Easy Sugar Cookie Icing

This smooth and glossy Sugar Cookie Icing is super easy to make in just 15 minutes! It hardens on top of your cookies beautifully, and it tastes as good as it looks. I recommend using my simple cut-out sugar cookie recipe with this icing!

A bunch of sugar cookies decorated like candy canes, snowflakes, Christmas trees and gingerbread men on a countertop

Easy Homemade Icing for Sugar Cookies

You really can’t buy the kind of icing that hardens at a store. This type of icing must be homemade, and most versions of it are royal icing recipes. While I love my fool-proof royal icing, sometimes I want something a little less finicky, especially if I’m not trying to decorate my sugar cookies with a super intricate design.

While royal icing requires whipping, this simple alternative takes 1 minute to mix together. After that, you just have to color it! If you need a quick-fix icing for cute little cookie designs like snowmen, candy canes or Christmas trees, this recipe is the way to go.

And it’s not just a decorative topping – it also tastes delicious! You can make a classic vanilla version or switch it up with another flavor of choice. Either way, your cookies are about to get an upgrade.

A spoon drizzling some green icing into a small glass bowl with more icing in it

Ingredients You’ll Need

You only need a handful of kitchen staples to make this icing happen. Just gather up the items below!

  • Powdered Sugar: As with any icing or frosting, powdered sugar provides the base.
  • Light Corn Syrup: To give your icing that shiny finish.
  • Vanilla Extract: Feel free to switch it up with almond extract or another favorite.
  • Cream or Milk: This will thin out the icing.
  • Gel Icing Color: I recommend Wilton or Americolor gels. The nice thing about Americolor is that they come in little squeeze bottles, which makes it easier.

What Can I Use Instead of Corn Syrup?

You only need a little bit of corn syrup to make your icing nice and glossy. But if you really don’t want to use it, you can substitute it for honey instead. Honey will impart a different flavor on the icing though.

A tin full of holiday-themed sugar cookies decorated with icing on top of a granite countertop

How to Make Sugar Cookie Icing

Let’s go over the process of making this icing step by step. It’s simple from start to finish!

Combine Ingredients: Add the powdered sugar, corn syrup, vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons of milk or cream to a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together until everything is well combined. It may seem dry at first, but it’ll come together.

Adjust Consistency: Add additional milk or cream to get the right consistency (see section below).

Add Color: Divide the icing into as many bowls as you need for the colors you want. Stir in the gel icing color a little bit at a time until you have your desired shade.

Decorate Cookies: Add the icing to squeeze bottles or piping bags with small round tips for piping.

Green icing being added to a small sugar cookie shaped like a Christmas tree

Let Set: Allow the icing to dry. Give it at least 4-5 hours to fully harden before stacking.

How to Decorate Sugar Cookies

There are two typical icing consistencies when it comes to decorating cookies – one for outlining things and one for “flooding” and filling in the outline. I like to bring my icing to a sweet spot that works for both! With just one consistency, you have fewer bowls of icing and fewer piping tools to deal with.

To get your icing to the sweet spot, you need it a little thinner than you’d use for outlining, but not so thin that it won’t hold in place. If you’re unsure what that looks like, there’s an easy way to test it out – once you mix everything together, pick up some icing with a spoon and drizzle it back down into the bowl. It should take 3-4 seconds to fully integrate back into the icing.

Once you have the tops of your cookies covered in icing, you’ll have to let it harden before doing any detail work with additional icing. Either let the cookies sit for 4-5 hours or leave them in an airtight container overnight. If you’d like to add sprinkles on top of the icing, do so before it sets.

Tips for Success

If you’re new to homemade sugar cookie icing, this recipe is the perfect place to start. These extra tips and tricks will help you become a pro in no time!

