Filed Under: Christmas | Cookies | How To | Videos

Easy Cookie Icing

Recipe By Tessa Arias
  |  
November 18th, 2015

This Easy Cookie Icing is foolproof! Beautiful cookies without special ingredients, equipment, or raw eggs and can be customized for any holiday or decor.  Step-by-step video tutorial below.  Click here to download our 10 Favorite Christmas Cookies!

Yield: 1 recipe is enough icing for 1 batch of cut out cookies

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Sweet without tasting cloying or artificial.
Texture: Once the icing is completely set it hardens enough to not smudge, but not too much that it ruins the texture of the cookie.
Ease: Well, easy 😉
Appearance: So pretty and your decorating options are really limitless.
Pros: Easy and fun way to decorate any cut-out cookie.
Cons: None.
Would I make this again? Absolutely!

Since I love to bake and have made a career out of it, many people also assume that means I love to decorate. I actually learned a fair amount about cake, cookie, and pastry decorating in culinary school but I have a big secret…

Simple and easy sugar cookie icing made with just powdered sugar and milk

I actually hate decorating. Hate might be too strong a word but seriously, I usually find it extremely tedious, boring, and pointless. It’s just going to get eaten and there’s nothing worse than people NOT eating something because it’s too pretty!! I guess I’m practical in that way.

NOTE: If you need an equally EASY sugar cookie recipe, just click here to see mine!

Lately, however, some of my favorite bloggers and Instagrammers have convinced me that sometimes making something beautiful is worth the extra time and effort. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to find a way to make it easier, though.

Easy cookie icing for Christmas sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies

And that’s how I came to this method for Easy Cookie Icing. Royal icing may be beautiful, but it’s a huge pain and doesn’t even particularly taste good. Blah.

This easy cookie icing takes the same basic approach as royal icing. You make a thick border icing and then a thinner flood batch to completely decorate the surface of your cookies.

How to Make The EASIEST Sugar Cookie Icing

How to get the perfect consistency for cookie icing?

This comes down to one thing: the powdered sugar.

Firstly, be sure to use finely ground powdered sugar. Some brands at 5x ground and some are 10x. You want the latter to avoid any grittiness. You’ll also want to sift the sugar first to make it completely smooth both in terms of texture and appearance.

Secondly, it’s really key to adjust the sugar and liquid to the right consistency for YOUR kitchen. Different brands of powdered sugar, different methods of measuring (cups vs. scale), water vs. milk, humidity, etc. will all affect how thin or thick your icing will turn out. Just keep adjusting the ratio until it’s right for you.

How to get perfect cookie icing designs

You can always practice icing on a piece of parchment paper to test the consistency and to practice your decorating. You can even scrape the designs back into your bowl to avoid wasting!

What kind of food coloring to use for decorating cookies?

I 100% prefer to use gel food coloring for icing cookies. Either Americolor or Wilton gel food coloring) are my go-tos. Gel coloring packs a powerful punch without adding extra liquid to the mixture. Start with just a drop of two and work from there.

What do you use to pipe cookie icing?

Either squeeze bottles or pastry bags fitted with small plain tips. That’s all you really need! I personally prefer squeeze bottles as I find they’re easier to hold and handle and you could even get the kids involved with those!

Do you need corn syrup to make cookie icing?

Nope, not for this recipe! If you wanted to add some to get that shine and more viscous consistency, start with a teaspoon.

Can cookie icing be made ahead of time?

Yes! It can be made a day ahead of time and stored in a squeeze bottle or resealable container. Remix or pop in the microwave very briefly until it’s workable again.

How long does it take for cookie icing to harden?

You kind of want to think of this icing like paint “curing.” It needs a full 24 hours sitting out untouched before it’ll be completely harden enough to stack or transport without smearing anything.

You can find even more Christmas baking recipes here at my Christmas Headquarters!

How to make
Easy Cookie Icing

Yield: 1 recipe is enough icing for 1 batch of cut out cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Setting Time 1 day 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 day 40 minutes
This Easy Cookie Icing is foolproof! Beautiful cookies without special ingredients, equipment, or raw eggs and can be customized for any holiday or decor.  Step-by-step video tutorial below.  Click here to download our 10 Favorite Christmas Cookies!

