Lemon Royal Icing is citrus-flavored decorating frosting that dries shiny and hard for perfect cookies.
This icing is perfect for piping, coloring and decorating with detail. The lemon flavor makes it delicious on sugar cookies, and even gingerbread.
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Royal icing is the type of frosting used on many decorated cookies, especially the kind at boutique markets, because it dries hard and can be packaged without ruining the cookie design.
For my soft sugar cookies I make my Fluffy Vanilla Frosting. The entire experience is different as the cookie and the frosting both stay soft.
With Royal Icing it's best to frost a crispier cookie as the icing dries and has a nice, candy-like crack to it when eaten.
How to use Lemon Royal Icing:
I love this Lemon Royal Icing it for its versatility and I like that I can add a little brightness with lemon juice.
The lemon becomes the stand out flavor, and I love that it's an unexpected taste when you bite into a cookie. I really like this icing on my Gingerbread Cookies.
You can use it for cookies like my Santa Face Sugar Cookies, Irish Heart Shamrock Cookies, and White Candy Cane Cookies. The lemon gives these treats a lovely citrus pop.
You can make royal icing on the thin side for flooding (creating a smooth surface of frosting on the cookie), or thicker for piping detailed designs. It just depends on the amount of water you add, and how long you mix it.
I use meringue powder in my icing recipe. It's easier, and more food-safe than a raw egg white version. Meringue powder (or powdered egg whites) can usually be found in the grocery store baking aisle. But if not, here's a quick link to get it online.
Lemon Royal Icing gives cookies a pretty look and citrus taste!
The meringue powder will whip up into an actual meringue if mixed too long. I slowly and gently mix my icing for about ten minutes, but some people like a light, fluffy and thick royal icing so they beat it much faster with less water.
The fluffy version doesn't dry shiny and it's a bit more crumbly when dry. So be sure to play around with the consistency you like.
Royal icing takes food coloring really well. I use gel paste colors because they are more concentrated than the liquid drops, and come in so many colors. If I'm making a bright red or green and need plenty of food coloring, it's also nice not to be adding extra liquid to my perfect icing.
This type of icing dries quickly (and if it dries out in your piping tip it's a mess to clean up), so cover your piping tips with plastic wrap or a damp paper towel even if you are setting them aside for just a few minutes. Keep containers of royal icing covered tightly as well.
Lemon Royal Icing
- 4 tablespoon Meringue Powder or powdered egg whites
- 4 cups confectioners' sugar
- ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice plus 1 tbsp
- Combine ingredients in mixing bowl and mix on low speed, scraping sides of bowl as necessary, until icing is smooth and glossy, about 5 min. Thin icing by adding more lemon juice or water 1 tablespoon at a time to create desired consistency.
- For flooding icing should be just thicker than honey; if you're piping designs, the icing should be thick enough to hold the shape.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or use immediately. Stir before using.
- Fluffy Vanilla Frosting for cake, cupcakes and cookies.
- Caramel Icing for cupcakes and spice cake.
- Classic Royal Icing great for flooding and piping.
- Silky Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
The best frosting recipes to make
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Recipe by Tara Teaspoon. Photography Ty Mecham
Why does lemon juice gives shine to royal icing?
While not completely scientific I think the acidity helps keep the mixture from going so dull.
When my frosting sets, it tends to have small dots in them. Are those air bubbles or possibly the lemon pulp? Do you recommend straining the lemon juice?
Tara Teaspoon says
I do recommend straining your lemon juice so you can remove the pulp and any seeds.
In addition, if you are still seeing spots, you can try a couple of things. 1) mix the frosting on a slower setting so you aren't mixing in as much air or 2) after mixing, you can gently stir the frosting with a rubber spatula to release the excess air bubbles and let the frosting settle a bit.
Keep me posted on your results!
Mary Bench says
I didn't know the tip regarding the lemon juice! Fun fact!
Brittany Smart says
Oooh I love lemon!
I'm a new cake designer and I love the fact that I can have a little extra flavor and shine without ruining the texture.
Oh it's fantastic. Enjoy!!
Christina Tran says
Can this recipe be made with orange juice instead of lemon?
Hi Christina, Yes you can absolutely use orange juice!
Amanda Huntington says
Can I use lemon extract instead of lemon juice? And if so how much do I use?
Hi Amanda, yes and no. You would use water in place of the lemon juice. If you wanted the lemon extract flavor I would suggest adding up to 1/4 teaspoon. Start with 1/8 teaspoon and taste it. You won't get the tangy lemon zing flavor that comes with using real juice. You'll get the sweet lemon flavor extract produces. Hope that helps!
Mary P says
DO you have a crispy sugar cookie recipe I can use with this lemon royal icing?
Tara Teaspoon says
Hi Mary, I do have a crispier sugar cookie recipe and thanks for asking. Try the recipe in my Santa Face Sugar Cookie post here. The cookies hold their shape well and come out with a nice crispness. Tara
Hi there! I just made this icing and it tastes amazing!! I was wondering how long it takes to dry all the way through? Thank you!
Tara Teaspoon says
Great question Ashley! I usually give my icing about 3 hours to dry if I'm piping one layer on a cookie. If you are adding a thicker layer or design, like decorations on a fondant covered cake, I would suggest waiting 6 hours max. Hope that helps! -Tara
Julie Haas says
The lemon oil in lemon extract may "break" your meringue (oil and egg whites don't mix!), so I would not use extract...
Julie thanks for noting that oil will break a meringue. That's true!! For my Royal icing recicpes I do not make a meringue. I simply use the egg whites as a stabilizer for the icing. I like to mix it slowly so that a meringue doesn't form and my icing is left glossy and shiny.
You had me at lemon! Seriously! Not only was the icing delicious, but it was so easy to make! It was also like a science experiment with my kids. They were amazed how the icing hardened after we decorated our cookies!
Totally! It gets so lovely with a crunch.