This is, hands-down, the best and simplest royal frosting recipe you’ll find, straight from my mom’s way old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook – you know the one: red and white gingham cover and classic 70’s recipes like slices of American mystery cheese rolled on top of apple pie, ambrosia, and more fondue than you can shake a stick at.  But they do have some good recipes and we keep it around for – if nothing else – good ol’ nostalgia.

This is a fantastic recipe for our gingerbread houses which have become Christmas traditions, since it hardens beautifully but is not hard to squeeze (a hard balance to find with royal icing recipes). 🙂 We personally LOVE the Gingerhaus found on Sur la Table. (I would include a link but Sur la Table stopped carrying them several years ago; the last one we found was on Etsy, so just Google it and see what results you find. If you search for it online, you’ll see what it’s supposed to look like. Be warned, this is, of course, a seasonal item so I have an annual reminder on my phone to order it a week or two before Thanksgiving.)

Makes 3 cups

NOTE: This recipe WILL NOT WORK if you have even a speck of oil in your mixing bowl. Scrub well with soap and water, then wipe down completely (water will do the same thing as oil). If you don’t do this preparatory work thoroughly, you’re just wasting your ingredients, your time, and (if you’re not using a standing mixer) your arm. Your icing will just be flat and icing-y.  This is true of ANY egg white/meringue recipe.  Oil and water are the devil.


  • 3 egg whites (at room temperature)

  • 1 1-lb. package confectioner’s sugar, sifted (about 4¾ cups)

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (it’s important to use imitation instead of real because imitation is clear – you don’t want your royal icing to become muddy with the brown color of natural vanilla extract)

  • ½ tsp. cream of tartar


  1. Combine all ingredients.

  2. Beat with electric or standing mixer 7 – 10 minutes or until frosting is very stiff (a standing mixer is a LIFE-SAVER, or at least arm-saver)

  3. Keep frosting covered with damp cloth at all times to prevent crust from forming.

To make flowers:  Make flowers with pastry tube on silicone paper or waxed paper (or a silpat). Let dry 8 hours before peeling off paper. Dab a little frosting on bottom of each flower to attach to top or sides of cake.