Holiday Baking

Woman decorating gingerbread cookie with a great icing recipe with her kid.
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7 Christmas Cookie Icing Recipes That Make Decorating A Breeze

From super simple glaze recipes to classic royal icing, there’s a recipe here for everyone.

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Whatever winter holiday you and yours celebrate, we can all agree that these chilly, twinkle-lit days are universally considered to be peak cookie season. There’s something about the dreary days and long nights that begs us to crank up our ovens and sit at the table icing and decorating cookies. We need comfort, our kids need festive treats in their lunches, our neighbors need Saran-topped cookie plates, and omg when is that cookie swap happening again?

No matter what else you like to do this time of year, most of us end up baking a batch or fifty of cookies. Once the cookies are baked and cooling, it’s finally time to make them look truly spirited, and that means whipping up a beautiful, colorful frosting or maybe a milky, silky glaze that’s shiny with corn syrup or just barely lemony, or both. Maybe you want to decorate solely with colorful frostings, or maybe you just need a basic cookie icing that will serve as a delicious glue to hold your kids’ favorite sprinkles and decorations on. Some of these cookie icing recipes are ideal for the last-minute folks, and will likely not require much planning ahead. Others (we’re looking at you, royal icing) will require a little foresight. However, all of these recipes will make for beautiful Christmas cookies that anyone would be excited to receive and gobble up.


Real royal icing

Royal icing is truly the white whale of Christmas cookie decorating. Shoving some red hots into your gingerbread dough and using M&Ms as Christmas lights is great and all, but if you want your holiday cookies to look professional, royal icing really is king. However, you’ll need to have meringue powder handy, so for most of us, this icing recipe is not a spur-of-the-moment project. A little planning, though, and your Christmas cookies can be real stunners. Sally, over at Sally’s Baking Recipes, has a wonderful recipe for royal icing, plus about a million solid-gold tips for beginners (for example, did you know you can freeze royal icing?).


A classic 2-ingredient cut out cookie icing

If you’re managing dietary restrictions, this icing recipe is for you. The folks over at Gimme Some Oven say that you can use any milk to make this simple sugar-and-milk icing. Flavoring it with vanilla will make it even better, but really, Christmas cookie decorations don’t get much more simple and classic than this recipe. Whip it up, drizzle it on the cookies, and get to the fun part — pass the sprinkles, please.


A simple Christmas cookie icing (no corn syrup)

You just might have the ingredients to make this easy cut-out cookie glaze handy already. All you’ll need to make The Modern Proper’s easy Christmas cookie icing recipe is powdered sugar (also called confectioners’ sugar), heavy cream, and a pinch of salt. You could add food coloring, but this recipe is perfect for decorating with lots of fun sprinkles. It’s also an ideal one for making Christmas cookies with little kids who might not be old enough to work with a piping bag yet, but want to get in on the holiday fun — you can do the piping, and let them go to town with decorations.


A basic cookie glaze, with corn syrup

Molly Yeh is a perfectionist and a genius — we all agree on that, right? These dreamy Christmas cookies are pure heaven to look at and her cut-out cookie glaze recipe couldn’t be easier or — thanks to the addition of vanilla and almond extract — more delicious. You can decide if you want to decorate with both a glaze and buttercream (as she does) or if you simply want to glaze your cut-out cookies and call it a day.


An easy, lemony cookie glaze recipe

Kate over at Cookie and Kate usually likes to keep things classic, basic, and on the healthy side. Her gingerbread cut-out cookies are no exception, and we love the ultra-simple lemony glaze recipe that she decorates them with. Powdered sugar and lemon juice is all you’ll need to decorate your Christmas cookies, and (though a lemon glaze makes a particularly good partner for gingerbread) it will work on just about any cut-out cookie.


A classic, milky vanilla buttercream recipe

When in doubt, go full-buttercream. Or at least, so says blogger Chungah Rhee of Damn Delicious. Her gorgeous Christmas cookies get their festive decoration from a pretty classic, milky vanilla-tinged buttercream frosting, and we love the maximalist vibes of it all. What is Christmas if not the season of maximalism?


White chocolate + crushed peppermint

Melting chocolate and drizzling it all over your Christmas cookies isn’t exactly an “icing recipe,” but it is a great idea if you don’t really want to mix up your own icing. The crushed peppermint candies that A Cookie Named Desire suggests do look festive, but you could certainly also decorate with festive sprinkles of any kind.

Whether you’ve decided that this is your year to go big and carefully pipe royal icing all over your perfect cut-out cookies, or you’ve got a lot of littles under foot and are just hoping that you can whip up some icing without running to the store, there’s a Christmas cookie icing recipe for you on our list.

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