Easy Vegan Royal Icing
This vegan royal icing made with aqua faba is quick, easy and requires just 3 ingredients! It makes a delicious addition to all types of cakes and cookies.
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you may remember my vegan pavlova recipe.
I recently remade (and improved) that recipe, and it got me back into experimenting with aqua faba again.
Just in case you don’t know, aqua faba is essentially “chickpea water”. Or, the water that’s leftover from tinned/cooked chickpeas.
It can be whisked up and used as a pretty much identical substitute for egg whites- that includes making meringues, macarons and lots of other tasty vegan treats!
Try my other icing recipes:
So anyway, like I said, remaking the pavlova got me thinking. What else could I make with the weird and wonderful liquid that is aqua faba?
Since it’s coming up to Christmas, the first thing that came to my mind was royal icing!
I’ve seen countless sugar cookies all over my social media feeds in the last few weeks.
Oh my gosh, some of these people are so talented! I’ve seen literal Christmas SCENES painted onto cookies with royal icing.
I have to admit that I’m not quite so artistically inclined. I just about managed a few swirls and dots when I started using royal icing.
But I remade the cookies again and I’m happy with how my gingerbread houses, snowmen and Christmas trees turned out! Practice makes perfect, right?
It dries hard!
I love this recipe so much because you’ll literally never be able to tell the difference between this royal icing and the traditional version.
This vegan one pipes the same, spreads the same and dries hard the same too!
Since I first perfected my recipe, I’ve made countless batches of cookies to go with it.
Everyone who’s tried it has been impressed!
My absolute favourite cookie to have with the icing right now is shortbread.
Because the icing gets hard too, it’s super easy to layer different designs and colours. You just need to let each layer set before adding the next.
If you’re adding sprinkles of any kind, make sure to add them before the icing sets. Otherwise, they’ll just roll straight off the sides.
Colouring the icing
I would strongly recommend using gel colours to brighten up your icing!
I find that the liquid ones just aren’t as vibrant. And you end up needing to use WAY more to get the desired result which sort of ruins the consistency of the icing.
When browsing through my local Hobbycraft store, I came across a great pack of coloured food gels. I immediately knew they’d be a perfect replacement for the liquids I’d been using and, much to my surprise, they were actually vegan friendly!
I know there are a few other vegan-friendly brands out there, so just keep your eyes peeled. But definitely use gel over liquid if possible!
How To Make Vegan Royal Icing
Anyway, let’s get to it!
How do you make eggless royal icing out of chickpea liquid, I hear you ask? Let me show you!
The first step is to get your aqua faba. I’d highly recommend using tinned chickpeas for ease (unless you cook a lot of chickpeas anyway).
For this recipe, you’ll need 5 tablespoons of aqua faba.
Place it in a bowl along with 1/4 of a teaspoon of cream of tartar. If you don’t have that to hand, you can replace it with 1/2 a teaspoon of lemon juice instead.
I also like to add 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla extract at this point too to enhance the flavour. But this isn’t totally necessary. It’ll be just fine without it too.
Using an electric whisk or stand mixer, whisk up the ingredients for a few minutes, until the mixture becomes super pale and frothy.
Measure out 450g of icing/powdered sugar (3+1/2 cups). Slowly add in half of it and gently mix it in using a wooden spoon.
If using a hand mixer, don’t go straight in with it before mixing unless you want to end up looking like a snowman because the sugar will go everywhere!
Add the remaining half of the icing sugar and gently mix it in again.
Once it’s all mixed in, I like to give it a final whisk with my electric mixer to make sure it’s perfectly combined.
For coloured royal icing, add in your gels now. Use a toothpick to add a little bit, mix it in with a spoon then add more if required.
For multiple colours, divide the icing up into several small bowls before adding a different gel to each bowl.
Note that gel colours are super strong so it’s best to add a little at a time. You can always add more but it’s a bit harder to undo if you add too much.
You can of course just keep your royal icing plain white, which looks great too!
Once you’ve added your colours, transfer the icing into a piping bag (or bags) with a small nozzle at the bottom.
To help the icing set in place better, I recommend first outlining the cookie and leaving that to set for a few minutes first. Then, go back and fill it in. You’ll need a slightly thinner icing to do the filling in so that it spreads easier.
By making an outline first, you are creating a barrier of sorts and this will stop the royal icing from bleeding into the other colours.
You will also need to let the icing set between each different colour if you’re doing a layered design.
If you’re not doing any fancy decorating, you can also just spread the icing on using the back of a spoon. Just make sure you leave a little bit of space around the edges to stop the icing from dripping down the side of your cookies.
To thin the icing out, add a little aqua faba (or water, or lemon juice) at a time until you get your desired consistency. To thicken it up, just add more icing sugar!
Recipes to use with royal icing
Here are some of my favourite cookie and cake recipes which will go down a treat with some of this icing spread on top:
The great thing about this icing is that it lasts for quite a long time! So if you have any leftover, you don’t need to throw it away.
You can store it at room temperature or in the fridge in ziplock bags, an airtight container or a bowl with some cling film over the top.
It will last at least a week at room temperature and up to 3 weeks in the fridge this way.
You’ll need to give it a good mix before using it again as the liquid tends to separate from the sugar. But other than that, it’s good to go!
This icing freezes very well for a long time. So that’s always an option too if you don’t know when you’ll need it next.
When you’re ready to use your frozen royal icing, leave it to sit at room temperature for a few hours until it’s completely thawed.
Again, it’s likely that the liquid will separate so just make sure to give it a good mix. You might also need to add a little more icing sugar as defrosting can make it runnier.
After mixing it in the bowl, run a toothpick through it. The line from the toothpick should disappear in around 5 seconds.
If it doesn’t disappear or disappears too slowly, add a little bit more water. If it disappears immediately, add more icing sugar.
If it’s not spreading properly when you pipe it onto your cookies, you can use a toothpick to gently move it into place.
That’s it for this recipe! I hope you enjoy it and have lots of fun experimenting with different colours.
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Vegan Royal Icing
Made with aqua faba but pipes and hardens just like the traditional version!
- 450 g Icing/powdered sugar (3+½ cups)
- 5 Tablespoons Aqua faba
- ¼ Teaspoon Cream of tartar (or ½ teaspoon lemon juice)
- ½ Teaspoon Vanilla extract (optional)
- Vegan gel food colouring (optional)
Place the aqua faba, cream of tartar and vanilla into a large bowl. Use an electric whisk or stand mixer to mix it up until frothy.
Add in half of the icing sugar and gently stir it in using a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the icing sugar and repeat.
Whisk it up again briefly, to make sure everything's well combined.
If adding colour to the icing, separate it into small bowls (1 for each colour). Use a toothpick to add the colouring a little bit at a time until you reach your desired colour.
Pipe or spoon the icing onto your cookies. Let each colour harden on the cookie before piping on the next if creating a layered design.
- If you want to test the consistency before piping it onto your cookies, run a toothpick through the bowl of icing. You want it to disappear slowly, in around 5 seconds or so. If it doesn’t disappear at all or goes away very slowly, add more water. If it goes away too quickly, add more icing sugar. You can also use a toothpick to guide it into place after piping it.
- Store at room temperature or in the fridge in zip lock bags, an airtight container or a bowl with some cling film over the top. It will last at least a week at room temperature and up to 3 weeks in the fridge.