The only sure-fire way to dry royal icing is simply time - letting royal icing cookies sit out at room temperature to fully harden. This typically takes a minimum of 6-8 hours. Though there is no substitute for time, there are a few tips and tricks to help speed up the process.
- Dry Royal Icing Cookies in Front of a Fan
- Use a Food Dehydrator to Dry Royal Icing
- Make a Thicker Consistency Icing for Quicker Drying Time
What is Royal Icing?
Royal Icing is different from many other buttercream frostings or icings in that it dries hard with a smooth finish. This makes it ideal for making intricate and fun cookie designs. It is made up of simple ingredients, most of which can be purchased at a grocery store. Though you may need to hit up your craft stores for a few items.
If you want to make your own royal icing, here is my 3 Ingredient Simple Royal Icing Recipe!
Powdered sugar (aka confectioners sugar or icing sugar) is the main ingredient in royal icing. Make sure it is well sifted and there are no clumps when mixing the icing.
Some form of egg whites is an essential ingredient in royal icing. This is what allows the icing to harden. Meringue powder, fresh egg whites, or egg white powder can be used. In place of raw egg whites, my preference is to use meringue powder. With meringue powder, you do not need to worry about potential food-borne illnesses that could be a risk with raw egg whites.
Many traditional royal icing recipes do use egg whites very safely with great results. This is something I would love to learn a little more about in the future - but in the meantime, I love my meringue powder.
Lastly, you need water! Water is the ingredient that will allow you to create different consistencies with your icing. Adding more water will create a thinner icing (or flood icing) that is used to cover the base of the cookie. Less water will create a thicker piping consistency that is better for details. Always add just a few drops of water at a time, it’s always easier to add more water to thin the icing than it is to thicken the icing.
Pro Tip: use a spray bottle to add water so you don't accidentally add too much at a time.
Royal Icing Uses
Royal icing has SO many uses. Since it dries hard you can use it to decorate cookies, gingerbread houses, royal icing transfers, button candy, and can even be used to make your own sprinkles! With the right consistency, you can create intricate designs on your sugar cookies - which is my personal favorite use for Royal Icing.
Methods to Dry Royal Icing
Allowing royal icing cookies or other royal icing decorations to sit out at room temperature to dry, is the best way to harden the icing. The minimum amount of drying time required is typically 6-8 hours. However, this time can be variable. The best way to get your royal icing to harden is to let it sit out on parchment paper or wax paper for many hours, place it in front of a fan, or put it into a food dehydrator.
Room Temperature Drying
Royal Icing needs at least 6-8 hours of drying time to thoroughly harden so that it can be touched or moved without creating imperfections. After about 30 minutes to an hour, a thin crust will begin to form on the top of the royal icing. When this happens, it will begin to look like it is dry, but the icing underneath that top layer will not yet have hardened.
Whether you are decorating cookies with royal icing or creating some other sort of royal icing decorations, place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or straight onto a wire rack to dry.
Though the standard drying time for most people is about 6-8 hours, there are a few things that could alter that time. The icing consistency will be a large factor in this. The thicker the icing, the quicker it will dry. For flood consistency icing (thinner icing), you will need much more drying time. If your icing is too thin (or left to dry in a very humid environment, your cookies may dry with a matte finish instead of the shiny look.)
Humidity will also have a huge impact on the perfect royal icing drying time. I’ll go more into depth on that later, but essentially, in higher humidity, you will need more drying time.
Using a Fan
Using a fan to assist in drying royal icing is my personal favorite method. I use a small table fan to help circulate the air around the cookies. This will not only cut down on drying time but will also help the royal icing to dry with a bit of a sheen. The quicker that thin crust forms, the shinier the icing will be, and the better chance you will have to avoid craters as well.
Simply allow the fan to blow cool air over the cookies on a baking sheet or drying rack. Just don’t use too powerful of a fan… you don’t want it to blow the wet icing around and mess up your designs.
Food dehydrators are an excellent way to speed up the drying process. As in the name, they will ‘dehydrate’ the frosting by removing the moisture. There is also airflow in the dehydrator helping the royal icing to dry puffier and shinier.
Dehydrators are also great for getting that first layer of the royal icing cookie to dry quickly, so there is less waiting time between your first and second layer of icing.
Don’t worry though, cookies have to be in the dehydrator for a LONG time to actually dry out the cookie. I have used my dehydrator occasionally for royal icing drying, but I am by no means an expert (nor do I have one of the best food dehydrators for this). However, I would highly recommend this post by Borderlands Bakery where she outlines the best dehydrators and some more thorough information on using them for your cookies!
Making Your Icing Thicker
Your flood icing (the thin icing used to decorate larger surface areas of cookies) has to be fairly thin to spread nice and smooth across the cookie. Typically somewhere in the 5-15 second icing range (you can read more about icing consistencies here). The closer you can get this to 15 seconds the quicker it will dry. You will also find that detail consistency icing will dry VERY fast.
Essentially, the thicker you can make your flood icing, the smoother, puffier, and quicker it will dry. Practice Practice Practice is really the name of the game when it comes to finding the right consistency for you and for your climate!
Humidity and Royal Icing
High humidity is straight up the devil when it comes to drying royal icing. As moisture from the icing needs to be drawn out for it to harden, having excess moisture in the air is just about the worst thing. I learned this the hard way after letting some cookies sit out overnight in a humid Buffalo summer (and also, I did not have air conditioning). I came to get them the next morning and they were STILL tacky. Literally the worst feeling.
Though I’m sure dehydrators would work just fine for humid climates, the trick that works best for me is a window air conditioner. I often let royal icing cookies dry right in front of that AC and it helps them dry super smooth and shiny.
I will admit to having ZERO experience with this, but if you are in a very humid climate, I have heard using a dehumidifier in the room can be very helpful as well.
Total Royal Icing Drying Time
The amount of time it will take your royal icing to dry will depend on a combination of the consistency of your icing, your climate, and if you use a fan or a food dehydrator to speed up the process. As in almost every element of royal icing, this may be a trial and error process to find what works best for you!
Read more about Royal Icing: