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How to Make Delicious Glaze Icing

Updated on September 24, 2017
Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn Green enjoys whipping up tasty dishes in her home kitchen. She's received many requests for her recipes and is happy to share these.

A Treat for the Taste Buds

Made from granulated sugar and drizzled over loaves and cakes while still warm.
Made from granulated sugar and drizzled over loaves and cakes while still warm. | Source

Adding a Touch of Something Truly Special

Nothing is quite so tempting as glazed donuts or sweetbread topped with glaze icing.

Glaze icing looks and tastes wonderful, drizzled over cakes, squares or sweet breads. It is a different method to "ice" sweet treats. Knowing how to make it will serve you well in turning out great-tasting desserts. It's so easy to do and it adds such a special finishing touch to a variety of baked goods.

Many people love glaze, but while it is seen in bakeries, how does one make their own glaze at home? Because it differs from regular icing, some are mystified as to how to make it.

It's very easy to do and you only use a few simple ingredients. You don't need beaters and you just use a pot on the top of the stove.

There are a couple of different methods for making both uncooked and cooked glaze. For uncooked glaze, you usually combine your ingredients in a bowl. This is done by using powdered sugar and adding liquid and a few other ingredients, then stirring well until you have a thick and pourable mixture.

My method is a granulated sugar glaze that is made in a pot on the top of the stove. I prefer this method, because the sugar melts, so you don't have to worry about "grittiness." Ingredients are brought to a gentle boil for a few minutes, which helps the glaze to thicken. The final result is a perfectly smooth glaze that sets up as it cools.

I use this glaze to ice different sweet treats, as you will see further down on this page in the photos. I've used this basic recipe for years. Once you've tried it, I'm sure you will enjoy it as much as I have.

How Glaze Differs From Icing

Easy-peasy. You don't even have to use beaters.

Ingredients You Need for this Glaze

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar (or a little more if you prefer a sweeter glaze)
  • 1/4 cup can milk (you must use can milk)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Buttery or Sweet?

This recipe makes a buttery-tasting glaze that isn't overly sweet. Depending on the brand, some butter tends to be saltier so, if this is the case, use a little less butter or increase sugar. It is always good to do a taste test and if necessary, adjust ingredients to preference.

Place Ingredients into a Pot

Butter, granulated sugar and can milk.
Butter, granulated sugar and can milk. | Source

Taste Test

You might opt to take a tiny bit on the end of a spoon and blow on it to cool it for a taste test. (I test it with a finger before tasting it to avoid burning my mouth.) This way, you can adjust ingredients if needed.

Two Methods for Making This Glaze

There are two basic methods you can use to make this glaze.

Method #1

This first method is preferable because there's less chance of the sugar sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning.

  1. Melt butter in small pot.
  2. Add the sugar and stir until it is dissolved.
  3. Add in can milk and bring mixture on a medium heat to a soft boil, stirring constantly (to prevent sticking).
  4. Boil for 2-5 minutes. If necessary, reduce heat so that icing doesn't burn.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tsp. vanilla.

Method #2

Because I've made this glaze so often, I take the lazy man's route and place everything into my pot. But when I make it this way, I stand and stir as the butter melts, so the sugar doesn't stick.

Glaze Bubbles and Thickens and Looks Downright Delectable

Slightly thickened and ready to pour.
Slightly thickened and ready to pour. | Source

Stir, Stir, Stir...

Keep a close eye on your glaze and stir frequently, so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot and start to burn. Reduce heat if needed so it continues at a soft (not hard) boil.

Have you Ever Made Glaze Icing?

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Caution

Boiled glaze is super hot and it will stick to whatever it comes into contact with. Take care that it doesn't end up on a finger!

Tips for the Best Glaze

There are a few things to keep in mind when making your glaze, so you achieve the best results.

  • Bring mixture to soft boil.
  • Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, so mixture doesn't stick and burn.
  • Boil until mixture starts to thicken. If uncertain, use a teaspoon to gather a small amount and drop in cold water to see if it's reached the soft ball stage. In other words, if it holds its shape in the cold water.
  • Always do a taste test.

Note: you don't want to over-boil your glaze because it might become too thick, and when cool, become crumbly.

Reminder

Use glaze right away. Don't leave it in pot where it will harden.

