This sugar cookie icing is made with only 4 ingredients and comes together in just 5 minutes! Great for beginners and tastes amazing. You’ll have perfectly decorated sugar cookies in no time!
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Easy Icing for Sugar Cookies
One of my favorite things to do around the holidays is decorate Christmas sugar cookies. I love to use Christmas-shaped cookie cutters, festive sprinkles and different types of cookie icing. So fun!
This easy sugar cookie icing recipe is probably my favorite for decorating sugar cookies. I love using it on iced oatmeal cookies, too!
It’s simple, hardens quickly, has a glossy look and tastes delicious. It’s basically an easier version of royal icing without the added egg whites or meringue powder. Plus it works for all types of cookies too, such as butter cookies, shortbread cookies and gingerbread man cookies.
Sometimes frosting your own cookies with homemade cookie icing can be intimidating, but trust me, this recipe couldn’t be any easier! It’s perfect to make for a holiday cookie exchange and will leave your friends and family raving over how cute your cookies turned out!
Why This Recipe Works
- Easy and quick. Made with only 4 ingredients in just 5 minutes, this is the best icing for sugar cookies that requires hardly any work. It’s similar to a simple powdered sugar icing but with a little corn syrup for added shine.
- Sugar cookie icing that hardens. Unlike a classic buttercream frosting, this cookie icing is glossy and hardens quickly, which means you can easily stack and store your cookies for later.
- Great for beginner bakers. Simple enough that novice bakers or even the kids can help out with.
- Decorating. Add a few drops of food coloring to give this Christmas cookie icing all of the festive holiday colors. It’s perfect for decorating and also holds sprinkles and sanding sugar very nicely!
4 Simple Ingredients
This recipe requires only 4 simple ingredients. These ingredients are staples for me around the holidays, so I already had everything I needed to get started.
Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.
- Powdered sugar: This is how the icing gets it’s sweet flavor. I don’t usually sift my powdered sugar, but you can if yours is super lumpy.
- Light corn syrup: This gives it a nice gloss and keeps the icing from losing it’s shine after it dries.
- Milk: You don’t need a lot…just enough for it to thin out the consistency a little.
- Vanilla extract: I love adding in vanilla for a boost of extra flavor. You could always switch up the flavoring and use almond or lemon extract.
How to Make Sugar Cookie Icing
Before getting started, use my favorite sugar cookie recipe to bake your cookies. Then let them cool completely before adding the icing.
- Combine. Stir together ingredients in a bowl until smooth and glossy.
- Color. If desired, tint with gel food coloring of choice.
- Frost. Spread on cookies using a knife, spoon or frosting bag or bottle.
PIPING TIP: If you are piping around the edges of your cookies, the icing should be thick (like toothpaste). Then when filling the center, add 1/2 teaspoon more milk at a time to reach the right consistency.
- Consistency. For the outer edge, the consistency should be thicker, like toothpaste. The center should be the consistency of honey.
- Icing method. You can dip the cookies into the icing or use a frosting bag or bottle. You could also use a knife or spoon. Whichever method you prefer.
- Extra decorations. If adding sprinkles, make sure to add them immediately after you frost your cookies. The sugar cookie icing dries quickly!
- Keep them shiny. It helps to dry the cookies in front of a heater fan to keep the icing shiny.
- Freezing. The icing sets up really nicely once dried and you can easily stack or freeze them.
The main ingredients are powdered sugar, milk and corn syrup. You can also add vanilla or other flavorings.
Frosting such as a classic buttercream is typically made with the addition of butter to make it thick and creamy with a richer taste.
This cookie icing does not contain butter and has a drippier consistency from the corn syrup and milk, which makes it ideal for decorating sugar cookies.
Royal icing is a popular choice, but I love this cookie icing because you don’t need meringue powder. It’s much easier to use. If I want a soft frosting and don’t need to stack the cookies, I’ll go for a cream cheese frosting.
It usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour for this sugar cookie icing to set completely.
You can speed up the process by placing the cookies in front of a heater fan to dry. This will help keep the icing extra shiny too.
How to Store Cookies with Icing
The best thing about using cookie icing that hardens is that you can easily stack and store your cookies. Once it dries completely (usually takes around 30 to 60 minutes), add a piece of parchment in between each cookie and then store in a covered container for up to 3 days. The cookies will also stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Make Ahead Instructions
You can easily make this icing ahead of time to frost your cookies later. Simply prepare as directed, then store in the fridge in an airtight container with no air leaking in. I recommend filling the container completely, sealing with plastic wrap and then the lid.
Let it come to room temperature before using (about 30 minutes). You may also need to add a little more milk and corn syrup if it has thickened too much.
5 star review
“Best icing recipe I’ve ever used. It was perfect and colorful and shiny. Thank you for sharing it.”– Claudia
Leftover cookie dough? Use it to whip up a small batch of these sugar cookie bars topped with a festive eggnog frosting. These sugar cookie truffles would be another fun addition to your Christmas dessert board!
More Icing RecipesBrowse all
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Sugar Cookie Icing
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 ½ Tablespoons light corn syrup
- 2 Tablespoons milk (more as needed)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (can also use almond extract)
Optional: food coloring
- Whisk together the powdered sugar, corn syrup, milk and vanilla in a bowl. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy. It should be thick if you are using it as a piping. Add a 1/2 teaspoon more milk at a time to make the filling consistency. Tint the icing with food color, if desired.
- Spread onto the cookies using a knife, spoon or frosting bag or bottle.
- Decorate cookies as desired. Allow icing to harden before storing.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!
Hi Jamielyn, How do yo make your red so dark and bright? Mine looks pink after using more color drops than normal. Thank you!
Hi Andre! Red is always a bit tricky, but the type of gel you use and how many drops does make a difference in color. I like using Wilton gel food coloring or AmeriColor gel. You may need to add in a few more drops to achieve a deeper red color. Sometimes it darkens a little as it sets as well.
Just made, love it so far! How long does the icing take to harden?
Should take around 30-60 minutes to harden.
Best cookie icing recipe I’ve ever used. It was perfect and colorful and shiny. Thank you for sharing it.
I’m so happy to hear! Thank you for your comment Claudia! :)
Great consistency! Easy to use and set really well!
I have used a recipe similar to this for years, and have loved it! When my children were young, they so enjoyed spreading it with knives on the baked cookies. This year, for the first time, I thought I would try decorating with my bags and tips, so I gave it a try. I noticed in your photos of the bags filled with icing that there aren’t any tips in them. Do you recommend using the bags tipless? Just wondered if that might be easier. Could you please include more info on doing this if using decorator bags?! Thanks!
Hi Cathy! I love using my tips when using a thicker frosting, but I prefer to just just use the bags or a squeeze bottle when using icing!
Ok, thanks! I think it would’ve been a lot easier not to have to deal with the tips and couplers, and also the added clean-up! Next time we’ll just cut a small tip off of the decorator bag. Years ago, I used to use baggies for the kids to decorate with, but I have found that the Wilton decorator bags are much sturdier! I will also be researching tipless decorator bags!
Could I substitute with coconut milk. I want to make it but my husband is super lactose intolerant. Or maybe I will just test it out, and see how it goes with coconut milk.
I haven’t tried that substitute before. Please let us know how it goes if you give it a try. :)