The only buttercream frosting recipe you will ever need to top your soft Sugar Cookies with! Two special ingredients make this frosting the most vanilla-y recipe you ever did taste. Originally posted March 17, 2017.

Pink sugar cookie frosting on knife

Soft and Fluffy Buttercream Cookie Frosting

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! What are you doing to celebrate Ireland getting all the snakes out of the land? Is that a myth? What is St. Patrick’s Day about again??

All I know is that I’m glad I’m not in school anymore, because I’m pretty sure I would be pinched within an inch of my life. I have ZERO green in my wardrobe right now. That’s because my wardrobe consists of 5 shirts. (Even after asking my friends on Facebook where to buy shirts and getting tons of suggestions, I still ended up buying all 5 shirts at Target, where I always buy my shirts. Because I’m classy and like to pick up my fashion digs and toilet paper all in one run.)

Sugar cookie frosting recipe in white on a cookie with sprinkles

3 of my 5 shirts are the same shirt in different colors. (So if you see a blonde girl picking up toilet paper at Target wearing a black, red, or blue plaid button up, it’s me.) This is my uniform lately because I’m still working on getting that beach body back after having my 3rd kid (har har), and because I like to wear button up shirts because I’m still nursing.

Sugar Cookie decorated with white frosting for sugar cookie and sprinkles

The other day I get this text from my best friend Sarah:

“Ok so today we went to Muir Woods and Max [her 5 year old] saw a picture of someone standing next to a redwood tree. He said, ‘Why are Karen and Eric in that picture?’ I had no idea what he was talking about until I saw the person was wearing a red and black plaid shirt.”

The BEST Buttercream Frosting for Sugar Cookies from The Food Charlatan

These photos were taken on 2 different occasions at Sarah’s house. I can see why Max is confused.

Side note: When Sarah texted me, I sent her a picture of myself. Because I was wearing that exact same red plaid shirt. With my hair up in a bun. What is it with me?? Somebody call the fashion police.

Pink cookie frosting on top of sugar cookie

I hope you guys saw my post earlier this week where I shared the recipe for the Softest Sugar Cookies! This frosting is the perfect compliment! This recipe is a classic buttercream: all butter, whisked together with a bunch of powdered sugar and cream. Typically for vanilla frosting all you have to do is add a bit of vanilla extract. But THIS recipe also adds in coconut and almond extract.

You might think it sounds overkill, but I swear it’s not. This is a copycat recipe for the frosting at The Sweet Tooth Fairy, which is an amazing bakery chain in Utah. Sweet Tooth Fairy has the BEST sugar cookies. The frosting is so light and fluffy and just has the most amazing flavor…now you know the secret, it’s a little touch of almond and coconut.

The BEST Buttercream Frosting for Sugar Cookies from The Food Charlatan

Trifecta of awesomeness.

Buttercream Cookie Frosting vs. Royal Icing – What is the difference?

So this buttercream frosting gives sugar cookies the creamiest, softest, most nuanced flavor. But is buttercream frosting for every cookie?

I know, I know, some of you are going to want to stack sugar cookies for shipping. No, you can’t use buttercream if you’re doing that. You need royal icing and a royal amount of patience. Royal icing hardens to a candy-like texture that holds its shape during apocalypses, should you run into any.

THIS frosting is sweet, dreamy buttercream, and is meant for jamming into your mouth immediately after slapping it on top of the Softest Sugar Cookie of Your Life. No apologies. If you insist on using royal icing (here’s a recipe), be very careful not to break the cookies. These cookies are much more delicate than your average sugar cookie, meaning they break easier when shipping.

Will this frosting harden like some other cookie icings?

No, buttercream frosting stays fluffy and creamy forever, thank heaven! Just make sure to store it air-tight!

Green frosting for cookies with sprinkles on top of cookie with bite taken out of it

Sugar Cookie Frosting Ingredients

Don’t wimp out on me and go with only vanilla as a flavoring. It’s so worth a trip to the baking aisle for these lesser-used extracts! I’m telling you!

  • Salted butter, softened. Add ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt to the recipe if you are using unsalted butter.
  • Powdered sugar
  • Heavy cream. No, you’re not going to dump coffee creamer in your frosting! You’re going to head to the milk section of your grocery store and find a carton of delicious heavy cream (sometimes called whipping cream).
  • Salt
  • Vanilla. I love Mexican vanilla!
  • Coconut extract
  • Almond extract
  • Gel food coloring

How to make Buttercream Frosting for Cookies

Get ready for the FLUFFY! If you have a stand mixer, be sure to use the whisk attachment. It gets so much fluffier than when you use the paddle! I tested it both ways. Fluffy frosting=love. (All instructions are also given in the recipe.)

