How to Make Royal Icing for Christmas Cakes

Written by elaine davidson
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How to Make Royal Icing for Christmas Cakes
Royal icing can make your Christmas cake attractive while helping keep it fresh and moist. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

The tradition of using royal icing to top Christmas cake is an old one, originating in the United Kingdom. This easy-to-make white icing not only looks attractive on Christmas cakes, it is easy to spread on the cakes' uneven surfaces and it helps keep them fresh longer as it forms a hard, protective shell. Ice the Christmas cakes directly after preparing it as it will turn from royal icing to royal concrete in the bowl within minutes.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 0.454kg. confectioner's sugar
  • 4 tsp lemon juice, or 2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, or 1 1/2 tsp of either, orange, peppermint or almond extract
  • 4 small egg whites or 4 tbsp of meringue powder plus 6 tbsp warm water
  • 3 to 6 drops edible glycerine, optional (adds gloss)
  • Large bowl
  • Electric mixer or wire whip

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  1. 1

    Sift 0.454kg. confectioner's sugar two or three times to ensure it has a fine consistency with no lumps.

  2. 2

    Separate four egg whites into a large bowl and reserve the yolks for other cooking uses. If you prefer, make a meringue mixture instead composed of 4 tbsp of meringue powder mixed with 6 tbsp of warm water.

  3. 3

    Whip the egg whites or meringue mixture with an electric mixer or wire whip until stiff.

  4. 4

    Gradually add 4 tsp lemon juice or a flavouring extract like vanilla (2 ½ tsp), orange, peppermint or almond (1 ½ tsp) to the large bowl along with the sifted confectioner's sugar. If you prefer a glossy icing over a matt finish, add 3 to 6 drops of edible glycerine.

  5. 5

    Mix for an additional minute or two until all the ingredients are well-blended and the mixture is a good consistency to spread. Use as soon as possible or cover the bowl with a damp cloth to keep the icing from hardening.

Tips and warnings

  • If your icing appears greyish you have two options: It will turn snowy white if you beat it longer, or you can add a drop of blue food colouring during the mixing.
  • To get a smooth finish on your cake while icing, put the icing on the cake and then dip a palette knife into a bowl of hot water (don't get the knife too wet) to spread it and smooth it out.
  • If you are worried about the risk of salmonella from using raw egg whites, substitute meringue powder.

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