Cake frosting 101: Your guidebook to common icing varieties | Food items-and-cooking

We all know icing is the perfect finishing contact to a wonderful cake.

“The phrase ‘icing on the cake’ refers to making something that is by now excellent even greater — that is what icing does,” claims Elizabeth Wall, kitchen manager at Maxie B’s bakery in Greensboro, North Carolina. “It serves as a way to boost cake levels by adding a different texture to a cake or incorporating various flavors in a completed cake. Icing also aids to preserve and seal freshly baked cake levels, trying to keep all the goodness mixed until eventually the previous slice is relished.”

Frosting versus icing: 1 in the exact?

The phrases “icing” and “frosting” are most generally utilized interchangeably, and, in this posting, we’re adhering to that linguistic normal given that most dictionaries formally think about the two phrases synonymous. The phrase preference can count on what’s favored regionally. To numerous, frosting is thick and fluffy, and utilized to cover the outside and inner layers of a cake. Icing is imagined by some to be thinner and glossier than frosting, and it produces a hardening glaze for topping cookies, cupcakes and other confections. A person principle is that “icing” simply trickled into our vocabulary from the verb, to ice, or cover, a cake.

If you really don’t know your fondant from your ganache, our manual to almost everything icing (and frosting) will make certain you pick the best topping for your next decadent dessert.

Piping buttercream


Just as the title implies, this common American frosting is produced by creaming butter and powdered sugar, usually with a contact of milk alongside one another, producing a sleek, decadently sweet topping which is simple to distribute. Buttercream will turn out to be as well gentle when left at home temperature for way too extended, so refrigeration will be vital when planning a buttercream-frosted cake well in advance of serving. “It can take 6 to seven hours to carry a cake again to area temperature. Usually, a butter-primarily based icing, like buttercream, goes very best with a butter-based mostly cake, like pound cake,” Wall claims.

European meringue buttercreams (Italian, Swiss and French) are comparable frostings with slight versions in approach or components. Each individual is prepared by heating a sugar syrup and beating in egg whites or yolks before whipping in unsalted butter. The technique demands more focus and a sweet thermometer, but these buttercreams appeal to bakers looking for a different level of sweetness or durability for their cake topping.


A chocolate-lover’s desire, ganache is made by mixing weighty or whipping cream with pure chocolate (most typically semisweet or dim types, even though white chocolate can also be utilised) in a one particular-to-one ratio. Both the product and chocolate are heated, then stirred together to make a thick, shiny topping. When ganache is chilled, it can be whipped into a fluffy frosting related in texture to buttercream.

Coconut cream pie

Whipped Cream

Stabilized whipped product is generally employed as an substitute to buttercream. While historically prepared with the addition of dissolved unflavored gelatin, Maxie B’s beats heavy cream to smooth peaks, and in a independent bowl, beats a touch of product cheese with powdered sugar. The two are then put together and whipped collectively for a whipped product icing used to fill levels or garnish the top rated of pies.

Royal Icing

Used mainly as a decorative frosting, royal icing is thick and pasty when damp, and dries easy and hard. Beating with each other a mixture of egg whites (or meringue powder), powdered sugar and h2o (flavorings these kinds of as vanilla extract can also be made use of) creates the texture, and meals coloring is usually included to improve the ornamental outcome. Due to the fact royal icing dries quickly when exposed to air, it is vital to preserve the icing tightly protected while applying it.

Cream cheese pound cake

Cream Cheese

Product cheese icing is manufactured by creaming butter, product cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract jointly. Normally denser than other icings, it is ideal when created with complete-extra fat cream cheese.

“Oil-based mostly cakes, like carrot cake or crimson velvet, are typically ready with product cheese icing,” Wall says.


Like royal icing, fondant is primarily employed for ornamental functions on cakes. The thick, pliable sugar paste is achieved by mixing sugar, h2o and gelatin or marshmallows. Some recipes also suggest introducing shortening to continue to keep the combination from drying out. When blended, fondant is normally rolled out into a skinny layer, reduce and manipulated to generate ornamental aspects for cakes. Though fondant is great for producing elaborate decorations, it can be chewy and fewer flavorful than other icings like buttercream.


At the opposite conclude of the icing spectrum, glazes are made use of atop every thing from pound cakes to cinnamon rolls. They can be thick or slim based on the wanted conclude consequence. Basic glaze is made by mixing powdered sugar and liquid, like drinking water, cream or milk. Some recipes also get in touch with for a compact volume of butter, as nicely as vanilla extract. Flavorings this kind of as fruit juice are generally additional to punch up the flavor. The moment poured atop baked products, glazes dry into a shiny crust.

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