Royal Icing Consistency

When I started decorating cookies, the single most frustrating thing for me (and I knew I was not alone) was royal icing consistency. I was known as The Bald Baker because Royal Icing Consistency made me pull my hair out every time I made it. When I grew my hair back I changed my name to The Bearfoot Baker. I looked and looked for videos and tutorials but  there were not any so I began to play. I made batch after batch until I got it right.  Here is “my” way of doing it. I want this to be a starting point for you because what works for me, may not work for you.

Royal Icing Consistency

I grew up watching TV shows like “The Beverly Hillbillies.” I am kinda like them as far as keeping things simple. So, I will start with what I call my “Fancy Icing.” You know, like how the Clampetts called the dining room table  “The Fancy Eaten Table!”  I don’t know the proper name of this icing and I don’t want to. It is thick and makes my cookies beautiful or “Fancy”. Good enough for me!

Royal Icing Consistency:

Fancy Icing

Royal Icing Consistency thebearfootbaker.comThis icing is straight from the mixer. I didn’t thin it down. As a matter of fact, I used this recipe and removed  1 1/2 TBLS of water so it would be thicker.

Royal Icing Consistency thebearfootbaker.comWhen you pull your spoon out it should make a peek like this one.

Royal Icing Consistency thebearfootbaker.comWhen you squeeze this icing onto a cookie it should hold it’s shape. This consistency is used for flowers, ribbon roses, shell borders and other techniques to fancy up your cookies. Remember my penguins? I used this icing for their hats. I will show you more things you can do with this icing soon.

Royal Icing Consistency thebearfootbaker.comHow do you know the difference between your icing? Well, it is easy. You cut it with a knife and see how long it takes for the cut to disappear. The number of seconds it takes to disappear will tell you what consistency it is. I will show you.

Just so you know, I NEVER use a stopwatch to time my icing! I just count but people count at different speeds so this is my way of showing you the difference. A picture is worth a thousand words right?

Outline Icing: 

Royal Icing Consistency thebearfootbaker.comI was a little surprised to see my outline icing was 30 second icing. I do like it a little thick but that seemed a little long. So, I put it in a bag and it was just the way I liked it. When I used it for piping, it came out of the bag very easy but held its shape.

Flood Icing: 

Royal Icing Consistency thebearfootbaker.comThis is my flood icing. The line disappeared after 5.9 seconds. So lets call it 6 Second Flood. I like it like this because I can flood a lot of cookies really fast and it makes the surface of the cookies smooth and ready for the detail work.

Fifteen Second Icing:

Royal Icing Consistency This is my Fifteen Second Icing. I learned this from SweetSugarBelle. When she did her post on Twenty Second Icing I got so excited that I almost did a cartwheel.

Why do we need Fifteen Second Icing? I am glad you asked. Let me show you.

When Outline and Flood Get Together:

Royal Icing Consistency thebearfootbaker.comIn these pictures you will notice 2 bags. One is for outlining and one for flooding. I use outline and flood most of the time when I decorate. I love outline icing for detail work because I feel like it gives me the control I need. It is like a well behaved dog. It knows how to sit and stay! I put it where I want it and will stay all day.

“Remember Tom Cruise in “Top Gun?” Well, that is how flood icing makes me feel. To quote Maverick, “I feel the need…the need for speed!” I can flat out make some cookies with this icing! I squeeze and it just knows what to do. It fills every hole and dries with no bumps or craters. Love this icing! When you put them together they look good and dry with an edge, kinda like Maverick and Goose.

The downfall to using outline and flood icings is, I have to mix two consistencies of icing, use 2 bags or bottles, use 2 couplers, use 2 tips and have double clean up! Yes, I will spend more time preparing the icing and more time during clean up. Not really fun but sometimes you need to do it.

