The Best Sugar Cookie Icing

LAST UPDATED: Feb 18, 2021 | PUBLISHED: Jan 23, 2013 | By:

Did you know that you don’t have to compromise taste when icing your sugar cookies? This sugar cookie buttercream frosting goes on smoothly and hardens just like royal icing.

Learn how to ice sugar cookies, with yummy buttercream icing, the easy way! Made with just a few ingredients in 5 minutes!

buttercream frosted sugar cookies with sprinkles

Originally shared December 21, 2013 and updated December 14, 2020.

We once had lunch at a bakery and Adalyn begged for a decorated sugar cookie and I obliged. After eating her lunch, she took one bite and said “mom, this isn’t very good.” I couldn’t argue.  

Royal icing is often hard and flavorless with a hint of tart citrus. It’s like fondant on cake. It’s beautiful, but the taste and texture lack flavor.

That’s why I always use buttercream to ice sugar cookies! It’s the perfect compliment to a great sugar cookie. It’s delightfully sweet, soft in texture and just as beautiful!  

This Sugar Cookie Buttercream Frosting is a delicious go-to to ice sugar cookies and is so quick and easy, too! I’ve been making sugar cookies for years… don’t skip these popular Cinnamon Sugar Cookies, Pumpkin Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Sugar Cookies, and my World Famous Salted Caramel Sugar Cookies!

This classic sugar cookie icing goes hand in hand with my classic, traditional sugar cookie recipe. It’s an important cookie to have in your baking line-up and one you shouldn’t skip!

Star and snowflake sugar Cookies frosted with white buttercream sugar cookie icing.

I always choose taste over aesthetics, but I don’t feel that using buttercream is much of a compromise at all! I will warn you, it’s difficult to stop at just one cookie! 

I’m also sharing my best secret to help you learn how to frost your sugar cookies with ease. It’s a life-changing technique, I promise!

  • So Easy
  • Minimal Ingredients
  • Perfect for the holidays or any time of year
  • Hardens for stacking and gifting
  • Makes decorating oh-so-simple
Two white sugar cookies topped with sugar cookie frosting recipe on parchment

You need just four ingredients for this sugar cookie frosting!

  • Butter – Salted or unsalted, your preference – but it must be room temperature. I often use salted because I like to balance out all the sweet with a little salt. Learn how to soften butter quickly!
  • Powdered Sugar – Also known as confectioners’ sugar! It sweetens it to perfection while achieving a luxurious consistency!
  • Heavy Cream – Heavy cream is preferable, but any milk will do from skim to Vitamin D or half and half.
  • Vanilla – Clear vanilla is best if you’re making white iced cookies, but you can make your own homemade Vanilla Extract as well.

How to Make Buttercream Frosting for Sugar Cookies

It won’t take more than five minutes to whip up a batch of this frosting.

  1. Beat room temperature butter until smooth.
  2. Gradually add powdered sugar, followed by cream and vanilla.
A hand dipping a star shaped cookie into a sugar cookie frosting recipe.

How To Frost Sugar Cookies the EASY WAY

You can watch the video in this post for the easy tutorial to use buttercream sugar cookie icing without the fuss and stress.

You can simply pour this sugar cookie icing over your cookies and smooth it out as necessary, OR try the following technique:

  1. Add sugar cookie icing to a shallow bowl and warm it until smooth (about 30 seconds in the microwave).
  2. Keeping fingers on the edge of the cookie, dip it and allow it to drip.
  3. Place the cookie on wax or parchment paper to dry
  4. If you’re adding sprinkles, add them immediately.
tips for icing sugar cookies with buttercream sugar cookie icing

Note: You may need to warm the icing a time or two throughout the dipping process, depending on how many cookies you have to ice. It typically takes about 20 minutes to ice 6 dozen sugar cookies! It’s quick, pretty, and most importantly, delicious!

An iced sugar cookie in the shape of a heart, topped with buttercream sugar cookie frosting recipe.
  • Let your cookies cool to room temperature before icing them.
  • You may need to warm the icing a time or two throughout the dipping process, depending on how many cookies you have to ice.
  • Place the frosted cookies on parchment paper.
  • Add sprinkles immediately. The icing will set quickly.

