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.
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.
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!
What do I need to make this Easy Sugar Cookie Icing?
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- Large glass bowl
- Sifter or a Fine Mesh Strainer to ensure there are no lumps in the sugar
- Liquid measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Ramekins or small bowls to separate the icing for coloring
- Gel food coloring (I like this better than the drop kind because it’s a little less messy)
- Offset spatula or butter knives
- Wire cooling rack
- Parchment paper to cover the counter beneath the wire cooling rack so cookies can drip onto this instead of your countertop
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.
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:
- Half the recipe before making it so that you don’t have an excess amount of icing.
- 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.
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.
Now who’s ready to learn how to make this delightful sugar cookie icing?
Scroll on down to see how I do it.
Easy Sugar Cookie Icing
- 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup milk non-dairy milk OK
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice freshly squeezed
- Food coloring
- Gel-based food coloring
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- Measure out the powdered sugar into 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.
- In another small bowl, combine the vanilla extract and milk. Whisk them together.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the powdered sugar.
- Whisk until combined.
- Measure in the lemon juice, and whisk until smooth. (This will make 1 ¼ cups icing, and it will be relatively thin.)
- Use a measuring scoop to divide the icing as needed. (For 5 colors, use a ¼ cup measure.)
- Use the food colors of your choice to dye the icing, stirring with a spoon or a knife until the color is correct.
- Spread the icing thinly on top of the cookies, and let dry for 4-6 hours at room temperature before enjoying.
Do you have a go-to icing recipe in your household?
Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her…