Want to make cookies so pretty they look like a professional did them? This easy Sugar Cookie Icing recipe is what you need! Made with common pantry items, you can whip it up in just a minute and it dries hard so you can stack or bag your cookies. Included here is our icing recipe directions, along with helpful tips for making beautiful decorated sugar cookies for Christmas, Easter, birthdays, or any occasion.
Use this easy sugar cookie icing recipe with our super easy sugar cookie recipe and you’ll have the best sugar cookies to enjoy with your family or to give as edible holiday gifts!
Easy Sugar Cookie Icing
You know those fancy decorated cookies that look almost too pretty to eat? Well, you can make impressive looking cookies like that, too – and it’s easier than you might think! All you need is sugar cookies and this icing we’re sharing today.
This icing is so easy to make with only a few simple items, and creates a hard shell so you can stack your cookies or bag them.
Royal Icing vs Glaze Icing
A lot of sugar cookies are decorated with royal icing, which is made of either pasteurized raw egg whites, egg white powder, or meringue powder. Not only does it hold its shape really well once piped, it creates the smoothest, most even and blemish-free, perfect hard coating, with a matte finish. For precision and more intricate designs, royal icing is hard to beat. But the ingredients need to be purchased online or at specialty retailers, getting the right consistency can take a lot of practice, and the mixture immediately starts to dry when exposed to air. In a nutshell, it’s finicky and not very forgiving.
Glaze icing, which dries shiny, is much simpler and far less frustrating than royal icing. Made with common pantry items, you can whip it up in just a minute, easily tinkering to get the right consistency. Although it is prone to flooding and more likely to overflow outside any lines, if you’re simply looking for a solid coating of icing on top of a cookie and nothing fancy, this glaze is the way to go. While it does not dry to a candy-like texture, it does harden enough to stack and bag. Great for a novice decorator and the casual home baker.
Sugar Cookie Icing Recipe
If you prefer not to read the helpful information and recipe tips, you can skip to the bottom for the complete printable recipe card.
- Powdered sugar: You need powdered sugar (also known as confectioners’ sugar and icing sugar) for this recipe. Do not use granulated white sugar. Sifting the powdered sugar is highly recommended to avoid lumps and render a smoother icing.
- Whole milk: Milk is used to thin the icing. I recommend whole milk or 2%. Avoid skim and milk substitutes for this recipe.
- Light corn syrup: This helps the icing harden and what gives it that brilliant shine!
- Vanilla extract: For flavor. If you need your icing to be bright white, use clear vanilla extract.
- Pinch of salt: Just a pinch of salt elevates all the other flavors, but this ingredient is completely optional.
How to Make Sugar Cookie Icing:
You simply stir all the ingredients together until combined and smooth. If icing is too thick, add a bit more milk (no more than a tablespoon at a time), until the icing is thick but pipeable. Alternatively, if it’s too thin, add a little more powdered sugar until desired texture is reached. (If you drizzle a little of the icing with a whisk, the ribbon of icing should hold for a few seconds before melting back into the icing. That’s the sign you’ve got the right consistency and is ready to use.)
How to Color Icing
After you’ve combined the ingredients, you’ll end up with white icing. Note: If you want it to be bright white, make sure you’re using clear vanilla extract, since regular vanilla is brown and will give your icing a beige undertone.
If you want to color your icing, simply whisk in some drops of colored food dye until the desired color is reached (keeping in mind that the color will deepen as it dries.) We prefer food gel over liquid dye because the coloring agent in gel will produce a more vibrant color, you tend to need less of it, and it doesn’t dilute the icing by much. But both work.
How to Ice Sugar Cookies
To decorate sugar cookies with icing, you could simply dunk the tops in the mixture. But if you want something a little neater, you’ve got a couple options:
- 1st Option: Transfer icing to a clear plastic disposable piping bag with a piping tip (I usually grab my Wilton 5.)
- 2nd Option: Place the icing in a Ziploc bag and snip a small piece of the corner off (making sure the icing isn’t too thick or it will tear the seam of the bag while squeezing.)
- 3rd Option: Got a squeeze bottle? These make decorating super easy.
Once you’ve got your icing ready to pipe, outline the border of each cookie with icing, then “flood” the inside area of the cookie with more icing. Use a toothpick to nudge the icing around so that the cookie’s surface is covered. If you spot any small bubbles, just use the toothpick to pop them. (Scroll below to watch the video for visual help.)
Ideas for Sugar Cookie Decorating Icing:
- Flood the whole area of the cookie with a solid color.
- Flood whole area of the cookies, then add sprinkles, sanding sugar, or small candies on top.
- A solid layer of white icing and then colored icing on top of that in a polka dot or striped pattern.
- Solid white or colored surface, make dots with a contrasting color, then drag a toothpick through the dots to form hearts.
There are so many ways to have fun with this!
How Long Does it Take for Glaze to Harden?
You can enjoy the glazed cookies right away or wait until the icing sets. This glaze sets up pretty quickly, but to fully harden, it can take anywhere from 3 hours up to overnight at room temperature. The time it takes will depend on the thickness and consistency of your icing and the layers on the cookie. Once they’re completely dry, you can stack them or package them up for gifting.
Storing Icing: Any unused icing will keep in a squeeze bottle or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Allow it to come to room temperature before using.
How to Store Iced Sugar Cookies: Fully dried iced sugar cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. If stacking them, it’s best to put sheets of parchment paper in-between the layers.
Homemade Sugar Cookie Icing Video
Looking for a frosting instead? This is our go-to sugar cookie frosting recipe – it’s got a creamy texture, but forms a “crust” so you can stack your cookies. Made in minutes and it tastes amazing!
Sugar Cookie Icing
- 3 cups powdered sugar , sifted
- 3-4 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (use clear vanilla extract if you need the icing to be bright white)
- Pinch of salt (optional depending on flavor preference)
- Gel food coloring , optional
- Plain cooled sugar cookies , for decorating
- Stir together the sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, corn syrup, and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl until combined.(If icing is too thick, add the remaining tablespoon of milk, until the icing is thick but pipeable. If it's too thin, add a little more powdered sugar until desired texture is reached. If you drizzle a little of the icing with a whisk, the ribbon of icing will hold for a few seconds before melting back into the icing. That is when you know it’s the right consistency and is ready to use.)
- If coloring the icing with different colors, divide into bowls and color as desired at this point.
- Transfer icing to a piping bag with a piping tip (I use Wilton 5.)
- Pipe icing onto cookies and decorate, as desired. (If using sanding sugar or sprinkles, they need to be added before the icing starts to set.)
- Allow icing to completely harden at room temperature before enjoying (this can take anywhere from 3 hours to overnight depending on the consistency and thickness of your icing.)
- NOTE: Don't miss all the coloring and decorating tips in the full article!
- NOTE: This recipe makes enough to decorate 40, 3-inch cookies. Calories calculated are for the icing only and do not include cookies.