Don’t miss my tips for easy cutout sugar cookies!

Two heart shaped cookies topped with sugar cookie icing on a wooden surface.

How to Store

  • Room Temperature – If you’re using this buttercream sugar cookie icing on frosted cookies, store them in an airtight container for up to three days.
  • Refrigerate – You can refrigerate your buttercream sugar cookie frosting recipe for up to one week in an airtight container. Simply bring it to room temperature before using.
  • Freezer – Freeze buttercream frosting for three months in an airtight container. Before using, move it to the refrigerator overnight and bring to room temperature before using.
White sugar cookies in star shapes on parchment paper.

Serving Suggestions

  • I like to use white icing for my cookies and then decorate them with sprinkles for a hit of color.
  • You can of course also color your buttercream with food coloring for more vibrant cookies.
  • I find the kids love decorating these too, so they’re a great way to get them into the kitchen.
  • These sugar cookies with buttercream icing are also great for gifting – I package mine in cellophane bags with a pretty little label. While they icing isn’t as hard as royal icing, it sets well enough to stack.
A heart shaped sugar cookie topped with white buttercream frosting for sugar cookies.
Is cookie icing the same as royal icing?

In short: NO! While it can be used on the same cookies and with the same methods, this sugar cookie icing won’t dry quite as hard as royal icing. This sugar cookie frosting recipe needs more time to set up, but it should be ready to stack within an hour.

Which is better: royal icing or buttercream?

It depends what you’re after! If you want artful, elegant cookies, go for royal icing. If you want flavorful, delicious and soft cookies, choose this incredible buttercream sugar cookie icing!

A heart shaped sugar cookie topped with buttercream frosting for sugar cookies on a wooden surface.

I hope you enjoyed my tips for the best sugar cookie icing recipe ever, but now it’s time to just enjoy one, so go ahead, they’re easy!

Join the club! You can find daily updates on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and see my latest YouTube videos here!

More Frosting Recipes

A white star shaped sugar cookie on a white surface, topped with sugar cookie icing and pastel sprinkles.

Sugar Cookie Buttercream Frosting

Author: Julie Blanner
A deliciously soft and sweet buttercream icing to ice sugar cookies beautifully! They harden enough to stack, are easy to decorate and taste SO much better than royal icing!
4.96 from 22 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 24
Calories 166 kcal


  • ½ cup butter softened, room temperature, salted or unsalted
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract 1 teaspoon if using traditional vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream substitute half and half or milk


  • In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar. Add vanilla and heavy cream and mix until smooth. 
  • Allow cookies to cool 10 minutes and ice while warm, or allow them to cool and melt your icing in the microwave for 30 seconds.
  • Using a measuring cup, pour icing on each cookie individually and using a cake spatula, smooth your icing before moving onto the next cookie or dip cookies in a bowl of warm icing. 
  • Place the frosted cookies on parchment paper. Immediately add sprinkles if desired.


[adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”JAgXZIiT” upload-date=”2020-02-25T00:00:00.000Z” name=”Bakery Sugar Cookies” description=”Better than the Bakery Sugar Cookies that are delightfully thick, pillowy soft and sweet, but not too sweet. You'll love this cutout sugar cookie recipe and make them again and again! These cookies are so perfect for the holidays, enjoy as is or top them with a delicious buttercream frosting.” player-type=”default” override-embed=”default”]


Tips to Ice with Sugar Cookie Icing

  • Let your cookies cool to room temperature before icing them.
  • Warm the icing and dip your cookies.
  • Place the frosted cookies on parchment paper.
  • Add the sprinkles immediately to the icing.


Calories:166kcalCarbohydrates:25gFat:7gSaturated Fat:4gCholesterol:20mgSodium:69mgPotassium:5mgSugar:24gVitamin A:240IUCalcium:5mg
4.96 from 22 votes
Did you Make This Recipe?Mention @JulieBlanner