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This Sugar Cookie Icing is buttery sweet and made in minutes. It’s the ideal texture for pouring in swirling designs over your soft sugar cookies (or these gluten free Almond Flour Sugar Cookies) or cut-out sugar cookies and hardens just enough to make them stackable for party platters and edible gift giving.

Sugar Cookie Icing pouring over soft sugar cookies

With a melted butter base, this sugar cookie icing is made without light corn syrup (a riff on this recipe from Tieghan of Half Baked Harvest) and has a decadently rich flavor that you can’t achieve with the sugar and water glazes that often adorn sugar cookies. It’s so easy to make – just 4 ingredients and there is no need for a mixer. Just combine the icing ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk until silky smooth (Watch the recipe video below to see what I mean!).

It’s easy to adjust this icing to the right consistency; if it’s too thick, add a little water; too thin, add more confectioners sugar. You can also add food coloring and/or liquid flavoring like almond extract if you like.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between icing and frosting?

First of all, the terms are debatable (and you can throw ‘glaze’ in there too). Typically, ‘frosting’ is thick, fluffy, and less sweet than icing. It also stays soft and doesn’t stack well so it’s not ideal for party platters (unless you can place them in a single layer) or for edible gift giving. Icing is sweeter than frosting, glossy instead of fluffy, and is often pourable for easy cookie decorating, and hardens enough to allow for stacking.

Is cookie icing the same as royal icing?

Royal icing is typically made with beaten raw egg whites, powdered sugar and often a citrus juice like lime or lemon and hardens as it drys. But ‘icing‘ is a broader term that is used to refer to everything from the simplest glacé icing that is just powdered sugar and water, to elaborate buttercream frostings and fondants.

Many icings are too sweet for my taste, but it’s the amount of sugar that determines how much the icing will harden. This sugar cookie icing recipe leans more toward buttery and hardens just enough to make your cookies stackable in an airtight container, but you’ll want to be gentle with them.

If you’re in need of a perfect sugar cookie recipe, these Soft Sugar Cookies are a family favorite!

Step 1: Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add remaining icing ingredients (confectioners sugar, water and vanilla) and whisk until smooth and shiny (all sugar has dissolved). Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

melted butter in a saucepan
confectioners sugar and melted butter in a saucepan
adding water to confectioners sugar and butter in saucepan
adding vanilla to confectioners sugar and melted butter in saucepan
sugar cookie icing

Step 2: Transfer slightly cooled icing to small pitcher for drizzling over sugar cookies. Allow icing to cool and harden on cookies before serving.

4.73 from 11 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Calories: 73
Servings: 24 servings
A sweet and buttery rich sugar cookie icing that’s easy to make and hardens so that cookies are stackable!

Ingredients  

  • 1/2 cup butter 1 cube, ideally 85% fat European style butter
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar 240g, sifted (see recipe note #1)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Instructions 

  • Place butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When butter has melted, whisk in remaining ingredients until very shiny and smooth (sugar has dissolved completely). Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  • Check consistency of icing: it should be thin enough to be pourable, but not so thin that it runs off the sides of the sugar cookie. If too thick, whisk in more water a few drops at a time. If too thin, whisk in more sugar until the icing reaches your desired consistency.
  • Transfer icing to small pitcher and swirl artfully over cooled sugar cookies. Let icing cool and harden. Serve.

Notes

  1. For the best texture, use fresh powdered sugar / confectioners sugar and sift. And be sure that it’s made from cane sugar not beet sugar, which can be more grainy. 
  2. This recipe makes enough for icing about 25, 3-inch round sugar cookies.

Nutrition

Calories: 73kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 34mg | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 120IU | Calcium: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Leave a comment & rate the recipe below!

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38 Comments

  1. Katie says:

    5 stars
    Wow!!!! This is my absolute new favorite sugar cookie icing recipe! I happened to have European butter because all of the butter was gone at the store. I swear that is the key! This icing is perfect and so quick! Our sugar cookies with the best icing were a nice distraction at this time. Thank you!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the recipe, Katie! Be safe and well… 🙂

  2. Hailey says:

    3 stars
    I wisked this recipie up and put it on my sugar cookies. The vanilla was a little strong for me but it complimented the cookie well, mine was grainy, which is fine but it turned out well otherwis

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Hi Hailey…Glad you enjoyed the frosting and you can always reduce the vanilla. As you’ll read from other comments, this recipe seems to be hit or miss with the graininess. I haven’t had the issue – mine has turned out smooth and iridescent. There are several thoughts on avoiding graininess in the post and comments if you’d like to give the recipe another go. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Linda says:

    How should I store these iced cookies

    1. Marissa says:

      Hi, Linda. You can keep them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. I recommend placing a sheet of parchment or wax paper between each layer so they’re sure not to stick together. 🙂