This truly is the best ever sugar cookie icing! It hardens without becoming too crunchy, is full of vanilla flavor, and can be colored to suit any holiday. 

An overhead view of a pile of iced sugar cookies on a white plate. Piping bags of colored sugar cookie frosting are strewn around the plate.

Making homemade icing for sugar cookies is incredibly easy and requires just four basic ingredients, plus some food coloring.

After testing this recipe many times, I can confidently say that it pipes easily (both for outlining cookies and filling them!), tastes delicious, and sets up nicely. 

Customize your homemade icing with whatever food coloring you’d like to suit the occasion, or transform one batch into multiple colors. When it comes to decorating sugar cookies, the sky is the limit!

An overhead view of the ingredients needed to make sugar cookie icing.

Ingredients for This Recipe

To make homemade sugar cookie icing, you’ll need the following ingredients:  

  • Powdered Sugar: Also known as confectioners sugar or icing sugar, this is the main component of the icing. You’ll be starting with 4 cups of powdered sugar.
  • Milk: Any kind of milk will work just fine in this recipe. I’ve used whole, 2%, 1%, skim, and even almond milk and they all work great. Don’t have any milk on hand? You can replace it with an equal amount of water.
  • Vanilla Extract: If you want a pure white icing, I recommend using clear vanilla extract. If you’re not concerned about it or are coloring the icing feel free to use pure vanilla extract instead.
  • Light Corn Syrup: The corn syrup helps the icing set up a little faster and makes it shinier too. If you don’t have any, you can leave it out and just use a little bit more milk.
  • Food Coloring: You can use either liquid or gel food coloring in this icing. Keep in mind that too much liquid food coloring can thin out the icing. If you’re looking for a vibrant or darker color, then I recommend a gel food coloring like AmeriColor.

A bowl of sugar cookie icing with a whisk held over it to show the outline consistency.

How to Make Sugar Cookie Icing

One batch of this icing can be used to make both the outline icing and flood icing, so get two bowls and two piping bags out and prepare to decorate your cookies! Here’s how to make the outline icing:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the powdered sugar, 5 tablespoons of milk, corn syrup, and vanilla extract. 
  2. Whisk the mixture well until no lumps remain. It will be fairly thick at this point! 
  3. Add an additional 1 teaspoon of milk at a time to the mixture until it reaches an outline consistency. 
  4. If coloring the icing, do so at this point. 
  5. Transfer 1/3 of the icing to another bowl and keep separate. The remaining 2/3 will be the flood icing. 

Tip: To tell whether the icing has reached outline consistency, lift the whisk from the mixing bowl. If the ribbons of icing falling into the bowl take 3 to 4 seconds to melt back into the icing, it’s the right consistency. 

A glass mixing bowl of flood icing with a spoon held aloft.

Now it’s time to make the flood icing. This will be much thinner than the outline icing, so it’s easier to decorate the cookies. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of milk at a time to the remaining 2/3 of icing.
  2. You’ll know it’s the appropriate flood consistency when you lift the whisk from the bowl and the icing quickly melts back into the bowl, like the picture above.
  3. Ice your sugar cookies as desired. For more information on how to do so, keep scrolling to the next section of this post. 

How to Decorate Sugar Cookies

Now that you know how to make icing for sugar cookies, you’re ready to begin decorating. I recommend using two piping bags for this task, one for the outline icing and one for the flood icing. If you’ve created multiple colors of icing, you’ll need separate piping bags for each color. 

  1. Once you’ve put the outline icing and flood icing into their own piping bags, snip off the very tip of each bag. Don’t cut the hole too big or else the icing won’t come out in a thin, clean line. 
  2. Outline each cookie with the outline icing. 
  3. Use the flood icing to fill each cookie. You may want to use the tip of a toothpick to help fill it out. 
  4. If using sprinkles, add them at this point. 
  5. Seal the cookies in an airtight container in a single layer. They need to lay flat for about 24 hours before you can safely stack them. 

An overhead view of four iced sugar cookies on a wire cooling rack. Three piping bags filled with icing surround the cookies.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does the Icing Take to Harden? 

The top layer of the sugar cookie icing hardens after just a few hours, but you’ll need to wait about 20 to 24 hours before you can stack the cookies without ruining the decorations. 

