use for Sugar Cookies! This includes my favorite brand of food dye, piping bags, rolling pins, etc.

Sugar Cookie Ingredients

The ingredients for this sugar cookie recipe are super simple. The confectioner’s sugar in this recipe surprises a lot of people. The reason why we use confectioner’s sugar instead of granulated sugar is for texture.

These cookies come out of the oven so soft and tender with just a slight crisp on the bottom. This sugar cookie recipe taste almost resembles a shortbread. It is not overly sweet, but is just sweet enough. And when it’s paired with royal icing, it is a true match made in heaven.

Sugar Cookie Ingredients | The Squeaky Mixer

Making The Sugar Cookie Dough

This recipe, while very simple, does require a lot of care and patience. As should all recipes 🙂 After creaming together the butter and sugar, scrape down the sides of the bowl. After adding the eggs and vanilla, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Before and after adding in the dry ingredients, you guessed it – scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Constantly scraping down the sides of the bowl will ensure an evenly mixed dough. Without taking the time to ensure that the dough is mixing evenly this increases the chances of the cookies spreading in the oven and not holding their shape as well.

Sugar Cookie | The Squeaky Mixer

Rolling The Dough

I roll out these cookies to 1/4″ thick. This keeps that texture in the middle super soft while the bottom is golden brown. The thickness of these sugar cookies also makes the cookie to royal icing balance just perfectly.

I use a guided rolling pin which you can find here. This helps me to roll the dough out perfectly even every time. Rolling out the cookie dough before chilling allows us to cut out the shapes while the dough is very cold. This will help them keep their perfect cut-out shape without the dough becoming too soft to work with. To prevent the rolling pin from sticking to the dough while rolling it out, place a piece of parchment on top of the dough.

If you plan to make the sugar cookie dough ahead of time and bake it another day, wrap the rolled-out dough with plastic wrap on a cookie sheet. This will prevent the dough from dying out.

Cutting Out Your Shapes

As soon as the dough has chilled in the fridge for at least 1 hour, cut out as many shapes as you can on your rolled-out dough. With the leftover scraps of dough, simply ball it up then re-roll it. Repeat this process until all of the dough has been used up and you’ve cut out as many shapes as you can.

If the dough starts to soften a bit from working with it, place them onto the prepared cookie sheet with parchment paper, spaced about 1 1/2″ – 2″ apart so they’re ready to go in the oven, but let them chill in the fridge for about 15 minutes before baking.

Sugar Cookie Dough | The Squeaky Mixer

Baking Sugar Cookies

Baking these cookies at 400 degrees also helps contribute to the cookies keeping their shape. They only bake for about 8-9 minutes. For your first time with this recipe, try baking them for 7 minutes, check on the bottoms of the cookies, and add time as needed. The bake time also depends on the size and thickness of your cookies. Use your best judgment. The bottoms should be a beautiful shade of golden brown.

I allow the cookies to sit on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes when they’re hot out of the oven before transferring to a cooling rack. They are very hot and breakable when they first come out of the oven so allowing them to sit on the pan just helps them firm up a bit and make it easier to make the transfer.

Royal Icing

When it comes to royal icing, the most important detail is in the consistency. As you make this recipe, be sure to add the water in one tablespoon at a time. Allow the mixer to work in the water slowly before adding more. The royal icing should be able to hold its own weight when the paddle is lifted upside down. The royal icing will slowly fold on itself. This consistency is what we call outlining consistency. This will be used to outline the shape of the cookie. To fill the cookie, we will use what’s called a flood consistency. To achieve this, simply add a drop or two of water at a time to the icing to thin it out. This thinner royal icing will be used to fill the cookie inside the outlining consistency lines that we made before.

As soon as you’ve finished mixing the royal icing, be sure to cover the bowl with a damp towel. A dried-out royal icing will form a crusty top and we will no longer have a smooth royal icing that’s easy to work with. Even in between mixing colors, keep the bowl covered at all times. In the event that this happens and you aren’t sure how to revive your royal icing, place a very damp rag on top of the bowl and let it sit there for about 30 minutes to one hour. It will add moisture back into the royal icing and dissolve the dried-out top.

