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Frosting vs. Icing

Learn about the different types of frostings and icings

By Food Writer - Deanna Martinez-BeyPublished 3 years ago 3 min read
Frosting vs. Icing

Frosting vs. Icing

There are distinct differences between frosting and icing. Frosting is typically thick and spreadable. Frostings are used to coat cakes and top cupcakes. They can also be used as the filling to sandwich cookies.

Icing is usually thin and is drizzled onto baked goods, and will harden when it cools.

Both are important to commercial and home bakeries.

Let's take a look at several different types of frostings:

Buttercream Frosting

The main ingredient of buttercream frosting is, you guessed it, butter. This is the most common type of frosting. It is also called American buttercream.

Very Sweet

Thick and creamy

Easy to prepare

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

You may have heard this referred to as Swiss buttercream. This frosting has a more subtle flavor and is easy to pipe.

Milk and buttery sweetness

Smooth and creamy

Medium difficulty to prepare

Italian Meringue Buttercream

You may have heard this called Italian buttercream. It is less prone to melting than other frostings.

Mild buttery sweetness

Highly stable

Creamy and silky

Difficult to prepare

French Buttercream

This frosting is rich but is not a true meringue because it uses egg yolks as opposed to egg whites.

Rich and buttery, similar to custard

Thick and silky

It does not hold shape well

Difficult to prepare

German Buttercream

This frosting type is rare but can be a great option if you are looking for a change.

Slightly rich and custard-like in texture

Creamy and airy

Medium difficulty to prepare

Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream cheese frosting has a tang that other frostings do not have. It is a beaten buttercream, but most of the fat comes from cheese as opposed to butter.

Tangy and sweet

Thick and creamy

Easy to prepare

Whipped Cream Frosting

Have you heard of Chantilly cream frosting? It is another name for whipped cream frosting. This frosting is made minutes before it is served, and it is light and airy compared to other thicker frostings.

Milk flavor

Light and airy

Soft and can easily collapse

Medium difficulty to prepare

Seven-Minute Frosting

This frosting takes seven minutes to prepare! So, you can make it in a flash. There is no butter in a seven-minute frosting, and it has a consistency similar to a meringue.

Marshmallow-like consistency


Light and airy

Medium difficulty to prepare


Ganache is a cross between am icing and frosting. It is used as a coating for desserts. Please take a look at my article about ganache.

Rich, sweet, and chocolatey

Creamy and thick

Easy to prepare

Fudgy Frosting

This frosting is ideal for filling cakes or cupcakes.

Rich and sweet

Creamy and pipeable

Easy to prepare


Fondant provides a smooth look when decorating cakes. There are three types of fondant: rolled, marshmallow, and poured.

Sugary and sweet


Hard to prepare

Ermine Buttercream

You may have heard this referred to as flour buttercream. It is the least recognized of all the frosting types. It is a beaten butter frosting and is usually used in packaged baked goods. It is an eggless alternative.

Mild sweetness


Medium difficulty to prepare

Icing is made from icing sugar and liquid, usually water or milk. It is thinner than frosting but not as thin as a glaze. Icing has a nice shine and can be drizzled or spread.

I like to use icing over my sweetbreads, shortbread squares, and cookies.

Cinnamon icing

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla (optional)

1 tsp cinnamon

milk or water

Combine sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla into a bowl.

Add liquid until a soft glaze forms (the consistency of Elmer's glue)

Drizzle over top of the baked scones.

TIP: You can omit the cinnamon and vanilla and use lemon juice as the liquid for lemon icing.


About the Creator

Food Writer - Deanna Martinez-Bey

I am an author, blogger, foodie / baker, copy editor, photographer, and social media manager. When I am not writing I enjoy running, watching the Food Network, sleeping, coffee, chocolate, and hugs.

You can find my books on Amazon!

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