How to Make the Best Sugar Cookie Icing

By LeafTV Editor

Let's be real—icing is the best part about sugar cookies, so it's essential to get it right. There are a variety of ways to make it, from basic to more advanced. Many recipes call for egg whites or meringue powder (often referred to as royal icing); these ingredients create a stiff icing that's good for intricate piping, but aren't necessary for basic decorating. If you want to keep things easy, you most likely have everything you need in your pantry.

How to Make the Best Sugar Cookie Icing

Jennifer Farley - SavorySimple.net

  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons water or milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice, strained (optional)
  • Liquid gel food coloring (optional)
  • Whisk
  • Mixing bowl
  • Piping bag, small tips, and coupler (optional)
  • Squeeze bottle (optional)

One optional ingredient I recommend is gel food coloring, available at grocery stores, craft supply stores, or online. A few drops gives your icing a vibrant color without changing the consistency.

How to Make the Best Sugar Cookie Icing

Jennifer Farley - SavorySimple.net

Step 1

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, 4 tablespoons water or milk, vanilla, and corn syrup. Vigorously whisk together until very smooth with no lumps.

How to Make the Best Sugar Cookie Icing

Step 2

Jennifer Farley - SavorySimple.net

Step 3

The icing should be thick enough to hold its shape while drying, but not so thick that it can't be piped onto cookies. It should be about the consistency of Elmer's Glue. If necessary, add an additional tablespoon of water (to thin) or sugar (to thicken).

The icing should be thick enough to hold it’s shape while drying, but not so thick that it cannot be piped onto cookies. It should be about the consistency of Elmer’s Glue. If necessary, add an additional tablespoon of water or sugar to reach the desired consistency.

Step 4

Jennifer Farley - SavorySimple.net

Step 5

To add gel food coloring, divide the icing into smaller bowls and whisk in approximately 1 to 3 drops per 1/2 cup of icing until the desired color is achieved. Keep in mind that gel coloring is much stronger than regular food coloring so you don't need much for rich pigment.

How to Make the Best Sugar Cookie Icing

Step 6

Jennifer Farley - SavorySimple.net

Step 7

The easiest way to decorate cookies is with a squeeze bottle. For more control over the design, use disposable piping bags and small piping tips, available (along with squeeze bottles) at a craft supply store or online. If you want to get fancy you can also purchase couplers, which allow you to easily switch between tips without changing the bags. Either way, it's good to practice icing on a plate before decorating the cookies. Once piped, the icing takes a few hours to completely set (but that doesn't mean you can't eat the cookies before then if you can't resist).

How to Make the Best Sugar Cookie Icing

Step 8

Jennifer Farley - SavorySimple.net When deciding whether to use water or milk, keep this in mind: Milk adds a touch of creaminess, but the icing can't be left at room temperature for longer than 4 hours. This is fine if the cookies will be eaten right away, but icing made with water can be left at room temperature indefinitely. To add lemon flavor to the icing, use a mixture of water and lemon juice, replacing half of the water with lemon juice. Make sure to thoroughly strain out any pulp or seed residue.