powdered sugar glaze icing overhead drizzle
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Simple Powdered Sugar Glaze / Icing

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An easy way to elevate cakes, cookies, muffins, and countless other baked goods! Making this simple 2 ingredient recipe will instantly step up any baked good. Read below for how to make this same recipe into either an icing or a glaze.

powdered sugar glaze icing overhead close up

What’s the difference between icing and glaze?

This is actually a bit of a tough question, and it strangely leads to strong opinions and some debates. Don’t ask me why because I have no idea.

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    When it comes to ingredients, a powdered sugar icing and a powdered sugar glaze are basically the same (both at their core needing powdered sugar and some sort of liquid).

    The liquid is most commonly either water, milk, heavy cream, or (occasionally) lemon juice.

    powdered sugar glaze icing ingredients

    But what separates the two is their consistency and set. Icings are thicker than glazes, and set firmer when left out to dry. They’ll also leave a more opaque look when dry (think of icing decorated gingerbread cookies!). Glazes do also set when left to dry, but they leave a clearer, see through finish that’s a bit more sticky and crackly (think of glazed donuts!).

    powdered sugar glaze icing drizzle side

    Which liquid to use for your glaze/icing:

    Choosing whether you use water, milk, heavy cream, or lemon juice depends on the recipe you’re making, and what you have available.

    Water is a classic that goes with basically every recipe, but it is quite thin, flavorless, and lacks any fat or richness. I use water most often when I make donuts because they’re already rich enough.

    Milk & heavy cream are pretty much interchangeable. I prefer to use heavy cream because it adds more thickness and richness to the glaze/icing. But let’s take a minute to ask how often I actually have it on hand. Very rarely.

    Lemon juice is definitely the most flavor changing of the bunch, so it does really depend on the recipe you’re making. Lemon and blueberries are an even better couple than bread and butter, so I like to make a powdered sugar lemon glaze with blueberry scones or blueberry muffins! It also goes great with pound cake!

    powdered sugar glaze icing overhead

    When to use icing vs glaze:

    Since glazes are thinner than icings, glaze is best for when you just want to drizzle streaks over a treat or dessert OR for dipping treats like donuts. It’s best when you don’t really care much for pattern or having a firm set.

    Some recipes to use with glaze:

    blueberry scones
    sour cream glazed donuts
    apple crumb cake
    blueberry muffins
    jam bars with crumb topping

    glaze for sour cream donuts

    Icings on the other hand are better for when you want to pipe patterns (like when you decorate cookies!) or if you want the icing to set firmly (which makes stacking and sending/transporting treats easier)!

    Some recipes to use with icing:

    sour cream pound cake (when dried, an icing lets you take it on the go more easily)
    cinnamon swirl quick bread
    cinnamon rolls
    vanilla sugar cookie decorating
    gingerbread cookie decorating

    gingerbread cookies decorated with icing

    All in all …

    It’s amazing how much you can do with this simple 2 ingredient recipe! It instantly elevates almost any dessert, and adds a beautiful topping and flavor to classic recipes.

    If you liked this simple recipe, check out some of these similar recipes!

    vanilla buttercream frosting
    chocolate buttercream frosting
    chocolate ganache
    vanilla pastry cream


    Simple Powdered Sugar Glaze / Icing Recipe

    Prep Time 5 minutes
    Cook Time 0 minutes
    Total Time 5 minutes

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
    • 1 to 3 tablespoons water, milk, heavy cream, or lemon juice * see notes

    Instructions

    • In a medium bowl, combine powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of your choice of liquid. Whisk to combine. If it's too dry, gradually add more liquid, whisking well after each addition, until it reaches your desired consistency.

    Notes

    * The amount and type of liquid you use depends on the recipe you’re making (see blog post above for more details). For a thicker icing, use 1 to 2 tablespoons of your preferred liquid. For a thinner glaze, use 2 to 3 tablespoons of liquid.
    Also an important thing to keep in mind is different brands of powdered sugar have different amounts of cornstarch worked in. So it’s safest to start with less liquid and work up to your desired consistency! It’s easier to add liquid than to have to add powdered sugar (speaking from experience!)

    Enjoy!


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