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Need a simple and easy icing to decorate sugar cookies, or drizzle on top of coffee cake or applesauce cake? This sweet and creamy powdered sugar icing recipe can be made in a matter of minutes. So quick, so delicious!

(Last Updated On: October 20, 2023)

This powdered sugar icing recipe has only four ingredients in it, butter, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. It is super easy to make. It tastes like a cream frosting with the butter and vanilla added. Making this homemade icing at home, instead of buying frosting in the grocery store, gives you peace of mind knowing exactly what’s in it.

This easy icing recipe is perfect for decorating sugar cookies. And it’s terrific tasting when spread, drizzled, or spooned on many baked goods as well, such as, cherry coffee cake, cinnamon rolls, applesauce spice cake, bundt cake, muffins, or even on ranger cookies.

Powdered sugar icing in a bowl.

🥰 Short Story

When I was a kid, my mother made this icing all the time for the frosting on cookies. It’s the best sugar cookie icing there is! Sometimes, especially for the sugar cookies, my mom would add just a tiny squirt of red food coloring to color the icing pink. For some reason, it always seemed to taste better being pink. 🙂

Sugar cookies on a plate with pink powdered sugar icing on them.
Sugar cookies on a plate with pink powdered sugar icing on them.

🎂 Different Consistencies

The icing we are making is a little in between powdered sugar icing and powdered sugar glaze. Powdered sugar icing is very forgiving and so easy to work with. It lets you take the edge off the guesswork.

Depending on how thick or thin you want your icing to be, to get the right consistency, just add more milk for thinner icing, and less milk and more powdered sugar if you need it thicker until you reach the desired consistency you are looking for.

We like this powdered sugar icing recipe because of the added flavors that the butter, milk, and vanilla extract give it. However, you can eliminate the butter and milk, if you prefer, and just use powdered sugar and water instead. The icing still tastes good, especially if you are drizzling it over something that is very sweet in the first place.

🧁 Key Ingredients

Ingredients for powdered sugar icing.
Ingredients for powdered sugar icing.

👩‍🍳 How to Make Powdered Sugar Icing (Step-by-Step Instructions with Detailed Photos)

Step 1. Softened the Butter

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt 1/2 cup of butter in the microwave just until soft, which is about 20 seconds. You can set the butter out on the countertop at room temperature for about 15 minutes to soften if you don’t have a microwave.

Step 2. Add the Softened Butter to the Powdered Sugar

In a medium bowl, add 3 cups of powdered sugar. Then, use a spoon or a spatula to gradually stir the melted butter together with the powdered sugar.

Tip: If you want lump-free icing, sift the powdered sugar now using a sifter. For this particular icing, we did not sift the powdered sugar, and the icing turned out great.

Mix three cups of powdered sugar with one-half cup of softened butter.
Mix three cups of powdered sugar with one-half cup of softened butter.

Step 3. Add the Milk and Vanilla Extract

Mix thoroughly 3 tablespoons of milk together with the powdered sugar mixture. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and again, mix thoroughly. The easiest way to mix the ingredients is to use a hand mixer, although a spoon or spatula will work just fine. And that’s it. The icing is done. So spread, drizzle, spoon, or pour, depending on how thick or thin you decide to make your icing, over your favorite cakes, cookies, and desserts. The taste is so delicious. Enjoy!

Note: Also, make sure to add a little milk at a time. This gives you an idea of how thick or thin you want your icing to be. Maybe you won’t need 3 tablespoons of milk. Pouring the milk slowly while mixing it is the best way to get perfect icing every time for your particular dessert.

Mix the milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract thoroughly.
Mix the milk, powdered sugar mixture, and vanilla extract thoroughly.

🌟 Recipe Variations

  • You can substitute one teaspoon of almond extract instead of two teaspoons of vanilla extract.
  • Add two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder to make chocolate powdered sugar icing.
  • Squirt just a drop or two of your favorite food coloring together with the icing to make different colors for special desserts such as Christmas cookies, birthday cakes, and so much more.

When we made this loaf of applesauce cake, the powdered sugar icing was made a tad bit thinner, which means we put a little more milk in it so it would spread over the top of the cake evenly.

Powdered sugar icing spread on top of the applesauce cake.
Powdered sugar icing is poured over the top of the applesauce cake.

❓ FAQs

Does Powdered Sugar Need to be Sifted?

In some cases, yes, powdered sugar needs to be sifted. You can use a sifter to do that. Depending on the type of icing or frosting you need, and the consistency and texture, sifting the powdered sugar helps to get all the lumps out, making the powdered sugar finer for a smoother icing or frosting. However, we did not sift the powdered sugar in this recipe, only just stirred it thoroughly. Our icing turned out great for what we were using it for, which at the time, was to spread it over the top of cherry coffee cake. Looks so good!

What if I made too much Powdered Sugar Icing?

Put any leftover powdered sugar icing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about three or four days for later use. When you are ready to use it, let it sit on the countertop for about 5 or 10 minutes so it can soften up a little bit.

Icing on top of cherry coffee cake.
Icing on top of cherry coffee cake.

