Sugar topping can add shimmer, crunch and color to your cookies for any theme. Sanding or crystal sugar is the best sugar topping to use on sugar cookies because it will not melt into the cookie at room temperature or with moisture from touching other cookies. Sanding and crystal sugar can be purchased colored or you can color it yourself to fit any theme. Decorating cookies with sugar topping is much like decorating with glitter, with icing being like the glue and sugar being like the glitter. It can be as detailed or as simple as you want the finished design to be.

Things You'll Need

Bake sugar cookies according to your recipe and allow the cookies to cool to room temperature. The cooler the cookies are, the easier it will be to ice and decorate the cookies.

Pour the sanding or crystal sugar onto the plate in a pile at least 1/2 inch thick and slightly larger than the diameter of the cookies.

Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk and corn syrup to the bowl and stir with the spoon until the mixture is a smooth, creamy mixture with no lumps.

Dip the paintbrush in the icing and draw the design that you want on the cookie using the paintbrush. Quickly turn the cookie upside down and dip it in the pile of sugar topping. Place it sugar side up on a cool surface to dry for at least 10 minutes.


  • Use the icing or cover it within 10 minutes of mixing. Royal icing will harden very quickly after being exposed to air and should be covered tightly when not being used.

  • Place the cookies in the freezer to speed up or aid in cooling, if needed. Make sure that cookies chilled in the freezer are chilled through, not just on the surface, to avoid melting of the icing and sugar.

  • Regular granular sugar can be added to cookie dough prior to baking to give a cracked sugar effect where the cookie is lightly coated in sugar with cracks in the topping throughout. This decoration creates a home-style effect to a sugar cookie. Colored sugar should not be used in this process — it will bleed color into the cookie as it bakes.

  • Sanding and crystal sugar can be purchased at any bakery supply store and at many chain craft stores.

  • Add pink or white crystal sugar to the top of cookies to add a simple feminine touch to sugar cookies.

  • Add lime juice to the cookie batter and light green food coloring and a few drops of clear vanilla to crystal sugar for lime cream cookies, or add orange juice to the cookie batter and orange food coloring and clear vanilla to crystal sugar for orange cream cookies.

  • Make a muted, pastel color with the icing and sugar by coloring the icing in a slightly darker than desired color and top it with plain white sanding sugar. The result is a shimmering light or pastel color.

  • Make a detailed design in multiple colors on the cookie by icing it in stages. Draw the design on the cookie with the paintbrush, leaving the detailed colors without icing. Dip the icing as usual and allow to dry. Fill in the second color or details of the design with fresh icing and re-dip the cookie in the second color. For additional effect, use crystal sugar for the largest part of the design and sanding sugar for the smaller details.