Sugar Cookie Icing

November 28, 2022

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This is the easiest Sugar Cookie Icing you can make! It’s made with just a few simple ingredients including powdered sugar for sweetness, corn syrup for consistency, whole milk for creaminess and thinning, and extracts for flavor. It’s perfect for decorating your favorite sugar cookies.

Sugar cookie icing shown over cookies in various colors and shapes.

Easy Sugar Cookie Icing

When I’ve made sugar cookie icing in the past I’ve gone with royal icing, which uses dried egg white powder. But who wants to buy a specialty ingredient that’s hard to find that you’ve only got one use for, right?

So a few weeks ago I tested a different icing that uses corn syrup instead and from here on out it will definitely my go-to.

There’s so many reasons to love it: It’s unbelievably easy to make, you just need a bowl and a fork. You’ll find it tints nicely holding vibrant colors (and a little food color goes a long way). It pipes beautifully (once you get the right consistency), and it sets to a nice hard layer making it suitable for stacking.

No unique ingredients and you really don’t even need special equipment (like a piping bag and tip) if you don’t need detailed shapes. I’ve even used a quart size freezer bag with success, just seal the bag and cut a tiny tip from one corner for that option.

It’s the perfect icing for all your holiday and celebratory sugar cookies!

Sugar cookie icing in a piping bag. Icing is tinted a green color and there is a cut out cookie next to it showing how to decorate with icing and sprinkles.Sugar cookie icing ingredients

Sugar Cookie Icing Ingredients

  • Powdered sugar: No substitutes here. This fine texture avoids grittiness and makes for a smooth and viscous icing.
  • Whole milk: Whole fat makes it creamier, if using one with less fat you’ll want to start with a little less since it’s thinner.
  • Light corn syrup: This is the secret ingredient that helps it hold it’s shape and creates a good consistency to work with. I don’t recommend any substitutes.
  • Vanilla extract and almond extract: These add great flavor. If there is a nut allergy though omit the almond extract of course.
  • Food coloring: This ingredient is completely optional and often times I just omit and go with white icing. You can use gel, liquid, powder or natural food coloring here.

Helpful Tools

Collage of six photos showing how to make sugar cookie icing with powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup and extracts. Shown mixing in a glass bowl, tinting with food coloring and piping over cookie.

How to Make Sugar Cookie Icing

  1. If powdered sugar is clumpy sift it first.
  2. In a large mixing bowl using a fork whisk together powdered sugar, milk corn syrup, vanilla extract, and almond extract until smooth.
  3. If needed thicken with a little more powdered sugar (a few tablespoons at a time) or thin with a little more milk (1 tsp at a time). It should not be runny but not so thick for piping, a nice ribbon should flow when you lift the fork from the icing. (You can also make a slightly thicker icing for edges and a thinner runnier icing if you want to flood the center of the cookies).
  4. Tint with food coloring if desired (you may opt to separate portions of icing into individual bowls if tinting various colors), start with small amounts especially if using gel as it is very concentrated.
  5. Transfer icing to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip (I like to use a Wilton #4) or you can even use a quart size resealable freezer bag if you don’t need precise detail, just cut a tiny corner from one bottom corner of the bag.
  6. Pipe icing over cookies then let it set until very firm, at least 2 hours. Cookies can be stacked once icing as fully set.

Storing Icing

  • Store sugar cookie icing in an airtight container.
  • It will keep stored for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
  • Bring to room temperature before using.
  • Thin with a little water or milk as needed before using (only about 1/2 tsp at a time).

 

Possible Variations

  • Use other flavors in place of vanilla/almond. A maple extract or a little peppermint extract would be delicious. Other fun flavors like cotton candy would be great too.
  • Make a chocolate icing. Replace a few tablespoons of the powdered sugar with cocoa powder.
  • Use water for icing that keeps longer. See below.

Making Icing that Keeps Longer

  • Since this icing has milk in it for food safety it shouldn’t stay at room temperature more than 3 days.
  • If you you want it to keep at room temperature long you can replace the milk with water.
  • Start with 3 Tbsp then go from there.

Cut out Christmas sugar cookies decorated with easy icing. Shown on a white rectangular platter from overhead. There are dear shapes, trees, stars, snowflakes and stockings.

Delicious Cookie Recipes to Try

Sugar Cookie Icing

This is the easiest Sugar Cookie Icing you can make! It's made with just a few simple ingredients including powdered sugar for sweetness, corn syrup for consistency, milk for thinning, and extracts for flavor. It's perfect for decorating your favorite sugar cookies.
Servings: 30
Prep10 minutes
Ready in: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (360g) powdered sugar*
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • Food coloring (gel, liquid, natural or powdered dried)

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl using a fork whisk together powdered sugar, milk corn syrup, vanilla extract, and almond extract until smooth. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl.
  • If needed thicken with a little more powdered sugar (a few tablespoons at a time) or thin with a little more milk (1 tsp at a time). It should not be runny but not so thick for piping, a nice ribbon should flow when you lift the fork from the icing. (You can also make a slightly thicker icing for edges and a thinner runnier icing if you want to flood the center of the cookies).
  • Tint with food coloring if desired (you may opt to separate portions of icing into individual bowls if tinting various colors), start with small amounts especially if using gel as it is very concentrated.
  • Transfer icing to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip (I like to use a Wilton #3 or #4 tip) or you can even use a quart size resealable freezer bag if you don't need precise detail, just cut a tiny corner from one bottom corner of the bag.
  • Pipe icing over cookies. You can also create an outline with slightly thicker icing and then use a clean paintbrush to spread slightly thinner icing over cookies.
  • Let it set until very firm, at least 2 hours. Cookies can be stacked once icing as fully set.

Notes

  • *If powdered sugar is stiff and clumpy sift it first (as with just about any recipe).
 
Nutrition Facts
Sugar Cookie Icing
Amount Per Serving
Calories 52 Calories from Fat 1
% Daily Value*
Fat 0.1g0%
Saturated Fat 0.04g0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.002g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.01g
Cholesterol 0.2mg0%
Sodium 2mg0%
Potassium 3mg0%
Carbohydrates 13g4%
Sugar 13g14%
Protein 0.1g0%
Vitamin A 3IU0%
Calcium 3mg0%
Iron 0.01mg0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.