Simple Cookie Glaze: the first step to stunning holiday cookies

What’s the first step to gorgeous decorated holiday cookies?

A blank canvas: baked cutout cookies iced with a simple cookie glaze perfect for adding sparkling sugars, frosting decorations, or simply a few drops of gel-paste food color.

But not just any cookie glaze will do; you want one that dries fast, but not too fast. Firm, but not unpleasantly hard. And smooth. Satiny smooth.

Meet our Simple Cookie Glaze. Trust me, you’ll want to bookmark this one.

Simple cookie glaze via @kingarthurflour

First, sift 2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) confectioners’ sugar. Yes, sift it in a flour sifter; or run it through a sieve. You don’t want any lumps of sugar marring the perfectly smooth surface of your glazed cookies.

Mix the sugar with 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) light corn syrup and 1 tablespoon milk.

Simple cookie glaze via @kingarthurflour

Stir until smooth. The glaze should be thick but pourable. When you run a spoon or spatula through it, it should hold its shape for a couple of seconds before flattening out.

Likewise, a ribbon of glaze dribbled from the spatula will sit atop the rest of the glaze in the bowl briefly, before settling and disappearing.

See our action video tip: How to test cookie glaze for consistency.

If the glaze is too thin, add additional sifted confectioners’ sugar. If too thick, dribble in additional milk 1/2 teaspoon at a time.

Simple cookie glaze via @kingarthurflour

Dollop glaze atop a baked cookie. It should gradually flow outwards from the center. Use a toothpick to direct the glaze all the way to the edge of the cookie.

Simple cookie glaze via @kingarthurflour

Add sparkling sugar or other sugar decorations while the glaze is still wet. Or set the cookies aside to dry before piping on a frosting design.

Simple cookie glaze via @kingarthurflour

By the way, here’s an example of two glazes: the one on the right is marginally too thin, the one on the left is just right. Notice how bright-white the “just right” glaze is, compared to glaze that’s not quite thick enough?

If you have any doubts about the consistency of the glaze you’ve just made, ice a couple of cookies and let them rest for an hour. If the glaze is too thin, the cookie will show through just enough to dull the glaze’s color – be it white, red, or green.

Are you ready for cookie decorating season? Try Simple Cookie Glaze. It’s one smooth solution for holiday cookie artistry.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Mary Leader

    Thank you ! This sounds perfect for the many cookies we will be making next weekend. Lots of cookies to bake and share with so many loved ones. King Arthur Flour Company makes it all so much easier. Thanks again, Mary

    Reply
  2. SWFlorida

    I did not get instruction on baking and decorating cookies when I was a child and have therefore been cookiephobic my entire life (60+ yrs.). Every year I make an attempt but lacking the basic knowledge, I am not very successful. However, these instructions give me the confidence to try again. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Olivia Morrissette

      Hello, SWFlorida,

      Most of us home bakers probably don’t turn out cookies that resemble the flawless beauties on magazine covers, and that’s all right. Making cut-out cookies is tricky because the dough usually doesn’t behave the way you want it to, and slicing rounds from a roll is tricky because they all tend to have one flat side–and so on. But practicing is fun, and eventually you start liking what you make! Most of my own life I’ve been yeast-dough-phobic, but with KA flour, this terrific website, and some persistence, I’m finally making bread you can actually eat.

      I hope you keep at it! Your cookies are probably better than you think.

    1. KPP

      Also when baking for those allergic or intolerant to corn – be careful with powdered sugar. Most brands include cornstarch, which isn’t well known! There are a few brands that now use tapioca starch instead. You can also make your own powdered sugar sans any starch in your high powered blender or food processor! Just let the ‘dust’ settle before removing lid.

  3. Susie

    Two questions. Can I use water or is there some magic in the milk? I really don’t like the taste of raw cornstarch in confectioners sugar. May icing sugar be used or is there magic in the cornstarch?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Susie,
      You can certainly use the icing sugar, but we’d say stick with milk for the nice opaque look. ~ MJ

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Fran, you certainly can! You may want to reduce the milk amount a bit to adjust for the extra liquid. Barb@KAF

  4. Ruth

    I love my cookies to be beautiful, but more importantly I want them to be delicious. Can you add a bit of vanilla or other flavoring to this cookie glaze/

    Reply
  5. Ru

    What if I would like to color the glaze? What ratio of gel food coloring can be added and still keep the glossy opaque texture?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      This glaze handles gel colors quite well. It’s really as simple as adding a couple of drops, stirring, and repeating the process until you get the color you want. Susan

  6. KarenO

    Thank you for the recipe. I am frosting cookies with the Mathletix Team Friday to teach area and perimeter! Now I have my area recipe!

