Basic Vanilla Cake Glaze With Flavor Variations Recipe

Basic vanilla cake glaze in a shallow bowl

The Spruce Eats

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
164 Calories
6g Fat
28g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 164
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 4g 19%
Cholesterol 16mg 5%
Sodium 50mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 28g 10%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 27g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 11mg 1%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 14mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

A basic cake glaze is the perfect icing for a tube cake, Bundt cake, or coffee cake, and so versatile that you can even drizzle it over muffins, cinnamon rolls, or quick bread. It is delicious and easy to make, calling for just confectioners' (or powdered) sugar, butter, and milk. The glaze hardens when it sets, creating a beautiful, sweet decoration that you'll use often in your baking adventures.

This recipe is very quick requiring only a few minutes of your time. By making the glaze from scratch, you can adjust the amount of milk and confectioners' sugar to create the perfect drizzling, dipping, or frosting consistency for your needs. While this basic icing is vanilla-flavored, there are several variations you can make to match whatever baked good it will glaze.

Milk or water can be used in the recipe; if you use water, make sure it is hot so the glaze is not too thick. This recipe yields 2 cups, which should be enough to glaze one cake or eight individual pastries. You can easily double the recipe if needed.


Click Play to See This Simple Pastry Glaze Recipe Come Together

"This simple glaze is perfect to garnish any cake, doughnut, or pastry needing a finishing touch. After giving your pastry a drizzle or full glaze, allow it to sit a few minutes to harden and create a thin vanilla shell. This recipe is customizable to your taste and can be thinned with more liquid if needed." —Tracy Wilk

Basic Vanilla Cake Glaze With Flavor Variations Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar

  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, 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 basic vanilla cake glaze recipe gathered

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  2. Sift the confectioners' sugar into a medium-sized bowl.

    Sugar sifted into a glass bowl with a spring-handled baking sifter

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  3. Add the melted butter, 2 tablespoons of milk or hot water, and the vanilla to the confectioners' sugar. Stir to blend.

    Melted butter, milk, and vanilla added to sugar in bowl

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  4. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, adding a little more milk or hot water if necessary to reach the desired consistency.

    Cake glaze beaten to a creamy, smooth consistency

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  5. Drizzle the finished glaze over a cooled cake, quick bread, coffee cake, cupcakes, or other desserts. Serve and enjoy.

    Cake glaze spooned over a Bundt cake and dripping down the sides

    The Spruce Eats


  • Cool the cake or pastries completely before glazing. Warm baked goods will make the glaze too runny and it may soak into the crust, making the cake soggy.
  • Brush away any loose crumbs on the cake or pastries before decorating.
  • If a cake is particularly delicate, put it in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes before frosting.
  • 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.
  • It might be quicker to dip cupcakes or muffins in the glaze rather than spreading or drizzling.

Recipe Variations

  • Toasted nuts: Before the glaze hardens, sprinkle with chopped toasted pecans or other nuts.
  • Cinnamon sugar: When glazing a spice cake or cinnamon rolls, sprinkle the glaze with cinnamon sugar while it's still soft.
  • Richer and creamier glaze: Use heavy cream in place of the milk.
  • Citrus glaze: substitute orange or lemon juice for the milk and vanilla and add about 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated zest.
  • Mocha glaze: Mix in 2 teaspoons of instant coffee granules, 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 ounce of melted unsweetened baking chocolate.
  • Strawberry icing: puree or mash 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen sliced strawberries. Combine the melted butter and confectioners' sugar with the strawberry puree. Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Add more confectioners' sugar or some milk as needed for spreading or drizzling.
  • Chocolate glaze: increase the butter to 6 tablespoons and melt with 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate. Reduce the vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon.
  • Butter-rum glaze: add 1 1/2 teaspoons of rum flavoring and omit the vanilla extract.
  • Tinted glaze: Add a little food coloring to the glaze. Gel food coloring is preferred because it's not as fluid as the liquid variety. Just 1 or 2 drops should do; mix it in and add more if needed.

How to Store

Leftover glaze can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week in an airtight container. You can also freeze the glaze in freezer-safe containers or zipper bags for up to six months. Either way, let the glaze come to room temperature and whip it before using.

How Long Does a Cake Glaze Take to Dry?

The confectioners' sugar sweetens the glaze and makes it set up to a hard finish. The amount of time this takes depends on the consistency; a glaze with less liquid will dry faster. Most glazes should dry within 30 minutes.

What's the Difference Between Icing and Glaze?

The terms icing and glaze are often used interchangeably, and they are made the same way by combining confectioners' sugar with liquid. Technically, icing is thicker than a glaze, but not as thick as frosting, and can be drizzled or spread over baked goods. A glaze is the thinnest of the sweet toppings and easily pourable. With this recipe, you can actually make either a glaze or icing by varying the consistency.