This Sugar Cookie Icing recipe is made with just a few simple ingredients and incredibly easy to make too. Perfect for decorating sugar cookies for any holiday!

A white plate holding cut-out sugar cookies decorated with easy sugar cookie icing surrounded by more cookies and sprinkles.

Have you ever wondered how to make sugar cookie icing that dries solid, doesn’t break your teeth, and actually tastes good? A few years ago, I spent some time perfecting a simple homemade icing that checked all of those boxes and the end result ended up being so much better than I had expected!

This simple sugar cookie icing is made with just 4 ingredients plus a little food coloring. You don’t need a mixer or anything fancy to make it either, all you need is a whisk (or even just a spoon) and a bowl. This icing dries hard, but it’s still soft enough to bite into, unlike the rock-solid icing you find on some sugar cookies.

Every time I use this icing to decorate cookies, everyone goes crazy for it and asks for the recipe. I guarantee your friends and family will love it too!

All of the ingredients needed to make easy sugar cookie icing laid out on a rustic concrete surface.

Ingredients For This Recipe

To make this simple icing, you’ll need four ingredients: powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and light corn syrup. Let’s break down each ingredient:

  • Powdered Sugar: Also known as confectioners sugar or icing sugar, this is the main component of the icing. You’ll be starting with 2 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 a 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.

A glass bowl filled with pink sugar cookie icing showing the ribbons of icing falling from a whisk.

How To Make This Sugar Cookie Icing

You’ll be creating two different thicknesses of icing, the outline icing and the flood icing. Here’s how I create both using the same mixture:

To make this icing, you’ll simply combine the powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of milk, vanilla extract, and corn syrup in a large mixing bowl and whisk it together until it’s nice and smooth. The mixture will be very thick at this point. 

For the outline icing: Start adding 1/2 teaspoon of milk to the bowl until it’s not too thick. I usually use an additional 1 teaspoon to 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of milk to get the right consistency. You can tell if the icing is the correct consistency by lifting up your whisk or spoon and drizzling the icing back in the bowl. For the outline icing, you want to see ribbons of icing in the bowl for about 3-4 seconds before they melt back into the bowl of icing.

Once it’s the correct consistency, you can add food coloring. I highly recommend using gel food coloring because it won’t thin the icing out. Once colored, I typically remove about 1/3 of the icing for outlining the cookies and leave the rest for the flood icing. 

For the flood icing: The flood icing is what you’ll use to fill in the outline and fully ice the cookies. To make this, you’ll use the remaining 2/3 of the icing and simply add 1/2 teaspoon of milk at a time until it’s thinned out. The consistency of flood icing is much thinner, when you lift your whisk or spoon out of the bowl the icing will quickly dissolve back into the bowl.

Then, place the outline icing and fill icing in separate piping bags (or zip lock bags) and cut the tip off of each one. Outline each cookie with the outline icing, then use the fill icing to fill in the cookie. It helps to use a toothpick if needed to move the icing around and fill in any empty spots.

A beautifully decorated group of cut-out sugar cookies spread out on parchment paper.

FAQ’s

How do I make several different colors of icing?

To make several different colors, I recommend doubling or tripling this recipe. Once it’s the correct consistency to outline cookies, simply divide the icing between a few different bowls and add your food coloring. Then, you can divide each color again to create the outline and fill icings.

Can I make this ahead of time and refrigerate it?

You can prepare this icing 1-2 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 – 1/2 teaspoon of milk or water.

How much icing will this recipe make?

This recipe will make 3/4 cup of icing, which will frost about 8-10 cookies.

How long does this icing take to harden?

The top layer of the icing will start to set after a few hours, but it will take about 24 hours for the icing to fully set. I like to decorate the cookies the day before I plan to serve them and store them in a single layer in an airtight container overnight.

Several different decorated sugar cookies on top of a cooling rack.

Baking Tips

  • I suggest starting with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of milk, then add 1/2 teaspoon of milk at a time until it’s reached the correct consistency.
  • Gel food coloring is best in this recipe because it won’t thin out the icing. If you only have liquid food coloring on hand, you can add more powdered sugar as needed to thicken the icing. 
  • The icing will take about 20-24 hours to fully set. I prefer to decorate my cookies the day before I need them and let them sit in an airtight container overnight. You’ll want to avoid stacking the cookies until the icing is completely dry too.
  • If you’re looking for a cut-out sugar cookie recipe, this is my favorite cut-out sugar cookie recipe!
A white plate holding cut-out sugar cookies decorated with easy sugar cookie icing.

Easy Sugar Cookie Icing

5 from 8 ratings
Prep Time: 10 mins
This Sugar Cookie Icing recipe is made with just a few simple ingredients and incredibly easy to make too. Perfect for decorating sugar cookies for any holiday!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (240 grams) powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) milk
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Gel food coloring

Instructions
 

To make the outline icing:

  • Combine the powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of milk, light corn syrup, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl and whisk until well combined and no lumps remain. The mixture will be pretty thick at this point.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of milk (5 ml) 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 still see the ribbons of icing that fall back into the bowl for 3-4 seconds. If needed, add more milk to thin out the icing or add more powdered sugar to make it thicker.
  • Add the gel food coloring and mix until fully combined. Remove 1/3 of the mixture for the outline icing and set aside.

To make the fill icing:

  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of milk (5 ml) at a time to the remaining 2/3 of the mixture until the icing reaches a filling 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 fill icing in separate piping bags (or zip lock bags) and cut the tip off of each one. Outline each cookie with the outline icing, then use the fill 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 fully harden for about 24 hours.

Notes

This recipe will make about 3/4 cup of icing, which is enough to decorate 8-10 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: You can double or triple this recipe 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 gel food coloring. Then, divide each color to create the outline and fill 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. 
Gel Food Coloring: I recommend using gel food coloring so it doesn't thin out the icing. If using liquid food coloring, you may need to add more powdered sugar to get it to the correct consistency. 
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Author: Danielle
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