Vanilla Icing or Glaze for Cake and Cookies

Vanilla icing being drizzled with a dinner spoon over cinnamon buns

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
69 Calories
2g Fat
14g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 69
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 2%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 4mg 1%
Sodium 35mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 14g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 5mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 6mg 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 simply sweet, thin glaze icing is a perfect finishing touch to many desserts. Drizzle it on top of cinnamon rolls, pound cake, cookies, Bundt cake, pastries, and more. You can even dip homemade doughnuts into it for a pretty sweet treat.

The glaze icing only requires a few ingredients, no special equipment, and just a few minutes of time. Thin the icing as much or as little as you like. Keep it thick to make a spreadable icing or add more milk to make it a drizzling consistency. As written, the glaze is vanilla, but you can easily add other ingredients to flavor it; try citrus zest and juice for a fruity version. This glaze pairs with most baked desserts, so try it out on a variety of dishes.

"This recipe uses common, easy-to-find ingredients to make a tasty glaze that you can use for any cake or dessert. If you have a flavored cake, like lemon, you can add some fresh zest or lemon oil to the glaze, or keep it vanilla to go with any pastry you'd like." —Tracy Wilk

A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar (sifted before measuring)

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (clear for whiter icing)

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for vanilla icing recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  2. Combine the sifted confectioners' sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract, salt, and 3 tablespoons milk in a mixing bowl.

    Ingredients for icing added to a glass bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  3. Stir until smooth and well blended.

    Smooth and thick icing being stirred with a wire whisk

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  4. Adjust for desired consistency as needed, adding more milk for drizzling or more confectioners' sugar for spreading.

    Smooth icing being whisked in a large bowl, small bowls with confectioners' sugar and milk to the side

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  5. Use immediately to top a cake, cookies, and other treats.

    Baking pan with cinnamon buns covered with vanilla icing, bowl with icing to the side,

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga


  • Glaze icing will last about a week in an airtight container the fridge or for several months in the freezer. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before using.
  • Use icing glaze on baked goods that have completely cool for the best results. Otherwise, the icing will sink into the bake or other hot dessert.
  • For cupcakes, doughnuts, or muffins, it might be easier to dip them in the icing.
  • When glazing a cake, place it on a rack over a sheet of wax paper or foil to catch the drips.
  • Add any decorations like sprinkles, coconut, or nuts soon after glazing and before the icing sets. This way the toppings will stick to the dessert.
  • This glaze icing will set once dried but will remain soft. If you're looking for an icing that with harden once set, try royal icing.

Recipe Variations

  • Orange Icing: Replace the vanilla and milk with orange juice and add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of finely grated orange zest.
  • Lemon Icing: Replace the milk and vanilla with fresh lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest. Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract, if desired.
  • Almond Icing: Replace half of the vanilla extract with almond extract and top with slivered almonds.
  • Mint Icing: Replace all or half of the vanilla extract with mint extract. Add red or green food coloring if desired.
  • Maple Icing: Replace the vanilla extract with maple extract.
  • Cinnamon Icing: Add 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the icing.
  • Coconut Icing: Replace the vanilla extract with coconut extract and top with shredded, sweetened coconut.

What Is the Difference Between Icing and Glaze?

The terms icing and glaze are often used interchangeably in recipes. Both refer to a thin, sweet mixture of sugar and liquid that can be used to drizzle, dip, or coat baked goods. Some glaze recipes produce shiny results, and some icing or glaze recipes harden upon cooling.


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