Christmas Cookie Frosting

I’ve been perfecting my Christmas Sugar Cookies (cut outs) for 20+ years. This is the BEST Christmas Cookie Frosting recipe I use to top them!

Best Christmas Cookie Frosting Recipe


Most people have strong opinions about politics, religion, global warming, etc. I mean these are important things so I get it, but I have opinions about cookies- especially cut out cookies and the frosting that tops them.

Best Sugar Cookie Frosting- perfect for cut out cookies

  1. The cookie needs to be sturdy enough to hold a generous amount of frosting.
  2. Soft cut out cookies only please!
  3. Keep the sprinkles to a minimum… I’m trying to enjoy the frosting, not break a tooth.
  4. Finally, the frosting needs to not be sticky. I have children running around my house with cookies in their hands. I don’t need the frosting sticking to them and whatever they touch (and they touch EVERYTHING).

Best Sugar Cookie Frosting Recipe

See that tree? It’s approaching breaking Rule #3. I better eat it. Okay, honestly there aren’t very many cookies I would pass up. But I’ve been perfecting my BEST Sugar Cookies Ever and this BEST Sugar Cookie Frosting for over 20 years. I don’t know why I feel so strongly about using the word “best,” but I do. It’s the most popular recipe on my website and the most requested recipe from family and friends.

Q and A about this Christmas Cookie Frosting:

Best Sugar Cookie Frosting perfect for Christmas Cookies

Can I use this frosting on Valentine’s Day cookies? Halloween? National Mail Carriers Day? etc.

  • Yes! Use I use this frosting recipe for nearly every cookie I make all year long.
  • You can use it to frost cakes as well!

 Ewww shortening is DISGUSTING! How could you?!

  • I’m sorry to ruin your life. There’s good news and bad news here. The good news is that you can use whatever frosting recipe you want! The bad news is that you have to follow this recipe to get the stated results.
  • Shortening (Crisco is what I generally use) makes this a “crisping” frosting. It will hold its shape days after being piped onto cookies. It won’t melt or wilt and isn’t sticky like store-bought frosting tends to be. I can also stack cookies for freezing and/or transporting after the frosting crisps up (at least 2-4 hours).
  • More good news- there are organic all vegetable shortenings available out there in Internet land. I linked to one at the bottom of this post.

I’m still disgusted about using shortening. I’m going to use butter. Can I use butter…?

  • You can use 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of shortening with similar results… but please don’t email me saying that the frosting didn’t crisp up and it didn’t hold its shape very well.
  • If you want to use all butter, well then you are making American Buttercream. Good on ya! It’s delicious and I frost my cakes with it.

Everyone I know has a nut allergy. Can I omit the almond extract?

  • You’re in good company, my son has a peanut allergy. My heart is happy that you want to accommodate all of the special dietary needs in your family and circle of friends. Bless you!!
  • I personally use IMITATION almond extract. According to FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education):

Avoid natural extracts, such as pure almond extract. Imitation or artificially flavored extracts generally are safe.

  • Always best to check with the person you are serving the cookies to, and of course let their doctor or allergist have the final word. If you are uncomfortable you can omit the almond extract and use all vanilla extract.

How long and how can I store this frosting?

  • Leftover frosting should be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. It can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week and frozen for several months. Use leftover frosting just as you would freshly whipped frosting once it is warmed up and ready to spread. Bring it back to room temperature or to just slightly chilled.

Do I need to refrigerate frosted cookies?

  • As I’ve always understood it the small amount of milk is stabilized by the large amount of sugar and considered safe at room temperature for two to three days. But of course do what feels safe for your family. We eat these within 2-3 days.

Those are really bright colors! What food coloring do you use?

  • I never use liquid food coloring (typical food coloring that you can find in the grocery store).
  • I prefer to use food coloring gel such as Americolor or Wilton.
  • You can find food coloring gel online (I link to it at the bottom of this post), at Hobby Lobby, JoAnne’s, Michaels, or even some Wal-Marts in the crafting/cake decorating section.
  • I prefer gels because you only need a few drops to get a vibrant rainbow of colors.

