Learn how to make frosting for sugar cookies, including the best sugar cookie buttercream frosting recipe with lots of our best tips and tricks.
Sugar cookies are one of my family’s favorite cookies to make and eat. And the best sugar cookies require the best sugar cookie frosting.
Having the best sugar cookie buttercream frosting recipe in your kitchen arsenal not only makes for the best cookies, but also makes baking that much more enjoyable with the tastiest results.
How to Make Frosting for Sugar Cookies
There are lots of frosting and icing possibilities when it comes to sugar cookies. My personal favorite is buttercream frosting.
Buttercream frosting is easy to make and tastes delicious on sugar cookies. It’s also easy to use and takes food coloring well, so it really is a great all-purpose frosting.
My go-to sugar cookie buttercream frosting recipe calls for room temperature butter, powdered sugar, milk, cream, or half-and-half (honestly, whichever one you have on-hand is fine), a splash of vanilla, and a pinch of salt.
I use my stand mixer to make frosting for sugar cookies because it can get up to the high speeds necessary for a really smooth frosting, but you can also use a hand mixer.
Start by beating the butter and sugar until well mixed, then gradually add the milk, vanilla, and salt. Turn the speed up to high and beat the frosting until it is very smooth.
Before using the frosting, I usually mix it by hand with a spatula for a few seconds to get any large air pockets out. This frosting is great for spreading with an offset spatula or even a butter knife.
We are usually in a rush to get the frosted sugar cookies into our mouths in our house, so this quick method is my favorite.
If you need cookies that look a little fancier, this sugar cookie buttercream frosting is also wonderful for piping. If you use a fancy piping tip, the frosting holds its shape beautifully.
What About Cream Cheese Frosting for Sugar Cookies?
In my opinion, cream cheese frosting for sugar cookies is a close second to traditional buttercream frosting. The tanginess of the cream cheese is such a nice contrast to the sweetness of the sugar cookies.
The method for making cream cheese frosting for sugar cookies is very similar to the method for making buttercream frosting, but the ingredients are a little different.
First, beat a stick of softened butter and an 8-oz brick of softened cream cheese until well mixed, then beat in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt just as you would in the buttercream recipe.
I only add milk a splash at a time if the frosting is too thick, but it usually isn’t necessary.
How to Make Smooth Frosting for Sugar Cookies
Nobody wants lumps and bumps in their frosting, right? There are a couple of different ways you can get smooth sugar cookie frosting:
- Sift your powdered sugar.
- Use room temperature butter and/or cream cheese.
- Beat your frosting on high speed until smooth, and fluffy.
I have a kitchen admission to make: I’m a little bit of a lazy cook. I love cooking and baking, but if there are shortcuts that work, you can bet I’m going to take them.
As a result, I’ve never sifted powdered sugar in my entire life. To me, that’s just an extra, unnecessary step that eats up time.
I always get smooth frosting for my sugar cookies just by beating it on high speed with my stand mixer. It works every time and is quick and effective.
I also make sure my butter (and cream cheese, if I’m make cream cheese frosting) is at room temperature. Cold butter will make your frosting chunky and hard to beat and spread.
Sugar Cookie Recipes to Try
What good is sugar cookie frosting without the sugar cookies?! OK, arguably pretty darn good, but you still need some fantastic sugar cookie recipes. Here are some favorites:
- Swig Sugar Cookies: This copycat recipe is always a big hit in our house! There’s a copycat frosting recipe too, but we always use our sugar cookie buttercream frosting recipe instead and it’s a delicious pairing.
- Keto Sugar Cookies: If you want to go all-in on the frosting but make the cookies a little healthier, this recipe is for you!
- Funfetti Sugar Cookie Bars: All of the delicious flavor of sugar cookies without the hassle of making individual cookies. Sign me up!
- Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies: You can never go wrong with the classic soft sugar cookie!
- Gluten-Free Sugar Cookie Bars: An easy, gluten-free option for the sugar cookie lovers.
The Best Frosting Recipes
And finally, if you're looking for a great frosting recipe for cupcakes, cake or cookies, here are a few of our tried and true favorites.
- Homemade Grocery Store Frosting - This easy frosting recipe delivers the same sweet, smooth flavor of a store-bought cake. It's so good!
- Greek Yogurt Frosting - We especially love this frosting on red velvet or carrot cake. It's so creamy and delicious.
- Strawberry Frosting - Bursting with fresh strawberry flavor, this frosting recipe is favorite for cakes and cupcakes of all kinds.
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