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Best Sugar Cookie Icing

This easy sugar cookie icing is made with only 4 ingredients in 5 minutes. It’s sweet, creamy, simple to use and the best icing for decorating sugar cookies.

I use this icing to decorate Christmas sugar cookies but it can also be used for iced oatmeal cookies and gingerbread man cookies, too!

Cookies with sugar cookie icing on the counter..
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This easy sugar cookie icing recipe is my favorite for decorating sugar cookies. I love to use Christmas-shaped cookie cutters, festive sprinkles and different colors of homemade cookie icing. So fun!

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 and shortbread cookies, too.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Easy and quick. Made with only 4 ingredients in just 5 minutes, this is the best icing for sugar cookies. It’s similar to a simple powdered sugar icing but with a little corn syrup for added shine.
  • Icing that hardens. Unlike a classic buttercream frosting, this icing is glossy and hardens quickly but is not crunchy, 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 at a holiday cookie exchange and also holds sprinkles and sanding sugar very nicely!

Recipe Ingredients

To make this homemade cookie icing recipe you only need 4 simple ingredients plus food coloring if desired.

Sugar cookie icing ingredients on counter.

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.
  • Food coloring (optional): Use liquid, powder or gel food coloring. Gel food coloring will give you the most vibrant results.

Before getting started, use my easy Valentine’s Day sugar cookie recipe to bake your cookies. Then let them cool completely before adding the icing.

Showing how to make sugar cookie icing in a 4 step collage.
  1. Add. Add ingredients to a small bowl.
  2. Combine. Using a spoon, whisk or fork, stir together the ingredients until smooth and glossy.
  3. Color. If desired, tint with gel food coloring of choice.
  4. Frost. Spread on cookies using a knife, spoon or frosting bag or bottle.

Using Icing to Decorate Cookies

You can dip the cookies into the icing or use a frosting bag or bottle. You could also use a knife or spoon. Here are a few popular methods:

  • Fully iced cookies: Fill one bag that has a smaller hole for outlining the cookie and the other piping bag with a large hole for ‘flooding’ (filling in) the cookie. Outline first then fill the cookie with icing!
  • Outlined cookies: Only use the piping bag with the smaller hole to outline the cookies. This looks great with ornaments or Christmas tree shaped cookies.
  • Piping cookies: For fancy, intricate designs using only the smaller hole piping bag to do unique designs.
Sugar cookie icing in frosting bags.

Expert Tips

  • Consistency. For the outer edge, the icing consistency should be thicker, like toothpaste. Then when filling the center, add 1/2 teaspoon more milk at a time to reach the right consistency, similar to honey.
  • Extra decorations. If adding sprinkles, make sure to add them immediately after you frost your cookies. The icing dries quickly!
  • Keep them shiny. It helps to dry the cookies in front of a heater fan to keep the icing shiny.
  • Make ahead instructions. Easily make this icing ahead of time to frost your cookies later. Prepare, then store in the fridge an airtight container. Let it come to room temperature before using (about 30 minutes), add more milk or corn syrup to thin if needed.

Recipe FAQs

What is cookie icing made of?

The main ingredients are powdered sugar, milk and corn syrup. You can also add vanilla or other flavorings.

Is cookie icing the same as frosting?

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.

What type of icing is best for 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.

How long does it take for cookie icing to set?

It usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour for this sugar cookie icing to set completely.

How do you make cookie icing dry faster?

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.

Storing and Freezing Cookies with Icing

Store: 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.

Freeze: The cookies will also stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months. Store in freezer safe bag and thaw overnight in the refrigerator or on the counter for a few hours.

5 star review

“Best icing recipe I’ve ever used. It was perfect and colorful and shiny. Thank you for sharing it.”

– Claudia
Cookies frosted with sugar cookie icing.

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 Recipes

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Cookies frosted with sugar cookie icing.

Sugar Cookie Icing

4.92 from 34 votes
↑ Click stars to rate now!
Author: Jamielyn Nye
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!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 24



  • 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.


    Make Ahead: 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 or zip top bag with no air leaking in. Set out about 30 minutes before using. 
    Drying tip: It helps to dry the cookies in front of a heater fan to keep the icing shiny.
    Storage: Once the icing has hardened the cookies can be stacked. I like to put a piece of parchment paper in between. Store in a covered container for 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.


    Calories: 43kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 1mg | Sugar: 10g | Calcium: 1mg

    Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

    Course: Dessert
    Cuisine: American

    Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

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