Tips, Tricks and Recipe for the Best Sugar Cookie Frosting

Christmas Cookie Frosting


Prep Time:15 minutes

Total Time:15 minutes

I've been perfecting my Christmas Sugar Cookies (cut outs) for 20+ years. This is the Christmas Cookie Frosting recipe I use to top them!


  • 1 Cup shortening, such as Crisco (*see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (*nut allergies see notes)
  • 1 large bag powdered sugar (2 lbs, about 8 cups)
  • 1/2 Cup heavy cream or whole milk (more if needed to reach desired consistency)
  • Food coloring, if desired


  1. In the bowl of your mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl for use with your handheld electric mixer, place shortening and extracts. Beat until creamy (at least 1 minute).
  2. Begin adding powdered sugar 1 cup at a time.
  3. When the mixture starts to become dry start adding cream a little bit at a time alternating with the powdered sugar.
  4. Beat until creamy. Use more or less cream to reach desired consistency. (I like for it to be smooth enough to pipe through a piping bag, but still a bit more firm than typical store-bought frosting.)
  5. Add food coloring if desired.


  • Shortening is what makes this frosting "crisp" up. You can swap half for butter but it will melt/fall more quickly and may colapse if cookies are stacked on top of one another. If you swap out for all butter well then you are making Buttercream frosting- perfect for spreading on cakes but not preferred for piping. At the bottom of this post I will link to an organic all vegetable shortening.
  • Always ask your doctor when dealing with food allergies. Our family has a peanut allergy so we avoid all nuts. I have safely used IMITATION almond extract with him. This is personal experience only. You can use all vanilla extract if you wish.

Original recipe and images © In Katrina's Kitchen

Don’t forget to grab my Best Sugar Cookie Recipe while you’re here!

Best Sugar Cookie Recipe

Merry Christmas!

Best Sugar Cookie Frosting Recipe- perfect for Christmas Cookies

Items used in this post:

In Katrina’s Kitchen is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

- Katrina

62 Responses to “Christmas Cookie Frosting”

  1. #
    Bianca — December 13, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    How long can the frosting be stored?

    • Katrina Bahl — December 13th, 2016 @ 12:21 pm

      Great question! I added it to the post but will leave it here too: Leftover frosting should be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. It can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week and frozen for several months. Use leftover frosting just as you would freshly whipped frosting once it is warmed up and ready to spread. Bring it back to room temperature or to just slightly chilled.

  2. #
    Steph — December 14, 2016 at 12:00 am

    Thank you for this magical recipe! I have always used butter in my frosting, and now I know why it didn’t get “crispy” like I wanted!
    (Your q and a cracked me up. Food bloggers have got to be some of the most patient people on the planet, I swear. You rock.)

  3. #
    Michellene — December 14, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Does this work ok if you plan to frost with a knife instead of bags. My kids like to use knives verse a bag while they decorate. Thanks for the yummy recipe, cant wait to try them this year.

    • Katrina Bahl — December 15th, 2016 @ 8:17 am

      Yes! Spreads easily. You may want to add a bit more milk or cream up to 3/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup. You can tell while you’re mixing it if it’s your desired consistency. Happy baking!

  4. #
    Marina — December 15, 2016 at 7:23 am

    Hi! Can kids eat these cookies right after frosting them or will it make a big mess? You said it takes 24 hours to let the frosting set, should they be out in the open or in a covered container for this part?

    • Katrina Bahl — December 15th, 2016 @ 8:18 am

      You can eat immediately! I would only suggest setting them out to crisp up if you plan on stacking them.

  5. #
    Sharon Schroeter — December 16, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    Hi Katrina,
    I’m looking forward to trying your sugar cookie & frosting recipes, but…..
    I have always used Crisco shortening, but a couple of years ago, I made a pie crust with it & it wasn’t very good. I checked the label, & now Crisco is made with soybean oil. Is that what you use in your frosting?

  6. #
    Debbie Eccles — December 18, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Can I use butter flavored crisco and get the same crispness?

    • Amber — December 26th, 2016 @ 10:12 pm

      I was wondering the same thing.

  7. #
    Briana Goodpasture — December 18, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Our son is lactose intolerant is there a substitute for the cream or milk that can be used? We usually cook with almond milk but didn’t know how this would turn out.