Use Immediately

Your glaze, while still warm, will be slightly thickened but still runny. This is normal. As long as you've boiled it long enough, it will thicken as it cools and it will set up after you drizzle it over baked goods.

This is one of the main advantages of glaze. You don't have to spread it, as you would do with icing, you pour it, which means that within seconds, you've added a delectable-tasting topping to desserts.

Use your glaze immediately because it will harden and form a crust. You don't want this to happen while it is still in the pot, which would make removal difficult. Make sure you drizzle it over your baked items while it is still warm.

The magic happens as glaze sets up and turns into a delicious, sweet topper for donuts, muffins, cinnamon rolls, hot-cross buns, and any number of other sweet treats.

Did You Know?

Glaze sets up as it cools. As long as your mixture is slightly thickened (as seen in the photo), it should continue to set up as it cools.

Glaze Looks so Darn Impressive

One of the neat aspects if you are making a thicker glaze is how it looks as it sets up. If you opt to drizzle it over your baked goods, the final results look truly remarkable and your company will be wowed.

You can have fun with glaze, either drizzling it in a zig-zag or creating diamonds or even swirls.

I'm sure you will agree, the thick glaze seen in the first photo below would tempt nearly anyone who saw it to sample the sweet bread.

Photos of Desserts Using This Glaze

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Kugelhopft--A Christmas sweetbread impossible to resist!Sweetbread with glaze icing.Pineapple Coconut Cake topped with glaze.
Kugelhopft--A Christmas sweetbread impossible to resist!
Kugelhopft--A Christmas sweetbread impossible to resist! | Source
Sweetbread with glaze icing.
Sweetbread with glaze icing.
Pineapple Coconut Cake topped with glaze.
Pineapple Coconut Cake topped with glaze.

A Great Little Skill

As can be seen, glaze is easy to make, and mastering how to make your own is a great little bit of know-how to add to your cooking skills.

Glaze Icing Variations

Once you know how to make this glaze, you can add other ingredients to produce different glaze flavors. I've experimented and have found I occasionally use these variations.

  • Maple-Walnut Glaze: When I have a hankering for a maple-walnut cake, I substitute maple flavoring for the vanilla extract and I add 1-2 cups of chopped walnuts and stir them into the glaze. This makes a wonderful mixture to spread over plain white cake, which, of course, becomes maple-walnut cake.
  • Pineapple Glaze Icing: When I make a plain white cake and I want to fancy it up a bit, I make my glaze and add in drained crushed pineapple.
  • Coconut Glaze: Once I've poured the glaze over a cake, I sprinkle grated coconut (toasted or plain) over the top.
  • Coconut Donuts: I dip my homemade donuts in glaze first, then dip them in coconut.

It's fun to experiment to see how you can use your glaze for different topping effects, and if desired, how you can add other ingredients to it for different flavors.

A Word About Frozen Treats

Glaze is best on cakes, loaves, or donuts that haven't been frozen and then thawed. While you can freeze these items with glaze on them, it later becomes runny, which spoils the effect. A far better approach, if you want to make items ahead of time and freeze them, is to freeze these items unglazed and once they are completely thawed, to add glaze to them.

How to Make Delicious Glaze Icing

Now that you've read this article and seen how to make glaze icing and how easy the process is, I hope you will be eager to try it. Please share you thoughts in the poll below.

After Reading These Instructions, Would You Try Making Your Own Glaze?

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So Easy to Make, So Delicious

Once you've tried making your own glaze, I'm sure you will agree that it is very easy to do and so delicious. When you want a change from the usual, glaze icing offers a tempting alternative.

3.4 out of 5 stars from 60 ratings of Glaze Icing

© 2011 Athlyn Green

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      Sheila 3 weeks ago

      I tried the recipe and I loved it! So for all that are trying the recipe for the first time....be patient on the thickening process and use real unsalted butter. It was fabulous on my homemade buttermilk poundcake. I will never again use powdered sugar again.

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      Christine Bourke-Vincent 5 weeks ago

      Is can milk. Evaporated milk or condensed milk. Or can of cold milk?( can being the measurement, cold milk being cows milk)?

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      Athlyn Green 6 weeks ago from West Kootenays

      Lala, Icing sugar is the same as powdered sugar.

