Sugar Cookie Frosting + Video

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With hints of vanilla and almond, this Sugar Cookie Frosting is sweet and scrumptious. And since buttercream frosting for cookies hardens as it dries, you can easily stack or package your treats while still enjoying a delicate, fluffy texture in every bite!

titled: Sugar Cookie Frosting


This tasty sugar cookie frosting recipe is absolutely heavenly and is essential for all of your holiday cookie decorating needs. I could eat it with a spoon!

Spread this frosting on my favorite Christmas Sugar Cookies, which are soft and chewy on the inside and slightly crispy on the edges.

Or, if you love icing just as much as frosting, you could top these cookies with my delicious Sugar Cookie Icing instead.

My sugar cookie frosting is easy to prepare — ready in just 5 minutes! Simply whip your ingredients together, and you’ll have perfectly soft frosting for cookies in no time at all.

If you love this Christmas cookie frosting, give my Candy Cane Buttercream Frosting a try next. 

Recipe Video

To see us make homemade frosting for cookies from start to finish, watch the video in this post!

ingredients for buttercream cookie frosting

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Unsalted Butter – I recommend using unsalted butter so that you have more control over how much salt goes into the recipe.

    If you only have salted butter on hand, no worries — you can simply omit the additional salt!
  • Milk – Whole milk is best to give your cookie frosting a creamy consistency, but you can also use nonfat milk if you prefer.
  • Powdered Sugar – This is also called confectioners’ sugar.

    Powdered sugar is the key ingredient in this sugar cookie frosting recipe, making it sweet and thickening the mixture. 
  • Salt – Omit this ingredient if using salted butter.
  • Almond Extract and Vanilla Extract – These give frosting for sugar cookies a delicious and sweet flavor.
  • Gel Food Coloring – You’ll only need to add a little bit, and the drops of color won’t affect the consistency.

    You can use any colors of your choice and decorate to your heart’s content!
  • Sprinkles – While this garnish is optional, adding holiday sprinkles gives your cookies a fun and festive touch.

    For best results, add sprinkles immediately after decorating — they’ll stick easier while the frosting is soft.
mixing together frosting ingredients in bowl

Icing vs Frosting for Cookies

A common misconception is that these terms are interchangeable, but they are actually not the same! 

Icing is thin and glossy, often used to decorate cookies or drizzle over pastries. It dries hard, shiny, and smooth and is typically made with just powdered sugar and liquid.

On the other hand, frosting is known to be thicker and fluffier than icing and is commonly spread on cakes or cookies.

It can have different textures and consistencies depending on the preparation. 

The buttercream cookie frosting we make here is super popular, but whipped cream and cream cheese frosting are tasty too!

beaters in bowl of cookie frosting

Tips to Make Frosting for Sugar Cookies That Hardens 

  • Eliminate clumps.

Use a sieve to sift the sugar and get rid of any clumps.

This is one of the best ways to get a perfectly smooth consistency when you cream the butter and sugar!

  • Use room temperature butter.

Softened butter is the easiest to combine with other ingredients and guarantees a soft, fluffy texture for your sugar cookie frosting.

Avoid using melted butter as it won’t combine properly with the powdered sugar — you’ll get frosting that lacks structure and doesn’t set properly.

  • Keep it covered.

Frosting is easiest to spread and decorate with when it’s soft, so try to keep it covered when you’re not using it!

If your frosting starts to get too hard while you’re decorating, give it another mix or add a little bit of milk to help soften it.

  • Dry before stacking.

While this frosting for sugar cookies will harden, it still takes time!

Let your treats dry fully in a single layer before storing and stacking them. 

stirring green food coloring into white frosting

Whether you’re hosting a cookie decorating party, packing up sweet treats for family and friends, or simply gathering the kids for a fun holiday activity — there are so many different ways to decorate your cookies.

Find the method that suits the occasion and the tools you have on hand!

Spread by Hand

An offset spatula is the best tool for spreading frosting quickly and easily.

It not only gives you better control over the thickness of the frosting layer, but also creates cleaner edges.

