Gorgeous Valentine’s Day themed cut-out cookies are decorated with royal icing in the easiest way! Put these pink and red heart cookies out for the holiday and you’ll look like a cookie pro.
If you’ve been intimidated to try decorating cut-out cookies with royal icing, I’m here to show you that it’s not hard at all to get great results with royal icing, especially if you have some basic tools and skills in your arsenal. When you’re finished with this tutorial, you’ll be able to use royal icing to decorate cookies for any occasion.
Valentine’s Day Cookies with royal icing are going to be the easiest cookies you’ve decorated yet! As a bonus, royal icing is gluten free and dairy free, so feel free to use it on your favorite sugar cookie recipe.
Today I’m going to bake cookies using a store bought cookie dough for convenience, but I am working on perfecting my cut out cookie recipe to share with you very soon!
Prefer buttercream frosting on your cut-out cookies? See this recipe for Valentine’s Cat Cookies! They are piped with a sweet and creamy frosting and are super cute.
Why Should You Decorate Cookies With Royal Icing?
- Super Simple Recipe – Royal icing is a really easy recipe to make and only requires 3 ingredients. One of those is water, so you only really need to find two things.
- Hardening Royal Icing – royal icing dries hard as a rock (almost) so it’s perfect for making cookies that you plan to give as gifts and makes it easy to stack your cookies up for storage too.
- No Raw Eggs Needed – While the traditional recipe for royal icing is made with raw egg whites, the safer and easier way is to make royal icing with meringue powder, which you can buy in your local craft store or baking shop. It’s available in large supermarkets, or you can also order some online.
- Failproof Cookie Decorating – the royal icing technique I’m showing you today is a “wet on wet” method. We will line and flood the cookies, then add details while the background is still wet. The details will melt into the background color, giving us smooth decorations and no need to fuss with piping lines or raised details. I’ll even show you how to draw on details with a marker – this is my favorite because it’s just like coloring!
- You don’t even need cutter cutters – these tall rectangle cookies were made using a simple ruler and a sharp knife. I love this shape because you can turn it into so many different fun things!
Key Royal Icing Ingredients
Complete list of ingredients with quantities and instructions is located in the recipe card below
Don’t blink – you might miss it! There are only a few ingredients needed to make royal icing for cookies.
- Powdered Sugar: Sometimes called icing sugar or confectioners’ sugar, depending on where you live, this superfine sugar is used in all sorts of frosting and icing recipes. It blends and melts into the other ingredients easily to create super smooth royal icing.
- Meringue Powder: Meringue powder is essentially dehydrated egg whites. The benefit of using this product instead of actual egg whites is that the risk of foodborne illness from consuming raw eggs is eliminated since the eggs have been cooked and processed to create the powder.
- Water: Water moistens the sugar and blends all of the ingredients together. With royal icing, adding more or less water is how we can control the consistency.
- Gel Food Coloring: I always use gel food coloring in icings, because liquid food coloring can throw off the moisture content in my recipes. This is easy to find in large grocery stores and craft stores or pick up a pack of 12 colors online. A little goes a long way with these food colors; a set will last forever.
How to Make Royal Icing for Cookies
You’ll need about 5 minutes and a stand mixer to make this royal icing recipe. A hand mixer can be used instead, but if you have a stand mixer, now is one of those times that you should definitely use it. You can get your arm workout in another way! Once you have your icing made, I’ll show you how to decorate Valentine’s Day cookies with it.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine powdered sugar and meringue powder.
- Add in 8 tablespoons of water, and beat for 1 minute on low speed.
- Continue to add water, one tablespoon at a time until the icing slowly drizzles from the paddle when lifted.
Royal Icing Consistency for Cookies
The consistency that we are going for here is called a medium consistency. We don’t want the icing to hold details when we pipe it onto the cookies. Instead, we want it to spread out on the cookie while having enough sticking power to not completely spill over the edges,
Medium Royal Icing for Cookies: If you take your whisk or a spoon and drizzle a line of icing into the bowl, it should take 13-15 seconds to settle into the icing and disappear. This is the perfect consistency for outlining and filling small to medium sugar cookies.
