Easy Sugar Cookie Icing

Whether you’re baking for the holidays, your kid’s class or just because, this Easy Sugar Cookie Icing is a simple, go-to recipe to make decadently sweet icing for any cookies! Makes enough icing for 60 cookies.

Looking for the perfect cookies to pair with this icing? All-Butter Tea Cake Cookies and Greek Yogurt Cut Out Sugar Cookies are our favorites!

Five white ramekins hold different colors of Easy Sugar Cookie Icing, ready for decorating

Hey-o! The Sweetest Season Cookie Exchange week rolls on… and I’m sharing my favorite icing recipe.

In fact, it’s kind of a shock that I haven’t shared this with y’all before, as it’s something that is integral for so many different cookie recipes.

Whatever the case, I finally took the time to quantify it when I was updating another recipe for this week, and I’m happy I did because cookies that need icing need a good icing, right? And one that’s pretty darn easy to make, too, right?

Why I love this recipe:

This sugar cookie icing without corn syrup is a dream. It’s a little sweet, a little tart and a lot good. It pairs particularly nicely with a sugar cookie or a shortbread cookie that’s not too sweet.

This icing recipe is on the runnier side, which makes it relatively easy to work with when you get a feel for it. You can also use piping bags for it, but I rarely get that fancy with it. My kids love it, too, because they can make abstract art-looking cookies with it, haha.

It can also be transformed into a dairy free or vegan icing recipe with a simple ingredient swap.

Other festive recipes to make this season: Sweet Potato Sugar Cookies with Fluffy Marshmallow Icing | Lemon Drop Cookies | Shortbread Brown Butter Cookies | Orange Cranberry Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies | Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge

Looking for dessert inspiration? Meander on over to my Desserts Recipe Index for all kinds of ideas!

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Also, if you’re baking cookies, you miiiiiiiiight want to check out these 10 Best Baking Tools for Cookies!

In addition to these tools, you’re going to need a few ingredients to make this sugar cookie icing without corn syrup. (Yes. It’s made without corn syrup, and it still hardens. Hallelujah!)

  • Powdered sugar, also known as confectioner’s sugar
  • Kosher salt—just a pinch!
  • Vanilla extract
  • Milk—cow’s milk or non-dairy milk is fine here, friends. This works as a vegan icing if you need it!
  • Lemon juice—just a little bit to give it some tang

I know someone is going to ask about why I add the lemon juice to this icing recipe when lemon juice curdles milk. Yes, it does. (Please don’t freak out about this: I promise it’s gonna be OK.)

The lemon juice and milk combination adds some major tanginess to this icing, like you’d get with a classic buttermilk without necessitating purchasing buttermilk, which is something I always forget on my shopping list.

I, personally, enjoy that because icing that’s too sweet is decidedly not my jam. If it is yours, I suggest finding a different sugar cookie icing recipe.

How to make Frosting for Sugar Cookies

This frosting is super easy to make. In fact, you only need a few ingredients that you probably already have on hand.

Measure the dry ingredients

First and foremost, measure out the powdered sugar, and use a sifter to ensure there are no lumps in the sugar.

Season with salt, and whisk.

Pro tip: We add a pinch of salt to this recipe because it will make the icing not sickeningly sweet. Just a little bit of salt helps balance out sweet treats. 🙂

Measure the wet ingredients

In another bowl, combine vanilla extract and milk. Whisk ‘em together.

Mix all ingredients for the icing, then make it colorful

Pour them into the powdered sugar mixture, and whisk until combined.

Next, you’ll pour in the lemon juice, and whisk until smooth.

Yes, I know we’re doing lots of whisking. That’s how we roll with icing, y’all.

After that, you can divide the icing into various bowls and color them the colors of your dreams. Personally, I like gel food coloring to color this icing, but you can use the regular dropper kind, too, if that’s what you have on hand. 

Decorate your cookies

Spread a thin layer on top of your favorite sugar cookie recipe, add sprinkles or additional stripes of color at your leisure.

Let the icing dry for 4-6 hours on top of the cookies at room temperature before storing in an airtight container.

A whisk drizzles the just-mixed vegan icing in its bowl before dividing it into individual ramekins to be colored

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of icing do you use to decorate sugar cookies?

Personally, I like a plain Jane frosting like this easy sugar cookie icing without corn syrup. It calls for minimal ingredients and adds some sweetness to a run-of-the-mill sugar cookie.

How long does this icing last?

Stored in the fridge, it’ll last for more than a week. But do you really want it to last that long? Noooooo.

