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Frosting vs. Icing: The Differences Explained

Butter or Frosting

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Do you know the difference between frosting and icing? No worries, in “Frosting vs Icing: The Differences Explained” will tell you everything you need to know.

In baking, frosting is the mixture of butter or shortening and powdered sugar used to cover cakes. Frosting vs. Icing: The Differences Explained will help you to know how each one is made.

There is a particularly important distinction between frosting and icing. Many people think that they are the same. That is not true, and understanding the differences is a matter of looking at each ingredient.

Frosting and Icing are both essential when it comes to decorating cakes and cupcakes with beautiful designs. Many of you who follow Bake with Nana, might be wondering, what is the difference between Frosting and Icing?

The difference comes down to the consistency of the product. For instance, Frosting is thicker than Icing. So, if you are using frosting to decorate a cake or cupcake, it will not run off the top of your creation like icing will.

Let us look more closely at the differences. Enjoy!

What is Frosting?

Butter-part of Frosting vs. Icing: The Differences Explained

The frosting is thick, creamy, and fluffy, and is made using butter, shorting, powdered sugar, and sometimes cream cheese.

You spread it with a spatula, knife, or pipe it through a pastry bag. Frosting is used for decorations on cakes and cupcakes.

Frosting stays soft and fluffy and is used to decorate cakes and cupcakes, however, cream cheese frosting is not good for piping through a bag because of its thick texture.

But you can use sprinkles, colored sugars, confetti, or pearls to create a stunning cake.

What is Icing?

Sugar Cookies With Royal Icing part of Frosting vs. Icing: The Differences Explained

Icing is a type of thin glaze that is applied to the surface of a baked cake or cookies. Icing is typically more delicate than frosting because it is made with confectioner’s sugar and water.

I can cover an area like a cookie without having to pipe it on and covers the surface quickly. This type of icing is not good for stacking cookies.

Both Frosting and Icing Have Their Uses

Cream Cheese Frosting is another of Frosting vs. Icing: The Differences Explained

Although frosting and icing are used to decorate cakes, there are some differences between them. The frosting is typically thicker than icing and has more air incorporated into it. I often use it as a final addition to add extra sweetness to a cake.

On the other hand, icing is thinner and smoother than frosting. I use it to fill gaps in my cakes and on my cookies.

You Should Use Whichever One Best Suits Your Needs

A Woman Deciding on Frosting vs. Icing: The Differences Explained

If you’re looking for a simple explanation of the difference between frosting and icing, here’s what you need to know. I use butter or shortening along with powdered sugar to make the frosting.

This combination creates a thick paste that covers the top of a cake. I use a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip to apply the frosting.

I make the icing using water, powdered sugar, and sometimes milk or cream. And this combination makes an extremely smooth and thin paste that fills in any gaps between the layers of a cake. I apply it using a small spoon or spatula.

Now Let’s Look at Some Textures and Styles of Frosting and Icing


Swiss Meringue Buttercream Is a classic frosting I make with egg whites. I must beat until stiff peaks are formed. Finally, I then mix it with butter and sugar.

American Buttercream I make this frosting using equal parts confectioner’s sugar and butter. I often flavor it with vanilla. But you can also make chocolate buttercream frosting as well. Delicious! 😋

The thing about buttercream frosting is that it is so easy to use for decorating your cakes and cupcakes. It’s not too sweet and it’s very tasty.

Cream Cheese-Another favorite frosting of mine. Talk about delicious! Note: this is not good for decorating. It is way too thick for that, but you can make a beautiful cake using sprinkles, confetti, etc.


Chocolate Ganache Is an exceptionally smooth texture with a satin finish and will give any cake you make a very elegant look. You can garnish with fresh fruit, sprinkles, or whatever you like to add a final change. You only need 2 ingredients to create beautiful icing.

Basic Powdered Sugar- This is an extremely easy one to make with only 3 ingredients that will give your baked goods just a little dash of sweetness for some added flavor. I consider it a wet icing because it does not dry hard. Take extra care if you pack them up for transport. Excellent for cinnamon rolls.

Conclusion of Frosting vs. Icing: The Differences Explained

COFFEE AND CAKE part of Frosting vs. Icing: The Differences Explained

I hope you enjoyed reading “Frosting vs. Icing: The Differences Explained” and have a better understanding of each one.

It doesn’t matter which option you choose; you will soon be the talk of your family and friends with these delicious toppings.

No time to bake? Let me do it for you! Visit Nana’s Bakery and place your order(s).

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Nana 🍰

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