    • Sheri — January 3rd, 2017 @ 4:40 pm

      Yes definitely!!! I used Fairlife Milk in this recipe and it came out awesome! Our whole family had to swap over to lactose free milk when 1 became lactose intolerant. This recipe is one of the best I’ve found, so glad she shared it!! Use the dark blue bottle of Fairlife, the light blue label is super low fat or fat free and it made the icing come out a lil too thin

  8. #
    Mel — December 18, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    A few questions: Does this work for “flooding” like royal icing? I dislike royal icing and trying to find something that would have a similar effect. (I guess i could also spread it.) Also i noticed your piping thick on the cookie, do thinner lines work like writing names on cookies? Does the shortening make it “greasy”?

  9. #
    Laura Sauer — December 20, 2016 at 1:03 am

    Hi Katrina, When I click on the Best Sugar Cookie link I am getting a McAfee-Website Safety warning. I clicked and saved several of your other recipes with no problem. I don’t know why it’s giving me the warning on this recipe. Can you email me the recipe? I would like to make it Thursday so I can give them as a gift on Friday. Thank you!

  10. #
    Jean Anderson — December 20, 2016 at 11:57 am

    I laughed at the Crisco comments. One of our friends makes the BEST brownies with Maple frosting and her secret? Yep, crisco. Everyone raves about them and she just chuckles. I think they are a mix of butter and crisco, but it does make it better.

  11. #
    Danielle — December 20, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Might be a little TOO thick…just blew the motor on my mixer 😠

  12. #
    Miranda — December 20, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    So if the frosting needs to be refrigerated then I assume I need to refrigerate the cookies after frosting. Won’t this make the cookies soggy?

  13. #
    Jen — December 21, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    Hi!I don’t know if I missed this detail but about how much frosting will this make or how many cookies can it frost?

  14. #
    Carmen Garcia — December 23, 2016 at 12:50 am

    Will their be any change in the consitency if I use liquid food coloring over the gel food coloring you prefer?

  15. #
    Kay — December 23, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Can you use the frosting to outline? The cookies turned out great! Can’t wait to frost them. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

  16. #
    Jennifer Blackford — December 23, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Just made this frosting and decided after making it as written, to tweak it a little for my tastes. The consistency was fabulous for piping! I did end up adding just a bit more cream to thin it but I am in a dryer climate so that might be why. After tasting the recipe as written I felt like it was a little sweet for my taste so I added a good sprinkling of salt and then about 1/2 tsp of butter flavoring. I was really missing the butter flavor with just the shortening and the butter flavoring helped with that. It is very good! Thanks for sharing a great recipe. I will definitely use it again!

  17. #
    Cecile — December 23, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    I’m so happy that I found both your recipe for sugar cookies AND this great frosting!! You have an excellent blog & I’m going to start following you. Wishing you and your a very Merry Christmas. ; o ) (I discovered you on PINTEREST.)

  18. #
    Mimi — December 23, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Made the cookies yesterday – made frosting this morning. Spread the frosting on the cookies and dusted with crunched up candy canes. The hardest part of all of this was getting the wrappers off the candy canes! Husband was home by 10:30 this morning – and snitched a cookie while I was cleaning up my mess. And then he went back for a few more. His reasoning…”These are the best cookies ever!” He’s right – they are the best cookies ever. The frosting tastes just as good if not better than those high dollar individually wrapped cookies that you see for sale on a certain TV show.
    Using Crisco…not a problem for me…I used the butter flavored, because that’s what I use to make chocolate chip cookies, so had it in the pantry.
    Thank you Katrina…for recipes that make it fun to bake/decorate cut out sugar cookies!

  19. #
    Alex — December 25, 2016 at 1:40 am

    I made the frosting today and it taste good and pipes well however I did notice the color kinda separate. Any recommendations?

  20. #
    Jme — December 25, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    How did you get that gorgeous red frosting? Even with gel it can be tough. I have had good luck mixing liquid red with cocoa into a paste and using that as I would normal Wilton gels, but it isn’t nearly so brilliant. Thanks!

  21. #
    Michelle G — December 25, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    I made your sugar cookies and icing this week for Christmas and they were perfect!

