The Ultimate Guide for What Type of Frosting is Best. Buttercream frosting, powdered sugar glaze, ganache…we’re showing you today what frosting to use for each type of cake!
Few cakes are complete without a sweet layer of frosting on top to finish the job. From chocolate ganache to traditional buttercream, there are lots of options to explore when considering how to ice your latest cake creation.
It may seem like a trivial matter, but the icing you choose can have a big impact on the outcome of your dessert. The next time you want to bake a cake but aren’t sure which icing to incorporate into your recipe, consider these helpful guidelines:
What is the difference between buttercream and frosting?
Before we get into the different types of “frostings”, let’s talk about what the difference between buttercream and frosting are.
The two terms are often used interchangeably today. Both frosting and buttercream are made with powdered sugar, fat, flavoring and usually milk. But there is one big difference.
Buttercream has of course, creamed butter. It has a rich, flavor and the butter normally cuts down slightly on the sweetness of the icing.
Frosting on the other hand doesn’t have butter. It is usually made with shortening. It can have more of a sharp, sweet flavor. It is great if you want a bright white cake (because butter will tint the frosting slightly yellow), but normally people prefer the flavor of buttercream over frosting.
Buttercream is the icing most commonly found on store-bought cakes, and it’s usually what you’re using when you cheat and pick up a can of premade frosting from the supermarket. It’s rich, sweet, and can typically survive at room temperature without making a mess.
Buttercream is also very versatile. You can mix in sprinkles or swirl in nuts for an extra twist, and if you’re looking for a flavored icing to compliment your cake, you can often find a buttercream recipe to suit your tastes. It’s easy to see why buttercream is one of the most popular icings around.
Buttercream frostings are perfect for spreading and swirling on just about any type of cake or cupcake.
Cream Cheese Frosting.
This one is quite similar to buttercream icing – rich, creamy, and filling. The addition of cream cheese softens the icing and makes it a little less suitable for warm temperatures, but it’s perfect for classic red velvet cakes.
Add a solid cream cheese icing recipe to your repertoire and you’ll be sure to please the guests at your next party.
Royal icing is a sweet icing that’s easy to color and quick to set, which makes it perfect for piping. Use royal icing to trace intricate patterns or write messages on your cakes.
When royal icing sets it is a little hard so it can be tricky. But it is great for decorated sugar cookies.
Fondant is a little different than many of the other icings on the list. Instead of being light and creamy, fondant is a denser paste, and it’s often rolled into thin sheets before being applied to a cake.
Many bakers prefer to coat their cakes in fondant due to its versatility – it can be molded, twisted, shaped and formed to bring a baker’s creative visions to life, and it’s easily flavored or dyed.
Making fondant from scratch can be a challenge for the novice home baker, but you can usually find some pre- rolled sheets for sale at any local shop with a decent selection of baking accessories and ingredients.
If you’d like to make your own fondant, we recommend a marshmallow fondant. We find they taste better than store bought!
Sturdy cakes (rather than sponge style cakes) are best suited for fondant.
You’ll most commonly find this type of powdered sugar icing gracing the top of a pound cake or lemon glazed cake. Glaze icing is sugary-sweet and simple to make.
Combine powdered sugar, softened butter, a splash of vanilla and a few tablespoons of milk are all it takes to whip up a quick glaze.
For a supremely decadent icing, consider a chocolate ganache. It’s surprisingly simple to create at home with two ingredients (chocolate and heavy cream), and it can be whipped into a light, fluffy icing or allowed to cool completely for a denser, more stable frosting for your cake. Any chocolate lover will appreciate this one however you serve it up.
Chocolate ganache on top of chocolate cake is one of the best combinations!
Whipped Cream Icing.
This is a light, fluffy icing that’s a slightly more stable variation on whipped cream. If you’re looking for a simple topping for a rich chocolate cake or dense dessert, whipped cream icing may be exactly what your recipe needs.
People who don’t love super sweet frostings go crazy for a stabilized whipped cream.
Our Must-Have Frosting Recipes
- Strawberry Buttercream
- Peanut Butter Frosting
- White Chocolate Buttercream
- Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Tools for Making Frosting
- KitchenAid Stand Mixer: The best mixer for creaming butter.
- Beater Blade with Scraper: Makes sure all that butter is off the sides of your mixing bowl.
- Cocoa Powder: We love this raw cacao powder for frosting A guilt-free superfood.
- Cake Spatula: To get that frosting nice and smooth.
- Wilton 1M Tip: For piping pretty swirls on cupcakes.
- Disposable Piping Bags for easy cleanup!