That said, spoons may be a bit easier for small hands to work with. They can scoop with one side and spread with the other, all while minimizing mess!

piping green frosting onto round cookie with star tip

Use a Piping Bag

A piping bag is a great option that will give your hands more control as you decorate.

By using bags with various decorator tips, you’ll have plenty of options for creating different textures and fun designs.

The easiest way to fill a piping bag is to place the bag (fitted with a tip) in a tall glass with the pointed side facing downward. 

First, open the top of the bag and roll a cuff over the edge of the glass so that it holds. 

Next, carefully spoon your sugar cookie frosting into the bag, aiming to fill from the bottom up.

Be careful not to overfill your bag as this might make it more difficult to work with.

Finally, unroll and close the cuffed end of the bag, and remove it from the cup. Simply cut off the tip of the bag and you’re ready to frost!

piping tiny stars onto christmas tree cookie

Try the Double Bagging Method

If you’ll be using several different colors of frosting, there’s an easy method called “double-bagging” that allows you to use the same piping tip over and over.

Just add each color to a different piping bag, and fit your tip onto a separate, empty bag.

Then, snip off the end of a bag of buttercream and drop it into the bag with the tip.

When you’re ready to change colors, pull the inner bag out and drop in a new one!

You might want to squeeze a small amount of frosting out onto a piece of paper towel first — this will push any remaining old color through the tip.

Kitchen Tools You Will Need

  • Stand mixer or large mixing bowl with hand mixer for whipping up your frosting.
  • Offset Spatula – This spatula has so many uses and is perfect for smoothing an even layer of buttercream on each cookie.
  • Piping Bag – These bags make decorating easy and clean up less messy!

    You can fit different bags with your favorite piping tips, or use the double bagging method for a seamless switch between different colors.
  • Decorator Piping Tips – Use different shapes and sizes depending on the design you want to make.
decorated tree cookies on wire rack
How long does sugar cookie frosting last?

If stored properly, your frosting will keep for about 3 weeks. Just place it in an airtight container and stick it in the refrigerator.

Since homemade frosting for sugar cookies lasts for a good amount of time, this is the perfect recipe to prepare in advance!

Once you’re ready to use your frosting, take it out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.

You may need to give it a good stir or a quick run through the mixer to get it back to that original perfect, fluffy texture.

How can I make my frosting thicker or thinner?

You can easily adjust the consistency of your cookie frosting. Add a little bit of milk to thin your frosting, or a little bit more powdered sugar to thicken it.

Then, mix until you get your desired consistency! 

round sugar cookie with piped green frosting and sprinkles

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tree cookies with piped green frosting and sprinkles

closeup of sugar cookie frosting.

Sugar Cookie Frosting + Video

Donna Elick
Sugar Cookie Frosting is soft and sweet! This delicious homemade buttercream cookie frosting will take your holiday cookies to the next level.
5 stars from 6 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Method Mixed
Servings 40 – 50


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Gel food coloring


  • Sprinkles


  • In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add in 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 Tablespoons milk, and a pinch of salt. Beat to combine.
  • Add in another cup of powdered sugar, the almond extract, and vanilla extract. Beat to combine.
  • Add in an additional cup of powdered sugar. Mix until well combined and smooth. Add additional powdered sugar or milk to get the right consistency.
  • Stir in gel food coloring.
  • Spread or pipe frosting onto your sugar cookies. Top with sprinkles immediately. Allow it to harden before stacking.


Donna’s Notes

If you are using multiple colors of food coloring for your cookies, tightly cover your additional frosting with plastic wrap so that it doesn’t dry out.
If your bowl of frosting starts to get hard, add a small amount of milk and mix to get the consistency back to the way you like it.
I recommend sifting your powdered sugar to keep your frosting smooth.
The round cookies were made using a Wilton 2D piping tip and a 12 inch piping bag.
The Christmas tree cookies were made using a Wilton 21 piping tip with a coupler in a 12 inch piping bag.
The fastest way to ice the cookies is probably making a round or square shaped cookie, and using an offset spatula to spread the frosting on.
Why won’t my sprinkles stay on? The frosting may have hardened a little bit before you put the sprinkles on. Tap the sprinkles into your cookie frosting, using a flat hand. This should press the sprinkles softly into the frosting.
Store in an airtight container for about 3 weeks.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 68cal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 1mg | Sugar: 12g | Calcium: 2mg | Iron: 1mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
titled image (and shown): sugar cookie frosting

Originally published November 2020, updated and republished November 2023

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  1. I made this tonight and used it to pipe frosting onto cookies. I've never done this before, but they turned out adorable!

