This perfect vanilla icing is a baking staple! Pourable with wonderful vanilla flavor, this icing is fantastic on cinnamon rolls, scones, muffins, cakes, and more. Use quality vanilla for outstanding flavor and heavy cream for a thicker consistency.
Vanilla icing is the grand finale, the crowning glory, the pièce de résistance on thousands of different recipes including scones, cinnamon rolls, crumb cake, muffins, and so many more. It’s so simple, yet often overlooked. Don’t underestimate the power of a really good icing!
I have so many recipes that use this topping, so I decided it’s time to create a separate post. Vanilla icing, in all its dazzling drippy glory, deserves the spotlight today.
Vanilla Icing Vs Vanilla Buttercream
Let’s get one thing straight. What’s the difference between icing and buttercream? Like vanilla buttercream, vanilla icing is made with confectioners’ sugar, milk or cream, and vanilla extract. The differences are the ratio of ingredients and absence of butter. The terms icing and buttercream are often used interchangeably, but icing is typically light and liquid. Vanilla buttercream, on the other hand, is heavy and solid.
Does this vanilla icing set? Vanilla icing eventually sets as it dries. It doesn’t harden like royal icing, but if applied lightly, you can stack your iced baked goods on top of each other. Another way to guarantee this icing sets: whisking constantly, warm the vanilla icing ingredients together in a small saucepan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Warming the icing before drizzling over baked goods promises it will set faster.
Vanilla Icing Ingredients
You only need 3 ingredients. Could this BE any easier?!
- Confectioners’ Sugar: Sifting the confectioners sugar after measuring is always helpful because it breaks up any lumps.
- Milk or Heavy Cream: Use whichever you have on hand. Milk produces a thinner consistency and heavy cream produces a creamier consistency. Alternatively, you can use half-and-half. For lemon or orange icing, replace with fresh lemon or orange juice.
- Vanilla Extract: Pure vanilla extract masks the sometimes chalky flavor of confectioners’ sugar. I usually use McCormick brand vanilla extract or homemade vanilla extract. Always optional and delicious: seeds scraped from 1/4 of a vanilla bean.
Whisk these ingredients together. A fork or mini whisk is helpful since the mixture is so small. Give it a taste, then add a pinch of salt if desired. (I usually add a small pinch.)
Control the Consistency
Stick with 2-3 Tablespoons of milk/cream and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract per 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar. This ratio of ingredients produces a wonderfully flavored and drizzle-able icing. But you have total control over the thickness!
For thinner vanilla icing: Use milk instead of heavy cream. Add more cream/milk or less confectioners’ sugar.
Uses for Vanilla Icing
There are literally hundreds of uses for this topping!
- Cinnamon Roll Cookies (pictured above)
- Raspberry Danish Bread (pictured above)
- Crumb Cake
- Raspberry Streusel Bars
- Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake
- Apple Crumb Cake
- Cinnamon Rolls and Cinnamon Roll Cake
- Apple Muffins (pictured below)
Vanilla icing is a baking staple! This recipe is perfect for cinnamon rolls, scones, muffins, cakes, and more.
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted (sift after measuring)
- 2–3 Tablespoons milk or heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- optional: pinch of salt
- Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, 2 Tablespoons milk or heavy cream, and vanilla extract together. Add another Tablespoon of milk or heavy cream to thin out if necessary. For thicker icing, add a little more confectioners’ sugar.
- Taste, then add a pinch of salt if desired.
- If not using right away, cover and store icing in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- This amount of icing is perfect for 1 batch of cinnamon rolls, scones, muffins, 1 cake etc. For a larger batch, recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
- Heavy cream yields a thicker, creamier icing. Milk yields a thinner icing. Half-and-half can also be used.
- Flavor: Feel free to add more vanilla extract or even the seeds scraped from 1/4 of a vanilla bean. For lemon or orange icing, replace the milk with fresh lemon or orange juice.
Keywords: icing, vanilla