Glaze is not just for doughnuts. This delightfully sweet coating has it all: a short ingredient list, a simple, foolproof method and a unique ability to give anything it touches a look that’s as beautiful as it is delicious. Made in a variety of colors and used to create different decorative effects, glaze is a perfect way to dress up your favorite holiday cookie recipe. It can even help you add some homemade flair to your favorite store-bought treats.

At its most basic, glaze is as easy as whisking together powdered sugar and liquid (such as cream and/or milk), but it’s infinitely adaptable and can be made into myriad flavor combinations. Use a contrasting glaze to accent a flavorful cookie: matcha glaze on a chocolate-filled cookie, chocolate glaze on a gingersnap, or fruit glaze on a cream-filled sandwich cookie. Spice up a plain cookie (like shortbread, wafer cookies or butter cookies) with any glaze — or try a few drizzled on or swirled together.

The real key to glaze success is nailing the texture. There are three consistencies for glazes, depending on the desired effect:

Thin: These easily run off a spoon in a thin stream and can be poured over cookies to fully coat them.
Medium: They run off a spoon in a slow, thick stream and can be used to drizzle or dip cookies.
Thick: They don’t run off the spoon but sort of droop off the end before dropping back into the bowl. These can be used to spread onto cookies or for more-defined drizzle effects.

You can apply more than one glaze: Swirl them together while they’re still wet, wait for the first to dry before adding a drizzle of another, or outline a shape with a thin-to-medium glaze and then flood it with more. No matter their thickness, glazes will set to be firm to the touch. In a cool, dry place, thin and medium glazes will set in about 1 hour (thicker glazes may take longer).


Ridged cookies coated in thin vanilla glaze.

To fully glaze: This is best for a thinner, flatter cookie (and looks great on ones with texture, such as stamped cookies or pressed cookies like pizzelles). Use a thin glaze.

  • Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet and place the cookies on top of it, leaving at least ½ inch between each.
  • Prepare a thin glaze (it should easily run off the end of a spoon in a thin stream), and transfer it to a container with a pour spout (such as a large liquid measuring cup).
  • Pour the glaze into the center of the cookie, allowing it to pool in the center, then start to run over the surface. Pour enough glaze so that it evenly reaches the sides, allowing the excess to drip off the sides.
  • Allow the cookies to set for 10 minutes, then use a small offset spatula to transfer to a clean cooling rack to set completely.

Cookies drizzled with a thick matcha glaze.

To drizzle: This works great with almost any kind of cookie. Use a medium or thick glaze.

  • Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • With medium glaze, use a small spoon: Hold the spoon above the cookies and move it quickly back and forth, allowing the glaze to fall in lines across the cookie.
  • With thick glaze, use a disposable pastry bag with a small (¼-inch) opening cut from the end (or a plastic zip-top bag with an opening cut from one corner): Gently squeeze the bag while moving back and forth over the cookies.
  • Allow the glaze to set completely.

Pirouette-style cookies dipped in medium cranberry glaze.

To dip: This works great with most cookies, but some thin cookies can be harder to dip (they are prone to breaking). Use a medium glaze.

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Working one at a time, dip each cookie into the glaze (you can dip it partially in from the side, or dip the top or bottom only).
  • Lift the cookie out and shake it a few times over the bowl to allow the excess to drip off.
  • Transfer to the baking sheet and allow to set completely.

Thin almond cookies spread with a thick mango glaze.

To spread: This works best with thinner, flatter cookies or cookies with a flat bottom. Use a thick glaze.

    • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    • Pick up a small amount of glaze with a small offset spatula and place it on the cookie. Press firmly against the cookie while dragging it across the surface; the coating can be thin and translucent or thicker and opaque.
    • Transfer to the baking sheet to set completely.

THE GLAZE RECIPES:

Vanilla |Chocolate |Cranberry |Matcha |Mango

NOTE: Each recipe makes about 2 cups, or 32 servings. After making, transfer each glaze to an airtight container and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use. Make sure the wrap touches the surface of the glaze. Glazes can be made and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of each recipe by clicking on its name below.

Vanilla Glaze

You can turn this into a spiced glaze by adding up to 2 1/2 teaspoons of ground spice (or a mixture!).

2 1/2 cups (285 grams) confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons whole milk, or more as needed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste)
1 pinch fine sea salt

In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, cream, milk, vanilla extract (or paste) and salt until combined. You want the mixture to be thick enough to hold a line when you drizzle it, but thin enough that it’s easy to dip into. To adjust the texture, whisk in additional milk 1 teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.

Chocolate Glaze

2 cups (225 grams) confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably dark or black cocoa)
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons whole milk, or more as needed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch fine sea salt

In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder until combined. Add the cream, milk, vanilla extract and salt and whisk until well combined. You want the mixture to be thick enough to hold a line when you drizzle it, but thin enough that it’s easy to dip into. To adjust the texture, whisk in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency is achieved.

Cranberry Glaze

2 cups (230 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups (285 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk, plus more as needed
1 pinch fine sea salt

In a medium pot over medium heat, stir together the cranberries and granulated sugar. Cook until the fruit is soft and begins to burst, 6 to 8 minutes. (If using frozen cranberries, cook another 3 to 4 minutes.)

Using a large fork or a potato masher, coarsely mash the fruit. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a medium bowl, pressing to release as much of the juice as possible (discard the solids). You should end up with about 1/3 cup (113 grams) puree.

Add the confectioners’ sugar to the cranberry mixture and whisk to combine. Add the milk to adjust the final consistency, and whisk in the salt. You want the mixture to be thick enough to hold a line when you drizzle it, but thin enough that it’s easy to dip into. To adjust the texture, whisk in additional milk 1 teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.

Matcha Glaze

2 1/2 cups (285 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon culinary-grade matcha powder
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons whole milk, or more as needed
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 pinch fine sea salt

In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and matcha powder until combined. Add the cream, milk, almond extract and salt and whisk until well combined. You want the mixture to be thick enough to hold a line when you drizzle it, but thin enough that it’s easy to dip into. To adjust the texture, whisk in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency is achieved.

Mango Glaze

1 3/4 cups (295 grams) diced fresh or frozen mango
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk, or more as needed
1 pinch fine sea salt

In a medium pot over medium heat, stir together the mangoes and sugar. Cook until the fruit is soft and begins to release some juice, 6 to 8 minutes. (If using frozen mango, cook another 3 to 4 minutes.)

Using a large fork or a potato masher, coarsely mash the fruit. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a medium bowl, pressing to release as much of the juice as possible (discard the solids). You should end up with about 1/3 cup (100 g) puree.

Add the confectioners’ sugar to the mango mixture and whisk to combine. Add the milk to adjust the final consistency, and whisk in the salt. You want the mixture to be thick enough to hold a line when you drizzle it, but thin enough that it’s easy to dip into. To adjust the texture, whisk in additional milk 1 teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.

Recipes by Erin Jeanne McDowell, tested by Olga Massov; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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