Different Types of Icing: Our Comprehensive Cookie Guide

December 3rd, 2018 by Desiree Smith

Cookie sheets clattering in and out of the oven, the smell of butter and sugar in the air…this could only mean one thing… Tis the season for cookies!

Whether you’re packaging cookies for shipping, gifting them to friends and neighbors or just arranging a platter for Santa Claus himself, there’s no denying that half the fun of baking holiday cookies is decorating them! But which frosting is best for shipping? How do you store your cookies once they’re done? And how the heck do you actually USE royal icing?

Well, we’re here to answer all these questions and more. From traditional buttercream to fondant, this collection of six cookie frostings will help you determine the best way to spruce up your holiday treats!

Homemade Buttercream Frosting

Try ours, you’ll love it!: Wilton Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Rich and delicious, buttercream frosting is well-loved by bakers and decorators for its taste and versatility. You can flavor it, color it and even change its consistency with ease.

Keep in mind that buttercream frosting does not dry hard – so package and store cookies with care. Since buttercream is so easy to color and flavor, it’s best used for piping decorations on your cookies or assembling cookie sandwiches.

The Benefits of Buttercream:

  • Customization – buttercream is a canvas for your creativity. Use food coloring or extracts to change the color or flavor with ease.
  • Piping – buttercream is great for piping flowers, borders or messages on your cookies.
  • Consistency – buttercream can be thinned for spreading on cookies or thickened for piping decorations.

How to Use Buttercream Frosting:

Buttercream can be piped using a bag and tip or spread on cookies using a spatula or knife. Use thin consistency frosting if you’re icing the whole cookie and medium consistency frosting for piping any details or decorations.

Decorating Tip: To thin frosting, add milk about 1 tablespoon at a time. To thicken, add confectioners’ sugar until desired consistency is achieved.

How to Store Buttercream Frosting:

If you’re making buttercream frosting ahead of time, you can store it in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

After you’re done decorating your cookies, you can store your treats at room temperature for up to three days.

Cookies decorated with buttercream should not be stacked or packaged in treat bags. For best results, store decorated cookies in a single layer in a cookie or cake box.

Canned or Tub Frosting

such as the Wilton Creamy White Decorator Icing tub or It’s Simply Delicious canned icings

Don’t have the time to make frosting for your cookies? Use our pre-made frosting instead! The Creamy White Decorator Icing tub contains four pounds of delicious vanilla buttercream, perfect for decorating cookies for Christmas or a bake sale. Our creamy decorator icing can also be colored or flavored with food coloring or extracts.

If you’re looking for something on the smaller scale, our canned icings are the way to go. Available in a variety of colors and flavors, canned icing is a simple solution for anyone under a time crunch!

The Benefits of Canned or Tub Frosting:

  • Convenience – just grab and go! Canned or tub frosting is ready to use straight from the container. Frosting also comes in a range of colors and traditional flavors, such as chocolate and vanilla.
  • Customization – Wilton frostings are naturally medium consistency, but you can change that to suit your project. Also, just like homemade buttercream, canned and tub frosting can be colored or flavored.

How to Use Canned or Tub Frosting:

Like buttercream, canned or tub frosting can be piped or spread on cookies using a spatula or knife. If canned icing is too thick for piping, add liquid or mix icing with a spatula to thin consistency.

How to Store Canned or Tub Frosting:

Unopened store-bought frostings are mostly shelf-stable. Store opened frosting containers in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Cookies decorated with store-bought frosting should not be stacked or packaged in treat bags, as this frosting does not dry hard. For best results, store decorated cookies in a single layer at room temperature in a cookie or cake box.

Pouch or Tube Icing

such as Wilton Decorating Icing pouches and Ready-to-Use icing tubes

If you’re looking to add some decorations to your cookies, pouch and tube icings are a great solution. Available in a large assortment of colors, these packaged icings fit any standard Wilton decorating tip, so they’re ready for piping.

While canned and tub frostings are best suited for spreading on cookies, these pouches and tubes make decorating easy, breezy, lemon squeezy!

The Benefits of Pouch Icing:

  • Convenience – pouch and tube icings are available in a wide variety of colors, so no need to bust out those icing colors!
  • Piping and Decorating – icing pouches have built-in round and star tips, while icing tubes can be fitted with any standard Wilton decorating tip and coupler.

How to Use Pouch Icing:

Pouch and tube icings are great for adding details to your cookies. The pouch icings can be used for outlining and filling in cookie designs, while the icing tubes are best suited for piping decorations and borders on your cookies.

How to Store Pouch Icing:

Unopened and opened pouch and tube icings can be stored at room temperature.

Cookies decorated with store-bought icings should not be stacked or packaged in treat bags, as this icing does not dry hard. For best results, store decorated cookies in a single layer at room temperature in a cookie or cake box.

Royal Icing

use Wilton Meringue Powder to make royal icing in no time!

Royal icing is probably the most popular icing for decorating cookies. Made using egg whites or meringue powder, royal icing dries hard, making it a fabulous option for cookies you plan to package or mail. It’s most often used for outlining and “flooding”, or filling in, cookie designs.

Like buttercream, royal icing can be colored using gel icing colors or food coloring. You can easily change the consistency to suit your needs and, once decorated, cookies are shelf-stable (if icing is made with meringue powder).

