Foolproof royal icing recipe and decorating tips for perfect gingerbread

My foolproof royal icing recipe

This recipe is the icing on the cake - or, should I say, the gingerbread. Getting the perfect icing is crucial to all of my bakes and builds, as not only is it how I make all of the bespoke details and patterns in my designs, but it’s also how I stick all of my pieces together! This means I need an icing that’s robust and dependable, but also malleable enough for me to be able to colour it, manipulate it, and perfect tiny finishing touches with it. Too watery, and my builds would fall apart; too thick, and I wouldn’t be able to decorate anything.

You may think it’s an impossible balance to strike but it’s actually really easy to make. No secret tricks, no crazy ingredients - just the right ratios and a steady hand! See my recipe below, and watch the video above to watch it in action.

Ingredients

  • 4 tsp meringue powder

  • 6 tbsp water

  • piping gel (optional)

  • 500g icing sugar (sifted)

  • colours + lustre powder for decoration

Instructions

Mix 4 teaspoons of meringue powder with 6 tablespoons of water and a bit of piping gel until combined. It’ll be quite thin, but with bubbles on top.

NB: Meringue powder is just powdered egg whites, but if you don’t have this you can just use normal egg whites. Piping gel is also optional but if you do have it, use it - it makes for a smoother icing.

Add 500g sifted icing sugar and mix until combined.

Once combined, mix on a high speed for 4-5 minutes.

Decorating tips

I always dye some of the icing brown so that it blends in with the gingerbread and makes the joins and the building less obvious. For both building icing and decorating icing, I use seamless piping bags; you cut the end when you’re ready to start piping, which means you can control the size of the nozzle.

If your biscuit has cracked - and sometimes it does - don’t worry at all! You can incorporate it into your piping design and nobody will ever know.

One of my favourite decorating effects is metallic lustre, because it’s really fun as well as looking elegant. This comes as a powder, which you then mix with alcohol to form a paint - the alcohol evaporates super quickly, leaving you with a perfect metallic sheen. You only need a little bit of lustre (and a tiny bit of alcohol - sorry Mary Berry) to get a really incredible effect.

I personally always favour icing patterns that leave a lot of the gingerbread itself on show but this icing works well as flood icing too!

Ellie Kime