Frosting vs Icing

Do you know that frosting and icing are actually two different things?

Frosting and Icing are often used interchangeably when we talk about decorating a cake. However, in reality, the two are extremely different from each other and you might have wondered the difference between them at some point while baking.

The reason why they are often mistaken for each other is that they’re both used for decorating baked goods. But the way each of them is used is quite different from each other. 

The table below highlights the main differences between frosting and icing w.r.t their texture, ingredients, how they are made, and their looks. 

Difference between frosting and icing

What is Frosting?

Frosting is the thick, fluffy mixture that is used to decorate our cakes and cupcakes. It is the stuff that holds shape on your cakes and looks pretty in various designs. 

Lemon Cupcakes

The frosting is usually made from some kind of fat like Butter or Cream along with sugar and other flavoring agents like Vanilla, Chocolate, Lemon etc. And I’m not sure if its a rule, but Frosting is always whipped. 

There are various types of frostings - 

1. Buttercream Frosting - Buttercream frosting gets its name from the base stuff it’s made of - Butter. The cream part here just describes its texture. It’s made of pure butter whipped with powdered sugar till it becomes creamy and light. 

Buttercream is the simplest kind of frosting and the first lesson of Frosting 101. It can be modified of course to add flavorings like Vanilla, Chocolate or Lemon. 

2. Whipped Cream Frosting - Whipped Cream, as the name suggests is made from whipping the heavy cream with powdered sugar till it is holding its peaks. Whipped cream is used to decorate cakes like Black Forest & Pineapple Cake. 

3. Cream Cheese Frosting - This is a variation of the classic Buttercream and has Butter, Sugar and Cream Cheese as its main ingredients along with Lemon for the added boost of flavor.  Cream cheese frosting is most popular with Red Velvet Cake, Carrot Cake, and Lemon Cake.

4. Meringue Frosting - This kind of frosting is made by heating up whipped egg-whites on a bain-marie and mixing with sugar till it becomes opaque white in color and extremely creamy and airy in texture. It is also common to toast the Meringue using a blowtorch after decorating, but I have no experience with this kind of frosting myself. 

    What is Icing?

    Icing is a thin, runny sugary liquid that hardens on cooling. Most commonly, icing is used to decorate Donuts and Cinnamon Rolls but it is also used on pound cakes like Lemon Pound Cake. 

    Lemon Pound Cake

    The main ingredient while making icing is Sugar which is mixed with water, milk, or cream as per the recipe. The icing can also be flavored with Vanilla or Lemon Juice and then the mixture is poured over warm baked goods.

    The icing becomes more opaque white in color as everything cools down and the sugar crystals harden. 

    The icing can be made in various levels of viscosity depending on the usage but it can never hold its shape as the frosting does. 


    Thanks for reading. I hope we would have clarified your confusion between frosting and icing now. Do let me know if you want to know anything particular.

    Have you checked our Dohful youtube channel recently? We share eggless baking recipes for you guys, so do check it out and let us know your feedback.

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    You clearly answered an interesting question that I never even thought to ask.

    Happy Baker

    Thanks for teaching and sharing your knowledge📚


    Well explained! May the LORD bless you


    Nice and simple!

    Shari explanation I’ve seen


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