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

Learn how to ice sugar cookies, with our yummy buttercream icing, the easy way! It’s made with just a few ingredients in five minutes!

buttercream frosted sugar cookies with sprinkles
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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 complement to a great sugar cookie. It’s delightfully sweet, soft in texture and just as beautiful!  

This sugar cookie icing is a delicious go-to for 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!

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! 

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

You need just four ingredients for this sugar cookie frosting!

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!

Why You’ll Love It

  • So Easy – With just four ingredients.
  • A Year Round Treat – Perfect for the holidays or any time of year.
  • Perfect for Gifting – Hardens for stacking.
Two white sugar cookies topped with sugar cookie frosting recipe on parchment

Don’t skip my complete collection of 25 easy frosting recipes – there’s something for every occasion!

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • 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

  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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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!

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.

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.
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!

More Frosting Inspiration

A white star shaped sugar cookie on a white surface, topped with sugar cookie icing and pastel sprinkles.
4.99 from 65 votes

Sugar Cookie icing

A deliciously soft and sweet buttercream sugar cookie icing to make perfect sugar cookies! They harden enough to stack, are easy to decorate and taste SO much better than royal icing!
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
Servings: 24
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  • 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.

Julie’s Tips

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: 166kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 69mg | Potassium: 5mg | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 240IU | Calcium: 5mg

Estimated nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is not guaranteed.

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  1. What are your thoughts on piping the warm frosting? Trying as much to emulate the pretty look of royal, but with a better taste and consistency!

  2. I add white corn syrup, about a tsp per cup of icing sugar, to my cookie icing to make it harden enough for stacking.

  3. I’m wondering about making ahead, using sprinkles? If I add typical sprinkles on top while frosting is still wet, will they bleed as the cookies dry? Could I make/add sprinkles (or M&Ms) a few days before a party and keep stored in air tight container? Do you think sprinkles work w/this frosting?

    1. They definitely work, but if you’re storing for a few days, I’d recommend sugar crystals. It honestly depends on humidity more than anything. I have stored them with sprinkles for 3-4 days without any issues.

  4. I really loved this, and your sugar cookie recipe! How long is it possible to store the icing and dough? I assume the icing can be stored in the fridge and warmed at room temp to ice? Wonderful recipe!

    1. The icing stores incredibly well, the dough stores 2-3 days. I’m glad you loved it! I just finished indulging on one a few minutes ago!

      1. 5 stars
        I must’ve done something wrong, because mine is very light and fluffy and no where near a consistency to pour. It was like cake frosting and I followed the recipe. Nonetheless, I loved it. Next time I will use almond extract though instead of vanilla.

  5. Does this icing harden up so that cookies can be stacked for gift giving or storing? Thanks for sharing….I also don’t like the taste of royal icing.

    1. Not as hard as royal icing, but it does slightly harden & can stack with parchment paper. You have to give these a try – I have a feeling you’ll be more than happy! Enjoy!