Icing Vs. Frosting: How To Differentiate Between Two Spreads?

Whilst frosting, icings and glazes are some commonly used delicious elements to enhance the flavour, texture and appearance of our favourite desserts – each of them have a different role to play, based on the function it plays in a recipe. Whether it is a creamy, rich layer of chocolate ganache added for moistness and rich cocoa flavour or a drizzle of royal icing over sugar cookies to help sprinkles stick to the surface of your bake more easily – frostings and icings have key roles to play in enhancing a dessert experience. When we talk about cake decoration, icing and frosting are used interchangeably since they are often mistaken to be the same. However, certain key characteristics set them apart, making it essential for those who take an interest in baking, to know which sweet spread must be used in the context of a recipe.


 Often identified as a thick, creamy layer of garnish slathered on cakes and used as filling between layers, frosting is a fluffy coating that is applied to cupcakes, birthday cakes and more. Frosting is also used as a coating on the exterior layer of a cake and often come in a few different variations like buttercream, whipped cream or meringue. Typically creamier and thicker in consistency than icing, the primary ingredients of a good quality frosting include heavy cream, soft butter, powdered sugar or sugar syrup, flavouring agents and edible dyes. Frostings are a relatively stable dessert element to work with compared to icing, where the consistency tends to change, the longer it sits on the counter or in your refrigerator. The frosting tends to hold its shape and form, making it easier to mould into various designs while decoration.

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Unlike the frosting, an icing is thinner in texture and is usually piped over or poured over cakes, doughnuts, cookies and cinnamon buns. Compared to the thick layer of frosting which does not change consistency even after a cake is set before eating, baked goods that have icing on them must be allowed to set for a few minutes or hours, before it is enjoyed in its ideal form. Usually made with a powdered sugar base combined with a liquid like fruit juice, egg whites or milk, icings are typically runnier and easier to work with compared to frostings. Contrary to the frosting which is also used as filling for cakes, an icing is only used on the topmost layer of a dessert in order to enhance its flavour more than richness. Icings also tend to lose their translucency as they set and become more opaque with time, giving it a slightly powdery texture when rubbed between the finger tips.