If you are looking for the best buttercream frosting for sugar cookies you are in the right place! Not only does this icing recipe hardens, but it is a super easy recipe with only 3 simple ingredients that don’t include corn syrup.
I have been using this recipe for years. Call it laziness, but I never could get the right consistency with royal icing so I opted to DIY my own buttercream frosting for basically anything that needs frosting. I eventually found out that my lazy easy way turned out to be the BEST buttercream frosting for sugar cookies.
This year I’ve been using this amazing buttercream on my favorite sugar cookie recipe. It is the perfect frosting for these soft sugar cookies that are cutout cookies in the shape of hearts.
Buttercream Frosting vs. Royal Icing
Buttercream frosting is made from butter, powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla extract and is known for its smooth, creamy, rich taste.
Royal icing, on the other hand, is made from powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water. It dries to a hard, crisp finish and is often used as decorative icing for detailed work. Royal icing is generally applied with a piping bag or squeeze bottle, while buttercream is a fluffy frosting that can be applied with a frosting knife, butter knife, or piping bag.
What to Add to Buttercream to Make It Harden?
- Powdered sugar is the main ingredient that helps buttercream frosting harden for sugar cookies. The key is to add MORE powdered sugar than butter to get the perfect consistency for a thicker frosting that hardens.
- Unsalted butter is also what helps make this sugar cookie buttercream frosting harden. Once you let the cookies sit for a couple of hours the butter in the frosting creates a slight crust that hardens.
What You Need
As I mentioned you only need a few basic ingredients to make this easy sugar cookie buttercream recipe.
- Stand mixer with the whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer and mixing bowl if you don’t have one)
- Powdered sugar
- Unsalted room temperature butter
- Vanilla extract (can be substituted for almond extract)
- Heavy whipping cream (to add more moisture if needed)
- Gel Food colors (to make different colors)
How to Make The Best Buttercream Frosting for Sugar Cookies
- Start by adding the butter to your stand mixer and whip on medium to high speed for 1 minute until the butter is soft and broken up.
- Slowly add a little bit of powdered sugar at a time with the mixer on low speed to start and then increase the speed as the powdered sugar mixes in. Adding a small amount at a time is the best way to avoid a big mess of powdered sugar all over your counters. The first time I made this frosting recipe, I made a huge mess! Blend until the powdered sugar and butter are combined. Use an offset spatula to scrap any butter or powdered sugar off the sides of the bowl.
- Add in the vanilla extract and give it a good stir on medium to high speed. Keep mixing until the consistency of your icing is a thick whipped texture.
- If you are using multiple colors, separate the frosting into separate bowls. Use gel food coloring to color each bowl of frosting. Mix with a spoon well until all streaks are gone. Usually between 2-3 minutes.
- Once colored, store in homemade frosting in an airtight container or freezer bag in the fridge for 2-3 days, or add a single layer of frosting right away to the best sugar cookies.
- Let the iced sugar cookies sit out for 2-3 hours to allow the frosting to harden before storing.
How to Store Buttercream Frosting
You can store this perfect sugar cookie frosting by laying plastic wrap over the frosting and sealing it in an airtight container or in a freezer bag for up to 2-3 days in the fridge. Any longer than that and it will start to harden on its own, making it hard to spread.
Can I Use Cold Butter for This Recipe?
You can use cold butter if you are in a pinch. If you are using cold butter, I suggest cutting the butter into small quarter-inch cubes before adding it to the mixer. This will allow the butter to whip better. If you are using cold butter you may also have to add a few more minutes for blending and mixing.
What Types of Cookies is the Recipe Good For?
This recipe is perfect for sugar cookies since it is light and fluffy, and it hardens with a slight crust. It’s a great recipe to use with the kids when decorating Christmas cookies since it isn’t as runny as other types of frostings. I’ve also used this recipe on cakes and cupcakes perfectly!
Can You Change the Flavor?
Yes! You can substitute dark vanilla for clear vanilla extract, almond extract, or lemon extract! I’ve also created a cream cheese frosting with this recipe as well. Substitute half of the recommended butter for cream cheese.
Can You Freeze Buttercream Frosting?
You can freeze buttercream frosting for up to 3 months in an airtight container or freezer bag. 24 hours before you’re ready to use it, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then bring it to room temperature before re-whipping again.
Can You Make Buttercream Frosting Without Powdered Sugar?
You actually can, as long as you have granulated white sugar. I have an easy step-by-step tutorial on how to make homemade powdered sugar from granulated white sugar! Read the tutorial here.
How to Fix Runny Buttercream Frosting
If you find your buttercream frosting is too runny or thin, add 1/2 a cup more of powdered sugar at a time until it is at your desired texture.
How to Thin Out Buttercream Frosting
If you put too much powdered sugar in and the frosting feels too thick and heavy, add a 1/4 tsp of heavy cream to your mixing bowl while blending. Be sure to only add a little bit at a time. A little goes a long way in this recipe.