    Reply
  7. Gerald Cassin

    Glaze has gotten thicker in the pastry bag. Only been glazing for one hour. Reviewed video on testing for consistency and mine seems correct. Should I start with it a little thinner? Do I empty bag and thin what I have been using?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Gerald,
      Yes, you can take the glaze out and thin as needed. It’s very flexible that way. ~ MJ

    2. Olivia Morrissette

      What about just opening the bag, adding a little milk, and working the bag? I wonder if that would work, too.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      That would be a dish saver but maybe difficult to handle getting from the bag to a pastry bag? And if the confectioners’ sugar is lumpy, you may be in some trouble there. It should be sifted. Enjoy! Elisabeth@KAF

    4. Caity Sue

      Hi Elisabeth;
      I think Olivia meant adding milk to the PASTRY bad with the thick icing already in the pastry bag.

    5. The Baker's Hotline

      You could try adding the milk to the pastry bag, but you may not get it evenly mixed without it seeping out the ends. You’re welcome to try it, but it’s more efficient and consistent to empty the pastry bag, fix the icing, and then refill the bag. Laurie@KAF

  8. KLee

    The glaze worked beautifully, although I have a habit of storing cookies in a tin and putting them out in my cool garage. The glaze on those cookies turned splotchy while the glaze on those kept inside the warm house remained smooth. Surprised and disappointed me!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It is not a good idea to chill or freeze once iced. Ice and keep at room temperature to avoid shifts in temperature. Elisabeth@KAF

  9. Kathleen

    Is this a good glaze for my granddaughters to use to decorate gingerbread men, or is it too thin, and will run on the cookie? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kathleen, if this glaze seems too thin, add a touch more powdered sugar to get the consistency you and your granddaughters are looking for! Maybe test out one cookie first, to see the results. Happy baking! Bryanna@KAF

  10. Kellie Warren

    If its too thin after an hour can you add to the icing that you already made? Additionally, will it gradually thicken over time, as it sits over that hour while I am waiting?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You can always adjust. As it sits, the icing becomes thinner. Enjoy cookie decorating! Elisabeth@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Vicki, this is similar to royal icing, but this does not require meringue powder. Very easy to make! Bryanna@KAF

  11. Brenda.Brooklyn

    Just bought the KAF glazing sugar and made it according to package directions–worked well, but didn’t yield as much as I’d expected. Could you substitute the glazing sugar for the 10X sugar in this recipe?

    Reply
  12. Liz

    Does the corn syrup help set the glaze? I’m doing eggnog cookies tomorrow. It is often challenging to get the frosting of powdered sugar and eggnog to set-up/dry.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Use a fan to circulate air over the cookies and be patient. It will probably be overnight for a good set. Laurie@KAF

  13. Melanie Rodrigue

    I know this isn’t an exact science, but do you know about how long before the glaze is fully set? I have used glazes in the past with corn syrup and found they took a very long time to fully dry. We glaze then pipe on top, so they really need to be completely set before we pipe and or stack. Thanks, love all your articles and suggestions by the way!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We like to frost the cookies and let them dry overnight. Use a low circulating fan on them to speed the drying if necessary. Keep in mind the cookies will take longer to dry if the weather is humid. Laurie@KAF

  14. Michelle

    I just made this over the weekend for my KA cutout cookies. The cookies and the glaze turned out perfectly. I miss the buttery flavor of the frosting I usually put on my cookies. Is there a way to make a hard glaze like this with butter?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      By nature, butter makes things soft. But if you want to add another level of flavor to the icing, add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of our Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor to the glaze for some of the milk. It will give you the buttery flavor you are look for! Kye@KAF

  15. Kim Stagliano

    Worked like a charm! I used fresh lemon juice in place of milk for a lemon clove cookie recipe. The glaze hardened and I can stack the cookies – truly a Christmas miracle! Going to use this glaze on my (and every other Italian American woman’s) grandmother’s anise drop cookies.

    THANK YOU KING!!!