Does this icing recipe harden?

Yes, but it takes a little time. Prepare for the icing to sit on the cookies for 4-6 hours before you’re able to transport them. Personally, I like to let mine sit overnight.

To make the hardening process faster, let the cookies dry on a wire cooling rack so that no icing pools around the edges. You can also pop them in the refrigerator uncovered for a little while to make the process speed up.

I see this icing recipe calls for milk. I don’t drink milk. Is there a substitute?

This can be made into a dairy free icing, which is also a vegan icing. To do this, simply use non-dairy milk in place of the cow’s milk. You can also use water.

My favorite non-dairy milks to use in this recipe are unsweetened cashew milk or unsweetened almond milk, which you would find in the refrigerated section of your grocery.

The only non-dairy milk I would not use for to transform this recipe into a vegan icing is coconut cream (from a can) because it would make the frosting too thick.

How can I store the extra icing if I don’t have FIVE DOZEN cookies to ice?

You have two options:

  1. Half the recipe before making it so that you don’t have an excess amount of icing.
  2. Pour the extra icing into an airtight container (or multiple, depending on if they are different colors.) Pop them in the freezer and freeze for a few months.

Help! I have a ton of cookies. Can I double this recipe?

Absolutely! This recipe makes a ton of icing—and it’s a thinner icing, so it goes farther than a thicker cream cheese icing—but if you need more, you can certainly double or triple the recipe without issue.

Five ramekins holding different colors of Sugar Cookie Icing without corn syrup are shown in a row with spoons in them, ready to decorate

Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips

This easy cookie icing recipe is the one I turn to, no matter the time of year, whenever I’m hosting people for cookie decorating.

Why? This icing is incredibly simple to make and easy for all to use, assuming they can hold a butter knife.

Here are some tips and tricks for using this icing for entertaining:

Make your icing in advance. The beauty in this Sugar Cookie Icing without corn syrup is that it can be stored in the fridge for quite some time before you use it. Let it come back to room temperature before it’s time to ice the cookies, though, or it’s going to be a little thick.

Let the kids get their hands sticky. I’ll be honest and tell you that I hate when my hands and my kitchen are sticky. But my kids l-o-v-e- being able to participate in the making of this easy cookie icing recipe. Depending on their ages, they can measure, whisk and color the icing! Let them do it, and just be mentally prepared to do the clean up and the de-sticky-ing of your kitchen. 😉 

Put it in icing bags for easy application. If you’re having a cookie decorating party and are hosting a ton of people and don’t want to worry about icing being strewn across most surfaces of your home, I GET THAT. Use piping bags without tips (affiliate link), meaning you cut a teeeeeeeeny tiny hole on the end to make your life easier and to make your house potentially less messy.

Sugar cookies, decorated and topped with Easy Sugar Cookie Icing, are set out to dry on a piece of parchment paper

Now who’s ready to learn how to make this delightful sugar cookie icing?

Scroll on down to see how I do it.

Five white ramekins hold different colors of Easy Sugar Cookie Icing, ready for decorating
Yield: 60 cookies

Easy Sugar Cookie Icing

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Whether you're baking for the holidays, baking for your kid's class or simply baking just because, this Easy Sugar Cookie Icing is a simple, go-to recipe to make decadently sweet icing for any cookies! Calling for just six simple ingredients that you probably have on hand, this icing recipe is easily customizable and perfect for cookie decorating. With an option to make it vegan and dairy free, this icing is perfect for all cookie lovers!

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup milk (non-dairy milk OK)
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice, , freshly squeezed
  • Food coloring of your choice

Instructions

  1. Measure out the powdered sugar.
  2. Using a sifter (or a fine mesh strainer), sift the powdered sugar into a large glass bowl. This sifting will ensure there are no lumps in the sugar. Add the salt, and whisk.
  3. In another small bowl, combine the vanilla extract and milk. Whisk them together.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the powdered sugar.
  5. Whisk until combined.
  6. Measure in the lemon juice, and whisk until smooth. (This will make 1 ¼ cups icing, and it will be relatively thin.)
  7. Use a measuring scoop to divide the icing as needed. (For 5 colors, use a ¼ cup measure.)
  8. Use the food colors of your choice to dye the icing, stirring with a spoon or a knife until the color is correct.
  9. Spread the icing thinly on top of the cookies, and let dry for 4-6 hours at room temperature before enjoying.

Notes

This recipe makes enough to ice 60 2" sugar cookies, which is why the serving size is 60. 