Keep in mind that royal icing does take a good 8 hours to dry, so plan ahead if you’re decorating cookies for a party or celebration.

The Benefits of Royal Icing:

  • Consistency – it’s so easy to change the consistency of royal icing (a drop of water goes a long way!). Use a thicker consistency for outlining cookies and a thinner consistency for flooding and decorating. You can thin icing even further to a pourable consistency to cover several cookies quickly.
  • Dries Hard – royal icing dries hard, making this a great option for cookies you’re planning to package or send in the mail.
  • Easy to Color – like buttercream, royal icing can be colored using gel icing colors or concentrated food coloring (such as Wilton Color Right).

How to Use Royal Icing:

The main use for royal icing is outlining and flooding your cookies. Prepare icing to a medium consistency for outlining, then thin remaining icing to flood in your design.

Keep in mind that decorated cookies will need at least 8 hours to dry completely (at room temperature).

Decorating Tip: For best results, bowls and utensils used to make royal icing must be grease-free. Royal icing will also start to crust almost immediately, so use a damp cloth to cover any unused icing as you work.

How to Store Royal Icing:

Royal icing made with meringue powder is shelf-stable and can be stored in an airtight, grease-free container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Cookies decorated with royal icing can be stacked in a box (we recommend using parchment paper between layers just in case) or packaged in treat bags. Make sure icing is COMPLETELY DRY before storing cookies.

Cookie Icing

such as Wilton Cookie Icing bottles

Available in a variety of colors, Wilton cookie icing is great for covering cookies or piping decorations into wet icing. The twist cap on the bottle doubles as a decorating tip and the entire bottle is microwave-safe so you can thin your icing in about 20 seconds.

Similar to royal icing, cookie icing does set; however, it does not dry hard. Therefore it’s not recommended that you stack cookies decorated with cookie icing.

The Benefits of Cookie Icing:

  • Convenience – cookie icings are available in a wide variety of colors for all your decorating needs. The cap of the bottles also acts as a tip for easy decorating.
  • Consistency – icings are already thinned for creating a smooth finish on cookies.
  • Quick Dry – cookie icing is set and ready to go in under an hour.

How to Use Cookie Icing:

Cookie icing can be used in the same way that royal icing can; however, it doesn’t dry as hard as royal icing does. It’s great for flooding cookies or piping designs into wet icing.

To thin the consistency of cookie icing, just pop it in the microwave for about 20 seconds. The twist cap on the bottle acts as a tip for easy decorating, limiting your cleanup when you’re done.

Cookie icing does need time to set, but it should be ready in under an hour. Unlike royal icing though, cookie icing does not dry hard (the outer icing crusts while the icing underneath remains soft), so take care when packaging your cookies.

How to Store Cookie Icing:

Cookie icing is shelf-stable and can be stored at room temperature.

Since icing does not dry hard, stacking iced cookies is not recommended. Individual cookies can be packaged in a treat bag once the icing has set. For best results, store cookies at room temperature in a single layer in a cookie or cake box.

Fondant

such as Wilton Decorator Preferred Fondant

Perhaps the quickest and most durable way to decorate your cookies is with fondant. An edible sugar dough often used for cake decorating, fondant is available in a variety of shades, but can also be customized using food coloring or icing colors.

Fondant can be layered for fun 3D effects or molded to create cute shapes. You can also pipe buttercream icing on fondant or paint decorations on your cookies using edible food paint or markers.

The Benefits of Using Fondant:

  • Versatility – besides just covering your cookies, fondant can also be layered, molded, shaped and colored. It can also act as a canvas for edible paints or markers.
  • Durability – fondant-covered cookies are generally very durable and can withstand packaging and shipping.

How to Use Fondant:

To prevent the fondant from sticking to your counter, sprinkle your work surface with confectioners’ sugar. Using a fondant roller or rolling pin, roll out your fondant to about 1/8 in. thickness.

The easiest way to cut fondant to fit your cookie is to use the same cookie cutter. You can attach the fondant to your cookies using Wilton Piping Gel or a thin layer of buttercream frosting.

How to Store Fondant:

Any excess fondant should be stored at room temperature in an airtight container. It will remain fresh for about two months. DO NOT refrigerate or freeze leftover fondant.

You can store your decorated cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for about three days. After that, fondant will begin to dry out and harden, causing it to become inedible.

Cookies decorated with fondant can be stacked if there are no 3D details on the cookies. If there are 3D decorations, we advise storing cookies in a single layer in an airtight container to keep decorations looking beautiful! Individual cookies can be packaged in a treat bag.

Ready to go cookie crazy? We want to see what you’re baking this holiday season! Tell us your favorite holiday cookie to make in the comments below or show us your holiday cookie platters by tagging us on Instagram @WiltonCakes. For more inspiration or to find some delicious cookie recipes to get you started, check out all our amazing cookie decorating ideas!

Desiree Smith Desiree is the Public Relations Manager at Wilton. She spends her days monitoring media opportunities, working with newspaper, magazine and television contacts, collaborating with bloggers and handling a variety of other odds and ends. Desiree has a degree in journalism and experience writing for newspapers and television. Outside of Wilton, she enjoys running and planning outings with friends.

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