If you’ve ever enjoyed a bakery-style cookie decorated with sweet-and-crunchy icing, piped in a beautiful design, then you’ve had what is known as “Royal Icing” (so named for its use on the wedding cake of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840).
The ingredients in Royal Icing are quite simple: egg whites and powdered sugar whipped together. The mixture sets to a dry, matte finish and can be easily colored (if desired). Then scrape the icing into a piping bag for precise decorating.
Advanced pastry chefs can make flowers, rosettes and other elaborate decorations. If you’re a beginner, it’s great for adding simple decorations to cakes, sugar cookies and gingerbread men. Royal Icing is also the “cement” that is traditionally used for gingerbread houses. So, it definitely makes for a fun “kid-friendly” baking activity.
As you might expect with only two ingredients – one of which is sugar – Royal Icing is very high in sugar (16 grams per tablespoon, to be exact). And when you add that to the sugar in the cookies or cake that you’re decorating, you’re looking at upwards of 40 grams of sugar (or more) per cookie.
Here at Wellness Bakeries, we’re always looking to make our favorite treats in a healthy way. So, we set out to create an authentic and functional frosting that rivaled that of a professional bakery… without all the sugar!
Tips and Tricks for Making Sugar-Free Royal Icing
Instead of sugar, we used our Classic Frosting Starter. The trick was to get the right ratio of frosting starter to egg whites. Too thick and the icing wouldn’t pipe out of the bag. Too runny and it was hard to control.
Another challenge we faced was how quickly Royal Icing dries. This is a good thing when it’s going on your cookies. But you don’t want it to harden beforehand. We quickly learned that it helps to keep the icing covered in a bowl with a tight-fitting lid or with cellophane. This will prevent the icing from drying out while your cookies bake and cool.
To make roughly ½ cup of Sugar Free Royal Icing, we used ⅔ cup Classic Frosting Starter with 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. pasteurized liquid egg whites and ¼ tsp. organic vanilla extract (you could substitute lemon extract for the vanilla, if you’d like).
Then we simply added the ingredients to a deep metal mixing bowl…
And stirred to a smooth consistency with a silicone spatula…
For a smoother and glossier finish, you could use a hand mixer or stand mixer and beat on high speed for one minute.
Paleo Gingerbread Cookies with Sugar Free Royal Icing
To accompany our Sugar Free Royal Icing, we recommend our Ginger Spice Cookie Mix to make cut-out gingerbread men.
To make the gingerbread men, you’ll need 1 package Ginger Spice Cookie Mix, 4 Tbsp. melted butter (or coconut oil), 1 egg, 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 2 tsp. molasses (an optional, but delicious addition).
In a medium mixing bowl, add the wet ingredients…
Stir until combined…
Then add the Ginger Spice Cookie Mix…
Stir again to form a dough…
Now, transfer your dough to the freezer to chill for 10 minutes. Then roll the dough between two pieces of parchment paper to roughly ¼” thick. Once dough is flattened, use cookie cutters to cut out your gingerbread men (child labor is perfect for this part of the job).
If you’ve ever made cut-out cookies before, you know that you have to gathering up the “scrap” dough a time or two and then re-roll to use all of your dough. We found that re-chilling the dough between rolling prevents it from getting too sticky.
Pop your gingerbread cut outs into the oven and bake 8-10 minutes. And be sure to watch closely. Because these cookies are thinner than traditional ginger cookies, they will bake much faster. Let the cookies cool on the pan for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Now for the fun part! Scrape your Sugar Free Royal Icing into a piping bag fit with the smallest round tip available, and start decorating your gingerbread men. (If you don’t have a piping bag, you can fashion a do-it-yourself version by cutting a very small opening in the corner of a zip-top bag.
They don’t have to be perfect – just have fun! If you have kids or grandkids, they’ll love being involved in this process with you.
Assemble your gingerbread men and watch them quickly disappear limb by limb. They sure didn’t last long in our house! And with just two grams of sugar apiece, we happily gobbled them up – guilt-free!
This recipe should yield 16 gingerbread men using a 2.5” x 4” cookie cutter. There was some icing left over, since we just did the classic “buttons, faces and squiggles” on our gingerbread men. It’s all up to how you decorate!
And if you love the flavor combination of Royal Icing on Gingerbread Cookies – but you don’t want to spend a lot of time – you can also bake a batch of Ginger Spice Cookies in a standard round shape…
And pipe or spread on the frosting…
- ⅔ cup Classic Frosting Starter
- 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp liquid egg whites (pasteurized)
- ¼ tsp. vanilla extract (or lemon extract)
- Add ingredients to a deep bowl.
- Stir with a silicone spatula or beat on high speed to a smooth finish.
- Spread on cookies or scrape into a piping bag.
- Keep covered to prevent drying.
- 1 package Ginger Spice Cookie Mix
- 4 Tbsp. melted butter (or coconut oil)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. molasses (an optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
- Add the Ginger Spice Cookie Mix and stir to combine.
- Chill the dough, then roll out between two sheets of parchment paper.
- Use a cookie cutter to cut out the gingerbread men.
- Transfer to the preheated oven and bake 10-12 minutes (watch them - thinner cookies bake more rapidly!)
- Let cool on a wire rack, then decorate with Royal Icing.