Cookie Icing and Glazes

A good cookie icing or glaze will:

  • Spread easily at room temperature.
  • Adhere to cookie surface without thinning or running off.
  • Set within an expected amount of time.
  • Neither dry out quickly and crack nor absorb excessive moisture and melt during storage.
  • Maintain its glossy appearance and intended color.

Icing on black and white cookies

Generally, a cookie icing is a viscous mixture of mainly powder sugar and water with a tiny amount of some flavoring ingredients. It should be applied to completely cool homemade cookies and other baked products as a thick coating.

Cookie glaze on lebkuchen


On the contrary, although having similar components, a glaze is free flowing and more fluid than icings. It is only meant to form a thin transparent coating so that the crust color of homemade cookies are shown through. Glazes are easy to handle when applied to warm cookies.



There are three types of icings or glazes:

  1. Non-aerated – very popular with cookies and doughnuts.

  2. Partially aerated – Often used on cakes and contains a form of fat such as butter or shortening. Buttercream is an example.

  3. Aerated – contains a whipping agent such as gelatin, and a high percentage of a liquid sweetener such as syrup. Whipped cream certainly belongs to this category.

For our purpose, we will explore non-aerated icings that come in two varieties:

  1. Water based. Its composition consists of approximately 3-4 parts sugar and 1 part water with a tiny amount of flavorings for color, taste, and shelf stability.

  2. Fudges and fondants. Powder sugar, liquid sweetener, fat such as cream, butter, shortening or oil, chocolate or cocoa are all basic ingredients in fudges. They dry quickly and tend to form a skin.

The quality of a cookie icing or glaze is determined by its stability during storage and in adverse temperature and humidity conditions. It must maintain its pliability, gloss, body, and good taste regardless.

Sugar controls this stability! More accurately, the ratio of un-dissolved sugar (powder or granulated) to dissolved sweeteners (syrup is one) must be maintain during the shelf life of a particular icing or glaze.


Powder sugar is prefer to granulated because of its comparatively finer particle size. It is more likely to produce a smoother icing. If granulated sugar is used, make sure that it is completely dissolved. Otherwise, the cookie icing will be gritty with a dull appearance.

The amount of water used should be minimal. A slight increase or decrease will affect the quality of a cookie icing. Avoid extremely acidic water as it will break down the sugar.

Use a fat with a high melting point in warm climates to promote drying and stability. In cold weather and on homemade cookies that will be frozen, a non-emulsified shortening is better as it will not aerate the icing, resulting in a dull and off-white appearance.

Use vegetable oil in tiny amount only to improve shine and gloss as it can impart an oily mouth feel.

Tips for the perfect Cookie Icing or Glaze

  • Minimize the amount of liquid sweeteners and water.
  • Use a sugar with the finest particle size.
  • Avoid extremely acidic water.
  • Use a fat with a high melting point in warm weather.
  • Apply icings to completely cool cookies, and glazes to those that are just finished baking.

A basic recipe for cookie icing

Confectioners’ sugar 1 cup
Vanilla extract 1 tsp
Water ÂĽ cup
  • Mix all ingredients together until smooth.

  • Frost tops of cool cookies even though the icing may drip down the sides.

  • Allow icing to dry before store homemade cookies in airtight container.
  • For fresh lemon flavor, replace vanilla extract and water with just enough freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 5 tablespoons. Adding a tablespoon of lemon zest to this icing will make it doubly refreshing.

    For orange-flavored, use orange extract and orange juice instead of vanilla extract and water, respective.