Stiff/Thick Royal Icing: For piping raised details that hold their shape, you want icing that takes 20-25 seconds to disappear back into the bowl of icing. I’m not using thick royal icing on these valentine cookies, but you may want to. If you make large cookies (over 4 inches) it’s usually best to outline with thick icing and then fill in with medium or thinner icing.
Supplies Needed for Royal Icing Cookie Decorating.
Squeeze Bottles: Bakers who decorate a lot of sugar cookies all have their preferences when it comes to the tools and supplies they use. I like to keep things simple, so for these valentines day cookies, I’m going to use squeeze bottles for my icing.
I like this set that comes with piping tips (tips are not necessary, but nice to have). I also like this cookie decorating kit from Wilton that includes a squeeze bottle, meringue powder, a set of gel food colors, and some plastic tools for painting and pushing icing around. It’s a pretty good deal actually! Otherwise, any set of plastic squeeze bottles will work. For these decorations we need three colors, white, red, and pink.
Squeeze bottles give me just enough control or my royal icing, without making things more difficult or confusing than they need to be. There’s no need to use piping bags or piping tips with this wet on wet royal icing decorating tutorial, but you can use them if you have them. I suggest using #2 or #3 round tip, or just snipping off the end of the bag to get a small hole.
Sprinkles: Valentine’s Sprinkles are a must! I used a variety of sprinkles that I had on hand, and you can do the same. I like this set from Wilton.
Edible Marker: These are so fun to use! You can draw or write anything you like on hardened royal icing with one of these. You can also use them to write on other things like marshmallows or fondant.
You’ll also need a toothpick. Super easy!
How to Decorate Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing – For Valentines Day
- Start with baked cookies. You can use your favorite recipe, or make things easy and buy pre-made dough. The recipe card below includes instructions for making these cookies using Pillsbury sugar cookie dough. You can even buy the cookies already baked at the store! Cookies need to be completely one-hundred percent cool before adding icing to them.
- Tint your icing. For this set of colors, separate your royal icing into 3 small bowls. Leave one of them white. Add a few drops of red food coloring to one to create a nice pink. Add more red food coloring to the third bowl to get red. Fill your bottles with the icing.
- Fill and decorate: Working on just a few cookies at a time, use the icing to outline the shape of the cookie, then quickly fill in the entire background. If needed, use a toothpick to pop any air bubbles or coax the icing to fill in corners. Decorate using one of these simple methods, while the icing is still wet.
- Sprinkles – Place your favorite Valentine’s Day sprinkles on top of the icing while it’s still wet.
- Polka Dots or Stripes – Use a contrasting color to add small dots or lines to the wet icing. The details will slowly fall into the background creating a smooth surface.
- Hearts – Before the flooded area dries, add dots of a different colored icing. Drag a toothpick through the dots to create hearts.
- Ziz-Zag or Marbling – Similar to the hearts, draw lines of icing on top of wet icing. Use a toothpick to drag through, creating patterns.
- Edible Markers – After the background has dried completely for at least four hours, go back and draw on fine details with an edible ink marker. The LOVE cookies were done in this way. First I added sprinkles to the top of the cookies and let them harden. I came back a few hours later to add the letters.
More Fun Cookies to Make
People following a vegan diet generally do not want to eat royal icing. Meringue powder is made from eggs. I have seen vegan royal icing recipes that utilize aquafaba (chickpea can liquid) replicate the holding power of egg whites, but I have not tried it personally yet.
Yes, royal icing decorated cookies stand up really well to being bagged up, much better than any other type. You can wrap your cookies in cello bags and tie them up with pretty ribbons to give as gifts.
Store the finished cookies at room temperature in an airtight container. You can also freeze royal icing decorated cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Have fun making these easy royal icing cookies for Valentine’s Day! Be sure to come back for new fun cookie recipes every week!