Difference Between Frosting and Icing

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 12, 2023


Difference Between Frosting and Icing

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When you order any dessert, you might wonder about the variety of components that make desserts such a delight to our soul. Let us consider one of the most widely consumed desserts: cake.

Keeping aside the essential ingredients we require to bake a cake, such as flour, sugar, baking powder, etc., There are more components that make it a cake. These components could be toppings, icing, numerous flavors, frosting, design, etc. A cake without all these might seem like sweet bread.

Making it right and putting it together with the most suitable frosting, toppings, icing, design and decoration, etc., is what really makes dessert a dessert. In this article, we're going to target two salient components of a dessert - frosting and icing. Any dessert is incomplete without a dose of icing or a layer of buttercream. They are deemed the same by a lot of people. People regard them as one and often use them interchangeably. But, to your surprise, they're not the same, and that's what this article will be about.

Frosting vs. Icing

The frosting is a thick and fluffy mixture used to decorate cakes, cupcakes, and other desserts. It is sweet and can be made in a variety of flavors. On the contrary, icing is thin in consistency and much runny than frosting. Once the icing cools off completely, it hardens as it contains sugar combined with other ingredients.

They vary in texture, appearance, and even taste. Determining which topping to use on your desserts depends on the kind of dessert you're making.

For instance, if one needs to decorate donuts, icing seems to be the correct choice. We can simply dip the donut in the icing, and it will set on it as quickly as it dries and cools off (which usually happens quickly). Therefore, which one to use greatly depends on the type of dessert you're dealing with and how you want to decorate it.

Difference Between Frosting and Icing in a Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonFrostingIcing
PurposeFrosting is usually used to coat cakes and other similar desserts from the outside.Icing is used as a glaze on pastries, donuts, etc.
AppearanceThe frosting is fluffy in appearance.The icing appears to be glossy.
ConsistencyThe consistency of a frosting is thick and fluffy.Icing has a quite thin consistency.
TasteFrosting tastes buttery and sweet, depending on the flavors.Icing is sweet or sugary in taste.

What is Frosting?

The frosting is a thick, creamy, and fluffy mixture of multiple ingredients. It is used to decorate cakes, cupcakes, and other similar types of desserts. It is a whipped topping made by whipping sugar, butter, and often cream together till it becomes fluffy and gooey.

Despite being fluffy and gooey, it's quite light and is easy to spread on cakes. Frostings are easy to spread with a spatula, whether it's to cover or layer a cake. They are capable of remaining in their positions owing to their thickness and can be utilized for decorative purposes by using them in the form of shapes like shells, as seen in cake decor nowadays.

Frostings can be flavored according to our preferences, whether it's vanilla, chocolate, fruity flavor, etc. They can also be made colorful as per the needs.

Frostings are said to have been invented after the 1600s. It is said that a French chef first multilayered, frosted cake. Earling frostings were simply made of beaten egg whites and sugar. Wedding cakes started appearing at the weddings of aristocrats in the late 1700s. The first mass-produced cupcakes were sold by Hostess Bakery in 1919. Although, the first frosted cupcakes came into being in the 1950s. It was also the time during which buttercream frosting appeared. They were made with butter, powdered sugar, cream, and various flavors according to preference.

Modern-day frostings consist of more diverse ingredients than earlier, such as custard, lemon curd, meringue powder, raspberry puree, coconut, strawberries, and the list goes on. All these new additions have led to a surge in the variety of flavors beyond the traditional chocolate and vanilla that one can have in frostings.

Types of Frosting

Some types of frosting:

  1. American Buttercream: American buttercream can also be referred to as plain or simple buttercream. Buttercream frostings heavily rely on butter as it is one of the main ingredients. It is prepared by mixing powdered sugar with butter and heavy cream or milk. American buttercream does not involve eggs. It is sweet, with a thick, creamy ivory-colored texture, and can be easily piped. However, it must be added to cooled bread or sponges as it can melt in warm surroundings.
  2. Swiss Meringue Buttercream: Swiss meringue buttercream can also be called Swiss buttercream. It is made by beating egg whites with sugar, and the butter is supposed to be added in bits. It is very easy to pipe due to its smooth, creamy, and silky texture. This white-colored buttercream is most preferred to be used on elegant cakes such as wedding cakes. Its subtle flavor is greatly loved.
  3. French Buttercream: It is believed to be the richest buttercream. It is a cubed butter frosting and uses egg yolks instead of egg whites. French buttercream is buttery and mildly sweet in flavor with a thick, yellow, silky texture. It cannot hold shape as it has a very soft consistency.
  4. Italian Meringue Buttercream: Italian Meringue buttercream or Italian Buttercream is predominant in the cake industry owing to its stiffness, which makes it less vulnerable to melting in relatively warm conditions. Despite its stable stiffness, it still has a silky and smooth, white-colored texture. It requires egg whites (at room temperature only) with sugary syrup added to it.
  5. Cream Cheese Buttercream: This tangy and sweet buttercream frosting uses cream cheese and butter. Cream cheese buttercream is smooth and creamy and can be piped on moist sponge-like red velvet cakes. It is widely known for its tangy flavor. This white-colored frosting is prepared by whipping butter (at room temperature), sugar, and cream cheese.
  6. Whipped Cream frosting: Whipped cream frosting is quite commonly used across the globe. It has a mild and light flavor with a fluffy and airy texture. It is advised to be used instantly as it is already soft and loses consistency over time. It requires two main ingredients - whipped cream and powdered sugar. These are accompanied by mascarpone cheese to make it stable. Flavorings can be added to the mixture as per liking.
  7. Fudge frosting: Fudge frosting is the perfect pick to pair with tart desserts and plain sponges as it is sweet and rich in taste. Its color can vary from brown to light brown, given that it includes either cocoa powder or chocolate. Fudge frosting requires to be cooked on low heat with butter, sugar, milk, cocoa powder or chocolate, and some vanilla.

