Basic Vanilla Cake Glaze With Flavor Variations

Basic cake glaze

The Spruce

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Yields: 2 cups

This basic cake glaze is the perfect icing for a tube cakeBundt cake, or coffee cake. You can even drizzle it over muffins, cinnamon rolls, or quick bread. It's an easy recipe, requiring just four basic kitchen staples and a few minutes of your time, and one you'll use often in your baking adventures.

Adjust the amount of milk and powdered sugar to make the perfect drizzling, dipping, or frosting consistency. While the basic icing is vanilla-flavored, there are several possible flavor variations to use on all sorts of goodies. Use this basic, tried-and-true recipe as inspiration for custom creations.


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  • 2 cups powdered sugar (confectioners' sugar)
  • 1/4 cup butter (4 tablespoons, melted)
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons milk (or hot water, for desired consistency)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for glaze
    The Spruce
  2. Sift the powdered sugar into a medium-sized bowl.

    Sugar sifted into a bowl
    The Spruce
  3. Add the melted butter, 2 tablespoons of milk or hot water, and the vanilla to the powdered sugar. Stir to blend.

    Sugar, milk and butter mixture in a bowl
    The Spruce
  4. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, adding a little more milk or hot water if necessary to reach desired consistency.

    Basic cake glaze in a bowl
    The Spruce
  5. Drizzle the finished glaze over a cooled cake, quick bread, coffee cake, cupcakes, or other desserts. This yields 2 cups, so it should be enough to glaze one cake or eight individual pastries.

    Vanilla icing over Bundt cake
    The Spruce
  6. Serve and enjoy.


  • Cool the cake or pastries completely before glazing with icing.
  • Brush away any loose crumbs on the cake or pastries before decorating.
  • Before the glaze hardens, sprinkle with chopped toasted pecans or other nuts or decorations.
  • If a cake is particularly delicate, put it in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes before frosting.
  • It might be quicker to dip cupcakes or muffins in the glaze rather than spreading or drizzling.
  • Put a sheet of wax paper under the rack when you glaze a cake. The wax paper will catch drips and make cleanup much easier. You might even be able to reuse some of the drips if they are crumb free.
  • Freeze leftover glaze in freezer containers or zipper freezer bags for up to six months.

Recipe Variations

  • For a richer and creamier glaze, use heavy cream in place of the milk or water.
  • For a citrus glaze, substitute orange or lemon juice for the milk and vanilla and add about 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated zest.
  • For a mocha glaze, mix in 2 teaspoons of instant coffee granules, 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 ounce of melted unsweetened baking chocolate.
  • For strawberry icing, puree or mash 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen sliced strawberries. Combine the melted butter and powdered sugar with the strawberry puree. Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Add more powdered sugar or some milk as needed for spreading or drizzling.
  • For a chocolate glaze, increase the butter to 6 tablespoons and melt with 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate. Reduce the vanilla to 1 teaspoon.
  • For a butter-rum glaze, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of rum flavoring and omit the vanilla.
  • If glazing a spice cake or cinnamon rolls, sprinkle the glaze with cinnamon sugar while it's still soft.