Sugar Cookie Icing

published Dec 13, 2021
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Sugar Cookie Icing Recipe

It only takes 10 minutes to make this icing — perfect for holiday cookies.

Makesabout 3/4 cups

Prep5 minutes

Cook5 minutes

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sugar cookies in the shape of stars with blue, yellow and white icing decorating the cookies in various designs, with some of the cookies iced in a single, solid color, on a cooling rack
Credit: Laura Rege

No need to be intimidated by sugar cookie icing — this recipe is ready to use in less than five minutes and is delightfully easy to work with. Just whisk together powdered sugar, whole milk, and corn syrup and start decorating! The result: Gorgeous and colorful sugar cookies with a firm and glossy icing.

While we love royal icing, this egg white-free option is the perfect route to go if you’re looking to decorate with kids or just keep things simple. For a match made in heaven, pair it with our best cut-out sugar cookie recipe.

Top Tips for Decorating with Sugar Cookie Icing

  • Start with the right texture. The icing should be a touch thicker than you think — almost lava-like. To test, drizzle a bit of the icing off of a spoon. If the icing holds its shape for a few seconds before melting back into the icing, it’s ready to use. If the texture isn’t right, there is a fix. If it is too thick, whisk in 1/2 teaspoon milk, checking consistency before adding more. If it is too thin, whisk in more powdered sugar. For one last check, test it out on a cookie. The icing should hold it’s shape well enough that it doesn’t spread, but also combine nicely with the rest of the frosting on the cookie.
  • Use food coloring. Divide up the icing into different bowls and tint with whatever color you desire. For the boldest colors, try using gel food coloring. (Although any food-safe coloring works!) Start with just a drop or two, stirring to see the color before proceeding with more.
  • Decorate with tools. For the smoothest lines, use piping bags or squeeze bottles to pipe borders around the edge of the cookies, then use a small spoon or offset spatula to fill in the center. You can also use piping or squeeze bottles to decorate lines, dots, squiggles, or whatever shapes you desire on the cookies. For an even easier way to decorate, just use an offset spatula or spoon to smooth the icing over the cookies.
  • Keep the icing covered when you’re not using it. Whether you are working with the icing in piping bags, squeeze bottles, or bowls, make sure to keep the surface covered when you’re not using the icing, so it doesn’t dry out.
  • Get creative! Go beyond color and decorate the tops of iced sugar cookies with sprinkles, crushed candy canes, or your favorite edible toppings! Make sure to top while the icing is still wet so the toppings adhere to the icing.

Is Sugar Cookie Icing the Same as Royal Icing?

Sugar cookie icing is different from royal icing. Both start with powdered sugar as a base for the icing, but diverge from there. To make royal icing, powdered sugar is beaten with egg whites, pasteurized egg whites, or meringue powder and some liquid (like water or milk) until the whites stiffen. The end result is an icing that sets into a crunchy candy-like texture. Sugar cookie icing doesn’t require raw egg whites: Instead it combines powdered sugar with corn syrup and milk. While this icing also dries and sets, it doesn’t have the crunch of royal icing.

Credit: Laura Rege

How to Store Sugar Cookie Icing

Store unused sugar cookie icing at room temperature in an airtight container with plastic wrap on the surface of the icing to prevent it from drying out. You can also store sugar cookie icing in squeeze bottles (with the lid on) or in pastry bags.

Sugar Cookie Icing Recipe

It only takes 10 minutes to make this icing — perfect for holiday cookies.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 5 minutes

Makes about 3/4 cups

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 cups

    powdered sugar

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons

    whole milk

  • 1 tablespoon

    light corn syrup

  • Food coloring (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons whole milk, and 1 tablespoon light corn syrup in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle a bit of the icing off of the whisk or a spoon over the bowl of icing; if the icing holds its shape for a few seconds before melting back into the icing, it's ready to use. If it is too thick, whisk in 1/2 teaspoon milk, checking consistency before adding more until the icing is the right texture.

  2. Divide the icing into bowls and use food coloring to dye icing as desired. Let the icing dry overnight on decorated cookies.

  3. Use the icing immediately or cover the surface with plastic wrap until ready to use. (See storing instructions below.)

Recipe Notes

Flavor options: If you want to add a little flavor to the icing, add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or another extract like almond or lemon. Just be aware that the color of the extract may tint the icing.

Make ahead: The icing can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container, piping bag, or squeeze bottle with plastic wrap pressed directly over the surface of the icing for up to 1 day.

Storage: Iccd cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months. Iced cookies can be frozen for up to 3 months in an airtight freezer-safe container.

This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: Sugar Cookie Icing.