Easy 3-Ingredient Powdered Sugar Icing
The perfect quick powdered sugar icing for cookies, cakes, & baked goods of all kinds! Just whisk together powdered sugar, milk, & vanilla, then drizzle onto warm baked goods and watch the icing harden to a delicious crisp. Plus, I’ll show you how to make an icing, glaze, or frosting with powdered sugar by adjusting the ingredients slightly.
Powdered sugar icing—also known as quick icing, or glacé icing—is just about the easiest icing you can make. It’s my favorite homemade icing for cookies because it’s simple, tasty, and hardens naturally as it sets.
But you can also thin it out to make a powdered sugar glaze for cakes & scones—or add butter to make a spreadable quick frosting for decorating cupcakes!
Is powdered sugar icing the same as royal icing?
There are 2 main forms of powdered sugar icing, both of which are perfect for decorating cookies. Glacé icing is a 2-ingredient icing with powdered sugar + liquid, whereas royal icing also includes egg whites.
Royal icing has a thicker texture that’s perfect for piping and it hardens to a solid state. It’s great for more detailed cookie decorating, but it’s not as easy to work with. I prefer glacé icing for cookies because it’s quick, drizzleable, and makes decorating simpler. (And I think it looks & tastes better than royal icing!)
Is icing different than frosting?
Icing is generally thinner than frosting, but thicker than a glaze. Icings & glazes are best drizzled or spooned onto cookies, cinnamon rolls, cakes & scones, leaving a smooth, shiny finish. Both are made from powdered sugar & liquid, a glaze just has a bit more liquid.
Powdered sugar frosting usually has a butter and/or cream cheese base—so it’s thicker & fluffier than icing and can be spread or piped onto layer cakes, cupcakes & brownies. Both icing & frosting use similar ingredients, so I’ll walk you through how to make both!
Ingredients for Powdered Sugar Icing or Glaze
- Powdered Sugar or Confectioners’ Sugar. It’s essential to make icing with confectioners’ sugar because it will dissolve without heat. If needed, you can make your own powdered sugar at home: just add granulated sugar to a blender and blend until you have a fine, fluffy powder.
- Milk or Liquid of Choice. I like to make homemade icing with powdered sugar and milk (dairy or nondairy) so it’s nice & creamy, or you can use water as your liquid. You can also use fruit juices like lemon, lime, or orange juice to make flavored icings & glazes.
- Vanilla Extract (optional). Add a dash if you want to make an easy vanilla icing, or try other festive flavorings like maple or peppermint extract! If you want to make different icing colors, just add a drop of food coloring.
For Powdered Sugar Frosting
- Butter & Cream Cheese. To make a quick buttercream frosting with powdered sugar, start with softened butter as your base & use the same icing ingredients listed above. Or use butter and cream cheese to make a rich cream cheese frosting!
Ratios for Powdered Sugar Glaze, Icing, & Frosting
Glaze: 1 cup powdered sugar + 2-3 Tbsp liquid
Icing: 1 cup powdered sugar + 1 Tbsp liquid
Frosting: 2 oz softened butter + 1 cup powdered sugar + 1 Tbsp liquid
How to Make Icing with Powdered Sugar and Milk
- In a bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and milk (or liquid of choice) until smooth & drizzly.
- Optional: Add vanilla extract to make a vanilla icing, or use any flavoring you like. (Or no flavoring!)
- Start with less liquid for a thicker icing, or add more liquid to make a thinner powdered sugar glaze. If the texture gets too thin, whisk in powdered sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until you get your desired consistency.
- Use a spoon to pour or drizzle powdered sugar icing over cookies, cakes, & pastries while they’re warm! The icing will set and harden as the baked goods cool.
This recipe yields ~½ cup homemade icing from 1 cup powdered sugar. Enough for 40-50 cookies, 1 Bundt cake, 12 cinnamon rolls, or 8-10 scones.
You can safely store any leftover icing or glaze in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Powdered sugar icing & glaze don’t need to be refrigerated, even if you use milk in them. (The small amount of milk is stabilized by the large amount of sugar.)
How to Make Frosting with Powdered Sugar & Butter
- Start by beating softened butter (and/or cream cheese) with a hand mixer for about 2 minutes, until smooth & creamy.
- Then, beat in powdered sugar and milk (if needed) for a few minutes, until fluffy.
- Optional: Beat in vanilla extract or any flavoring you’d like. To make different frosting colors, beat in a drop of food coloring.
- Spread or pipe frosting onto cookies, brownies, or cupcakes after they’ve cooled completely. Transfer to the fridge for 1 hour to let the frosting set.
