The Easiest and BEST Buttercream for Decorating Cookies

What's better than cookies? Cookies topped with buttercream! Read on to discover the best buttercream for cookies.

The slightly crumbly texture of cookies calls for a specific type of buttercream, with a texture that's slightly smoother than you'd use to ice a cake. Here, you'll find a recipe for buttercream that can easily be tailored to suit your specific cookie decorating needs. 

The best buttercream for cookies

Makes enough for about 2 dozen (approximately 2½") cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar, divided 
  • ¼ teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon high-quality vanilla extract
  • A few drops of food coloring (optional)
  • Milk or cream, to thin as needed

Step 1: 

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, 2-3 minutes.

Step 2:

Pause the mixer, and add 2 cups of the powdered sugar and the salt. Mix on low for a few moments (to avoid a sugar storm in your kitchen). As the sugar incorporates, increase the speed to medium-high. Mix until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract and food coloring. 

Step 3: 

Add the remaining sugar in increments until the buttercream reaches the desired texture (see Recipe Notes for more information). If the buttercream becomes too stiff, stir in a bit of milk or cream to adjust the consistency.

Recipe notes

To make a crusting style buttercream

If you plan on piping stiffer buttercream shapes on your cookies, swap one of the sticks of butter with an equal amount of Crisco or vegetable shortening. This yields a more crusting-style buttercream, which will help the piped shapes stay put.

Getting the right consistency

If you plan to spread the buttercream on top of cookies, you may prefer a slightly softer consistency. In this case you'd either add less powdered sugar or a little extra milk or cream to thin the mixture.Alternately, if you're piping the buttercream, you may prefer a stiffer consistency, in which case you'd add more powdered sugar or less milk or cream.

Consider your environment

Keep in mind that various factors such as the weather and the temperature of your kitchen will affect the consistency of your buttercream, so the recipe may require different adjustments at different times of the year or in different geographical locations.

Find the right flavor

Looking for a different flavor? You can swap out the vanilla extract called for in the recipe with whatever flavoring extract you'd like. 

4 ideas for decorating cookies with buttercream

Rustic approach

While the icing in this tutorial includes meringue powder, the same "rustic" technique can be used with this buttercream recipe as well. To do it, simply use a small angled palette knife to dollop your buttercream on the surface of the cookie, and then smooth. 

Artful squiggles

Buttercream can be piped into artful squiggles to form recognizable shapes. In this tutorial by JavaCupcake , buttercream is piped into color outlines, and then filled in with back and forth strokes of buttercream.

Pretty piped dots

Simply piping your buttercream as dots in a concentric pattern on your cookies can deliver beautiful results. The visual can vary depending on which piping tip you use. A round or star tip are both great choices. 

Buttercream roses 

Cookies are prettier with roses on top! In a tutorial on  I Am Baker (run by Amanda Rettke, who teaches our  Decorating From The Inside Out  class), you'll learn how to pipe pretty roses on top of cookies for wow-worthy results. 

April 23, 2018
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The Easiest and BEST Buttercream for Decorating Cookies