  1. Beat the softened butter until it is fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add half of the powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons cream. Beat well. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  3. Add the remaining powdered sugar and 2 more tablespoons of cream. Beat well.
  4. Add salt, vanilla, coconut, and almond extracts. Beat well. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  5. Add remaining 1-2 tablespoons of cream, if needed.
  6. Add gel food coloring if you want to tint the frosting. Avoid liquid food coloring because it can mess with the consistency.
  7. Frost the cookies! Keep reading for decorating ideas!

You can frost these however you want, but I wanted to show you how to do this fun technique:

Buttercream frosting for cookies in decorative scallops on top of a soft sugar cookie

Aren’t these little scallops cute? It’s easy enough that even a frosting dummy like me could pull it off. Let’s get into the details:

What tools are needed to decorate sugar cookies?

You can really go to town on decorating supplies, including buying a whole kit and sometimes even a whole caboodle! You really don’t need much for buttercream though. To start with though, make sure you have these on hand:

  • Piping Bags. These are often sold in the baking or party aisles of a store. You can also use a sandwich bag and just snip off the corner!
  • Piping Tips (or piping nozzles as they are also called). These come in all different shapes. Again, if you don’t have one, you can cut a small hole in the corner of a sandwich bag to mimic a round tip. You aren’t going to have as much control over your design though.
  • Butter knife or thin spatula for spreading the frosting.
The BEST Buttercream Frosting for Sugar Cookies from The Food Charlatan

Now that you have your supplies, you’re ready for all the fun!

First, fill your bag with frosting. Do you guys know the glass trick? It’s so much easier to add the frosting if the bag is draped over the edge of a glass. Or if you don’t have a piping bag you can use a sandwich bag and snip the end off like in the picture above.

The BEST Buttercream Frosting for Sugar Cookies from The Food Charlatan
The BEST Buttercream Frosting for Sugar Cookies from The Food Charlatan
The BEST Buttercream Frosting for Sugar Cookies from The Food Charlatan

Next, using the decorating bag with a round decorating tip, add dollops of frosting in a row at the top of the cookie. With your butter knife or spatula, smear the frosting, starting at the center of the dollop and dragging the knife toward the bottom of the cookie. Add a new row of dollops of frosting on top of the row of frosting smears. Repeat all the way down the cookie.

You can also do two colors if you want, like the yellow and pink one I did up there. Or how about a rainbow one! That would be so cute!

Green sugar cookie frosting on top of a Christmas tree shaped cookie

Poll time: ^^Sprinkles?^^ Yay or nay? I’m a total scrooge and hate sprinkles. Unless they are jimmies. But they sure do look festive! Don’t let my sprinkle-hating ways ruin things for you!! (This cookie was delicious after I scraped all those white balls of crunchiness off of my super soft cookie.)

How to store cookies that are decorated with Buttercream Sugar Cookie Frosting

In your stomach. That’s where all your cookies should be stored. Possibly your hips if you wait long enough. I’m telling you, one batch will be GONE. Two batches? GONE. Three batches? Fine. Maybe.

But seriously though. Even if you eat ‘em all, storage is ESSENTIAL for soft cookies. I’m not worried about your frosting, I’m worried about your cookies. As I explain in my post on the Softest Sugar Cookie of Your Life, (which you should absolutely check out because I mean the SOFTEST COOKIE!), you need to seal your cookies in an air-tight container within minutes of them cooling and only take them out to frost or eat them. Or photograph them, or maybe just to deeply inhale their scent. No judgment here.

The SOFTEST Sugar Cookies of Your Life topped with pink frosting for cookies

Should sugar cookies with frosting be refrigerated?

I say no. Buttercream frosting will keep on the counter for several days. (Although if they are sitting right there on your counter there is no way they will last that long!) Baked goods stored in the fridge dry out faster than they do at room temperature.

However, there are some people who really enjoy chilled sugar cookies, and I have to say that over the years I have come to appreciate a chilled cookie! Try it out!

Also, if summer is upon you and your house is hotter than room temperature, then refrigeration in an air-tight container is the best for these cookies. Buttercream frosting is made of (surprise!) butter, which can literally melt in warm temperatures. Otherwise, an air-tight container on the counter is fine. No letting them dry out! Now go forth and FROST!

More great frosting recipe to put on Sugar Cookies!

Here are some more killer desserts with frosting!

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The BEST Buttercream Frosting for Sugar Cookies

4.68 from 37 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 24 cookies
The only buttercream frosting recipe you will ever need for Sugar Cookies! Two special ingredients make this the most vanilla-y recipe you ever did taste.


