Different types of frosting for cookies are often intended to provide various flavors or textures that can be used in decorating or to provide more sweetness. There are two major distinctions in texture that can be made for this type of frosting, which is usually either hard or soft. Hard frosting is typically made as royal icing, which hardens in a short amount of time; soft frostings can be made much like cake icing such as buttercream or cream cheese frosting. There are also a number of flavors that can be used to make different frosting for cookies within these two types.
Frosting for cookies can be quite similar to that made for cakes, though this depends a great deal upon the purpose for the cookies. This essentially comes down to the desired texture. Hard frosting begins fairly soft, allowing it to be used for piping and spreading, but then hardens relatively quickly afterward. Royal icing is the most common type of hard frosting for cookies and can be made quickly easily from egg whites, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Modern recipes often use meringue powder due to health issues with eating uncooked eggs, though pasteurized egg whites can be used instead.
There are a number of options for frosting for cookies that begin and remain quite soft, unless they are refrigerated. These types of frosting are similar to those varieties often made and used to cover cakes. Buttercream frosting is among the simplest and most popular, and can typically be made through a combination of butter, powdered sugar, and flavoring ingredients. Some heavy cream is often added to this, and food coloring can be used to dye the icing. Cream cheese frosting for cookies can also be made quite easily, typically as a mixture of cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar.
Using these basic types of frosting for cookies, a number of variations can be created with the addition of various flavors. Vanilla extract is a common ingredient that can be added to just about any type of frosting, and some icing recipes include it as a staple ingredient. Other types of extract, such as almond or mint oil can be used instead, to provide different flavors to various frosting recipes. Cocoa powder and melted chocolate can also be combined to some types of frosting for cookies, though this can alter the recipe too much in some instances. There are also less traditional foods that can be used as frosting, such as marshmallow cream.