That’s just the icing on the cake. Or was it frosting? Whether you are baking a cake for your best friend’s wedding or whipping up a batch of cupcakes for your daughter’s birthday, the finishing touches are always the most satisfying part! Unless specifically requested, making the decision on what type of spread you would like to use may be confusing. While the terms are used interchangeably in the world of food, frosting and icing are ultimately two very different toppings. Read more to learn the deviations and appropriate circumstances for the two creamy ingredients.

“Stories aren’t icing on the cake; they are the cake!

Peter Guber

Icing, In A Nutshell

Icing is a thin desert topping made with a precise mixture of powdered sugar and a water-like substance such as milk or lemon juice. It is commonly used on some of your favorite desserts; lemon cake, cinnamon rolls, and sugar cookies!

When heated, the mixture is a clear, watery liquid. After drizzling the icing on your goods, you will know it is ready when the consistency hardens and turns into an opaque color.

Frosting, In A Nutshell

Frosting has more of a thicker consistency made with butter, cream cheese, or cream. The “whipped” aspect of it stems from what is believed to be the best way of making it. It is almost always whipped!

The fluffy topping is used on cakes to give them shape, stability, and flavor!

Frosting vs. Icing

While frosting is the thicker spread, icing hardens upon drying when applied to goods. Therefore it is not spreadable like frosting. You would use a spatula or knife to apply frosting opposed to a measuring cup for icing to be poured or drizzled. That being said, there are a variety of frostings and icings to choose from when baking your delicious treats!

4 Common Types of Frosting

1. Buttercream Frosting – The base of the frosting is butter. It is whipped to create a thick, creamy texture that makes it easy for bakers to use. This type of frosting is commonly found in sheet cakes and cupcakes!

2. Cream Cheese Frosting – Very common to buttercream, the main ingredient is whipped cream cheese. This frosting uses this instead of butter as it’s primary source of fat. The cream cheese creates a sweet, tangy flavor that is mostly used in red velvet cakes, and hummingbird cakes!

3. Whipped Cream Frosting – The recipe starts with heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. This has a lightweight, fluffy consistency that is perfect for strawberry shortcakes, fruitcakes, and other delicious treats with fruity flavors!

4. Italian Meringue Buttercream – Add egg whites, sugar, butter, and water to make this mixture. This recipe is slightly more complex compared to traditional buttercream recipes due to the temperature requirements of the ingredients. True to Italian cooking, there are specific techniques to get the right consistency for the topping.

3 Common Types of Icing

1. Fondant Icing – This is made with glucose syrup, sugar, butter, water, and gelatin. The mixture has a terracotta texture that is manipulated into shapes and intricate designs. Think of the substance placed into a squeezer to decorate wedding cakes!

2. Royal Icing – Composed of whipped egg whites, powdered sugar, and water, this icing is mostly used for cookie decorations.

3. Standard Icing – All you will need is powdered sugar and water! The sugary glaze adds sweetness and flavor to your desserts.

Time To Choose

Will you use frosting or icing on your next sweet dessert? It all boils down to the type of dish you are baking and personal desires for your tastebuds! After all, it’s your kitchen! So, now that you know the difference between the two, what will you choose?