  • 1 cup salted butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 4-6 tablespoons cream, divided**
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla , I love Mexican vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • gel food coloring


  • In a large bowl or stand mixer, use the whisk attachment* to beat the softened butter until it is fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Remember to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl!
  • Add half of the powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons cream**. Beat well. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Add the remaining powdered sugar and 2 more tablespoons of cream. Beat well.
  • Add salt, vanilla, coconut, and almond extracts. Beat well. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Add remaining 1-2 tablespoons of cream, if needed.
  • Add gel food coloring if you want to tint the frosting. (liquid food coloring can mess with the consistency.)
  • This is enough frosting to do about 2 dozen cookies, but that totally depends on your cookie shape. Frost the cookies (Here's the cookie recipe) and store in a tupperware on the counter for 2-3 days.
  • Leftover frosting is great on graham crackers!


*I tested this recipe using the paddle attachment one time and the whisk attachment the other time. So much fluffier with the whisk! I’m never going back!
*Heavy cream is usually sold near the milk at the store. It is sometimes called whipping cream. The different names refer to different fat content levels. (Any type of cream will do for this recipe. The higher the fat content, the richer your frosting will be) Heavy cream is not coffee creamer. It is the thick, rich part of milk that rises to the top when you milk a cow. Those of you who know what cream is think it is odd that I am explaining this, but it is one of my most-asked questions when I post a recipe involving cream!


Serving: 24cookies | Calories: 155kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 24mg | Sodium: 93mg | Potassium: 5mg | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 273IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Calories: 155
Keyword: best, buttercream, Cookies, frosting, sugar cookies
Did you make this? I’d love to see it!Mention @thefoodcharlatan or tag #thefoodcharlatan!

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    1. Hi Lauren! The only issue with liquid food coloring is 1) often you can taste it and 2) the liquid messes with the consistency of the frosting. Too much liquid and it gets grainy. You can use it just don’t do too much. and maybe decrease your cream amount a bit. Good luck! Enjoy!

    1. Hi Jill! Yes, this frosting freezes beautifully! Just toss it in a ziplock and you’re good to go. let thaw in the fridge or at room temp. (no microwave, it will melt.) Enjoy!

  1. I desperately want to use this recipe and your sugar cookie recipe for a baby shower.  I wanted to package several in a cellophane bag but worried once I read your comments saying that this is not the ideal frosting for packaging/shipping.  Can you recommend another frosting, other than royal icing, that would work?

    PS: I have NEVER had any failures with your recipes….always hard to choose which one to make first!  Thank you.

  2. 5 stars
    The recipe directions and helpful hints for baking were awesome! So easy to follow. My cookies turned out great – soft and tender. The consistency of the buttercream is perfect. The buttercream has too much almond extract for my taste, giving the icing a fake flavor/taste. Maybe a higher quality extract would help (I just bought the grocery store kind). Next time, I will cut that in half and also add less coconut extract. Otherwise, I loved this recipe and also the sugar cookie recipe.

  3. 5 stars
    I made the cookies and they’re awesome! Now I’m about to frost them.

    I’m wondering how to store them once they’re frosted (fridge or counter, air tight container?) and how long they last. I’m going to freeze some of them (I saw that’s ok for up to 2 weeks), but how long will the rest last?

    1. Hi Erin! Once frosted, I store them on the counter sealed. After 2 days I would stick them in the freezer. When frozen (well sealed) they will last a few weeks. I have lots of details about how to freeze and store these cookies on the Sugar Cookie Recipe post!

  4. The cookie recipe linked in the recipe is actually the frosting recipe. But I did find your cookies as well can’t wait to try them for Christmas cookies! Looking forward to a soft cookie with soft frosting!

    1. Hi Tom, like you want to put white chocolate chips in the cookie dough? I don’t recommend it, it would make them really difficult to roll!

  5. You are absolutely right! This is the best butter cream frosting! I am so happy I tried it! My kids loved it too! They mentioned they liked that the icing stayed moist and did not get dry and hard days later! Thank You so much!

    1. Hi Barb! Yes, I do this every year when I make massive amounts of these for Christmas! Freeze frosted in a sealed container, they will stay fresh at least two weeks. Let thaw in the sealed container at room temp. Enjoy!

  6. I was a taste tester for a major food company and Mexican vanilla was never in the top five of all vanillas thought to be the best for baking. It is basically a myth that we have propelled through generations of women. Madagascar vanilla is considered the best quality of all vanillas and I highly recommend you use it, bake with it and then taste the result.

    1. You should try some of this Mexican vanilla. It is different from Madagascar, but has a wonderful perfume and flavor. Yes the shipping is high, but it’s worth trying it at least once. I have a friend who brings it to us when she comes to the US from Mexico City.

    1. Hi Danielle! I will update the recipe with notes. Cream is the part of cow’s milk that rises to the top. It is sometimes called heavy cream or whipping cream. (Any type will work for this recipe) It’s usually sold by the milk. Enjoy making cookies!

    1. Hi Bridget! It will form a crust on the edge but still be soft. You can’t really stack them, you can lean them against each other though. I line them up vertically in a tupperware, resting against each other, when I need to take them somewhere.

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