Bored Cook In The Kitchen

Tried and true recipes, new twists on old favorites, and new dishes to expand my family's palate.

Royal Icing for Sugar Cookies


I’ve not felt much of the Christmas spirit lately.  It’s been a long year, and honestly I feel like we were just celebrating July 4th, and here we are at Christmas.  How did we get here so fast? 

I figured the best thing to do to get into that Christmas spirit was to bake some sweet and whimsical cookies.  Considering I still have pretty much all of my Christmas shopping to do, my Halloween decorations are still up, and I haven’t gotten around to taking the kids picture for our Christmas cards yet, I needed something to get me into the mood.  And fast!

Yesterday I baked up several batches of Sugar Cookies.  I found a recipe awhile back on Allrecipes that I fell in love with, and those are the ones I use.  They mix up easily, bake up perfectly, and offer an excellent canvas for decorating.   You can find the recipe here if you don’t have your own you love.  The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies.
The royal icing recipe I use was a combination of a few different ones I found and I tweaked a little for easier results.  Most of the recipes I found were too thin or too thick.  It took a little time to get it just right, and a little bit of here and there from a few different recipes.  The one I use now is a perfect consistency for my decorating technique.  Which is nothing to jump up and down about. 


  • 2 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 3 – 4 Tbsp. Milk
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Light Corn Syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. Almond OR Peppermint Extract

Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl.  Add 3 Tbsp. of milk and stir until well combined.  The mixture will be thick.  If you think you need the extra tablespoon of milk, add it in and stir well.  At this point, the mixture will be very thick but stirrable.   (Is that a word?  Who cares, I just made it one!)

Add in your corn syrup and flavoring and stir well.  The consistency you are looking for at this point is similar to the corn syrup you just poured in.  If it’s still too thick, add in more milk in 1/4 tsp. increments, stirring well between each addition to reach desired consistency.  For the cookies I made, I prefer it to be that corn-syrup-like thickness which I find easier to decorate with.  If you prefer a thinner icing, you can use milk to get it thinner.  Just do it in small increments.  If you mess up and thin it too much, add in some extra sifted powdered sugar until  you get it just right.  It’s not an exact science.  You have to tweak it and work it until you find it to be just right.

Separate the icing into smaller containers (I used disposable small plastic containers from Ziploc) add some food coloring and get ready to go!  I have used both the gel food colors and the paste, and have noticed no difference in the consistency of the icing as a result of one over the other, so use whatever you have!

Get your arsenal all set up; sprinkles, colored sugars, and assorted candies.  I usually lay the cookies out on some waxed paper.  It’s easier than anything else.


My technique for decorating is to use a small stiff paintbrush.  I spoon some icing into the middle of each cookie and then I use the paintbrush to smooth it out and “paint” it to the edges.  I find it’s easier to use this method than spreading it with something like a knife or spoon since you have better control.

If you are adding sprinkles or any type of embellishment, add it while the icing is still soft.  You may need to use a toothpick if they are very small, like these snowflakes I added to the tree, gingerbread man and stars.

If you plan on using layers of color, do the base color first and allow it to dry just until it gets a crust over the top.  Then come back and add your next layer of colors.  Like the snowman I did here. I painted the base of the cookie in white, allowed it to cool while I decorated a few other cookies.  Then I came back to it once it had that crust on the top of the icing and added in the scarf, hat and face, working gently to not break through the crust. 

For the candy canes, I used a different approach.  I painted on the red icing first, leaving spaces between where I would later fill in with the white icing.  After painting on the red I sprinkled them with some red sugar crystals.  I let it dry for a bit and then I painted in the empty spot with white frosting.  I didn’t have any white sugar, but if I did, I would have added that on to the white part.  Next time.

Leave the cookies on a flat service for an hour or so until they begin to harden.  Don’t move them around or shift them until they are dry or your icing will begin to run and pool.  Once they are completely dry, either 6 hours to overnight, you can then stack them and store them in an airtight container.  Wrap them up in some clear cellophane bags and tie a ribbon around them and use them as gifts. 

Now before you think I’m a terrible mother who had all this fun without allowing my children to get involved…think again. My daughter had a great time decorating and making a mess.

I think she enjoyed using all the sprinkles vs. painting on the icing.

Try these soon with your kids, or just do them yourself.   You don’t need to be talented to do these.  Trust me when I tell you I am the not even the list bit artistic, so if I could do these, so can you.  Have fun with them and don’t worry about perfection.  They are, afterall, cookies.  Before you know it you will be shoveling them into your mouth anyway, so perfection needs not be achieved!


12 responses to “Royal Icing for Sugar Cookies

  1. Souffle Bombay December 7, 2009 at 9:34 PM

    These are BEAUTIFUL – you are artsy for sure! LOVE that you showed your daughters handiwork!!

  2. boredcook December 7, 2009 at 10:01 PM

    Thanks so much. But I’m truly NOT artsy at all. You haven’t seen my past rejects. And the icing really is the key. In the past they were too runny. Finally after trial and error I found the perfect consistencey and it makes a world of difference. Much more forgiving.