Dairy Free/Vegan Substitutions: You can use non-dairy milk or you can use water in place of cow's milk in this recipe. My favorite non-dairy milks to use here are unsweetened cashew milk or unsweetened almond milk, which you would find in the refrigerated section of your grocery.

The only non-dairy milk I would not use for this recipe is coconut cream (from a can), as it would make the frosting too thick.

Easy Storage Tip: If you are making cookies, but don’t want to have to hustle to make the icing the day-of, whip this up a day or two ahead of time and store in the fridge. Let warm slightly before spreading on top of your completely cooled cookies.

Too much? Too little? If you leftover icing, you can freeze it in an airtight container for a few months (or until you have more cookies to ice!) If you need more icing, you can easily double or triple this recipe without issue.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

60

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 21Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 12mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 0gSugar: 5gProtein: 0g

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16 Comments

  1. Ahh, I had no idea sugar cookie icing was SO easy! These photos are beautiful and I cannot wait to try this.

    1. Thank you so much, Madison! Sugar cookie icing is SO simple to make, and it’s delicious, too. 🙂 I hope you and yours enjoy this recipe as much as we have this holiday season!

  2. Hi there!
    I am familiar with, and regularly use royal icing. My neighbors little boy is allergic to egg, so I cannot use my normal go to recipe for any cookies for him. Is this recipe similar in consistency to a flooding icing?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Tracey! I’m not super familiar with royal icing, as I’ve used it just once. That said, this *is* the consistency of a flooding icing. You could probably make it stiffer, too, with more powdered sugar (so it would be sweeter) to make a border icing.

      I hope this icing works for you and that your son can enjoy it!

  3. Curiosity, what is the lemon juice for? This will be my first time making this icing for cookies. But I have made a similar one for a cake. Can’t wait to try it!

    1. Hi Kayla, The lemon juice adds a pop of acid and tartness to the icing and balances out the suuuuuuper sweetness of the powdered sugar. The salt does this, too. I find this really important (for me, at least) because I don’t like my sweets too sugary, if that makes sense.

      If you’re unsure about using the lemon juice, mix up the icing without it, taste and see how it is. If it’s too sweet for you, add that lemon juice, and you should be balanced right out. (This is a palate thing, and since everyone’s is a little different, I suggest trying it like this to see what you think and what works best for your tastebuds!)

  4. Erin, Thank you for the note about making the icing first. I can not have citrus. Adding it last means that I can pull mine out and then make icing for rest of family with lemon in it!
    Marty

    1. Marty, you’re welcome for the note! I’m glad you were able to pull out the icing for yourself and then finish making it for others. You could probably leave out the lemon, too, completely, if you’d rather. Either way, I hope the icing turned out and that you and yours enjoyed it!

  5. Hi! Does this icing harden? Like would I be able to stack cookies that are iced on top of each other? Will the icing transfer to the other cookies?

    1. Hi Amanda! Yes, the icing will harden, but it needs time to dry before you stack them on top of each other. I’ve found that letting them harden/dry overnight has worked best for me, then we stack them easily the next day.

      I hope that helps, and I hope that you enjoy the recipe!

  6. It seems so easy! Thanks for sharing! I was just wondering if the lemon taste come out. Like will it taste like sour and lemony, or just sweet??

    1. Hey Alia! Thanks for your comment and question about the lemon flavor.

      The lemon taste is very, very mild and balances out the sweetness of the powdered sugar so it’s not super sweet. (I have this thing about super sweet desserts and have found that icing can give me a headache if it’s too sweet, haha.) If you’re concerned about this, you can of course leave out the juice.

      I hope that helps!

  7. Can this be used for a ginger bread house? I have all these ingredients and really don’t want to use egg, please say yes 😉

  8. Can I use this to make drippings on top of the cake and can I go without lemon too? The cake I’m going to make for little girl and she allergic eggs and nuts I want to make cool cake ever that it’s will be first time for her cake also! Please let me know thank you

    1. Hi Lisa! I think you could drizzle this on a cake, but it’s pretty runny, so it might all end up at the bottom of the cake. It’s certainly worth a try, though, since it checks all your boxes for an allergy-friendly cake frosting.

      The lemon juice is in the recipe to balance out the extreme sweetness of the powdered sugar, but you could use the same amount of white vinegar. (I know it sounds weird, but it gives it just a nice little pop of acid to take the edge of sweetness off.) You can also leave it out if you don’t mind the sweetness.

      Let me know what you decide to do! I’m here to help troubleshoot and am cheering you on!

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