Sugar Cookie Icing + Icing Tips + A Mystery Solved!

First, the mystery!

Those cookies I posted about earlier this week? You know, the super-simple buttery sugar cookies I made as thank-you treats for friends who helped make last weekend’s art event such a success? 

Well, they didn’t become Pacmen after all. 

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They became paint palettes! 

(A teeny bit more relevant, I thought.)

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Ok, now that we’ve got that cliffhanger out of the way, we can talk icing. And what a lovely icing it is. It’s:

- Made from easy-to-find, kid-friendly ingredients: No powdered or fresh egg whites required! 

- Easy to work with: A teaspoon and a toothpick were the only tools I needed to go from naked Pacmen to multi-coloured paint palettes. 

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- Super-forgiving: If you’re clumsy like me (the number of times I walked into a wall this week…), you’ll be happy to know that this dries smooth even when smudged, and that any mistakes made applying wet icing to dry can be easily removed with the flat edge of a toothpick. 

- Pretty: It’s smooth and unsmudgeable when dry, which means the cookies will be just as pretty when you deliver them as they were when you first decorated them (as for the transporter, well, I’ll let you know how I fare when I hand them out this evening. But, based on the number of times I’ve also spilled things on myself this week, my hopes aren’t high). 

- Super-tasty: Vanilla extract + almond extract + sugar = super-tasty. 

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And, finally, the tips: In addition to the icing recipe, I’m also passing along a few tips that I find helpful when I decorate cookies. Which, I admit, is not very often, so if you’ve got any helpful hints, I’d love to hear them. But these are the techniques that have been working for me, so I hope they’ll work for you too! 

Sugar Cookie Icing
Adapted from
Makes ~1/3 cup (or enough to ice 24 ~1-inch-square cookies)

 *Want some sugar cookies to go with that icing? Check out this post!

1 cup powdered sugar
2-4 tsp milk (or water)
2 tsp corn syrup*
1/2 tsp of your favourite extract**


To make icing: Sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. Add 2 tsp milk and stir until the powdered sugar no longer looks powdery, adding an additional 1/2 tsp milk at a time as necessary. Add corn syrup (if using) and extract and stir until icing is smooth, adding more extract to taste, and more corn syrup to achieve the consistency you want. To use, see tips below!

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*I avoid corn syrup as much as possible (it’s pretty bad for you, as it turns out), but have made an exception here because 2 tsp over 24 cookies doesn’t equate to a whole lot and results in a firmer icing, which is handy when you’re packing the cookies up and giving them away as gifts. If you want to skip it, as I do when I’m keeping the cookies at home, the icing won’t harden as nicely, but that’s really not a big deal!
**I used 1/4 tsp of almond extract and a 1/4 tsp of vanilla, but you can use any extract (or freshly-squeezed citrus juice!). If you want a pure-white icing, make sure to skip the vanilla or use a clear vanilla extract. 

Icing Tips!

To colour icing: Divide icing into as many containers as colours you want to create, reserving a bit of white icing in case you want to dilute colours down the road. Add food colouring one drop at a time, stir, and adjust with food colouring or white icing until you’ve achieved the colour you’re after. In my mind, less saturated colours are best, but it’s up to you! NOTE: An ice-cube tray is a super-convenient icing container, as it allows you to have all your colours close at hand and minimizes the bulk of multiple bowls. I keep a free space between each colour to minimize the chance of cross-colour-contamination.

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To ice cookies without a piping bag:

To create a base layer
, spread a thin layer of icing on cookie with the back of a clean spoon or unused paintbrush, going right to the edges. Carefully run a clean toothpick around the edges of the cookie to make a clean icing edge. Allow base to dry before adding more colours to prevent bleeding (3-4 hours or overnight, if you please).

Add additional colours
 to the dry base colour using a clean toothpick, a clean sandwich bag with a teeny bit of the corner snipped off (a make- shift piping bag!), or anything else you can think of, really (if you go for the sandwich bags, make sure you rinse and recycle them!). Once you’re done icing, allow cookies to dry one last time. 

Add decorations
 to the cookie when the icing is wet, or by “gluing” them to dry cookies with a dab of fresh icing.  

If icing is too thick or thin
for what you want to do, adjust with a bit of milk or icing sugar as necessary.

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