Meringue Powder

Meringue powder is an extremely important ingredient in this recipe. Meringue powder is dehydrated egg whites that have been ground up into a superfine powder. Traditional royal icing contains pasteurized egg whites. Meringue powder is an easier replacement. Not only does it make the cookies last longer, but allows you to add more details to your cookies once the icing sets. I use Judee’s Meringue Powder. But you can use whichever brand you want.

Mixing Your Colors

Creating all of the colors you need is a bit time-consuming but of course, so worth it. For the best results, I use Americolor Food Gel. Depending on the style/ theme of cookies you’re decorating, the quantity of each color will vary. Let’s say you’re decorating St. Patrick’s themed cookies, odds are you’re going to need a lot of green icing. Scoop a couple tablespoons of royal icing into a small separate bowl. Squeeze a few drops of food dye on top and mix until you’ve reached the right shade. Scoop a small amount of this green-dyed icing and place it into a piping bag. This will be the outlining consistency. With the remaining green icing, add a couple of small drops of water until the consistency is thin and smooth. This will be our flood consistency icing.

Outlining Consistency
Flood Consistency

Decorating Sugar Cookies

With the outlining consistency icing, pipe a border around the perimeter of the cookie. Allow this to set for a few minutes before filling in the cookie. To fill in the cookie, use the flood icing starting on the outside perimeter, within the outline, and work your way inward filling the entire cookie. Allow the flood icing to set for at least one hour or overnight, before adding details on top.

Sugar Cookie Master Guide

Recipe by Maddison Koutrouba – thesqueakymixer.com
4.8 from 33 votes

18-20 cookies

Total time


Cook Mode

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  • 1 cup 1 unsalted butter, room temp.

  • 1 1/2 cups 1 1/2 confectioner’s sugar

  • 1 1 egg, room temp

  • 3 tsp. 3 vanilla extract

  • 2 3/4 cups 2 3/4 + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

  • 1 tsp. 1 baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp. 1/2 salt

  • Royal Icing
  • 3 cups 3 confectioner’s sugar

  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. 2 1/2 meringue powder

  • 3-5 Tbsp. 3-5 water


  • Using a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and confectioner’s sugar on low speed until smooth. Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a silicone spatula throughout this recipe to make sure that everything is evenly combined.
  • Add in the egg and vanilla. Mix for about 2 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. About 1 1/2 minutes.
  • Transfer the cookie dough on top of parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment paper on top and roll the dough out to about 1/4″ thick. The key to getting these so soft in the center is the width. Rolling to 1/4″ thickness is what you want.
  • Once the dough is rolled out between two pieces of parchment paper, place onto a cookie sheet and let chill in the fridge for at least one hour. If you plan on preparing the dough ahead of time and will chill for longer, wrap the cookie sheet in plastic wrap to prevent the dough from drying out.
  • Now that the dough has chilled and is nice and firm, use cookie cutters to cut out all of your shapes. You can ball up the scraps and re-roll the dough to use all of it up.
  • Place the cutout cookies on a cookie sheet fit with parchment paper about 2″ apart. Let sit in the fridge for about 15 minutes before baking.
  • Bake the cookies at 400 degrees F for about 8-9 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Depending on the size of the cookie cutter you may need more or less time. Judge the doneness of the cookie based on the bottom side of the cookie – we want a nice golden color.
  • Let the cookies cool on a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before decorating.
  • Enjoy!
  • Royal Icing
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, mix together the confectioner’s sugar and meringue powder on low speed.
  • Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix until the royal icing is smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is mixing evenly together.
  • Judge the consistency of the royal icing by lifting up the paddle attachment and taking notice of the ribbons the icing falls in. You don’t want a thin, watery consistency or a super thick, hard consistency. The icing should fall in smooth ribbons that disappear into the icing after a few seconds.
  • While you color your icing, or do the dishes, etc. be sure to keep the icing covered at all times with a damp rag. This will prevent the top of the royal icing from hardening and crystallizing.
  • Dye however many colors you need and place them into individual piping bags.

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @thesqueakymixer on Instagram! I love to see what you all create.

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