How Long Does Icing Take to Set?

Icing a cake

Icing provides the perfect finishing touch to home-baked goods, transforming plain biscuits and sponges into beautifully decorated showstoppers.

Plus, made predominantly from icing sugar, even a little glaze makes everything taste sweeter and more delicious.

Unfortunately, icing can take a while to harden. This can mean your baked good aren’t ready in time to serve to your guests!

So, how long does icing take to set? This all depends on the type of icing, the amount of water used, and the thickness of icing applied.

Keep reading to discover more, plus we share our top tips on how to make your icing set faster.

How Long Does Water Icing Take to Set?

Water icing is made from just two ingredients: water and icing sugar.

Also known as glace icing, it is extremely easy to make and a smooth, glossy option for icing biscuits, sponges, and cupcakes. You can alter the desired consistency of the icing by adding more or less water to the recipe.

The time it takes the icing to set depends on the consistency chosen.

Runnier glace icing that is made with more water can take up to 24 hours to set.

On the other hand, thicker icing made with warm water should be hard and dry within one hour. This is because the drying process happens as water evaporates from the icing.

The less water used in the recipe, the faster this process happens.

The dry time also depends on how thick the layer of icing is.

A drizzle-like glaze to top cinnamon swirls, lemon drizzle cake, and sponges can dry within 20 minutes. However, cookies completely covered in a thicker layer will take much longer to set.

Cake with icing on it

How Long Does Royal Icing Take to Set?

Royal icing is also made from icing sugar and water. However, it also includes egg whites which make the icing much stronger and less sweet.

Because it is made from different ingredients, the drying time is also different when compared to water icing.

In general, you can expect royal icing to take 4 to 6 hours to dry and set completely.

Yet like glace icing, this does depend on its thickness. It is often advised to leave decorated cookies overnight to ensure the icing is properly set before tucking in.

When icing large cakes with thicker layers of icing, royal icing can take 24 hours or more to fully harden.

How hard royal icing dries depends on how much egg white you use in the recipe. The more egg white you use, the harder the icing will set.

If you want extremely hard royal icing, add a little more powdered egg white to the recipe.

You can also use fresh eggs, but this isn’t recommended for toddlers, the elderly, pregnant women, or sick people.

Cupcakes with icing on them

How Can I Harden Icing Fast?

Depending on the exact recipe and thickness of icing used, it can take over 24 hours for the icing to set completely.

But sometimes, we don’t have this long to wait!

Thankfully, there are some ways that you can speed up the hardening process. Try one or more of these tips to make your icing set faster:

  • Use a dehumidifier while you wait for the icing to dry. This removes the humidity from the air so the water evaporates from the icing more quickly.
  • Always let the icing dry at room temperature. If you’re leaving your cookies and cakes in a hot kitchen, the setting process will take much longer.
  • Never put iced goods in the fridge to dry. Many people think icing hardens more quickly in the fridge but the cold, damp air has the opposite effect.
  • Use a fan or open windows to encourage as much airflow as possible. This will help the water evaporate from the icing so it hardens quickly.
  • Make your icing with a lower water to icing sugar ratio. The less water you use in the initial recipe, the faster your icing will dry.