Types of Frosting


Professional and even amateur bakers have many options when choosing frosting—also called icing—for their cookies, cakes and cupcakes. Frosting can add a smooth, creamy topping to cakes or cookies, a delicate layer between cakes, or a smooth, shiny glaze on pastries. There are many ways to create frosting, and different bakers and bakeries have unique recipes for doing so. The chart below indicates some of the more common types of frosting, along with information about their consistency, taste, coloring, common uses, basic ingredients and storage suggestions.

Type of FrostingFlavor ProfileTextureColorPrimary UseMain IngredientsStorage
ButtercreamSweet, buttery taste; very popularSmooth, buttery, spreadableSoft white; works with dye to create all colorsGenerally used for decorating cakesShortening, butter, vanilla, powdered sugar and milkStays in an airtight, refrigerated container up to 2 weeks
Royal IcingVery sweet, like candyThin and stiff; looks and tastes like hard candy when dryWhite; may be dyed any colorBest for flower-making, piping, creating figures, or decorating gingerbread housesPowdered sugar, lemon juice and egg whites; sometimes meringue powder and water replaces egg whites and lemon juiceIf not used immediately, store in an airtight container in refrigerator to maintain softness
Rolled FondantNot overly sweet; sometimes considered blandDough-like, satiny smooth and pliableCan be purchased pre-colored or dyedCovering cakes or modeling decorationsGlucose syrup, gelatin, glycerin, powdered sugar, vanillaStore up to 2 months in airtight container in refrigerator
Whipped Cream FrostingRich, cream-like tasteDelicate, airy, smooth and softGood for pastel colors onlyAny cakes can have whipped cream frosting for top, borders or fillingHeavy cream or whipping cream, vanilla and powdered sugarUse immediately; an iced cake can be stored for a day or 2 in the refrigerator
Cream Cheese FrostingSweet, buttery and rich tasteSmooth, thick, heavyCreamy ivory; added dyes make bright colorsIcing cakes and quick breads, especially carrot cakes, muffins and cupcakesCream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extractStore in airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks
Flat Icing / GlazeVery sweet tasteSmooth, though sometimes slightly grainy; dries flat and firmEasily mixes with color for bright muted huesCreates a glaze-like frosting on cookies and pastriesPowdered sugar and water or another liquidMust be covered immediately or it will start to harden; can be stored covered for 1 to 2 days
Boiled / Cooked IcingTaste depends on flavoring; lemon or chocolate flavoring is popularDelicate, gelatin-like meringueColor depends on flavoring addedA meringue forms as it cools and sets up, stabilized by egg protein; ideal for layer cakes or piesEgg whites, sugar and flavoring, such as lemon pudding mixEat immediately, or store in the refrigerator up to 2 days
Fudge IcingRich flavor, usually chocolateThick, rich, creamyUsually dark brownFrosting cakes, brownies or cookiesCocoa, powdered sugar,vanilla, butter and milkStores refrigerated up to 1 week
GanacheRich chocolate flavorThick, creamy; can be fluffy or stiffChocolate-brownShiny glaze on cookies and cakes; used to make truffles or layer cake frosting when beaten until fluffy and stiffCocoa powder and heavy creamKeeps chilled for up to 1 week

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