How to Frost a Cookie

You have just made a fresh batch of sugar cookies. The cookies are all kinds of whimsical shapes; they are barely tinged golden around the corners; they are just the right balance of crispy and melt-in-your-mouth soft. (You know because you have been eating the ones that “didn’t turn out.”) You have mixed up a delicious buttercream, divided it into multiple tiny containers, and colored each one with a different part of the rainbow. You are about to frost your perfect sugar cookies with perfect frosting, perfectly.


Do you know how to frost a cookie?

The Mean Scone has some opinions about frosting cookies. As in, there are incorrect and bad ways to frost cookies, and then there are  good techniques for frosting cookies. Watch and learn, young padawan, and you, too, can become a cookie master.

And so, may I present to you, How Not to Frost a Cookie. These are common mistakes. If you recognize your own frosting style in the examples, do not feel bad. Learning always involves failing. Probably nobody took the time to instruct you in the delicate art of frosting earlier in life. Study this presentation thoroughly and mend your ways.

Example 1.

In this example, we see a cookie that clearly has an excess of frosting. Actually that amount of frosting would be permissible if it were just applied more precisely. As it is, you can see the frosting slopping off the sides. Look at it. Just falling off. There is no way to pick up this cookie without getting frosting all over your fingers, where frosting does not belong.

Example 2.

badfrost2Here we have the bare-pawed squirrel. Too often, novice cookie-frosters decide the little bits are just too difficult, and skip them. Simplicity is a virtue, right? No one will notice anyway… Right.

Example 3.

Oh goodness. Where to start… mm, mm, mm. What a mess. What is this even supposed to be? A blue ghost of an angry dwarf coming at me with a hatchet? Free Willy rising out of the waves? Half a puppy trying to run up a wall? I don’t even know.

Example 4.badfrost4

Now this one, you may think, is not so bad. We can tell it is a heart; good. The froster colored within the lines, so to speak. But look at that thin patch on the left… mm-hmm… and it looks like the froster scraped the extra frosting off her knife using the edge of the cookie, resulting in that ugly pile you see in the bottom right. Not acceptable.

Example 5.badfrost5

Ah, we are getting more sophisticated: multiple colors! But the workmanship is not there yet. Look at this little cookie-person’s pants, for example. The left leg needs a hem job, badly. And there seems to be a large hole—showing an embarrassing amount of skin!—where a left pocket ought to be. In addition, it looks like the froster barely managed to add a few globs for hands and feet. Unconvincing.

Example 6.badfrost6

And for our final example, we have the classic mutant, in this case a squirrel, featuring a multi-function nose-mouth and Spiky Sunglass Eyes. Sadly, this sort of zomie-goblin-mutt results all too often when kind-hearted people with good intentions try to add details. What could have been a beautiful albino squirrel is now a bug-eyed monster.

So there you have it. A tutorial in how not to frost a cookie. What is that? You want to know how to frost a cookie properly? You want step-by-step illustrations and advice? Well, I suppose… but you do realize The Mean Scone cannot frost cookies and take pictures at the same time? Hm? You want me to make do? Be inventive? Shucks… Alright. I’ll do my best.

The Mean Scone Frosts a Cookie: A Step-by-Step Guide

Stir up the frosting before using to make sure it is smooth and creamy. Add a bit of milk if it is stiff. Stir periodically throughout frosting to make sure it doesn’t dry up.

frost1 Scrape all frosting off the knife so you have a clean tool to work with, then dip just the knife tip in the frosting to get a small dollop, like so.



Hold the cookie (rather than setting it on a plate or countertop) in order to have more control over the angle of the knife. Hold it lightly; it should be sitting on the tips of your fingers. This way your fingertips are not curled over the edge and getting in the frosting.




Never touch the cookie with the knife. Rather, let the knife sort of hover above the cookie, keeping a good layer of frosting between the two at all times. Here is an example of the gap:


Move the tip of the knife in small circles to move frosting around without creating streaks or lines. Don’t spread unless you are covering a large area. It is more like you are massaging or teasing the frosting in the general direction you want it to go.


Don’t use the knife to define edges. Tease the frosting towards the edge and allow it to make its own border. Start with large dollops of frosting in the middle and tease it outwards.


When removing excess frosting from the cookie, start towards the edge (never at the edge itself) and move frosting in toward center before scooping it off. It’s easier to patch the leftover marks in the broader spaces.

A few more tips:

Scrape excess frosting off the knife often. When your knife starts to look like this, it needs to be cleaned off. Otherwise, the excess frosting will begin to catch on the cookie in places you didn’t want it to go.


If you want spread lines in the frosting, cover the whole cookie in frosting first. Then lightly move the knife across the frosting at a slight angle to get a nice spread line. Re-do until you’re satisfied.


To add tiny details, get the frosting in the general shape you want it before trying to put it on the cookie (usually this means getting a small “icicle” on the end of the knife).


Then gently touch it to the existing frosting on the cookie. It will stick; pull the knife away, just as gently, to detach a tiny bit of frosting.




When making details, it usually is easier to set the cookie on the tabletop rather than hold it, because your hand will shake too much.

And there you have it. Frosting takes practice, as does all art; work to create methods and techniques that work for you. And enjoy it! And eat everything that doesn’t turn out. Happy frosting!


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