This simple sugar cookie icing recipe is made in minutes with just 5 ingredients plus a little food coloring. All you need is a few basic tools and your pantry staples to make cookie icing that is sweet, delicious, and easy to use.

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Easy Royal Icing for Sugar Cookies

Decorating sugar cookies shouldn’t be complicated or intimidating! That’s why this icing is so simple to make and easy to apply to your cookies so you can create the most elaborate designs without the fancy equipment. The icing hardens smooth, firm, and glossy but is still soft enough to bite into.

This is the perfect sugar cookie icing because it tastes deliciously sweet, but it doesn’t overpower the flavor of your favorite cookie recipe. For the conventional baker in you, we make decorating sugar cookies a fun way to elevate your treat from simply ordinary to extraordinary!

  • Simple to make and easy to use
  • No fancy ingredients or equipment required
  • Tastes delicious and hardens quickly
  • Works for all types of cookies and perfect for any holiday cookie exchange
  • Creates a firm shell so you can stack your cookies or bag them
  • Add sprinkles or sparkles to make additional fun and pretty designs
sugar cookie icing
  • Powdered sugar: Also known as confectioners’ sugar and icing sugar. Do not use granulated white sugar. 
  • Light corn syrup: This helps the icing harden and what gives it that brilliant shine!
  • Clear vanilla flavoring: Needed for pure, bright white icing.
  • Almond extract
  • Milk: Milk is used to thin the icing. I recommend whole milk or 2%. 
  • Gel food color (optional)
  • Food Coloring: It is very important to only use gel food color. Liquid food color will dilute the icing and will not set properly.
  • Piping Bags: If you do not have piping bags or ziplock bags, you can use squeeze bottles instead of the bags to decorate your cookies.
  • Vanilla Flavoring: I recommend using a clear vanilla extract to create a pure white icing. If you’re not concerned about it or are coloring the icing feel free to use pure vanilla extract instead.
  • Light Corn Syrup: The corn syrup helps the icing set up a little faster and makes it shinier too. If you don’t have any you can leave it out and just use a little bit more milk.
  • Extra decorations:  Feel free to add sprinkles, sanding sugar, or candy pieces for extra colorful cookies! 
  • Mixing bowl
  • Spoon or whisk
  • Quart size ziploc bags or piping bags

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This simple icing recipe will come together in 3 easy steps and can be colored to your favorite shades!

  1. Mix together all ingredients (except for food color) until no lumps remain.
    all ingredients in a bowl
  2. Portion the icing in 4 small bowls and add desired food color to each. 
    ingredients divided into 4 separate bowl
  3. Add the icing into piping bags, decorate, and allow your cookies set and harden.
    sugar cookie icing in 4 separate bowl, orange, yellow, blue and red

How to Fill Piping Bags with Royal Icing for Sugar Cookies

To avoid making a mess and having air bubbles in your piping bag, place the empty piping bag, tip side down, into an empty water glass. Then fold the edges of the bag over the top of the glass. This makes it easy to fill your piping bag because of the wide opening.
pouring the icing into piping bag

Push the frosting into the bag with a spatula until it is 2/3 of the way full, and twist the top to close up. The pressure should push out any air bubbles in your piping bag and ensure all of your frosting is neat and tidy in the bag.
decorating sugar cookie icing

How to Use Royal Icing to Decorate Cookies

When it’s time to decorate, I find it best to outline the border of each cookie with icing, then “flood” the inside area of the cookie with more icing.
decorate the cookie by creating the outline first

Use a toothpick to push the icing around so that the cookie’s surface is entirely covered. If you spot any small bubbles, just use the toothpick to pop them.
using tooth pick to pop bubbles in the icing

There are so many ways to have fun with your decorations. Use contrasting colors to make stripes, polka dots, or create your own original patterns.

