These adorable penguin meringue cookies are as delicious as they are cute. A light, melt-in-your-mouth texture makes these the perfect treat or drink topper!
Crisp on the outside, light and sweet on the inside, these meringue cookies are just the thing to have with a hot cup of cocoa. And just look at their little penguin faces! Is there anything cuter than that?
I love meringue cookies because they are made with simple ingredients and have the most amazing texture. They’re also a super efficient way of getting rid of egg whites – I had a handful leftover from my croquembouche and this recipe used them all up!
How to make meringue cookies
Meringue can be an intimidating baking endeavor. Goodness knows how many Great British Bakeoff challenges have died at the hands of a weepy meringue. But no worries, you are not a GBBO contestant, and I have all the tips for you to make a perfect, stiff, pipe-able meringue. And (bonus!) once you master a meringue, you’re 50% off the way to making macarons.
We’re going to use a handful of ingredients – egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla extract. That’s it! The tricky part is in the technique of beating those egg white until they become so perfectly fluffy.
The main thing to remember is that fats are the enemy of meringue, as they will weigh the egg whites down. So keep yolks out of your whites and make sure your bowls are squeaky clean.
Steps to a perfect meringue
- Wipe down your bowls and beater with lemon juice or vinegar to remove all traces of grease. Acids help keep meringue stable.
- Separate eggs in a different bowl than the one holding your egg whites. If even a trace of yolk gets in, don’t use that white.
- Start beating on low speed until bubbles forms. Then add cream of tartar, which will help stabilize the meringue.
- Continue beating until the bubbles become smaller and finer. Slowly add the salt and sugar in thirds.
- Raise speed to medium-low and beat to soft peaks. Add the vanilla extract.
- Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
The whole process takes me 15 – 18 minutes. Beating the meringue too quickly can cause big air bubbles to form, which can crack the cookies in the oven. That’s why I don’t recommend going higher than medium speed.
Signs of a stiff meringue
So what exactly does stiff peaks look like on a meringue?
- When you pull your beater out of the meringue, there are sharp points that stand up straight with no wilting, not even a tiny bit!
- You can turn the bowl upside down, and the meringue will not slide
- The meringue is clumping around your beater
It’s important to have stiff peaks. A soft meringue will weep and potentially split and collapse in the oven. Conversely, once you hit stiff peaks, stop beating. An overbeaten meringue will have issues as well.
How to make the cute penguin shape
The penguin shape is a simple matter of gel food dye and piping, and the results are so cute! I use Wilton gel food dyes. Gel dye is preferred as this does not add extra moisture to the meringue. The penguin body is Royal Blue, and the beak is Golden Yellow. When using gel dye, remember a little goes a long way. I use a toothpick to pick up the color and transfer to the meringue, and just a few dabs is enough.
First, I pipe the blue penguin body mounds using a 1/2 inch piping tip. Then I pipe on the beak and tummy just a ziptop bag with the tip cut off.
After the cookies are baked, I draw on the eyes using a toothpick. The color is black gel dye mixed with a tiny bit of vanilla extract to thin it out. Vanilla extract evaporates more quickly than water. You can use a clear alcohol, such as vodka, as well.
These penguins are so joyful to make, and I love floating them in my hot chocolate and lattes. As they melt, they add a tiny bit of sweetness as well.
Other winter treats to enjoy:
If you make this recipe, please let me know! I always love to see what my readers are baking. You can comment below or tag me on Instagram @halicopteraway.
Cute penguin meringue cookies
- medium mixing bowl
- 2 small bowls
- Stand or hand mixer
- Baking tray
- Piping bags
- 1/2 inch round piping tip
- 3 egg whites (100g)
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Gel food coloring, color of your choice
- Yellow gel food coloring (beak)
- Black gel food coloring (eyes)
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract or vodka (for diluting black gel)
- Preheat oven to 200°F
- Wipe down bowls and beater with lemon juice or vinegar
- In a measuring cup, mix together the sugar and salt and set aside
- In a medium mixing bowl, begin beating the egg whites on low speed until bubbles form. Add cream of tartar. Continue beating until the bubbles become smaller and more crowded. While beating, slowly add the sugar and salt mixture in thirds, incorporating well before adding the next batch. Raise speed to medium-low and continue beating until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla extract. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. If you're not sure what stiff peaks look like, please read notes above. The process took me 15 – 18 minutes.
- Separate out 3 tbsp of mixture into a small bowl. Separate out another 3 tbsp of mixture into another small bowl. These will be used for the beaks and tummy of the penguins.
- In one small bowl, use a toothpick to add a few dabs of yellow gel coloring. Mix with a spoon or spatula until the color is incorporated. Add more color if needed.
- In the original bowl of meringue, use a toothpick to add a few dabs of gel coloring of your choice (I use blue). Mix with a spoon or spatula until the color is incorporated. Add more color if needed.
- Turn a baking tray upside down and cover with a sheet of parchment paper. If the parchment paper is curling or lifting, glue it down with a couple dabs of meringue in the corners. Turning the baking tray upside down ensures a more flat surface for your cookies.
- Fill a piping bag with your primary color of meringue and pipe mounds onto the baking tray, spaced 1 inch apart. My penguins are about 1 inch in diameter and 1.5 inches tall.
- Fill a piping bag with the yellow meringue. Snip a small hole and pipe beaks on the penguins.
- Fill a piping bag with the white meringue. Snip a small hole and pipe round tummies on the penguins.
- Place in oven and bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours. When finished, the meringues should feel dry and not sticky to the touch. They should not be strongly browned.
- Open the oven door and let cool slowly for 10 – 15 minutes. Then remove from oven and let cool completely.
- Mix black gel dye with vanilla extract. Use a toothpick with the point flattened down to draw on the eyes.
- Enjoy the cookies plain or as a drink topper!