Recipes in Article
Royal icing is usually made with powdered sugar and egg whites. Other ingredients are added to make it set hard for piping or to make a softer icing to cover a cake.
Using any animal-derived products is not acceptable when making Vegan Royal Icing, so you need to use alternatives. Also, some products you would naturally assume to be vegan, surprisingly, are not.
Read on …
One of the most used ingredients is powdered sugar if you are a cake maker and decorator.
It’s usually available everywhere, so it’s not a problem to walk into any grocery store and buy your preferred brand. This is not the case if you are a vegan or make a cake for a vegan.
Many sugar producers use animal bone char to purify their sugar, and the method of manufacture is not stated on the packaging.
Fortunately, some producers don’t use this method of purification, and their powdered sugar is vegan-friendly.
Cane sugar is not usually purified with bone char, and producers will sometimes label their sugar as vegan friendly, or you can go online to their website, and it will usually give the information.
Producers of vegan-friendly sugar usually have a wide variety of sugars to choose from, such as white granulated, caster, golden granulated, light brown, dark brown, and powdered sugar – the list is long, but beware that if powdered sugar is labeled Royal Icing Sugar it most likely will have powdered egg white added.
If you would like to find out more about sugar for cake decorating, see my blog post “Difference Between Cane Sugar and Beet Sugar for Cake Decorating.”
I searched on Amazon.com and found vegan-friendly C&H Pure Cane Powdered Sugar, and the ingredients are sugar and cornstarch. A tiny amount of cornstarch/cornflour is generally added to this type of product as an anti-caking agent and will not affect your finished product.
I doubt if it will come to this, but if you can’t find a supplier of vegan-friendly powdered sugar, your only option may be to obtain some white cane sugar and grind it yourself in a coffee grinder, then put it through a fine sieve.
Replacing the eggs
You can buy a vegan-friendly egg white replacer but make sure the one you buy is replacing egg whites and not the whole egg.
Because traditional Royal icing is made with egg whites, to make it Vegan, you need them replaced with something that works just as well.
In recent years, the most exciting discovery for vegan cooking is aquafaba. It is being used extensively by chefs and home cooks as the base for making a huge variety of dishes usually made with egg whites.
Using Aquafaba as an egg white replacer
Aquafaba is the water in which chickpeas or other legumes or beans have been cooked. Some people say that it is best to cook your own legumes or beans and others say that the liquid from ones that have been tinned is the best, the quickest, and easiest to use.
However, although you can get aquafaba from any cooked or canned beans or legumes, it seems that chickpea (garbanzo bean) water is the chef’s choice for taste, ease of use, and satisfactory end results.
When you open a tin of chickpeas, the liquid doesn’t smell very nice but left open for a short while, the smell disappears, and it has no taste.
Cream of tartar is often used in aquafaba recipes to stabilize it, so it whips better.
However, if you don’t like the idea of using the liquid from chickpeas, there are plenty of recipes for making Royal icing without eggs that don’t use aquafaba.
You can buy an egg white replacer in a powdered form online from Amazon or your local health shop. If you can’t find it, then you can make your own. There is a recipe further down this post.
Hard set or soft set Royal icing
If you require a hard set for piping or vegan cookie icing, then lemon juice is added. If you require a soft set Royal icing, then glycerin, corn syrup, or golden syrup is added.
While lemon juice and corn syrup are vegan-friendly, glycerine sometimes isn’t as it can be produced from rendered animal fat.
However, it can also be made from plant sources (often soybeans), so it is important to look for the “Vegan-friendly” label on the product.
Vegan Royal Icing Recipes
I’ve used imperial measurements for the ingredients but have added a link to a weight converter if you find it easier to work with other measurements.
Please don’t mix them because the quantities may vary slightly, and the recipe will not be accurate.
Powdered sugar is also called icing sugar or confectioners sugar.
Vegan Royal Icing with Aquafaba
This Royal Icing is best made in a tabletop mixer, but it is possible to make it by hand if you mix it well.
- 1lb Vegan Powdered Sugar
- 2.5fl oz Aquafaba
- 1 level tsp Cream of Tartar
- 2 tsp Lemon Juice
- Place the cream of tartar and the aquafaba in the bowl of your mixer and use the whisk attachment to mix on medium speed until it’s a foam.