This recipe yields ~⅔ cup buttercream frosting from 2oz butter + 1 cup powdered sugar. Enough for 12-16 cupcakes or a pan of brownies.
Buttercream frosting can be stored in an airtight container or a sealed piping bag at room temperature for up to 2 days. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated right away, but it can last up to a week stored in the fridge.
How to Use Homemade Icing & Customize the Flavors
This vanilla powdered sugar icing is perfect for decorating classic desserts like sugar cookies, cakes, muffins, & cinnamon rolls. And it’s even great on festive treats like iced pumpkin cookies!
But you can also change the liquids & extracts in this recipe to make different icing flavors:
- Lemon Icing or Glaze: Use lemon juice as the liquid & replace vanilla with 1 tsp lemon zest. I love a tart & sweet lemon glaze on pastries like Bundt cakes, blueberry muffins, or strawberry scones.
- Lime Icing or Glaze: Use lime juice as the liquid & replace vanilla with 1 tsp lime zest. Perfect for key lime cookies or pound cake!
- Orange Icing or Glaze: Use orange juice as the liquid & replace vanilla with 1-2 tsp orange zest. An orange glaze has a bright, sweet flavor that can make an orange cake or orange scones irresistible.
- Maple Icing or Glaze: Replace vanilla with maple extract & add a pinch of salt. Delicious on fall-flavored cookies, donuts & blondies—I love it most on my pumpkin scones!
- Almond Icing or Frosting: Use almond extract instead of vanilla. A tasty choice for both almond- and vanilla-flavored cakes & cookies. To make a spreadable, pipe-able almond frosting, start with 2oz softened butter as your base.
- Mint Icing or Frosting: Replace vanilla with ¼-½ teaspoon peppermint extract (start with less & add more to taste). Use 2oz softened butter as your base for a fluffy peppermint frosting you can spread onto mint chocolate brownies, cupcakes, or cookies!
- Cream Cheese Icing or Frosting: Start with 3oz softened cream cheese as the base to make a drizzly, gooey cream cheese icing for cinnamon rolls or baked oatmeal. Or use 2oz cream cheese + 1oz butter to make a comforting cream cheese frosting for cupcakes!
Easy Powdered Sugar Icing or Frosting
Powdered Sugar Icing or Glaze
- 1 cup powdered sugar, (120g)
- 1-2 Tbsp milk or water, (or fruit juice)
- ½ tsp vanilla extract, (optional)
For Buttercream Frosting, add:
- 2 oz butter, softened
For Cream Cheese Frosting, add:
- 2 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1 oz butter, softened
How to Make Icing or Glaze with Powdered Sugar
- In a bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and milk to your desired consistency. (Use less liquid for a thicker icing; add more liquid for a thinner glaze.)
- Optional: Add vanilla extract for a vanilla icing, or add any other flavoring you’d like.
- Use a spoon to pour or drizzle icing over cookies, cakes &pastries while they’re still warm (but not too hot, or the icing will melt). Allow to set at room temperature—the icing will harden as the baked goods cool.
- Yield: ~½ cup icing or glaze. (Enough for ~40 cookies, 1 Bundt cake, 12 cinnamon rolls, 8-10 scones.)
- Storage: Cover powdered sugar icing or glaze and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.
How to Make Frosting with Powdered Sugar
- In a large bowl, beat softened butter (and/or cream cheese) with a hand mixer until smooth & creamy, for about 2 minutes.
- Add powdered sugar and milk (if needed) and beat for 1-2 minutes, until fluffy.
- Optional: Beat in vanilla extract or any flavoring you’d like. Or beat in a drop of food coloring to make different frosting colors.
- Spread or pipe frosting onto completely cooled cookies, brownies, or cupcakes. Allow to set in the fridge for about an hour.
- Yields: ~⅔ cup buttercream frosting. (Enough for 12-16 cupcakes or a pan of brownies.)
- Storage: Keep buttercream in an airtight container or sealed piping bag at room temperature for 1-2 days, or store in the fridge for up to a week.
Nutrition for Powdered Sugar IcingPer 1 Tbsp:
60 calories | 0g fat | 15g carbs | 0g fiber | 15g sugars | 0g protein
1mg sodium | 0mg cholesterol
Nutrition for Buttercream FrostingPer 1 Tbsp:
88 calories | 4.4g fat | 12g carbs | 0g fiber | 12g sugar | 0g protein
36mg sodium | 12mg cholesterol
Nutrition for Cream Cheese FrostingPer 1 Tbsp:
88 calories | 4.2g fat | 12g carbs | 0g fiber | 12g sugars | 0.5g protein
40mg sodium | 12mg cholesterol