Can the Iced Cookies Be Frozen? 

Yes! Once you’ve decorated your sugar cookies and have let the icing fully set, you can freeze them in a freezer bag/container for up to three months. When you’re ready to eat them, let them come to room temperature on your counter. 

Can the Corn Syrup Be Omitted? 

Yes, but it makes the icing shiny and also helps it set faster. I highly recommend including it in the recipe, but you’re welcome to omit it if you don’t have any on hand or prefer not to use it. 

If you omit the corn syrup, be sure to add extra milk to compensate (1/2 teaspoon at a time until the right consistency is reached). 

Can I Make This Ahead Of Time?

You can prepare this icing 1 to 2 days in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You will need to set it out ahead of time to come to room temperature before using it. If the mixture is a bit too thick, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of milk or water.

Piping bags of colored icing and iced sugar cookies on white parchment paper.

Baking Tips

  • If you’re looking for a cut-out sugar cookie recipe, this is my favorite cut-out sugar cookie recipe!
  • You can use either liquid or gel food coloring with this icing. Keep in mind that using liquid food coloring may thin out the icing, which will require you to add extra powdered sugar to thicken it up. If you’re wanting more vibrant colors, then gel food coloring would be the best option. 
  • To make several different colors of icing: Divide the icing between a few different bowls and add your food coloring. Then, divide each color again to create the outline and flood icings.
  • This recipe makes 1 and 3/4 cups of icing which is enough for two dozen cookies. If you’re making a smaller batch of cookies, you can cut the recipe in half.

More Frosting Recipes You’ll Love! 

Recipe Video

Several iced sugar cookies on a white plate.

Easy Sugar Cookie Icing

5 from 8 ratings
Prep Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 10 mins
This truly is the best ever sugar cookie icing! It hardens without becoming too crunchy, is full of vanilla flavor, and can be colored to suit any holiday. 

Ingredients

Servings: 24 servings
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (480 grams)
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons milk divided, plus more if needed (75 to 90 ml)
  • 4 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure or clear vanilla extract
  • Optional: Gel or liquid food coloring

Instructions
 

  • To make the outline icing: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, 5 tablespoons of milk, light corn syrup, and vanilla extract until well combined and no lumps remain. The mixture will be pretty thick at this point.
  • Mix in 1 additional teaspoon of milk at a time until the icing has thinned out and reached an outline consistency. To test the icing, lift the whisk or spoon from the mixing bowl; you should see ribbons of icing that fall back into the bowl for 3 to 4 seconds. If needed, add more milk to thin out the icing or more powdered sugar to make it thicker.
  • Mix in the food coloring (if using) until fully combined. Remove ⅓ of the mixture for the outline icing and set aside.
  • To make the flood icing: Add ½ to 1 teaspoon of milk at a time to the remaining two-thirds of the mixture until the icing reaches a flood consistency. When you lift your whisk or spoon from the bowl, the icing should quickly melt back into the bowl of icing.
  • To decorate your cookies: Place the outline icing and flood icing in separate piping bags, and cut a small piece of the tip off each one. Outline each cookie with the outline icing, then use the flood icing to fill in the cookie. Use a toothpick if needed to move the icing around and fill in any empty spots.
  • Place the cookies in a single layer in an airtight container, and allow the icing to harden fully for about 20 to 24 hours before stacking the cookies.

Notes

This recipe will make about 1 and 3/4 cups of icing, which is enough to decorate 2 dozen sugar cookies.
I recommend decorating your cookies the day before you plan to serve them. I prefer to store my cookies in a single layer in an airtight container once they're decorated.
To make several different colors: Once it's the correct consistency to outline cookies, simply divide the icing between a few different bowls and add the food coloring. Then, divide each color to create the outline and flood icings.
To make ahead of time: You can prep the icing ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Allow to come to room temperature and mix well before using it. If needed, add a little more milk to get it to the correct consistency before icing your cookies.
Milk: Whole, 2%, 1%, skim, or even almond milk work just fine. I highly recommend using milk, but you can also use an equal amount of water in place of the milk.
Corn Syrup: This will help make the icing shinier and set faster too. If desired, you may omit the corn syrup and use a little more milk instead.
Vanilla Extract: For a pure white icing, I recommend using clear vanilla extract. 
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Author: Danielle
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