  • Avoid Liquid Food Coloring: I recommend sticking with a gel-based food coloring for this particular icing. Liquid-based food colorings tend to mess with the consistency because you have to use a good bit to get deeper colors.
  • Add Small Amounts of Cream at a Time: You need the right balance between powdered sugar and cream (or milk) to get the proper frosting consistency. Start with just 3 tablespoons and add more little by little as needed. You can always add more, but you can’t remove it once you add it.
  • Don’t Have Piping Tools? While piping tools or squeeze bottles make the decorating process more simple, you really don’t need them at all. You can simply transfer your icing to a Ziploc bag and cut a small hole in the corner of the bag to squeeze the icing through. Alternatively, you can spread it on with a knife or an offset spatula.
  • Toothpick Trick: If you’re piping the icing onto your cookies, you can use a toothpick immediately after doing the piping to fill in little gaps, help get rid of air bubbles, or scrape off little bits of icing that aren’t doing what you want.
A cut-out Christmas tree sugar cookie with icing and sprinkles on a marble countertop with a bowl of sprinkles in the background

Storage Instructions

If you have leftover icing that you’d like to use for future cookies, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Bring it back to room temperature before using it, stirring in a little more cream or milk if needed. Use leftover icing within 1 week.

Can I Freeze Powdered Sugar Icing?

I don’t suggest freezing this icing by itself – you’ll have trouble getting it back to the right consistency after thawing it. However, if it’s hardened onto cookies, you can certainly freeze them if you’d like. Just don’t keep them stored for longer than 3 months.

Print
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A tin full of holiday-themed sugar cookies decorated with icing on top of a granite countertop
Recipe

Easy Sugar Cookie Icing

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 24
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: No Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This smooth and glossy Sugar Cookie Icing is super easy to make in just 15 minutes! It hardens on top of your cookies beautifully, and it tastes as good as it looks.


Ingredients

  • 3 cups (345g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 34 tbsp of milk or cream
  • Gel icing color

Instructions

  1. Add the powdered sugar, corn syrup, vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons cream to a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together until well combined. It may seem dry at first, but it’ll come together.
  2. Add additional milk or cream to get the right consistency.
  3. Divide the icing into as many bowls as you need for the colors you want. Stir in gel icing color, a little bit at a time, until it reaches your desired shade.
  4. Add the icing to squeeze bottles or piping bags with small round tips for piping, or use a knife or offset spatula to spread the icing onto your cookies.
  5. Allow the icing to dry. For it to be fully hard and able to be stacked on, give it 4-5 hours or overnight.

Notes

Makes enough icing to frost around 24 cookies that are about 3 1/2 inches in size.

If you have leftover icing that you’d like to use for future cookies, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Bring it to room temperature before using, stirring in a little more cream if needed. Use leftover icing within 1 week.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 84
  • Sugar: 21 g
  • Sodium: 2.3 mg
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 21.4 g
  • Protein: 0.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

Keywords: cookie icing, sugar cookie frosting, powdered sugar icing

Categories

More Easy Frosting Recipes

Want more simple homemade frostings to add to your favorite sweets and treats? I’ve got you covered.

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Recipe rating

19 Comments
  1. Olivia Snyder

    Awesome recipe. Made it to decorate cookies to give to a friend and they came out amazing. Tasted great too.

  2. Robin

    Great recipe– the taste and consistency were fantastic! It was my first time using this kind of detailed icing and it was easy to decorate with. I just smooshed it around with a toothpick a bit and it smoothly settled into exactly where I wanted it to be. My only minor complaint is that the recipe says to whisk the ingredients together– I literally used a whisk and that was a mistake v.v But I was happy with how the icing turned out and will be using this recipe again.

    1. Lindsay

      Glad you were happy with it! I literally used a whisk, so I’m not sure what problem you had. Why was that a mistake?

      1. Robin

        The ingredients immediately formed a solid clump inside the whisk and didn’t come out, so it was a lot easier to mix with a spoon.

  3. Pam

    This sound like a wonderful icing recipe but being that it is made with milk does it need to be refrigerated?

Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and a mom to twin boys and a baby girl! And I've got a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the treats!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29