Simplest Icing Ever: If You Can Boil Water You Can Make This Icing

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(Links in this post are affiliate links. I will be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking those links. See my disclosure page for more information)

I am out to fix what I think is one of the biggest myths of all time, something I hear from mouths of friends all the time ” homemade icing is hard to make”. No, it is not!

In fact, if you can boil water you can make icing. Well, at least the recipe for icing I grew up with. It truly is the simplest icing recipe ever!

Simplest icing recipe ever! Uses just 3 ingredients and takes under 3 minutes to make.

This recipe iced pretty much every cake and cookie in my home growing up. The only thing that changed was the color or the sprinkles on it.

Simplest Icing Ever: If You Can Boil Water You Can Make This Icing

indgredients for homemade icing

 Ingredients for simple homemade icing

mixer i bought and like


You will also need something to whip the icing up with. I have used an inexpensive hand held mixers for years. They worked great for icing but …..not so well for sugar cookie dough. So after burning out the engine in a few handheld mixer models I cashed in some Amazon gift cards and bought this Hamilton Beach stand mixer for under $100.

(psst….you can earn gift cards for Amazon purchases too through several different point companies but my favorite two are Swagbucks & InstaGC)

I have only made a batch of icing and a batch of cookies in my new stand mixer but so far I  like it. It blends things a lot smoother than any of the handheld mixers I have owned. My only disappointment is the size of the bowl. It is only big enough for single batches of cookies and I prefer to make double or triple batches.

butter for icing in mixer

Instructions for homemade icing

Back to making the icing. Here is my biggest tip for successful icing making; make sure you take your butter out to soften several hours before. Do not try softening it in the microwave, that never works. You end up with slightly melted butter and that will not make good icing at all.

Cut the butter up into small pieces and beat it with your mixer. Next, add in about 1/3 of the powdered sugar (amounts in the recipe below) with 1 tablespoon of milk. Starting with your mixer on low beat the mixture well. As the powdered sugar mixes in you can turn up your mixing speed.

When that is beat repeat that twice more so that you have added all the powdered sugar and 3 tbsp of milk.

At this point icing gets a bit personal, as in you have to decide how soft you like it for spreading purposes. I usually add in at least one more tablespoon of milk making it 4 tablespoons of milk total.

However, if you are using an icing bag to make cupcakes with icing piled high you might want to stop at 3. Or if you are icing cookies with a knife you might want to add one more tablespoon to make the icing easier to spread, especially if little ones are helping you.

Adding the perfect amount of milk is really the only tricky part in making the icing, and the secret to doing this successfully is to add just 1 tablespoon at a time and check the icing after you blend that tablespoon of milk in to see if it is at the consistency you want yet.

If you want colored icing I like to add the coloring in last and then beat it one more time until the color is all mixed in.

Want a simple basic cookbook to guide you in the kitchen? Check out the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook

Prefer chocolate icing? Try my chocolate truffle icing. It is just as simple to make!

This icing recipe works well on sugar cookies –here are 20 tips for making fabulous sugar cookies.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Simplest Icing Ever
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2 cups icing sugar (also known as powdered sugar or confectioners sugar)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk
  1. leave butter out on the counter to soften for several hours before making
  2. cut softened butter into pieces and place in a large bowl
  3. beat butter until smooth
  4. add in 1 tablespoon milk and around ⅓ of icing sugar to the bowl, starting with your beaters on low beat until smooth. (you can turn the speed up each time the powdered sugar is blended in a bit)
  5. add another tablespoon of milk and another ⅓ of sugar to the bowl and blend well
  6. add last ⅓ or icing sugar and 1 tbsp of milk and blend again
  7. if needed to make icing more spreadable add in another tablespoon of milk and blend well (may need one more after that depending on what you are icing and how thick you want your icing)

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  1. mmmm….this looks delicious! I’ve never been an icing fan–until recently. Now I can’t stop myself from licking the whisk and bowl clean. Haha!

    • Victoria says:

      I love beating the kids to licking the beaters (whisks). Probably means I am not going to win the mother of the year award any time soon. LOL

  2. Awesome! I love simple recipes, and I love homemade icing. Double win!

  3. My Mom has been making icing just like that for years! Except she adds vanilla. 🙂

  4. This is very similar to the icing that I make. I like to add almond extract to mine 🙂
    I felt like a magician the first few times I made my own icing!

  5. Do you use regular butter or unsalted?

  6. Toni Hunter says:

    I have made this multiple times and it never seems to come out right :(. Its not fluffy or thick it ends up being liquidy what am I doing wrong????

  7. How much does this recipe make? I’m teaching a baking class and have two sessions, each with 10-15 students? I need to know ASAP please!

  8. Can you make this frosting ahead of time and refrigerate

    • You can but if you do, you will need to take it out a few hours before you want to ice the cake. Refrigerating it will make it harden up some, to make it spreadable again it needs to be brought back up to room temperature.

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