This easy sugar cookie icing recipe is the one you need if you’re looking to make fancy iced sugar cookies this Christmas.

Best Christmas cookie icing that sets hard

Best icing that hardens for Christmas cookies (easy)

It’s really not quite Christmas around here if there aren’t some sort of holiday cookies. 

Be it Christmas sugar cookies, beautifully (as beautifully as my kids will allow) iced or attempts at gingerbread houses, a perfect icing recipe that sets hard to touch is essential. 

How is sugar cookie icing different from buttercream frosting

Sugar cookie icing – often called Royal icing – is made of just egg white and icing sugar and sets hard. It’s great for us on top of sugar cookies (or gingerbread man cookies) for special occasions. 

Buttercream on the other hand, is a fluffy icing made with butter and icing sugar and is best used on cakes and cupcakes. 

Best icing that hardens for Christmas cookies (easy)

How to make sugar cookie icing that hardens

Ingredients needed for sugar cookie icing

To make sugar cookie icing that sets hard you will need just two simple ingredients: 

Some recipe also add a tiny bit of lemon juice but I don’t. 

Steps to make sugar cookie icing

Making the best sugar cookie icing takes just 3 simple steps:

  1. Whisk the egg white to almost firm peaks using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment or muscle power.
  2. Slowly whisk in the icing sugar.
  3. Colour as desired (see below for instructions). 

Tips for icing sugar cookies

What if my icing consistency is too runny or too thick

To get the right consistency sometimes you will need to add a little more icing sugar or water. 

To make a thicker icing, add a little more powdered sugar (aka icing sugar). To make it a little thinner, add a tiny bit of room temperature water and mix until you get the correct consistency.

How to make icing that hardens for Christmas cookies - how to add festive sprinkles to Christmas sugar cookies

How to create different colors of cookie icing

There are three different types of food colouring<">food colouring you can use to colour your icing:

1. Gel food coloring – creates the most vibrant colors & you only need a tiny bit. 

2. Liquid food coloring – the most easily available.

3. Powdered food colouring – a fancier and more expensive option but also a little goes a long way and it doesn’t alter the consistency of the icing much. 

To colour your icing, split it into as many smaller bowls as you would like icing. 

Don’t forget to set one mixing bowl aside if you would also like white frosting. 

Add a little icing at a time and mix in until you reach the desired color. Remember you can always add more colour but you can’t take it away so go a little at a time. 

You can use a toothpick to dip in the colour. 

Make sure you cover any icing you’re not using immediately with plastic wrap or it will start to dry and set. 

How to stop sugar cookie icing having air bubbles

This one is simple. Just gently tap your cookie on the kitchen counter until the bubbles rise and pop then set it down to cool.

Can you add flavour to royal icing on cookies

You can add flavours to icing for sugar cookies. A little vanilla extract is our favourite but you can also add a drop (or just a toothpick dipped in) of store-bought essences (almond extract is popular) or food-grade oils. 

How to make chocolate icing that hardens

For chocolate icing, sub out 1/5 of the icing sugar for cocoa. 

How to create different effects on iced cookies

Below we will take you through some of the basic methods for using this icing to create beautiful Christmas cookies. 

Even intricate designs are not super difficult if you have an idea of the basics of cookie decorating with royal icing. 

You will need a piping bag and small piping tip. You can get reusable or disposable ones from most supermarkets/grocery stores. 

Alternatively, a squeeze bottle or ziplock bag with a tiny bit of the corner cut off can be used but a piping bag is the easiest and will give the most professional result. 

How to ice sugar cookies for Christmas - and icing recipe for Christmas cookies that sets hard

The key to making a progressional looking cookie is creating an icing outline.

You’ll need a piping bag fitted with a small round tip & the icing will need to be quite firm.

Outline the cookie and let the icing set a little.

After that you ‘flood’ the cookie with your coloured icing.

Using icing a little thinner, pipe the icing inside to fill the outline. Use the white again to draw the design and dots and then leave it to set.

How to add festive sprinkles

Add sprinkles by using the icing like glue.

For the above cookies, outline and fill then leave the icing to set.

Then pipe on icing where you would like the sprinkles and quickly add the sprinkles & decorations & shake the cookie to remove the excess.

Leave them do dry completely.

How to make icing that hardens for Christmas cookies - how to decorate with icing so it is raised like Santa's face

For something like this Santa cookie, you would do the outline in red for the hat and white for the rest.

You would also outline the face in white.

Then flood the white & red sections and fill the face and leave the icing to set.

Once set, you’d then pipe on the eyes, moustache and hat outline.

What to do with leftover icing 

If you have any leftover icing, it can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container. It can also be frozen.  

Recipes for biscuits to ice

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Best icing that hardens for Christmas cookies (easy)

Royal icing (icing that hardens for cookies)


  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup icing sugar


  1. To make the icing, whisks the egg white to almost firm peaks.
  2. Slowly whisk in the icing sugar.
  3. Colour as desired.

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