Ingredients

For the border icing::

  • 1 cup (4.4 ounces) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons water or milk
  • Gel food coloring, if desired

For the flood icing::

  • 1 cup (4.4 ounces) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons water or milk
  • Gel food coloring, if desired

Directions

For the border icing:

  1. In a small bowl, use a fork to beat together all the ingredients except the food coloring. Beat in the food coloring, a few drops at a time, until colored to your liking. The mixture should be very thick but still pourable. Add more powdered sugar if needed.
  2. Transfer the border icing to a squeeze bottle using a funnel. You can also scoop into a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip. Before you begin icing any cookies, take a few moments to practice on a piece of parchment paper to get the feel of the icing.
  3. Holding the bottle or bag tip directly over one corner of a cookie, begin tracing an outline of the cookie, squeezing gently and using both hands if needed to maintain consistent pressure. I prefer to allow a little slack in my icing line as I go. If you mess up, simply wipe the icing off and start again. Allow the icing to dry slightly before continuing with the flood icing.

For the flood icing:

  1. In a small bowl, use a fork to beat together all the ingredients except the food coloring. Beat in the food coloring, a few drops at a time, until colored to your liking. The mixture should still be pretty thick, but will drizzle more freely than the border icing. If needed, add additional water or milk to loosen until the consistency is pourable. Pour the flood icing into a squeeze bottle or into a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip.
  2. Prepare as many batches and colors of flood icing as you need to decorate your cookies.
  3. Begin filling the interior of the border drawn on each cookie with the flood icing, being careful not to add too much that it overflows the border icing. Use either the nose of the bottle or a small toothpick to push the icing evenly over the cookie and up against the corners.
  4. Leave the iced cookie to dry for 24 hours. The cookies are dry when the surface is completely smooth, dry, and resists smudging when touched. Store the dried cookies between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

The iced cookies will need to dry for 24 hours before they can be safely moved or packaged.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

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About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

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  1. #
    Payton — November 29, 2015 at 1:05 am

    I love Christmas cookies! It just makes Christmas, well, Christmas!
    I’m in the middle of editing the photos of mine.
    Yours look amazing!

  2. #
    Kiki — January 3, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    Hey Tessa! This is absolutely wonderful! But I am wondering… while I wait for my cookies to dry is it okay to just leave them out the way they are? Will the cookies get too hard or dry over that 24 hour period? Anyway, thanks for the great tips!

  3. #
    kxy — November 9, 2016 at 4:06 am

    Hi Tessa, I would like to ask if doing the icing on cookies whereby we need to let it dry about 24 hrs, will the cookie turn soft ?

  4. #
    Vickie — December 4, 2016 at 11:42 am

    I’m w/ you about decorating! Tedious and boring. But I might give it a try this year. I was wondering though does this icing dry shiny? If not, should I just add a few drops of corn syrup to the icing or completely replace the milk w/ corn syrup? Btw, I really enjoy this site and all the recipes and tips you share. Very nicely done! Thanks.

  5. #
    Vickie — December 4, 2016 at 11:49 am

    I just thought of another question,…..once the cookies are decorated and completely dry, do you think they could be frozen that way until you need them? I’d be making quite a few and being able to freeze them saves a lot of last minute work. Thanks again

  6. #
    Tay — December 15, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    This frosting looks pretty and is easy to work with but the taste is just not there for me. it’s just not a good flavor and i will never use it again on my cookies.

  7. #
    Lisa — April 14, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Tessa, where can I find a “snowflake” cookie cutter. I want to make those with my grand children this year?
    And, I see for this icing with the cookies you use food coloring, but for the different colored icing for decorating cupcakes with flowers, what do you use for coloring your icing? I read where using liquid food colors thins your icing too much and changes the taste. Can you advise me?

    Love this site! Am planning and plotting a way to spend more time with my grandchildren. They love to decorate cookies and I want to introduce them to decorating cupcakes too. Am ordering things online to make it all easier. Any tips you ca share to help make this easier, what all I really need and how to cut costs, by not buying something I really don’t need?

  8. #
    Breanna Turner — December 10, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    Can you pre make, store icing? Having a cookie decorating party and really want to make add much add I can ahead of time.

  9. #
    Norma Vinchkoski — December 19, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    I agree with Sarah. The icing was so runny. We added an extra cup of sugar to make it even a bit thick. Still not pipable.

  10. #
    Anon — March 3, 2019 at 11:25 am

    The border icing recipe is entirely too loose to work with, you should really work on it before claiming to the entire world that it’s the best. Used it when I was in a pinch and out of egg whites, and it bled atrociously. Couldn’t get a good border unless I added almost three times the amount of powdered sugar you suggest. Again, tweak this. Not good.

  11. #
    Ruby — August 18, 2019 at 1:04 am

    This is A question. How do you store unused icing? In the refrigerator? How long can it sit out? Thank you!

  12. #
    NRS — October 17, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    Can you tell me which funnel you use for the border icing in your video? Would love to order it. I think mine is too tiny for the thicker icing. Thanks!

  13. #
    Jdyn — October 26, 2019 at 10:05 am

    Do you have to let it set in the fridge?

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