Fifteen Second Icing:

Royal Icing Consistency Fifteen Second Icing is wonderful. You only need one bag to outline and flood. One bag, one coupler, one tip so it will cut your prep and clean up time in half. And when it dries, it is smooth and has a nice round edge with no outline. This icing consistency reminds me of being a mom in Nike’s! Yes you heard me, a mom in Nike’s. It gets the job done without wasting time! Just do it!

Well, there you have it. I use 4 consistencies of Royal Icing. I hope you start playing and experimenting until you find what works for you. Don’t give up because you will get it! I promise!!!

Everyone needs to find what works best for them but it is good to have a few people show you how they do it. So head over to these blogs and see how these amazing ladies like their icing. I wish there were around when I started decorating.
Here is the way my friend LilaLoa likes her icing.
Here is the way my friend SweetSugarBelle likes her icing.
Here  is the way my friend Sweetopia likes her icing.

If you are looking for some tips and tricks to cookie decorating, you may enjoy the  “Beginners Guide to Cookie Decorating”..

Bear hugs,



  1. Great post! You are so right that what works for one person may not work for another. I have tried piping and flood, 20 second, 15 second, 10 second, etc. I always find myself going back to piping and flood. It’s more time and cleanup but it makes the cookies just like I like them. I’m gonna sound like a broken record but I just love your photos. You are a pro Lisa!

    • Melissa, I just outline and flood most of the time. Sometimes I will find a cute simple design that will allow me to use the Fifteen Second Icing but most of the time I make 2 of each color.

      You are so sweet and you could never sound like a broken record here!! LOL!! I love when you leave me comments! You make my day:)
      Happy Creating!

  2. THANK YOU, THANK YOU for sharing what works for you! I STILL struggle with consistency at times!!!! Love how you showed everything step by step and loved seeing the stop watch!!!!! I’m so grateful to have so many amazing people willing to teach their techniques!!!! You’re cookies are all around AMAZING!!!

  3. Oh fantastic – so happy to hear that your flood icing is so runny, I like it that way too – it’s great for wet on wet dots/hearts/marbling etc. Having read books and other web sites I thought I was being clumsy and I really ought to be using it thicker…like proper cookie decorators do!!! So happy to hear that all this time I WAS doing it like a proper cookie decorator – great blog Lisa, thanks so much.

  4. Christina says:

    I am new to cookie decorating and have only done pipe and flooding! How do the cookies turn out differently if you use 15 second icing to outline and flood rather than the two different consistencies?

    • Hi Christina, the only things I have noticed is the Fifteen Second Icing doesn’t dry with craters like the flood does sometimes and you don’t have the outline edge. Let me know if you have any other questions:)

  5. Great post I personally outline and flood with one bag i dont have the patience to do two different icings haha but it definitely took alot of practice!

  6. Michaela says:

    Thank you so much for this! I still struggle with icing consistency. You are too funny! I have one question. How many seconds is the icing you use for detailed work with # 00-1.5 tips? Thank you so much!

  7. Great tutorial, I’m book marking for future reference.
    Question – I have had so much trouble with dark icing fading onto light. I like your 6 sec icing idea but that seems to be where I get into trouble. Even with a nice dry outline when I introduce the looser icing it seems to cause the whole thing to fade out into the light color after several hours. Any thoughts?

    • I have 2 suggestions for this problem. The first is make and color your icing before and use less gel color. As the icing sits it will become a little darker.
      The second suggestion is use a fan to help dry your cookies. SweetSugarBelle did a post and when I started doing it my bleeding troubles disappeared. You can find her post here.

      Remember, you can always make your flood icing a little thicker. Humidity does effect royal icing so what works in one place may not work in another. I do feel like the fan will help you.

  8. Thank you for this post! I just started decorating with royal icing in January and icing consistency is what I am struggling with. I need to be more patient with myself! You made me want to go make icing IMMEDIATELY but it is 10:00 PM so I think I’ll wait till tomorrow:)

    • Hey Susan, we all struggled with the icing in the beginning. Every now and then I still have a weird batch. Keep practicing and you will get it. Let me know if you have questions;)

  9. I think we were feeling an icing consistency epidemic. Everyone needs to know!! (Do you mind if I add a link to this post on my post?)