    My 7 year old came home and saw that I decorated cookies with his sister while he was in school AND that they are on the blog. He wants to decorate some tomorrow after school and wants his pictures up too. So I’ll have to do a re-cap.

  3. You make me smile. December 8, 2009 at 8:13 AM

    Absolutely gorgeous. Seriously! Beautiful! Yummmmy! I AM impressed. You kicked my buns in the decorating department. i see that your daughter is going to has a good teacher on her hands. I should be making my annual xmas cookies any day now but I have 2 small problems in Italy. For one, I have NO idea what light corn syrup is. What is that? And Italians generally don’t use coloring in anything because it’s considered un natural. I’m going to have to find a way to decorate with white icing and sprinkles. Hmm, I’m thinking snow… Very cute. Lucky family you have! Funny and talented.

  4. Donalyn December 11, 2009 at 8:34 PM

    Great looking cookies! This is very similar to the icing I like for sugar cookies. I thin mine down a bit, and then dip the top sides of the cookies, shake off the excess and then lay flat to dry. You can still push decorations into the icing, or the lazy way out that I usually, use, sprinkles. Sprinkle stick just fine, so long as you get them on before that top crust forms. I have some to decorate tomorrow, so I think I will try your method on some of them to see which way is faster. I bet mine look more like your daughter’s than yours though 🙂

  5. boredcook December 12, 2009 at 7:32 AM

    Thanks so much. Like I’ve said before, I am completely not artistic. It truly is the consistencey of the icing that makes these cookies turn out the way they do. My only saving grace has been using the small paintbrush to move the icing to where it needs to go. The spoon I’ve tried in the past has just not offered enough control. I bet you they will turn out great. Be sure and post some pictures of them on your blog after you make them.

    Thanks so much for visiting.


  6. cavemancooking December 12, 2009 at 3:00 PM

    Your cookies look phenomenal! Works of art!! Plus, it looks like you have a budding artiste on your hands. 😉

  7. You make me smile. December 13, 2009 at 12:56 PM

    Ok, here I go. You’ve inspired me and I’m taking the plunge. Don’t think I’m publishing the pictures. I’ll let you know how they come out. I’m listening to Giovanni Allevi pianist for inspiration.

  8. LAinNJ December 9, 2010 at 8:27 PM

    This looks like a great recipe and thank you for the detailed instructions. I was just wondering…about how many cookies will this icing recipe work for? If you said, I’m sorry, I missed it.

    Thanks again!

    • boredcook December 11, 2010 at 1:05 PM

      Hi and thanks for visiting.

      It’s hard to say how many cookies this will work for simply because it will depend on the size of the cookies you are baking, along with how elaborate you plan to decorate them.

      My advice is to mix up the one batch and go from there. This will give you a feel of how much you will need. The other benefit is that this icing takes seconds to mix up, so if you do run out, in just minutes you will have a new batch ready to go. Once you start decorating, you will get a feel for how much you will need based on how much frosting you go through on all the cookies you decorate. It’s also a good idea to keep this done in several batches made fresh since you don’t want it drying up on you in the process.

      Have fun with it and share some pictures of your creations. I would love to see them!


    • Nurul March 11, 2014 at 1:27 PM

      I had a rather hard time chosoing just one type of physician I would want to work for. So many of them fascinate me, and with me not really going into any medical field other than support, I never gave this any thought in the past. After reading the list, I am more favorable of working for a neonatologist. It is difficult to think about how neonatologist physicians sometimes have the most difficult job in the world, but I can only imagine how amazing it would be to be a part of saving a baby’s life. I had a coworker once whose baby was born at 36 weeks, and her baby had a lot of heart and lung problems. There were concerns about whether or not they would ever fully develop once she had him, but after many months in the NICU, and many scares that happened during it, the doctors were able to save him and he is now a very healthy 5 year old. It is because of that I have a higher interest in the neonatologist field.I hate to say which type of physician I would care less to work for, and it is because I worry that many will take it the wrong way. When I was 16, I used to help my mom at an assisted living home as a caregiver. We would get to work at 7:00 A.M. every morning to prepare breakfast for four of the elderly men and women that we were caring for. We would then make sure that all bedding was changed, rooms were cleaned, meals were prepared, and appointments were handled. We worked 12 hour days, and they were always grueling. The owner of the home made sure that everyone had their medicine and made it to their doctor appointments on time. However, she was more worried about getting paid for her services than actually helping the elderly. She would yell at them if they did something wrong, and even call them terrible names. My mom reported her and we both quit our job, but it has always left a sting in my heart since then. It is because of my experience with that situation that I do not think I could ever work for a gerontologist. I know that the situations would be much different, but ever since my experience with caring for elderly individuals it is very hard for me to think about assisting a physician in geriatrics because I worry that someone else might treat the elderly in the same way the owner of the home did. I am a firm believer that the elderly deserve the ultimate care and comfort when going through any treatment and aging in general, but I do not think I could ever work in that environment again.

  9. Jamel September 20, 2014 at 12:55 AM

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