Easy Vanilla Glaze Recipe for Cookies, Scones & Cakes

This Vanilla Glaze takes just a few minutes to whisk together until smooth, thick and glossy. Just three ingredients makes the perfect thick, opaque glaze (icing) to use with cookies, scones, muffins, bundt cakes, donuts, loaf cakes, coffee cakes, sugar cookie recipes and more.
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This Easy Vanilla Glaze Recipe for Cookies, Scones & Cakes is the easiest glaze & icing recipe (all in one!).

Use the thick, opaque recipe below for cinnamon rolls, breakfast cakes, scones and loaf cakes where you’re looking for a nice thick, bright layer of glaze. It’s the perfect finishing touch.

Instructions are included for thinning the recipe for more translucent coverage (think glazed donut!).

Three ingredients and less than five minutes will give you the easiest, most delicious simple vanilla glaze ever!

Also check out my Strawberry Glaze and all of our Glazes & Buttercreams!

Vanilla glaze pouring over a slice of coffee cake.

Why You Should Make This Vanilla Glaze (Icing)

  • It’s uses only three ingredients: confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla (see notes below regarding choosing vanilla).
  • It’s incredibly versatile and works on everything from cookies and cakes to scones and loaf cakes.
  • It’s awesome on cakessconesmuffins, donuts, loaf cakes, sugar cookies or whatever you’re looking to add vanilla flavor and jazz hands (plus it’s pretty, see the next point 👇🏼)
  • It is beautifully thick and does really nice drips down the sides of your baked goods.
  • No need for a stand mixer (or hand mixer); all you need is a bowl and a whisk!
A vanilla bean pod on a marble surface with one hand holding the pod and another holding a knife that's scraping the vanilla bean seeds out of the pod.

Choosing Vanilla for Glaze

You can use either real vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste or vanilla bean seeds in this vanilla glaze. See below on how and when to use each type of vanilla:

Real Vanilla Extract

When I’m baking something causal, and not really a special occasion treat, I’ll add pure vanilla extract to my glaze. It’s the most reasonably priced of the three vanillas and it tastes delicious.

Vanilla Bean Paste

I love vanilla bean paste when I want those beautiful vanilla flecks in my glaze (I love them!). It’s a little pricier than extract, but has gorgeous flavor and appearance.

Vanilla Beans

I reserve using vanilla beans for when I really want to impress! Like if I was making my favorite Sour Cream Classic Coffee Cake for Christmas morning. They’re more expensive and definitely a splurge.

You’ll use half a vanilla bean pod for the recipe below. My vanilla extract tutorial (linked below) shows you how to cut and scrape a vanilla bean pod to extract the vanilla bean seeds.

Please note that both vanilla bean paste and extract will yield a darker colored glaze, whereas the vanilla bean seeds keep the glaze a crisp, brighter white.

I have a full tutorial on how to make vanilla extract, if you’re looking for more vanilla info!

Pouring vanilla glaze over pumpkin muffins.

What’s the Difference Between Icing and a Glaze?

Icing and glaze can be made from the same simple ingredients: sugar and a liquid (water, milk, cream, juice, etc.). In the spectrum of frosting, icing and glaze, frosting is the thickest of the three. Icing and glaze are the thinner dessert toppings.

The makeup of glaze and icing is so similar, it really comes down to how thin you make the consistency. I use my glaze recipe for both thick applications and thinner applications.

This vanilla glaze is not to be confused with royal icing, as it won’t get hard once it’s set.

For the Vanilla Icing for these Sugar Cookies, I used artificial vanilla extract because it’s clear and wouldn’t impart any color on the frosting. Additionally, I used the recipe below and used 60 grams of heavy whipping cream for the liquid. It was thick and spreadable and soft (perfect!).

To Use This Vanilla Glaze as Vanilla Icing

A thicker glaze (traditionally considered an ‘icing’) would be used for cookies where you want a thick coating, similar to a frosting.

The recipe in the recipe card is structured to be a thick glaze that allows thick (not transparent) coverage. To make it even thicker, opaque and more like a frosting, replace the milk with heavy whipping cream. If you do this, you’ll need to add more whipping cream than the 30 grams in the recipe (for 60 grams total).

See photo above for the texture and opacity.

To Use This Vanilla Glaze as, Well, a Vanilla Glaze…

If you desire a thin, glaze over whatever you’re baking (look at the above photos), then use the recipe exactly as outlined above. This works great for a light coating of glaze over cookies or drizzled over coffee cake.

Remember, using whole milk will yield a thinner glaze than heavy cream.

a fork plunging into a piece of lemon olive oil cake
For my favorite Lemon Olive Oil Cake, I used 1 1/2 cups (180 g) confectioners’ sugar with about 2 tablespoons (30 g) heavy whipping cream and 2 tablespoons (28 grams) fresh lemon juice for a bright lemon glaze…you could easily add some fresh vanilla beans to this glaze and it would be oh so delish!

To Use This Vanilla Glaze for Bundts and Cakes…

When you’re looking for a thicker, drip able cake glaze for bundts and single-layer round cakes (such as the cake above), I make a slight alteration to the recipe below.

I use 1 1/2 cups (180 g) confectioners’ sugar with about 4 tablespoons (60 g) heavy whipping cream. You’ll want the mixture to be very thick, but pourable. Note that it will pour very slowly…but that’s how you get those thick drips down the side of a cake.

If you add in fresh lemon juice or other flavor, you’ll need to decrease the cream to get the correct consistency. Don’t be afraid to play around with more/less powdered sugar and/or more/less liquid — that’s what’s makes this recipe so versatile!

