What is the Difference Between Icing and Frosting?


A pastry is complete with a layer of buttercream or a drizzle of icing. Find out the distinctions between frosting and icing and when to use each. While they both taste great, they are different. The issue about frosting vs icing is not a conflict over territory. No matter how you cut it, frosting and icing aren’t the same thing, even though it could appear like choosing between cake with frosting or cake with icing is like saying black or black.

Since both are frequently used to decorate baked items like cakes and cookies, it is simple to confuse them. Additionally, the likelihood is that you have heard the phrases frosting and icing used interchangeably for most of your life. Contrary to what you may have heard or believed in the past, frosting and icing are very distinct and have various uses when decorating desserts. This article will explain the distinctions between frosting and icing, teach you how to tell what you’re eating or licking off your spoon, and even go over the different kinds of each.

What is Icing?

Dessert Cupcakes Food Strawberry 

Icing is a thin, flowing, sugary liquid that solidifies when cooled; created by combining confectioners’ sugar or powdered sugar with a drink, such as milk, cream, lemon juice, or liqueur. Food colouring is used to create vibrant, beautiful icing that may be used to adorn frosted cakes. Sugar cookies are frequently iced with vibrant icing designs, especially for seasonal treats. Additionally, it serves as the glue that binds gingerbread houses together and affixes sweets and other decorations to the gingerbread. Use icing on dishes like cinnamon rolls, pound cakes, and bundt cakes where you want a light layer of sweetness on top. 

The most popular things to adorn with icing are doughnuts and cinnamon rolls, but you can also use them to embellish pound cakes like lemon pound cake. As everything cools and the sugar crystals form, the icing’s white tint becomes opaquer. Depending on its intended use, icing can be prepared in various viscosities. Still, it will never maintain its shape as well as frosting does. When compared to frosting, icing makes a more refined and subdued adornment. However, in the hands of an experienced baker or pastry chef, it can also be used to make far more elaborate designs because it spreads on thin and transparent before hardening hard and unmalleable.

Types of Icing

Cakes Dessert Sugar 

Icing coats many kinds of cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and desserts. It may add taste and texture to various pastries and baked goods. It also allows a cook to embellish the dish so that it is a delight for the eyes and the palate. The primary icing varieties are buttercream, flat, foam, fondant, fudge, royal, and glazes.

1. Royal Icing – Royal icing is the most widely used type of icing for intricate cookie decoration. With the addition of egg whites or meringue powder, which gives the icing more solidity and enables it to dry to a firm, lustrous finish, it also includes confectioners’ sugar, liquid, and other ingredients. When building gingerbread houses, royal icing can serve as an edible glue. It can be thinned or thickened depending on whether you’re decorating cookies with intricate designs or “flooding” them with an even layer of icing.

2. Butter Cream Icing – One of the most common varieties of cake icing is buttercream. It is simple to make, sweet-tasting, has a soft, smooth texture, and is simple to spread. Typically, butter and sugar are used to make buttercream. It may also contain milk or eggs to change the consistency and thickness. Basic buttercream is the icing most seen in the cake mix area of supermarkets.

3. Glazes and Flat Icing –Flat icing or glazes is the most straightforward kind of frosting. To make this plain, icing, powdered sugar and water are the only necessary components. Rolls, Danishes, and other pastries have simple flat glazes made of icing that can be flavoured with fruit or spices to give the pastry a fresh flavour. When poured or brushed over cakes and pastries, glazes, which are thin, watery icings, harden into a crunchy outer layer. Although other flavours, such as chocolate or coffee, are occasionally popular, they are often produced with a fruit flavour. They enhance the pastry’s flavour, help keep it moist, and lengthen its shelf life.

4. Foam Icing – A traditional cake topping known as foam frosting has a delicate, fluffy appearance. It is available in a range of tastes. Whipped egg whites with flavouring syrup are used to make meringue. It is a sweet created by heating egg whites with sugar in a double boiler and whipping it until it is light and fluffy. The method, which requires roughly seven minutes in a double boiler, involves heating the egg whites to a food-safe temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Although marshmallow foam is a popular flavour, meringue can also be flavoured with other flavours like chocolate or vanilla. Most recipes call for lemon juice, cream of tartar, or corn syrup to lighten the sugar and prevent it from crystallizing.

5. Fudge Icing – Fudge frosting has an intense chocolate flavour and is thick and rich. Including other flavours like almond, peanut butter, or mint is standard practice. This type can take some time to produce and calls for corn syrup, sugar, butter, and shortening, among other components. However, the finished product is stable and can be stored in the refrigerator for use later. You may use this icing to decorate cakes, cupcakes, or even cookies. It’s easy to make and only requires a few essential ingredients. The best aspect is that it is simple to adapt to your preferences. You can therefore modify the recipe to your liking if you prefer your coffee fudge icing to be a little sweeter or a little stronger.