- Add half of the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until it’s all incorporated.
- Add the other half of the powdered sugar and slowly mix.
- Check the icing – it should be the consistency of thick cream.
- If the icing is too thin, add a spoonful of powdered sugar at a time, mixing until the right consistency is achieved.
- Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and whisk for 5 minutes.
- After it has finished mixing, if it’s too thick, dilute with water a drip at a time until it’s the consistency you require.
If you cover a cake with Vegan Royal Icing, it needs to be softer than the hard set icing used for piping or for covering cookies.
The addition of 2 teaspoons of liquid glucose will produce an icing that will cover a cake beautifully and will set but not be too hard to cut or eat.
- Mix the powdered sugar with the water until smooth
- Add corn syrup and lemon juice and mix well
- If you require a less stiff icing add more water a teaspoon until your desired consistency.
- If you need colored icing, use gel paste colors as they will not alter the icing’s consistency.
If you don’t want to use corn syrup, you can replace it with golden syrup. The only problem is that it is amber in color and may discolor white icing.
I make my own syrup and stop it cooking before it gains any color and here is a recipe so you can easily make yourself. But you will need a sugar thermometer.
Light Golden Syrup
You will need a larger bowl than the bottom of the pan you will use. Put some cold water into the bowl, ready to plunge the pan’s bottom into it to stop it from cooking when it reaches the right temperature.
Important: Don’t let any of the water get into the syrup, or it will crystalize.
- Place the sugar and water in a thick bottom pan that is larger than the heating ring you will use.
- Stir the ingredients on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
- With a brush dipped in water brush any sugar crystals down into the mixture.
- Add the slice of lemon.
- Turn down the heat and let the sugar mixture boil gently until it reaches 245F/118C.
- Once it has reached the correct temperature plunge the bottom of the pan into the bowl of cold water without letting any water into the mixture to stop it cooking.
- However, if you see the mixture starting to color before it reaches temperature, take it off the heat and plunge it into the water.
- Remove the lemon slice when it’s cool, strain the syrup into a clean jar and it will keep at room temperature for a long time.
The syrup will be a fairly thin liquid after it has finished cooking but will thicken as it cools.
When it is cold, if it is too thin, you can return it to the heat, bring it to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. Plunge the pan’s base in cold water, leave to cool, and store in a jar.
If the syrup is too thick, add a little boiling water, return to the pan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Plunge the pan’s base in cold water, leave to cool, and store in a jar.
I use this syrup in place of golden syrup or corn syrup in many cakes and frostings.
- Mix the egg replacer, water, and lemon juice until smooth.
- Sieve the icing sugar into the bowl and mix until smooth
- Add a drop of water at a time until the consistency you want is achieved.
Mix all the ingredients well and store in an airtight jar.
To make the equivalent of one egg – add 1 ½ teaspoon of Egg White Replacer to 3 tablespoons cold water and mix well until combined.
Make it simple
Alternatively, you could use a simple sugar and water icing that requires no special additives.
Sugar and water icing can be used in various ways; for example, you can make a thin version and dip the top of cupcakes or cookies into it. You can pour it over a cake, so it drips down the sides. You can make it thicker and pipe it onto your cakes or cookies.
If you want to flavor the icing, you can use flavoring extracts, e.g., vanilla or almond, etc. or replace the water with lemon or orange juice.
- Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl.
- Add water (or juice) and mix well.
- The water can be replaced with lemon or orange juice to give it a tangy flavor OR to give it a different flavor; after you finished making it stir in ½ teaspoon of flavoring extracts such as vanilla, almond rum, etc.
- To color the icing, use gel colors, so you don’t alter the consistency.
How to store vegan Royal icing
To store vegan Royal icing, put it into an airtight plastic box, press a piece of cling film/plastic wrap onto the icing’s surface, and make sure the lid is on tightly.
Vegan Royal icing can be kept for a couple of days at room temperature. However, it is preferable to store it in the fridge to last for a couple of weeks.
Leave it until it’s room temperature, stir it, and it will be ready for use.
For storing it for up to three months, place the box in the freezer. To use, stir after it’s reached room temperature.