What is Icing?

Icing is a variety of toppings made of sugar combined with a liquid component like milk, water, cream, etc. It has a thin consistency and little amount of fat. Icing is a liquidy, sweet glaze used to cover a variety of desserts such as donuts and lemon pound cake.

Unlike frosting, icing is neither fluffy nor airy. Frostings cannot be replaced with icing. For instance, if we use icing between the layers of a cake, it might feel dry and sticky and not as delightful as it does when a cake is layered with frosting, giving it a fuller and richer taste. This being said, it's not like icing is not good in taste. It is luscious, but it only goes with certain desserts such as Bundt cakes, pound cakes, cookies, donuts, cinnamon rolls, gingerbread, etc., as they are a little hard, and icing helps keep them moist and gives them a sleek, glossy finish.

Icings are very runny and tend to harden as they cool off and turn opaque once completely dry. It happens owing to the presence of sugar in it. An icing's consistency can be altered depending on its use. Nevertheless, icing cannot hold shapes like frosting can.

Types of Icing

  1. Standard icing: This icing is prepared with powdered sugar (or confectioner's sugar) with some liquid component like lemon juice, liquor, cream, or milk and additional flavors per one's choice.
  2. Fondant: Fondant is also referred to as sugar paste or regal ice. It is used to cover cakes and often decorate other desserts. It is not liquid or runny. Fondant is made with sugar, water, gelatin, and butter. It is kneaded into a dough, giving it a clay-like consistency, and then rolled out to make it flat. Due to its consistency, it comes in handy to bakers to sculpt it into shapes (or create small structures like flowers, leaves, etc.) and make sophisticated designs with intricate details. We can add color to it with food coloring.
  3. Gum paste: Similar to fondant, gum paste is a sugar dough and dries very quickly. The primary difference between the two is that gum paste, once it cools off or dries, becomes quite hard; while fondant does not cool off and turns as hard as gum paste. Gum paste is slightly more durable than the former, too.
  4. Royal Icing: Royal icing owes its name to Queen Victoria. She designed her multilayered wedding cake with icing in 1840 when she married Prince Albert, which later became popular and started being referred to as ' Royal Icing'. This traditional icing is pure white and made with sugar and egg whites. It is great for adding piped details like dots and swirls, creating letters, holding gingerbread structures in place, or decorating gingerbread cookies, etc. Some bakers add glycerine to it as a measure to prevent it from becoming too hard once it dries.
  5. Modeling chocolate: This type of icing is made by mixing chocolate with corn syrup. Similar to fondant, Modeling chocolate has a clay-like consistency and can be easily molded.
  6. Ganache: Ganache is probably the most easily made icing. It is formulated by boiling some cream and adding equal parts of chocolate to it. It becomes firm during the process. It can be used to ice cakes, pastries, fill eclairs, donuts, or just drizzle over desserts for fun.
  7. Pastillage: Pastillage is also similar to a fondant but turns very hard when it dries. It is meant for solid shapes as it is not very stretchy.
  8. Marzipan: Marzipan is type of icing made with almonds and sugar, and coupled with some flavorings. It is thick and can be used as a filling inside cakes or even pastries.

Key Differences Between Frosting and Icing in Points

  • The first main difference between frosting and icing is their consistency. The frosting is thick, fluffy, and airy, while the icing is usually flowy and has a thin consistency.
  • The frosting is formulated by whipping ingredients together, which is also why it becomes fluffy. The ingredients used while preparing an icing are never whipped; they are mixed thoroughly.
  • The key ingredients in a frosting include butter or cream. However, the main ingredient required to make icing is sugar.
  • The frosting is usually buttery or mildly sweet. Icing, on the contrary, is filled with sweetness, as its main ingredient is sugar.
  • Frosting can hold its shape, while simple icing cannot due to its flowy consistency.


Frosting or icing? We hope this article answers the question. If you wish for a thick and fluffy topping, whip up a frosting. If you want something runny and glossy, head for icing!

Despite being different from each other, frosting and icing both toppings enhance the moisture in a dessert and increase its overall flavor. Whether it's frosting on a cake or pastry or glaze icing over a pound cake, our taste buds are bound to be satisfied.

We hope this savory article, full of sweetness, helps you differentiate between frosting and icing for whenever you bake or make your next dessert or order one at a bakery.


  • https://www.masterclass.com/articles/frosting-vs-icing
  • https://blog.bottlestore.com/different-types-of-icing-and-their-uses/
  • https://livelytable.com/frosting-vs-icing/
  • https://www.webstaurantstore.com/article/541/types-of-frosting.htm


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"Difference Between Frosting and Icing." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 14 Jun. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-frosting-and-icing>.

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