What is Frosting? 

Cake Wedding Sweets 

The frosting is most easily recognized by its fluffy, thick nature. When decorating cakes and cupcakes, frosting is frequently used and requested because it maintains its shape and is opaque in colour. The frosting is always whipped, unlike icing, and unlike icing, its primary ingredient is fat, such as butter or cream. This is another characteristic that distinguishes frosting from icing. Butter and other fats are crucial for frosting because they give it more structure than icing. The frosting is frequently used as a filing but can also be used as an icing-like topping. Due to its consistency, it works well for piping and other types of decorating, like the kind frequently used on cakes and cupcakes.

Types of Frosting

Cake Decorated Floral 

A fluffy frosting elevates a cake or cupcake from good to delicious. It isn’t easy to choose the perfect frosting for topping your delicacies because there are so many various kinds that you may make. Buttercream frosting, cooked frosting, and whipped cream frosting are a few options you might consider when thinking about the numerous types of frostings available for cakes, cupcakes, and other baked goods.

1. Buttercream Frosting –The most popular frosting is buttercream, created by blending a form of fat—typically, but not always, butter—and sugar. Eggs are occasionally added to buttercream to give it a smooth, airy consistency. Flavour and colour additions are virtually limitless. Buttercream frosting comes in at least five different varieties, though it might be confusing because one or two of them go by more than one name:

2. American Buttercream or Simple buttercream – The traditional simple buttercream, or American buttercream, is essentially a combination of butter and confectioners’ sugar, with the optional ingredients including eggs, which can either be whole just the yolks or just the whites, milk, half and half or nonfat milk solids. It should be noted that cream cheese frosting is simple buttercream that uses cream cheese as the fat instead of butter.

3. Buttercream for Decoration – Butter tends to melt or at least get very soft at room temperature, so simple buttercream icing isn’t the best choice for making the elaborate flowers and curlicues you see on expensive wedding cakes. The answer is to use the so-called decorator’s buttercream, produced using vegetable shortening rather than butter. Additionally, decorator’s buttercream requires far less whipping than regular buttercream. Because of its stability and capacity to compensate for its lack of lightness, it is perfect for creating those beautiful flourishes. Unfortunately, it lacks flavour. Thus, a tiny bit of butter is frequently added.

4. Buttercream Meringue – This more complicated type of frosting, which is also known as Swiss or Italian meringue buttercream, is created by whipping melted butter into a basic egg white foam after mixing a hot syrup of sugar and water into the foam. This frosting is incredibly light and airy because heating the meringue increases its stability.   To make the meringue base, separate the egg whites, whisk them with sugar, boil the mixture, and then whisk it again until stiff peaks form. Once it has cooled, gradually add butter cubes until the stiff peaks have returned. It is frequently used to frost more excellent baked goods like wedding cakes because it has a milder flavour and is slightly less sweet.

5. French Buttercream –Although it has a very light texture, this buttercream is arguably the richest. French buttercream is a thick, creamy frosting that typically has a more yellow hue because egg yolks are used instead of egg whites. It usually functions best as a filler, base, or cupcake topper because it is softer and doesn’t keep its shape very well. If you’re not aiming to cook a traditional French buttercream, use pasteurized eggs to ensure it is safe for consumption.

6. Buttercream Pastry-cream – This version, also called German buttercream, is produced by mixing butter, confectioner’s sugar, and pastry cream, a custard fortified with flour or cornstarch. Even though this frosting is a little more unusual, it might be interesting to try if you’re a more seasoned baker and sick of the standard buttercream. The recipe calls for heating milk, which is then combined with cornstarch, sugar, eggs, and butter to make a frosting that resembles custard and is ideal for pastry filling.

7. Fondant – Fondant, one of the best frosting kinds that can be moulded and are ideal for making elaborate decorations, is more of a paste than an actual frosting. Various types of fondant may be made using recipes, ranging from pourable alternatives to fondant thick enough to be rolled out in sheets. You can add colours and flavours based on your preferences. You’ve probably heard of fondant if you’ve ever watched a baking program. It is challenging to create because it requires gelatin, powdered sugar, corn syrup, and shortening. Since fondant is just a sugar paste that can be rolled into sheets and moulded for a smooth, professional-looking coating, cakes are where it is most frequently used for decoration.

8. Cooked Frosting – The traditional method of cooking frosting is called “seven-minute frosting,” it involves boiling sugar, water, and corn syrup before pouring it into a dish of stiff-peak meringue while beating. The secret is to slowly pour the boiling liquid into the bowl, aiming towards the side of the bowl rather than the meringue. The proteins in the egg whites coagulate when this heated liquid is added to the meringue, stabilizing it and assisting the frosting in maintaining its shape. If not consumed on the first day, seven-minute frostings are delicate and can be absorbed into the cake. Seven-minute frosting can be made using meringue powder. However, pasteurized eggs won’t produce an as frothy meringue.