☝️ The Difference Between Frosting and Buttercream

  • Frosting is a thick creamy topping used to decorate desserts such as cakes, and cupcakes. Some of the basic ingredients are powdered sugar, butter, and a small amount of water or milk. Other ingredients are usually added for texture, color, and taste. There are many different recipes for frosting that you can make. One is buttercream frosting.
  • Buttercream frosting is thicker than powdered sugar icings and glazes. Buttercream frosting is made with a little more powdered sugar and extra butter than icings and glazes. There are a few varieties of buttercream recipes using different ingredients, including a little orange juice or lemon juice giving the frosting a distinctive flavor. But they use less of the liquid you would use in icings or glaze, hence making it thicker. Some buttercream recipes even call for heavy cream in them. Buttercream frosting is easy to spread on many cakes such as carrot cake, birthday cakes, pound cake, or cupcakes. You can also spread it on muffins, cookies, and the like. You can make this buttercream frosting at home or buy it in the grocery store where all the cake mix and frostings are. Buttercream is the frosting most folks buy at the grocery store to decorate homemade birthday cakes and cupcakes.

🍩 The Difference Between Icing and Glaze

  • Icing is prepared with powdered sugar and “more milk, water, or juice” making it thinner than frosting. Icing can be spread or brushed on desserts such as cookies, pastries, and the like.
  • Royal Icing – And then there is royal icing, made with powdered sugar, pasteurized liquid egg whites, or meringue powder, vanilla or your choice of extract (optional), and warm water or sometimes lemon juice or lime juice. Recipes do vary, though. It spreads smooth and hardens to a candy-like shell consistency. Royal icing is white, but you can add food coloring for all of your fancy decorating ideas. Used for cakes, cookies, wedding cakes, gingerbread houses, and more.
  • Glaze – Powdered sugar glaze recipes are the thinnest, with even more liquid added to the powdered sugar. Powdered sugar glaze is poured, spooned, or drizzled over the top of coffee cake, pastry, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, and the like. Its consistency is just about as thin as light corn syrup, or close to it.
Icing on top of cherry coffee cake.
Icing on top of cherry coffee cake.

💡 Final Thoughts

The next time you are in need for some delicious powdered sugar icing, you can make this recipe anytime as long as you have the simple basic ingredients in the kitchen – powdered sugar, milk, butter, and vanilla extract. Most folks always have these ingredients in their kitchen.

Use powdered sugar right out of the bag as a dusting on desserts such as lemon squares and brownies. Or use powdered sugar to make this simple powdered sugar icing recipe for frosting, icing, or glaze on banana bread or easy air fryer biscuit donuts. Also, powdered sugar icing tastes fantastic on cupcakes, yellow cake, white cake, chocolate cake, and layer cakes.

Think of the many creative possibilities you can muster up for birthday parties, celebrations, or that special occasion for your loved one. You can use food coloring, and even mix up the food coloring for that “just-right” color you need for your cakes and cookies. You can also add sprinkles on top of the icing to decorate the top of cake or cupcakes, or whatever you are making.

Pinterest photo.

🍲 More Easy Recipe Ideas You Will Love

  • Old Fashioned Fruit Salad with Cool Whip (Canned Fruit) – A sweet treat, made with fruit cocktail, bananas, and cool whip or whipped topping.
  • Tart Apricot Crisp without Oats – Sweet yet tart in every bite, with lemon juice, vanilla extract, and cream cheese in the recipe. A crumbly topping baked to golden perfection finishes off this delicious dessert.
  • Peach Cobbler with Bisquick® Recipe – Made using Bisquick® baking mix, butter, milk, canned peaches, and cinnamon. It tastes so good topped with vanilla ice cream.
  • Cream Cheese Cookies with Sprinkles – Covered in sprinkles with a chocolate chip surprise inside! The cream cheese and brown sugar make these cookies super moist and creamy. A touch of cinnamon flavor and colorful sprinkles makes these cookies out of this world!

📑 Recipe Card

Powdered Sugar Frosting

Powdered Sugar Icing Recipe (Easy)

Flo
Need a simple and easy icing to decorate sugar cookies, or drizzle on top of coffee cake or applesauce cake? This sweet and creamy powdered sugar icing recipe can be made in a matter of minutes. So quick, so delicious!
5 from 5 votes
Cost $1
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings 2 cups

🫕 Equipment

🧂 Ingredients
  

👩‍🍳 Instructions
 

  • Soften the butter for about 20 seconds in the microwave, or let it set on the countertop for about 15 minutes.
  • Using a hand mixer or spatula, add the powdered sugar gradually to the softened butter.
  • Add the milk, a little at a time, to the powdered sugar and softened butter.
  • Add the vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly.

*️⃣ Recipe Notes

Powdered sugar icing is very forgivable, for example:
  • You can use less butter or no butter at all.
  • If you want this icing to be a bit thinner, add more milk, or if you want the icing to be thicker, use less milk.
  • If you have accidentally added too much milk, you can add more powdered sugar to thicken the icing.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to make chocolate icing.
Keyword confectioners’ sugar, frosting, homemade icing, icing, powdered sugar, powdered sugar icing, simple powdered sugar icing
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