  22. #
    Tahirih Gutelius — December 26, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    This frosting tasted great, but it did not stick to the cookies. It was really odd. I added a little extra cream to each color, which helped, but it was still difficult. Is this normal?

  23. #
    Kelly B — January 9, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    Can you use butter flavored crisco?

  24. #
    Jackie — January 17, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Can you use this icing to flood cookies?

  25. #
    ProChef — January 19, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    No, you can’t flood with this frosting. It is much too thick and fluffy. You’ll need a royal icing. The icing needs to be thin enough to “flood.”

  26. #
    Becky — January 25, 2017 at 11:27 am

    I love love love your sugar cookies. I made them yesterday and iced them today, however I can’t seem to get my icing to set?! I really wanted to stack them and post them to a friend. Adventurous I know!! But please any tips would be great. P.S I live in the U.K. So it’s freezing out side at the moment but heating on inside. Should I get them cooler?! Thanks Becky.

  27. #
    Samantha — July 30, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    I’m sorry if I missed this in the reading, but how much frosting does this make? I don’t plan to make many cookies, so I don’t want to over-do it.

  28. #
    Virginia — September 10, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    I’m assuming from all I’ve read that frosted cookies do not need to be refrigerated even though leftover frosting is refrigerated. Is this correct?

  29. #
    Patti — September 27, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Can you use the Crisco butter flavored shortening?

  30. #
    Sara — October 22, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    Hi Katrina,
    I am making this in Germany and I have made double the recipe, I am not sure how to make sure its the right texture to crisp up? I have left a bit of it out and it has been almost 24 hours and only the edges are truly crisp. Did I not add enough sugar or maybe the milk was low fat so it changed the texture?
    Thanks in advance!!

    • Katrina Bahl — December 5th, 2017 @ 9:08 pm

      Yes the frosting crisps just enough to stack the cookies. It will not harden. That would be royal frosting that completely dries hard.

  31. #
    Holly — November 18, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    Hey! I see one person has used fairlife milk… has anyone used an almond, cashew, or rice milk instead? :/ I have about 8 dairy free family members and need to have these be dairy free. These sound amazing and I really really really want to try them. If anyone has any suggestions let me know. I usually use earth balance butter as a substitute and have never noticed a difference in any recipe.

  32. #
    Amy M — November 26, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    I just made a batch of our favorite cut-out cookies and a batch of this frosting. Oh . My . Gracious! This IS the BEST Christmas Cookie frosting ♡ !
    Thank you so much for sharing your recipe. You have improved our holiday season! !

  33. #
    Renee — December 2, 2017 at 11:01 am

    This frosting is awesome!

  34. #
    Karen — December 2, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    Hi Katrina, I made your cookies and frosting and thank you. What a great easy recipe and fun for me and my son! Question. I made the frosting this morning and the cookies have been setting all day but the icing is not set yet. I wonder if leaving them overnight will help them totally setup? I didn’t deviate from the recipe. Thanks!

  35. #
    Debbi M. — December 3, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    To the refrigeration question, I made these last year. I did not refrigerate the cookies once decorated. Refrigerating the frosting just helps keep it fresh. (in my opinion) Love both, the cookie and frosting recipe! very easy to work with!

  36. #
    Jen W — December 5, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Hello! Love this recipe!! Question I’m making this for a class of 20 4 year olds to decorate cookies with; can I make it the night before? Any suggestions??

    • Katrina Bahl — December 5th, 2017 @ 9:06 pm

      Yes you can make them ahead. Seal in an airtight container after having cooled completely. Thanks! Have fun!

  37. #
    Kasey — December 8, 2017 at 12:59 am

    Just finished making the cookies and frosting. So amazing, so easy. I can’t get over perfect this recipe is.

  38. #
    Krista — December 10, 2017 at 8:59 am

    We have always used brushes to decorate our Christmas cookies. Do you think I could thin it out enough with the milk and still have icing crispy enough to stack? Thank you.

  39. #
    Betty — December 15, 2017 at 10:45 am

    Can I use Crisco butter flavor shortning?

  40. #
    Leigh — December 17, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    I just want to give a heads up to all those baking for people with peanut allergies. There are warning labels on Wilton products telling consumers that they are made in a facility that processes peanuts and other nuts. At least in Canada anyway. Make sure you check your labels.