    Reply
  16. Linda

    I got this recipe from another website last year. The glaze never really hardened even after hours of letting it dry. I am hesitant to use it this year. Any suggestions to improve its success?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Linda, if you can measure the ingredients by weight, this will give you the most accurate and consistent results. Start stiff and add milk gradually as necessary. Be sure to check out our video about testing glaze consistency. And give the cookies at least 24 hours to dry completely. Barb@KAF

  17. Kim Stagliano

    Perfection! I used fresh squeeze lemon juice in place of milk – I CAN STACK MY COOKIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can’t wait to use this recipe of my Grandmother’s Italian anise drop cookies. Thank you, King!!!

    Reply
  18. Grammiebud

    Suggest that you add milk separately before corn syrup. I sifted the sugar, but now have a mess f lumps. Disappointed and have no more confectioners sugar.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      This sounds like an opportunity for a stirring workout! If you have a strainer, push the glaze through it to remove the lumps. Irene@KAF

  19. Kraig

    What is the purpose of the corn syrup in this recipe? I always use a glaze of powdered sugar, milk, coloring , and flavoring. Would the corn syrup do something to improve my results?

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Corn syrup improves the flow of the frosting as you work with it, helps it settle more evenly, and makes the finished result a little shinier. Susan

  20. Celena

    Can this icing be thickened enough to create a border for flooding and piped detailed decorations? I’m looking for something that doesn’t dry rock hard like royal, but can still be stacked without smashig the details. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, I’ve used this recipe before to flood cookies and it works very nicely. Bryanna@KAF

  21. Sherry

    I just found a new tip that works fabulously, and want to pass it on. Not an original thought but when I heard it I went “Well, Duh!. Roll out your cookie dough BEFORE you chill between two pieces of parchment, then slide on flat surface, put in fridge or (freezer) and chill. Slide out, remove top sheet to use again, cut, remove excess as you describe in tips, then bake! Much easier, less flour on cookies, faster to roll, can shape size of original roll (round, square) etc. Now why didn’t we all think of that before, or am I the only Duh! in the crowd?

    Reply
  22. Terry

    I use granulated honey (i.e., sucanat with honey) that I’ve powdered in a spice grinder, instead of powdered sugar. The taste is fine (and even more nuanced) but it makes white frosting a near-impossibility as it turns out a faint yellow. Is there anything I can add to “cancel” the yellow and turn it white? I read a while back that a tiny bit of blue food coloring added to the “egg white” version of Royal Frosting would turn it from grayish to brilliant white. Is there an equivalent trick here?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Terry, while such a thing as white gel food coloring does exist to help brighten up white icing, we aren’t aware of anything that can effectively strip the color from it. You might try browsing through cakecentral’s website to see if they have any handy tips. Otherwise we’d just try to embrace the more natural look! Mollie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Dee, this recipe is more like a glaze than a frosting, so it’s not a great choice for cupcakes. If you’re looking for a quick and easy (yet still delicious) cupcake frosting, try our Easy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting instead. We think it might be just the thing you’re looking for. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  23. Kim

    So I’ve taken on the ambitious task of making some beautiful sugar cookies for my friends wedding & I’m trying to get a handle on how much time this may take (novice here lol) as well as the best way to go about it. The goal is a “pearlized” burgundy maple leaf with gold veins via edible food paint. I would really like the entire cookie to be covered so I’m wondering if I could dye the glaze & dip both sides, then maybe use lustre dust for the pearl effect. On that note how long should I let one side set before I flip & glaze the other? If anyone has some other suggestions on how I could create this look I’m open to that too. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Kim,
      Yes, this is totally doable. It would be hard to dip the entire cookie, you’d have to have some way to suspend it to dry so that neither side would get smudged as it dried. Here’s how I’d do it:
      *Day one dip one side, dry 24 hours.
      *Day two dip other side, dry 24 hours.
      *Day three decorate one side, allow to dry overnight
      *Day four decorate other side, allow to dry overnight
      *Day five, luster dust entire cookie.
      If you need to cut the time down a little, you can decorate the two sides on the same day, about 6-8 hours apart. Running a fan in the room can be helpful with drying as well.

      Hope this helps! ~MJ

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sure could Karen. Since the liquid:sugar balance here is delicate, we’d suggest adding any flavoring in place of some of the milk rather than in addition to, at least until you can accurately judge the consistency. Mollie@KAF

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