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+ servings

Royal Icing: Reloaded

When it comes to classic Christmas royal icing, I find the stuff way too sweet and chalky. I make my own powdered sugar in a blender, then add cream of tartar (aka tartaric acid) and kosher salt into the mix to bring a more balanced flavor to my icing.
Note: If you don’t have a high-powered blender, your best bet is to use 1 pound of confectioners’ sugar in the frosting. The flavor won’t be quite as clean as when made with DIY superfine sugar, but it will still work great on top of cookies.
Anyone concerned with consuming raw eggs should make this icing using pasteurized carton egg whites. Start with the lowest amount of pasteurized egg whites and add more, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed to create a spreadable icing. The total amount needed will depend on the sugar texture.
This recipe first appeared in Season 1 of Good Eats: Reloaded.
Homemade royal icing in the stainless steel bowl of a stand mixer gets a taste check from Alton Brown.
ACTIVE TIME: 15 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 cups


  • 2 1/2 cups plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg whites, or 1/2 to 3/4 cup (106 to 158 grams) pasteurized carton egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Specialized Hardware

  • High-powered blender


  • Place the sugar in a high-powered blender. Blend until it is super fine, about 1 minute. Weigh out 1 pound (454 grams), then reserve any remainder for another use.
  • Combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed until smooth, then, still on low speed, stream in the sugar. Once all of the sugar has been incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until a frosting-like consistency is achieved, about 4 minutes. If you’d like a thinner frosting, beat in a little water (or rum).
  • To color the icing, divide the icing between small bowls. Add gel-based food coloring to each portion of icing and stir well to combine. Start with only a drop or two of each color, adding more as desired.
  • Use immediately or store in an airtight container overnight. If you have stored the icing, it may separate overnight; whisk it smooth before using.