  41. #
    Karen — December 18, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    This is very close to the recipe we use. Since Crisco took out the trans fat from it it doesn’t crisp up as soon. We add a little more powdered sugar.

  42. #
    Violet — December 19, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    In New Zealand the only readily available shortening is called kremelta. It is a solid waxy form. I don’t use it much, only for chocolate rice bubble crispy cakes. I usually have to melt it. How do you just start beating it in your recipe? Do we melt it first? I am keen to try as the royal icing on my gingerbread cookies was very hard and tasteless with the slight risk of salmonella from the eggs. I’m very keen to try your recipe.

  43. #
    Poppy — December 21, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    This worked so beautifully! I made your sugar cookie recipe and this frosting, and I’m so impressed. Both came out so well, especially with your instructions and tips.

  44. #
    janine — December 21, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    Just made these! super yummy and happy I didn’t have to chill first. The frosting came out delicious as well. A little sweet on its own but on the cookie perfect match! Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  45. #
    Kim — January 6, 2018 at 11:32 am

    Can you use this on cup cakes?

  46. #
    Dawn Neumann — January 7, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    Just made these for the second time. These are amazing cookies and pairs very well with the frosting. So very easy to make!! This will be my go to sugar cookie recipe!! Thank you for sharing this great recipe!

  47. #
    Ariel — January 7, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    This was the worst icing I have ever made. I followed the directions to a tee and it still turned out bad. The cream and colour separated from the shortening within minutes of piping. So small chunks of shortening clumped up the icing. It was disgusting. Very mad. Made the whole recipe to go straight to the trash can.

  48. #
    Joie — February 16, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    I made these cookies with a Gluten Free (one to one flour mix) at Christmas and we all loved. Them! In fact, some friends brought some non-GF cookies they had made over and I tried a bite of one….they were not nearly as good, my husband agreed. So THANKS for sharing this! We just made it again for V-Day. I am going to try your icing recipe and was curious if you posted a link to organic shortening. I am not opposed to Crisco but was curious what else you have tried. Thanks so much.

    • Bm — November 28th, 2018 @ 11:35 pm

      What gf flour did you use? I can’t seem to get a good gf recipe

  49. #
    Linda Johnson — February 20, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    I made your recipe for my Valentine cookies and everyone loved it. Will this frosting work for roses made ahead of time on parchment paper, and then transferred to cookies a few days later?

    • Katrina Bahl — February 22nd, 2018 @ 4:07 pm

      Yes definitely!

  50. #
    Misty Williams — December 1, 2018 at 10:08 am

    Hi Katrina!
    I read through the comments so sorry if I missed this question previously, but is there a way to thin out a bit of the frosting so I can flood some of the cookies? I don’t want an entire batch of thin frosting but I did want to do some of them that way… thank you and I’m so excited to use this recipe!!

  51. #
    Julie — December 7, 2018 at 10:13 am

    I made this yesterday for our annual cookie decorating, was great except for some reason it just wouldn’t ‘stick’ to the cookies?… When we spread the frosting, it just wanted to come back up – so had a tough time decorating.

  52. #
    Zulay — December 15, 2018 at 12:14 am

    Hi! I’m interested in testing out this frosting, but I don’t see how much frosting this makes…I’m planning on making about 4 dozen cookies, would this recipe work?

  53. #
    John V — December 17, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    Great to read this! This has always been my favorite frosting recipe, which I call wedding cake frosting.
    Our school lunch lady used to make it when I was a kid, but would not share the recipe. So as an adult I combed every cookbook in the library until I found the one that tasted like it.
    The one thing that you omit, which I highly recommend including, is 1/2 TSP of salt (or 1/4 TSP for a one pound box of sugar, which is the size batch I make for a cake). It really enhances and brings out the flavor without being enough to taste the salt.
    Also, I like to make it a day in advance to give the 3% cornstarch found in all confectioners sugar, a chance to diminish in taste.
    We have been using your cookie recipe for a number of years too. It’s the best and agree not having to refrigerate the dough is a big plus!

    One other tip…a lot of Christmas cookies use lemon flavored frosting, so I make half the frosting with that instead of almond.

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