9. Whip Cream Frosting – This is the lightest and fluffiest frosting thus far, commonly known as chantilly cream icing. It is essentially whipped cream that has been stabilized by adding silky mascarpone cheese for a topping on strawberry shortcakes and other summery sweets. What could be easier than whipped cream frostings, made of whipped cream, powdered sugar, and flavourings? The cornstarch in the powdered sugar, like in buttercream, aids in stabilizing the frosting. This frosting can be overbeaten and become gritty, so only beat it long enough for firm peaks to form. The frosting from these cakes, cupcakes, shortcakes, and cookies must be chilled.

10. Fudge Frosting – Fudge frosting is typically layered over acidic desserts or milder sponge cakes for a balanced flavour. You can use chocolate bars or cocoa powder, commonly combined with milk, butter, and powdered sugar until smooth and spreadable. Fudge frosting is a topping for baked products that resemble classic fudge and buttercream frosting. It develops a heavy, thick consistency as it sets and, occasionally, hardens to fudge consistency. Even though fudge confectionery can take on flavours other than chocolate, the word “fudge frosting” sometimes refers to chocolate, an essential ingredient. Frostings that employ flavourings like orange liqueur or fruit are not considered fudge.

Icing vs Frosting

Wedding Cake Cupcake

Even though the terms frosting and icing are interchangeable, frosting is typically thicker and fluffier than icing, which is thinner and has the property to set quickly and harden after drying. Icing must be spooned, poured, or drizzled over baked items rather than spread like frosting. In this part of the article, the differences between frosting and icing will be explained, and show you how to tell if you’re eating or licking icing or frosting off the spoon.

1. Frosting’s most crucial component, fat, makes it typically thicker and fluffier. Because frosting is denser, it’ll stay in whatever shape you decide to spread it in. This characteristic makes it perfect for cakes, cupcakes, and between cake layers. In comparison, icing is less fluffy, more fluid, and occasionally translucent. While the presence of fat distinguishes frosting from icing, icing often consists of powdered sugar mixed with water.

2. Although frosting has more uses and variants, icing is straightforward. Simple icing doesn’t need any specialized tools or knowledge. Both a stand mixer and a hand mixer are optional. The best tool is a whisk, but a fork will also work.

3. Although icing and frosting can be used interchangeably, the following are common and general uses for each: icing is commonly used in cookies, while fluffy frosting can be used as a filling between cake layers. However, frosting and icing are used as decorations on top of cakes or cupcakes. Icing works best for thinner applications, while frosting is best for thicker ones.

4. Shortening or cream cheese are the bases for frosting. These elements are excellent for producing a brilliant, angelic, or cloud-like pattern because they are white or, at the very least, very pale. The icing doesn’t entirely rely on sugar, which gives you more control over whether you’d prefer something less sweet or need to bake for those on a low-sugar diet. Sugar is typically added to cakes to make them sweet. However, as icing is made with a base of powdered sugar, it will always be exceedingly sweet. Of course, it’s essential to remember that the icing will spread much more thinly than frosting, so the result will sometimes be a more adorable cake. A liquid, such as milk, egg white, or melted butter, is combined with sugar.

5. In contrast to frosting, icing cannot be piped. You may pour and let it spread naturally or apply it thinly over whatever you decorate. Regular icing will drop and flow down the sides of your cake because it is relatively thin and fluid before it hardens. Although frosting is much easier to handle, the final product may sometimes appear better. It works better for piping because it is thicker and softer than icing. To spread it over cakes instead, use a flat knife or spatula, or start practising your piping if you’re uncomfortable doing so.


In conclusion, using icing or frosting interchangeably is OK if you don’t care too much about word definitions. The two terms differ depending on where you are in the world. Icings are runnier in nature than frosting. Thus, that is where they diverge technically. Icings are thinner than frostings. While icing is frequently used in Europe to refer to the same substance, frosting is the phrase that is more commonly used in America.

For decorating baked items like cakes and cookies, frosting and icing are used. They are not the same thing, though. The frosting is most easily recognized by its fluffy, thick nature. When decorating cakes and cupcakes, frosting is frequently used and requested because it maintains its shape and is opaque in colour. The frosting is always whipped, unlike icing, and unlike icing, its primary ingredient is fat, such as butter or cream. This is another characteristic that distinguishes frosting from icing. In contrast, icing can be used as a glaze or for intricate decorating because it is glossier and thinner than frosting. The frosting is usually more appropriate for simple designs than icing.