Sugar Cookie Frosting + Video
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With hints of vanilla and almond, my Sugar Cookie Frosting recipe is sweet and scrumptious. Since it’s a sugar cookie frosting that hardens, you can easily stack or package your cookies while still enjoying a delicate, fluffy texture in every bite. Watch the video in this post to see the frosting being made and used to decorate cookies!
Fluffy, creamy, and stackable makes this one of my top 2 sugar cookie decorations.
Sugar Cookie Frosting
Sugar cookie frosting is so darn good, I could eat it with a spoon!
This tasty buttercream recipe is absolutely heavenly and is essential for all of your holiday cookie decorating needs.
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 in no time at all.
If you love this Christmas cookie frosting, give my Candy Cane Buttercream Frosting a try next.
Sugar 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 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 recipe, making it sweet and thickening the mixture.
- Salt – Omit this ingredient if using salted butter.
- Almond Extract and Vanilla Extract – These will give your frosting 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 frosting – they’ll stick easier while the frosting is soft.
Frosting vs Icing
A common misconception is that these terms are interchangeable, but they are actually not the same!
Icing is thin and glossy. It dries hard, shiny, and smooth and is typically made with just powdered sugar and liquid.
It’s often used to decorate cookies or drizzle over pastries.
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 with this recipe is super popular, but whipped cream and cream cheese frosting are tasty too!
Tips and Tricks to Make Sugar Cookie Frosting 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. Room temperature butter is the easiest to combine with other ingredients and guarantees a soft, fluffy texture for your 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 to soften it.
- Dry Before Stacking. While this is a sugar cookie frosting that hardens, you’ll want to give your frosted cookies enough time to dry fully before storing and stacking them.
How to Decorate Cookies With Buttercream Cookie 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!
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 buttercream 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!
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 the 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.
Sugar Cookie Frosting FAQ
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 this homemade frosting 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.
You can easily adjust the consistency of your 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.
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Other Christmas Desserts
Sugar Cookie Frosting (Fluffy & Stackable) + Video Tutorial
- 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
- 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.
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.
Originally published November 2020, updated and republished December 2022
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Do I have to use the almond extract? Or can I just put more vanilla?
You can use just vanilla if that is what you prefer. Enjoy and let us know how it goes!
How much frosting does this recipe make?
I made this tonight and used it to pipe frosting onto cookies. I've never done this before, but they turned out adorable!
We are so happy to hear that, Jennifer!
Came together beautifully as written, but then would not stick at all to our cookies. Just rolled around as we tried to spread it.
You might try adding just a bit more milk while whipping until the consistency is spreadable.
What Wilton tip # are you using to decorate tree cookies? Is it the same tip for the round cookies too?
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.
Can you use regular food coloring instead of gel?
Hi Unknown, you can use regular food coloring but it may affect the consistency.
Can you freeze the iced cookies?
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!
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.
Thank you for letting us know! Have a great day!
TSRI Team Member,
Does this dry faster than a Royal icing for example so it can be decorated and eaten a couple of hours later?
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?
I made these and did not refrigerate the cookies and they were fine.
You don’t have to refrigerate butter.
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.
Once the cookies are decorated, do they need to stay refrigerated or how long does this icing keep once frosted at room temperature
Perfect frosting! Exact consistency I was looking for
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
We are so happy to hear that! Have a great day!
TSRI Team Member,
Easy, tasty and makes my cookies look beautiful! I love the fact you can stack these without worry of smashing their designs.
We are so happy you love them! Have a great day!
TSRI Team Member,
Where do you get your sprinkles. They look festive
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
In the instructions you only add 3 cups of sugar. Is the other cup just to adjust consistency or is it to be added?