  • This icing recipe can very easily be doubled.
  • It is very important to only use gel food color for the icing because it does not add extra liquid to the icing (even a small amount of extra liquid can change the consistency).
  • If adding sprinkles to your cookies, make sure to add them immediately after you frost your cookies. The sugar cookie icing dries quickly!

To Store: Store any leftover icing in an airtight container, or in the individual bags, in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Before using, allow the icing to come to room temperature.

How do I store my iced sugar cookies?

Fully dried iced sugar cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. If stacking them, it’s best to put sheets of parchment paper in-between the layers.

Can I freeze my iced cookies?

Yes, you can freeze iced cookies! Make sure the icing has fully dried before placing your finished sugar cookies in an air-tight container or freezer bag. Freeze for up to three months.

sugar cookie icing top view
Can I make this sugar cookie icing ahead of time?

You can easily make this icing ahead of time and ice your cookies later. Simply prepare as directed, then store in the fridge in an airtight container. Let it come to room temperature before decorating. You may also need to add a little more milk and corn syrup if it has thickened too much.

How long does it take for the icing to harden?

This icing sets up pretty quickly, but it can take anywhere from 12-24 hours to fully set and harden. The time it takes will depend on the thickness and consistency of your icing and the layers on the cookie. Once they’re completely dry, you can stack them or package them up for gifting.

What is the difference between royal icing and regular icinig?

Royal icing hardens to a smooth, firm finish, ideal for detailed decorations, while regular icing remains soft and creamy, better for a spreadable frosting.

What are the three types of royal icing?

Royal icing comes in three consistencies: stiff for outlining and detailed work, medium for intricate details and texturing, and flood for smoothly filling in larger areas on cookies. Each type serves a specific purpose in cookie decoration, from creating structures to achieving a smooth base layer.

Does royal icing melt easily?

Royal icing is resistant to melting under normal conditions but can soften in high humidity or if exposed to moisture.

Why isn’t my royal icing shiny?

Royal icing may lose its shine if it’s over-mixed, dries too slowly, or if the sugar quality is poor.

Why is my royal icing not puffy?

Royal icing may not appear puffy if it’s too thin or if it’s piped too thinly on the cookie.

Is milk or water better for royal icing?

Water is typically preferred for royal icing as it ensures a smooth, consistent texture, but milk can be used for a richer flavor.

How far in advance can you make royal icing?

Royal icing can be made several days in advance; it stores well in the refrigerator for up to a week when kept in an airtight container.

sugar cookie icing recipe that hardens
5 from 20 votes
sugar cookie icing featured image
Serves — 48
This simple sugar cookie icing recipe is made in minutes with just 5 ingredients plus a little food coloring. All you need is a few basic tools and your pantry staples to make a cookie icing that is sweet, delicious, and easy to use.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Rest Time 12 hours
Total Time 12 hours 10 minutes

Ingredients
  

  • cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  • ½ tsp clear vanilla flavoring
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • Gel food color (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Using a medium size mixing bowl, stir together the powdered sugar, corn syrup, clear vanilla, almond extract and milk. Stir until no lumps are visible.
  • Evenly divide the icing between 4 small bowls. Add 3 – 5 drops of the desired gel food color to the icing.
  • When you are ready to decorate your cookies, pour the icing into individual quart size ziploc bags or piping bags. Allow the iced cookies to sit for 12 – 24 hours to fully set and harden.

Jenn’s Notes

Storage:
Store any leftover icing in an airtight container, or in the individual bags, in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Before using, allow the icing to come to room temperature.
Tips:
  • This icing recipe can very easily be doubled.
  • It is very important to only use gel food color for the icing because it does not add extra liquid to the icing (even a small amount of extra liquid can change the consistency).
  • If adding sprinkles to your cookies, make sure to add them immediately after you frost your cookies. The sugar cookie icing dries quickly!
 

Video

Nutrition Info

Calories: 25kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 1mg | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1IU | Calcium: 1mg | Iron: 1mg

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