  2. Came together beautifully as written, but then would not stick at all to our cookies. Just rolled around as we tried to spread it.

    1. The tip for the Christmas Trees is a Wilton 21 piping tip, for the round cookies we used the Wilton 2D piping tip, hope that helps.

    1. Ho Unknown, You can freeze the cookies but I would not suggest freezing them after icing them. Hope that helps. Enjoy and let us know how it goes!

      1. I freeze them every year at Christmas. I make sure the icing has dried for a short time and put cookies in a Tupperware container, laying parchment paper over each layer of cookies till container is full. We take a few out shortly before we need them and they are just as good as the day we made them.

  3. Does this dry faster than a Royal icing for example so it can be decorated and eaten a couple of hours later?

  4. Does the cookies need refrigerated after putting on the icing since it's has butter in it?Or are they safe to let out for a few days?

    1. Butter is actually shelf stable for quite a while as long as it doesn’t get too warm. The milk would go bad faster than the butter, but there isn’t a lot of of that in the recipe.

  5. Once the cookies are decorated, do they need to stay refrigerated or how long does this icing keep once frosted at room temperature

  6. 5 stars
    Worked well. After I did fall colors, I added melted chocolate chips mixed with cocoa and butter to make chocolate frosting, which I colored black for black cat cookies. It hardened well too. They are all ready for mailing now

  7. 5 stars
    Easy, tasty and makes my cookies look beautiful! I love the fact you can stack these without worry of smashing their designs.

  8. Hello just wanted to double check the frosting recipe states4 cups powder sugar but the video o LT shows you add it twice and the recipe states only adding 3 cups then adding more if necessary for consistency.. maybe I’m not reading it right.. but just want it to be correct lol

    1. 5 stars
      Yes, that is my understanding. I ended up using the entire 4 cups of sugar and 3 Tbsp of milk and I loved the consistency.

  9. 5 stars
    Great recipe! I never thought to microwave to soften! I had enough to frost the 36 cookies I made! I substituted lemon extract for the almond!

  10. I have to say this is the best “buttercream” I’ve ever had. It is so yummy, really held its shape , and was easy to spread. I didn’t have all the ingredients or time to make royal icing for my Easter cookies and came across this recipe and thought I’d try it. I kept thinking how wonderful it would be on a cake. By the time I finished frosting the cookies they were dry enough to stack lightly in my container. Thanks for the recipe!

  11. 5 stars
    I just made this and it’s delicious. Tried it on 2 gingerbread men to see how it hardens and if I have to adjust it. I need the frosting next week. can I store it at room temperature. Also if it doesn’t harden can I add meringue powder instead of powder sugar? Thanks!

    1. Hi Rita!
      We’re glad you enjoyed the recipe! We have not tried adding meringue powder, but if you do let us know how it turns out.
      TSRI Team Member,

  12. How many days in advance can you make the frosted
    cookies. Will they be ok stored in cold garage or do we need to freeze.

    1. Hi Jen!
      It’s best to eat them within 3 days, but they’re good on the counter for a week in a sealed container, Hope this helps!
      TSRI Team Member,

  13. THE very best soft frosting for sugar cookies. It pipes beautifully and tastes soooo good. I tried Royal Icing and my family asked me to go back to this recipe as the frosting adds so much flavor to the cookies.

  14. I made them sugare cookies and gingerbread man for Christmas and used this frosting and it turned out amazing everyone was asking me for the frosting recipe. I froze the rest of them until the beginning of January and the frosting was still good I am so glade that I found your frosting recipe. Thank you for sharing your recipe with us.

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