< Southern Basics

Decorating Sugar Cookies

Want to make bakery-worthy decorated cookies without all the fuss and mess? Icing cookies doesn't have to be a recipe for disaster. Our favorite recipe has fewer than five ingredients, comes together in a flash, and is the perfect blank slate for food colors, edible paint, and a kaleidoscopic array of sprinkles. No electric mixer or whipping egg whites required!

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla or almond extract
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoons warm water

Add ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk until smooth and thick. If you'd like to thin the icing, add a bit more water, one drop at a time. Use icing immediately for decorating or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Hint: Vanilla can add a very slight caramel hue to the icing--so, if you want a bright white look, use almond extract instead

Hint: Corn syrup gives this icing its lovely smooth sheen, but if you don't have any on hand or would prefer to leave it out, feel free to do so: the recipe will still work.

Hint: For easy decoration, think beyond the piping bag! Small plastic squeeze bottles can be easier to hold and may give you more control when drawing lines and shapes. And makeup brushes are handy for brushing icing onto cookies in a smooth layer and for painting on designs.

Hint: Make sure your cookies are completely cool before you start decorating--otherwise the icing will slide right off. Feeling impatient? Slide your cooling rack in the freezer for 20 minutes to chill them down quick.

Hint: This icing is great plain, but is also easy to tint with food coloring. If you want super-saturated colors, look for gel food colors--they're more concentrated than the basic stuff.