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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 Frosting Flavor Profile Texture Color Primary Use Main Ingredients Storage Tools
to Use
Buttercream Sweet, buttery taste; very popular Smooth, buttery, spreadable Soft white; works with dye to create all colors Generally used for decorating cakes Shortening, butter, vanilla, powdered sugar and milk Stays in an airtight, refrigerated container up to 2 weeks Icing
spatulas
,
pastry bags,
pastry tips
cake
decorating combs
Royal Icing Very sweet, like candy Thin and stiff; looks and tastes like hard candy when dry White; may be dyed any color Best for flower-making, piping, creating figures, or decorating gingerbread houses Powdered sugar, lemon juice and egg whites; sometimes meringue powder and water replaces egg whites and lemon juice If not used immediately, store in an airtight container in refrigerator to maintain softness Pastry bags,
pastry tips
Rolled Fondant Not overly sweet; sometimes considered bland Dough-like, satiny smooth and pliable Can be purchased pre-colored or dyed Covering cakes or modeling decorations Glucose syrup, gelatin, glycerin, powdered sugar, vanilla Store up to 2 months in airtight container in refrigerator Fondat impression mats,
dough &
pastry
wheels
,
fondant
rollers
(small
rolling pins), fondant smoothers,
icing
spatulas
,
cake
decorating combs
,
fondant sculpting
tools
Whipped Cream Frosting Rich, cream-like taste Delicate, airy, smooth and soft Good for pastel colors only Any cakes can have whipped cream frosting for top, borders or filling Heavy cream or whipping cream, vanilla and powdered sugar Use immediately; an iced cake can be stored for a day or 2 in the refrigerator Pastry Bags,
Pastry Tips, Icing
Spatulas

Cream Cheese Frosting Sweet, buttery and rich taste Smooth, thick, heavy Creamy ivory; added dyes make bright colors Icing cakes and quick breads, especially carrot cakes, muffins and cupcakes Cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract Store in airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks Icing spatulas,
pastry bags, 
pastry tips
cake
decorating combs




 
Flat Icing / Glaze Very sweet taste Smooth, though sometimes slightly grainy; dries flat and firm Easily mixes with color for bright muted hues Creates a glaze-like frosting on cookies and pastries Powdered sugar and water or another liquid Must be covered immediately or it will start to harden; can be stored covered for 1 to 2 days Icing
spatulas

pastry bags
pastry tips
cake
decorating combs




Boiled / Cooked Icing Taste depends on flavoring; lemon or chocolate flavoring is popular Delicate, gelatin-like meringue Color depends on flavoring added A meringue forms as it cools and sets up, stabilized by egg protein; ideal for layer cakes or pies Egg whites, sugar and flavoring, such as lemon pudding mix Eat immediately, or store in the refrigerator up to 2 days Icing
spatulas
,
pastry bags
pastry tips
cake
decorating combs

Fudge Icing Rich flavor, usually chocolate Thick, rich, creamy Usually dark brown Frosting cakes, brownies or cookies Cocoa, powdered sugar,vanilla, butter and milk Stores refrigerated up to 1 week Icing spatulas,
pastry bags
pastry tips
cake decorating combs
 
Ganache Rich chocolate flavor Thick, creamy; can be fluffy or stiff Chocolate-brown Shiny glaze on cookies and cakes; used to make truffles or layer cake frosting when beaten until fluffy and stiff Cocoa powder and heavy cream Keeps chilled for up to 1 week Fondat impression mats
dough & pastry wheels, fondant rollers
(small 
rolling pins), icing spatulas,
cake decorating combs

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