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      lala 2 months ago

      is icing sugar different to powdered sugar? I have no idea on baking. sorry.

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      Athlyn Green 4 months ago from West Kootenays

      Hi Deborah, I've added crushed unsweetened pineapple to this glaze and it worked very well.

      You could try substituting the can milk with fruit juice.

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      Deborah 4 months ago

      Hi, I am trying to make a fruit flavored donut glaze, how would you get flavor without it being sweet?

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      Athlyn Green 5 months ago from West Kootenays

      Hi Madelyn, that is really odd. I have made this for years and it always thickens. Try cutting back on your can milk and your butter. You gently boil it until it starts to thicken, as seen in the photo; then you use it right away, and it thickens further, as it sets up. But you must boil it for a couple of minutes.

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      Madelyn 5 months ago

      Hi, I made this, followed all of the ingredients, and stirred continuously like you said. But my glaze never started to thicken. Any idea what I did wrong?

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      Athlyn Green 5 months ago from West Kootenays

      Paula, never make your glaze well ahead. It should be used right after making it for the best results.

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      Athlyn Green 5 months ago from West Kootenays

      Orchid, always do a taste test and if you want a slightly sweeter glaze, either cut down on the butter or add more sugar.

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      Athlyn Green 5 months ago from West Kootenays

      Hi Cindy, after it has boiled and starts to thicken, you should pour it or drizzle it right away.

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      Cindy 5 months ago

      Hi there, I made this glaze and used a candy thermometer to make sure I was at soft ball. Within 5 minutes after when I stirred it the glaze fell apar and the butter began to separate. Any idea what I didn't wrong?

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      Athlyn Green 6 months ago from West Kootenays

      Hi Tina, you could try and see. It might crystallize a bit, but as long as you scraped the pot sides and reheated, it would probably be fine.

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      Tina 6 months ago

      If there any way I could make the glaze ahead of them and then warm it up later again?

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      Athlyn Green 8 months ago from West Kootenays

      Thank you, Cherelle. It makes a great topper for sweets.

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      Cherelle 8 months ago

      This glaze was Amazing! I didn't have Icing sugar or cream cheese and I had made cinnamon buns. So I Googled Icing without either, and came upon this super simple recipe. Am I glad I Did! So good, I'm making it again the next day as there aren't any rolls Left!

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      Athlyn Green 10 months ago from West Kootenays

      Becca, that's great to hear. Thank you for commenting and letting me know, and glad it turned out so well.

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      Becca 10 months ago

      Thank you for posting this recipe. I made cinnamon rolls for the first time and all of the icing recipes called for confectioners sugar which I didn't have. I went the lazy route and threw it all in together and it turned out perfectly. My son gives it two thumbs up!

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      Athlyn Green 12 months ago from West Kootenays

      Felicia, regular sugar is used but you could try it with icing sugar.

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      Athlyn Green 12 months ago from West Kootenays

      Paula, just keep your glaze turned on low and if it starts to thicken too much, add a bit more liquid. And it should be fine.

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      Paula 12 months ago

      Oh no - our bundt cake won't be ready for another 30 minutes and glaze is finished, LOL. This should be interesting.

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      Felicia 12 months ago

      Is this used with regular sugar or the powdered sugar?

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      Athlyn Green 13 months ago from West Kootenays

      Hi Isabel,

      I've never tried it for cookies. I've used it to top sweet loaves and donuts, as well as cake and sweet bread.

      I don't think it would work well for cookies because it is fairly soft.

      If you wanted glaze for cookies, you might want to substitute icing sugar and see if that works.

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      Athlyn Green 13 months ago from West Kootenays

      Hi Orchid,

      This makes a buttery glaze that isn't overly sweet. If you want your glaze a bit sweeter, just add a little more sugar or cut down a bit on your butter.

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      Orchid 13 months ago

      Not sure if I should have used unsalted butter or not, but I followed this recipe exactly using regular old salted butter and my glaze came out tasting... rather salty. It was still good, and it went great with my soft ginger cookies, set up amazingly and was super easy, but is it meant for unsalted butter? It just didn't turn out as sweet as I thought it should have.

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      Isabel 13 months ago

      Hi, May I use this icing for cookies? Would it get hard enough?