A glaze bowl with vanilla glaze.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Make 
Perfect Vanilla Glaze Every Time

Below are step-by-step photos (with captions) to make The Best Vanilla Glaze perfect every time! My biggest tips are:

  • Sift the Confectioners’ Sugar. For the smoothest glaze possible, sift your confectioners’ sugar before adding the milk. If you don’t have a fine-mesh sieve, whisk the sugar really well and break up any clumps before proceeding with the recipe.
  • Whisk Until Completely Smooth. Really whisk the glaze to make sure it is completely combined for the perfect consistency.
  • Keep Covered Until Using. Your glaze will thicken as it sits. Use as close to mixing as possible and cover when not in use.

Let’s make the best vanilla glaze!!

A fine-mesh sieve holding powdered sugar over a glass bowl.
STEP ONE: Gather your ingredients: confectioners’ sugar (also called powdered sugar, icing sugar and 10X), vanilla (vanilla bean pod, vanilla extract or vanilla paste) and milk.
STEP TWO: Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl.
STEP THREE: Add the milk and vanilla whisking until smooth, glossy appearance. You can also use a rubber spatula as seen in the photo.
Smooth vanilla glaze in a glass bowl with a blue spatula.
Vanilla Glaze is best used immediately. The mixture will thicken as it sits. You can adjust the consistency by adding more confectioners’ sugar or milk in small increments.
Bright white glaze on a cranberry coffee cake.

Tools for Making Extra Fabulous Vanilla Glaze

A nice Silicone Spatula for stirring

These nested, heat-safe Glass Bowls are perfect for whisking up the glaze. 

Don’t forget my favorite scale. I wrote both of my books with this one; it will serve you well on your baking journey!

Fine-Mesh Sieve. Use when sifting your confectioners’ sugar. I use mine all the time!

That beautiful Williams-Sonoma whisk with the wooden handle that’s in my videos. It’s so pretty. But when I’m being practical (and not making videos), this Material whisk is THE BOMB. I love their stuff!

I’ve adding a shopping section (woo hoo!), you can check it out here!

Streaks of glaze over coffee cake.

Favorite Vanilla Glaze Recipes

I love a bright, white icing on top of my baked goods! It’s perfect for this Classic Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Cranberry Coffee Cake and Cherry Coffee Cake.

See the variation (noted above in the Icing vs Glaze section) for Sugar Cookies; you can also find it on the Sugar Cookie Recipe post.

Play around with it on other cakes, scones and muffins.

Also check out more Glazes and Buttercreams and my favorite Strawberry Glaze.

Have fun with this perfect vanilla glaze!

Rebecca Firth

Easy Vanilla Glaze Recipe for Cookies, Scones & Cakes

This Vanilla Glaze takes just a few minutes to whisk together until smooth, thick and glossy. Just three ingredients makes the perfect thick, opaque glaze (icing) to use with cookies, scones, muffins, bundt cakes, donuts, loaf cakes, coffee cakes, sugar cookie recipes and more.
5 from 2 reviews
Print Save Rate
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: Glazes, Frosting, Icing
Keyword: Icing, Cookies, Cakes, Donuts, Scones, Vanilla Bean, Vanilla, Glazes, Opaque, Baking
Servings: 1 Batch

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (120 g) confectioners' sugar (sifted)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (30 g) whole milk or heavy whipping cream (see notes)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean pod, split and seeds scraped (or 1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste)

Instructions

  • To a medium bowl, add the sifted confectioners', milk and vanilla bean seeds (or vanilla extract or paste). Whisk until smooth.
  • If you have some air bubbles, slowly run your whisk through the glaze to knock them out. Keep covered until ready to use. As the icing sets, the appearance will dull a bit.

Notes

 

Storage Notes

The vanilla glaze will thicken as it sits. If using the same day it’s made, keep on the counter in an airtight container until ready to use.
If storing longer than the day, it will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before using. It may need more milk to bring it to the proper consistency before serving.

Scaling the Recipe

This baking staple recipe can easily be scaled up or down (doubled or halved), depending on what you’re baking. Always add liquid to adjust the consistency in small increments. Remember, a little goes a long way!
For reference, I would use the recipe, as written, for cookies or light drizzles (as shown on the coffee cake in the photos above the recipe). 
If I wanted thick, drippy coverage for a bundt cake, I would use 1 1/2 cups (180 g) confectioners’ sugar with 2 1/2 tablespoons (50 g) whole milk (or heavy cream); or perhaps even double the recipe.

Adjusting the Consistency

See section above recipe What’s the Difference Between Glaze vs Icing for more details on how to customize this recipe depending on what you’re making.
If you want a thin, translucent glaze, you’ll need to add additional liquid in 1 teaspoon increments, whisking in between each addition.
If you’ve made it too thin, add 1 tbsp (7 g) confectioners’ sugar whisking in between additions until you reach the desired consistency.
Additionally, for a really thick vanilla icing, replace the milk with heavy cream (heavy whipping cream). You’ll need to add more heavy whipping cream to make it pourable. Again, add in 1 teaspoon increments until you get the desired consistency.
**Using vanilla bean paste or extract will slightly darken the glaze (so it’s not a bright white), as well as make it a bit thinner. If you want a bright white, thick glaze/icing, use actual vanilla bean seeds and heavy whipping cream.

Milk

I prefer whole milk in this recipe as it produces a thicker glaze. In a pinch, you can use skim milk. If it produces a thinner glaze, add more confectioners’ sugar to balance it out.
For the thickest glaze, use heavy whipping cream.

Sifting

It’s important to sift the confectioners’ sugar for the smoothest possible vanilla icing. If you don’t have a fine-mesh sieve for sifting, whisk the powdered sugar well and break up any clumps before adding the liquid.
 
Thanks for baking with me! Please rate + comment this recipe and tag me on social @displacedhousewife #displacedhousewife so I can see your beautiful treats! xo

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Rebecca xox

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