  10. Love the post. A couple of questions…are you thinning out with water or corn syrup and how much do you add? Or are you adding until it flows at the number of seconds you like?

    • I use water and the spray bottle in the picture to thin my icing. I add one spray at a time until I get it the right consistency.

  11. What a fabulous post – Just pinned it to my cookie board! Thanks for the mention. xo

  12. I love that you actually timed yourself. I’ve heard of the 15 sec. icing as 10 sec, 12 sec, 20 sec-etc cause everyone counts differently! It’s nice to see it actually timed. next time, I think I need to time myself to see how long my “12 second” icing really is!

  13. This post is so awesome, Lisa! Hopefully you saw that I linked to it from one of my recent posts. I just think this answers so many questions for anyone who is new to cookie decorating. Getting the right icing consistency can be frustrating and posts like this are what helped me get it all figured out! Thanks so much for sharing!

  14. Many thanks for the explanation and photos, I too was going to end up bald as my consitencies weren’t right. I will give these methods a try next time I bake.

  15. Hello,
    I have a question, what is the consistency difference between the edge icing and the flood icing?

    • The “outline” icing you put on the edge will hold its shape and not run off the side of the cookie. The “flood” icing is a little thinner so it will smooth out and not be rough or bumpy.

      If you have any other questions feel free to email me at

  16. Random question…
    Does putting more or less icing come out smoother for you? I am trying to work out some of my normal issues and it just never looks as even and perfect as all the online cookies I see!

    • Hi Alexis, I like to build my icing up a little bit but, the smoothness depends on the way you make your icing. When I first started my icing was lumpy looking. Email me if you have more questions and I will do my best to help you.

  17. When using the 15-sec icing, how long do you wait between outlining and flooding?

  18. BRILLIANT POST! THANKS! I only started experimenting with royal icing today and it drove me crazy to be honest! But I love it! One questiom.. When I add some water to make the flooding the colour becomes lighter and the overall result is not perfect as you can see the outlining darker than the flooding.. any tips for this? Thank you very much!

  19. Hi Lisa, you are amazing!!! congrats on the blog and the great work you do!!! I live in Colombia (South America) and am a self taught artist/baker. I do “edible art”. It’s great to run into blogs like yours!! keep up the great work!

    • Hi Patti! I just looked at your site and you are very talented! Love the Halloween cake with the spiders!

  20. Hi, thanks so much for the post! You mention using 4 consistencies of icing. Is one of them the 20 second icing of sugarbelle’s? What would be the benefit of using the 15 sec over the 20 sec and vice versa? I’ve not made them each so I’m having a hard time picturing the differences. I hope I’m making sense. I’m having a hard time verbalizing my question. :)

  21. Hi, love the blog…I am so new to cookie decorating but you have made me believe I can do it. Last night I attempted to make some RI transfers and left them out all night to dry but this morning they were still kind of mushy on top and I don’t think they will come off the paper nicely in one piece. Do you happen to know what I might have done for this to happen? Thanks so much and your baking / cookies are amazingly beautiful!

    • Sometimes it takes royal icing transfers a little while to dry. I would suggest using a fan to dry them and make them a few days in advance. I live in a humid place and sometimes mine dry overnight and sometimes it takes 2 days. I wish there was a more precise answer but, you have to play it by ear with royal icing.

  22. This is some great info! I’ve been doing custom cakes for years but have just started experimenting with cookies. Really helpful! Thanks and keep up the great work :)

  23. Rachel elizabeth dickens says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I cannt wait to try. Royal icing is the something that I cannt seem to master. Hopefully after ur tips I will. Quick question , u made some cookies the other day and have found that they have craters in them but only in one color and it all came from the same batch. Do u know why this happens?

