Looking for an easy icing for decorating beautiful cookies? This sugar cookie icing recipe is made with just two simple ingredients.
A cookie icing recipe that hardens and is easy to make.
Most classic cookie icing recipes include either raw egg whites or meringue powder. I’m not a fan of raw eggs in my food and I don’t always have meringue powder on hand.
So, my go to royal icing recipe for sugar cookies is really simple and can be made in just a few minutes. It’s a mixture of confectioners' sugar and either water or milk depending on my mood. Just two basic ingredients. THAT IS IT.
This is the cookie icing I use on almost all my decorated cookies. Combine this icing with my tender sugar cookie recipe and you will have one perfect cookie.
You can also try it out on my cookies and cream sugar cookie dough if you are looking for an alternative flavor.
See the results for yourself on holiday cookies like these snowflake shaped cookies, or my snowman cookies. It is the perfect icing to pair with Christmas cookies or any of your favorite cut out cookies.
Classic Royal Icing vs. My Cookie Icing
As I mentioned, classic royal icing recipes contain raw egg whites. Egg whites allow the royal icing to really harden and hold.
If I were putting together a gingerbread house, I probably would want an icing “glue” that was hard and sturdy. For that, I would definitely use a classic royal icing recipe.
For my gingerbread man cookies and other iced sugar cookies, I prefer to leave it out. I don’t know about you but I don’t like biting into icing so hard that I'm worried it’s going to break my teeth.
The best sugar cookies are the ones that look pretty and still taste good. Consider this simple icing recipe to be an easy royal icing recipe that still dries and hardens to the touch but it's soft when you bite into it.
There is one small catch. If you plan to pack the cookies or store them for later, you will need more time for the drying process.
They will have to dry overnight after decorating. The thicker your icing layer, the longer it will take to dry. I've found that the addition of too much food dye can also make it take longer to dry out.
To give you an idea, this unfinished train sugar cookie was iced around 3pm and at around 10am the next day, I checked on it. It was dry to the touch and gentle pressure with my finger did not mess up my icing.
I would be okay packing it up in a plastic bag as seen on my confetti cookie bars post or storing it in an airtight container between layers of parchment or wax paper. If I had added more intricate designs, I might have waited a full 24 hours.
Ingredients for Easy Cookie Icing
Powdered sugar: (confectioners' sugar) This is the main ingredient. Do not try using regular granulated sugar.
Milk: You can use whole milk or low fat milk. I have even used water.
How to Make Easy Homemade Icing
I fully admit that I use the laziest way possible to make my icing. I don’t even sift my sugar. It takes a bit more mixing on my part to get rid of sugar clumps so if you are into sifting, by all means sift your sugar first.
First, add your sugar to a mixing bowl large enough to allow stirring without spilling sugar all over the place. Next, take a fork, NOT a whisk, and add either water or milk a teaspoon at a time.
Start mixing and stop adding liquid when you get the right consistency. Be sure to mix in all the sugar and scrape it off the side of the bowl too.
I do not use my stand mixer for making my icing unless I am making a very large amount of icing. If you are using a stand mixer, I suggest using your whisk attachment.
Add the sugar to bowl first and mix it on the low speed to remove any sugar clumps. Add the liquid a little at a time and mix until you reach the correct consistency. Be sure to stop in the middle of mixing several times to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Tips for Making Royal Icing:
- The amounts in the recipe card are just a guideline for making a loose icing. For stiffer, thicker icing add a little more powdered sugar and stir. For a thinner icing or flood icing, add additional milk a little bit at a time while stirring until it becomes a little thinner.
- If you need different consistencies for the same batch of cookies, just separate the initial batch of icing into smaller bowls and adjust the consistency.
- Add a teaspoon of lemon juice, almond extract or vanilla extract for flavor. (Vanilla extract may add a very slight tint and make your icing less white. If you want white icing, you will need to use clear vanilla extract.)
- For making colored icing, I first make a large batch of plain icing and then separate the icing into smaller separate bowls for making different colors. Next, I add drops of gel food coloring and mix well. I do not recommend using liquid food coloring. Gel colors are more vibrant.
- But beware that adding any coloring to small amounts of icing will make the icing a little thinner so you may have to add more powdered sugar to thicken it up again.
- Other recipes also include light corn syrup for adding shine and a more fluid consistency. If you want to try it, add a teaspoon and test first.
Storing Cookie Icing:
Place plastic wrap over any extra or leftover icing that's not being used. This will keep the top from drying out while you decorate your cookies.
You can also store the icing long term in an airtight container (with plastic wrap on the surface of the icing) in the refrigerator fro up to 3 days. Just let it come to room temperature and give it a stir before using.
Decorating Cookies with Icing:
You can decorate your cookies with this icing using squeeze bottles or piping bags with small piping tips.
If you don't have these specialty tools you can always dunk the top of your cookie in the icing or fill a small plastic bag and snip off the corner. It will not have the same precision but your cookies will be iced!
My personal favorite way is to make my own piping bag out of parchment paper. Believe it or not, you can get a lot of precision detail with parchment cones.
It's one of the simplest ways to decorate your cookies with details and requires no special piping tips or piping bags. Check my post on how to make piping bag for step by step details.
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar
- 2 Tablespoons of water or milk
- Add the sugar to medium sized mixing bowl. (Sift it before adding if you prefer)
- Next, take a fork, NOT whisk, and add either water or milk a teaspoon at a time.
- Start mixing and stop adding liquid when you get the right consistency. Be sure to mix in all the sugar and scrape it off the side of the bowl too.
- Transfer the icing to either a squeeze bottle or a piping bag with a small tip.
The amounts in the recipe are just a guideline for a loose icing. For stiffer icing add more confectioners sugar and stir. For a looser icing, add more liquid and stir.
Add a teaspoon of lemon juice or vanilla extract for flavor. Vanilla extract may add a very slight tint and make your icing less white.
Add drops of food coloring gel to get different colored icing.
Other recipes include corn syrup for adding shine a more fluid consistency. If you want to try it, add a teaspoon and test first.