How to Store Royal Icing in Between Batches

Do this to prevent it from hardening.

December 24, 2021
Photo by James Ransom

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—royal icing season! Royal icing is a thick icing that dries hard and has the shine of a model’s hair in a Pantene commercial. It’s made using powdered sugar, meringue powder or dried egg whites, which not only stabilizes the icing, but allows it to have a glossy finish. Royal icing season rolls in with the tide of every major holiday, when home bakers suddenly bring out every festive cookie cutter they own to cut stars for Hanukkah, bells and trees for Christmas, eggs for Easter, and pumpkins for Halloween.

Royal icing is the key to making beautiful, intricately decorated sugar cookies. But we can’t have it all, right? Despite its beauty, royal icing can be extremely temperamental and finicky, which is why it’s so important to whip it up well and store it properly when not in use.

How to Store Royal Icing

Royal icing dried fast, which is both a blessing and a curse when baking. Fill a piping bag with royal icing, pipe some squiggles or lines onto the cookie, and within a minute or two, it will have completely hardened. This is great if you want to take a bite right away, but it also means there is little to no room for error. Plus, royal icing made with meringue powder sitting in a mixing bowl will start drying at the same time. So how do you store leftover royal icing?

“Keep the icing covered with plastic wrap or a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out, if you won’t be using it right away, or if you’re tackling an extra-long project,” write the editors of King Arthur Baking Company in their newest cookbook, The Essential Cookie Companion.

In between decorating, the icing should be covered with plastic wrap in the mixing bowl. “This means taking the plastic wrap and covering directly against the surface…It can set in your bowl if it’s exposed to enough so we want to make sure that we cover it directly with plastic wrap, making sure that it’s not getting any major exposure to air, so that it’ll stay the exact texture we want it until we're ready to use it,” explains Food52’s Resident Baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell.

According to Wilton, leftover royal icing made with meringue powder can be stored at room temperature for up to two weeks. Store your royal icing in an airtight container; when you’re ready to decorate with it again, beat it using a hand mixer or stand mixer at a low speed to make the icing smooth and shiny again.

Do you have any other “why didn’t I think of that” ways to store icing? Let us know in the comments below!
Grab your copy

It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

Grab your copy

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Lynn Miller
    Lynn Miller
  • Steven Williamson
    Steven Williamson
Former Food52 Staff Editor


Lynn M. December 29, 2021
I make a lot of cookies decorated with royal icing and have a few extra tips for storage. Before covering with plastic wrap, make sure to scrape all the frosting together and wipe off any stray bits or smears from the edge and sides of the container. These will dry into a crust and you'll have a lot of trouble piping if any of these little hard pieces wind up in your piping bag. I also wipe off the sides and with a wet paper towel to eliminate any dry bits. Then I press a piece of plastic on the surface of the frosting, place a damp paper towel on top, and then cover the whole thing again with plastic wrap sealing it as tight as possible.
When using refrigerated royal, make sure to bring it to room temperature before trying to load your piping bag. When rewhipping it, be sure to do it on low speed to avoid getting big bubbles in the frosting. These bubbles become "blow-outs" when trying to pipe nice lines.
Steven W. December 27, 2021
Can we assume it's the same storage requirements when made with liquid egg whites, either fresh or from a carton? Would there be a difference?

Lynn M. December 29, 2021
Yes, there is little difference, though I find royal made with fresh egg whites to be smoother and glossier.