  24. hiii, it is really useful site, i like to ask what are the tips number u r using?


    • Hi Amira,
      I love PME Tips and usually use #1.5 for details, 2 for outlining and flooding small areas, and #2.5 for flooding large areas.

  25. Thank you so much! Today is my first day to attempt piping royal icing on cookies. Love all the detail you put into this with the pictures. It really helps! Also, thank you for providing different types of piping consistencies. I hope my cookies look half as good as yours!

  26. hey
    How long should I wait after flooding the cookies before making the artwork/designs over cookies …

  27. look how long ago you posted this and it is still inspiring beginners like me to try! to my knowledge, I have not tasted Royal Icing. The buttercream icing of my childhood’s cut-out cookies that Mom made is the only icing I ever recall eating. I gave up making cut-out cookies long ago because after alllllll that work,
    they weren’t “pretty”. Royal Icing intrigues me.
    a blog like yours is so FULL of all the information that I am delighted to find and download into my brain!
    (yay me!) I SO APPRECIATE the time you have taken with photographs and explanations; it’s just great to “meet” people with such generous hearts that they literally share the wealth with all of us!
    I thank you again! I have bought all my ingredients and am ready to try and I can’t help but feel successful already because of gals like you that have paved the way through to make my path easier.
    many hugs woman!

  28. Just a quick question… Does the consistency of the icing affect the final hardness/crunch of the dried decoration. I’m thinking of using royal icing to pipe lace on waxed paper first then when it dries, transfer it onto flooded cookies when I need to for a raised effect. Would using a stiffer icing result in a stronger lace that is more resistant to breaking. Tried using a 10 second icing and it was really brittle.

    Thanks and Regards.

    • Hi Richard,

      Piping lace onto wax paper is fairly simple but, removing it in one piece is the hard part. Royal icing dries hard but, it is delicate. A thicker icing will give you a more defined line but won’t help with the breaking issue. I do know from experience, if you pipe a wider line on wax paper it will be less likley to break. I myself have never tried to do lace as a royal icing transfer. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done but, I think it would be extremely hard to remove it in one piece.

      I wish I had a better answer for you. Sorry!

  29. Hi Lisa
    I am struggling to find meringue powder.. Just wondering how many egg white I need to use instead of the powder.. Thanks in advance
    Looking forward to hearing from ya


  30. Holy cow, Batman, you just gave me the magic formula I need for icing. Up until now, it has been “that looks about right”.

  31. Where can I find the 15 second icing recipe?

  32. Khadija says:

    Hi…to thicken my royal icing i added a lot of sugar but thw end result was terrible. The icing is a lot sugary and not frothy. What do i add to it to get the right consistency for flowers? ?

    • Hi Khadija,
      When you make your batch of royal icing, cut down the amount of water your recipe calls for. If you recipe calls for 3/4 cup of water, take out 3-4 tablespoons before you add it to the meringue powder. (Here is the link to my RI Reciep: The icing will taste the same but when mixed, it will be a lot thicker. Then, you can get the consistency you want when you add your food gel colors. Add a little water with a spray bottle filled with water to thin it or sprinkle a little powdered sugar at a time to thicken it.

      My email is if you have more questions. I am here to help! 😉

  33. katherine says:

    I am new at this, but confused. Do you use 15 second icing to flood AND outline? I want to find a recipe that will do both because I can’t do separate icing because I can not for the life of me get the colours to match, so I need to use one icing for both. I think you said you do, but then it sounded like maybe you have separate recipes…help!!!!

    • You can use 15 second icing to outline and flood. If you outline and wait a few minutes to flood, your icing will show a line on the edge where the outline and flooded icing meets.
      If you outline and flood immediately you icing will look like it is rounded and smooth without the line. It will look smooth until it touches the cookies.
      Different decorators have different ways they prefer. I usually outline and wait. But you need to make a few and see which one works best for you.
      Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Bear hug,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *