types of cake icing

A Guide to the 8 Types of Cake Icing

We’ve oohed and aahed when we see beautiful and delectable cakes elegantly blanketed by icing, so now it is time to entice your sweet tooth further! Here are 8 types of cake icing that you usually see on cakes.

8 Types of Cake Icing

1. Royal Icing

Royal Icing

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You see them gracing the cover of fruit cakes. Royal icing has a hard texture with a matte finish that dates back to the 3-tiered wedding cake of Queen Victoria in 1840, and that’s how royal icing earned its name. For intricate cake decorations that involve borders, floral designs, and letterings, royal icing is the way to go since it has a bright white, smear-proof finish.

What’s amazing about royal icing is its ability to retain the moisture level of the cake. The oldest known wedding cake was said to be about 113 years old and is coated in royal icing!

The main ingredients are powdered icing sugar (also known as confectioners’ sugar) and egg whites, which can be in raw or powdered form. The egg whites are beaten to a frothy texture before gradually adding powdered sugar. For festive icing, you can add food dyes to make Christmas trees, Halloween pumpkins, or even Easter eggs!

2. Glace Icing

Glace Icing

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Glace icing is pretty runny with a smooth and glossy appearance. Cake decorators use glace icing not just for cakes, but also for other desserts that want a glazed topping such as eclairs, donuts, and biscuits.

However, once it sets, it becomes hardened, which is why glace icing is also used as edible glue when making gingerbread houses. The basic ingredient is powdered sugar that is then gradually mixed with either water, milk, or lemon juice. You know the glace icing is ready when it can coat the back of a spoon.

3. Fondant Icing


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Fondant icing is softer in comparison to royal icing, with a clay-like consistency that makes it a popular choice in constructing elaborate floral cake décor and sculptures. You might have seen them proudly on display in cake shops, which shows the level of imagination that can be achieved with fondant icing.

The ingredients needed are icing sugar, water, and cream of tartar. These are boiled into a pliable consistency like modeling clay. One tip when handling fondant is to ensure your workstation is completely clean since any dirt or crumbs will stick to the fondant. You can avoid fondant from sticking to your workstation by lightly dusting the work surface with cornstarch or powdered sugar.

There are ways you can fix our fondant if it turns out either too soft or too hard. If your fondant comes out a bit too soft, don’t fret! Add tiny amounts of powdered sugar until it reaches a malleable texture. For hard fondant, you can soften it by simply adding 1/8 tsp of water for every 24 ounces of fondant.

4. Cream Cheese Icing

Cream Cheese Icing

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This icing can be easily found on the toppings of red velvet cakes, carrot cakes, and even cinnamon buns! It’s a great alternative to the richer buttercream and is quite easy to make. Ingredients needed are butter, cream cheese and icing sugar.

Mix and whisk them all together into a thick consistency and you’re ready to pipe the icing on your desserts! Additionally, you can mix orange or lemon zest for a tangy flavor that suits the cream cheese.

5. Whipped Cream Icing

Whipped Cream Icing

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Instead of using the store-bought icing, why don’t make one yourself? Literally two ingredients are needed: double cream and icing sugar.

For a creamier texture, you can add cream cheese. Whipped cream icing is used not just for cake toppings, but also for donut fillings, tarts, and cupcakes. This is a very versatile icing with a sweetness level that is not overpowering.

6. Meringue Icing


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There are three types of meringue icings that cake decorators are familiar with, Swiss, Italian, and French. Their difference lies in the method, but all three of them require quick and continuous whipping of egg whites to give it volume by the addition of air.

Some useful tips for making meringue are to use eggs at room temperature and the mixing bowl you are using must be completely dry and clean because traces of fats such as oil or butter will result in your meringue losing its peak.

Swiss meringue has a smoother and glossier finish compared to French meringue. It’s not as stable as Italian Meringue, but is normally used to make toppings for lemon meringue pie and pavlova. It’s made by heating egg whites and sugar over a pot of boiling water before whipping the mixture into a thick consistency.

French meringue differs from Italian meringue such that it doesn’t use hot sugar syrup and is the easiest to make. The egg whites are whipped until soft peaks are formed. Sugar is slowly added to harden the peaks.

The meringue is baked before consumption since the egg whites have not been cooked previously. Souffles and meringue cookies use French meringue for its light texture.

Italian meringue is interestingly called marshmallow frosting because it resembles marshmallows. Made from only four ingredients: caster sugar, water, cream of tartar, and egg whites.

Whisk egg whites very well before slowly adding in the sugar syrup so that it does not scatter all over the bowl and thoroughly cook the egg whites. A sugar syrup is made by cooking the sugar with water until it reaches a specific temperature.

Higher temperature will result in harder meringue and lower temperature will result in softer meringue. Italian meringue is used to cover lemon meringue pie or baked Alaska and compared to French and Swiss meringue, it has more stability and retains its shape.

7. Buttercream Icing


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Simply put, there are two types of buttercreams: simple and true buttercreams. Simple buttercreams like the American buttercream is made by mixing softened butter and powdered sugar (icing sugar).

It’s called simple because the process simply adds volume to butter with the powdered sugar, which means no emulsification is taking place. True buttercreams are where things get super creative and precise, depending on their country of origin.

a. American Buttercream

Ingredients: Powdered sugar, corn syrup, butter, whipping cream, vanilla, salt.

American buttercream is good for beginners because it is easy enough to make and uses uncomplicated ingredients. Whip the butter to a light and fluffy texture before gradually adding corn syrup followed by powdered sugar. American buttercream has a dense texture but is not as sweet as Russian buttercream which uses condensed milk.

b. French Buttercream

Ingredients: Sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla.

French buttercream is a level up from the meringue buttercreams but not as intense as the American and Russian buttercreams. While some recipes call for egg yolks, you can opt for using both egg whites and egg yolks that can also be cooked with sugar over a water bath. Add in the butter and vanilla afterward.

c. Ermine Buttercream

Ingredients: Sugar, hot milk, flour.

This is a buttercream that goes by many names: roux, boiled milk, or even mock cream frosting. The ingredients are cooked until they turn into a thick, custard-like texture called roux.

Whipped butter is added when the roux has cooled down. The result is a smooth and less sweet buttercream that is the traditional frosting for red velvet cake. Many American cakes use this frosting back in the day and it stays stable for days. You can add salt and vanilla for flavor.

d. German Buttercream

Ingredients: Egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, cream, vanilla, butter.

You will need to make a pastry cream from the ingredients above before mixing it with butter that has been whipped. The result is a dense, pale yellow-colored texture similar to pastry cream with a hint of vanilla.

e. Russian Buttercream

Ingredients: Condensed milk and butter. (Salt and vanilla are optional.)

Only two ingredients are needed and is ready in about 10 minutes! The condensed milk is already sweetened, thus mixing it with butter will emulsify the milk into the butter and turn it into a buttercream frosting.

Simple and easy to make, Russian buttercream is more on the sweet side, which suits cakes that are mild on their sweetness. Try this frosting if you’re still a beginner.

f. Italian Meringue Buttercream

Ingredients: Sugar syrup, egg whites, butter.

Among all the buttercreams, Italian buttercream is quite difficult to make. Sugar syrup is heated to a specific high temperature and while it is still hot, it is mixed with egg whites that have been whipped until they are fluffy like a meringue.

Although the hot sugar syrup will heat and cook the raw egg whites, ambient air temperature can affect the cooking process, which can lead to uneven cooking of the egg whites. Butter is added afterward.

g. Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Ingredients: Egg whites, sugar, butter.

Unlike Italian meringue buttercream which cooks the sugar syrup separately, Swiss meringue buttercream cooks the egg whites and sugar over a BATH before whipping them into a meringue. Adding butter gives it a very light and stable buttercream. Swiss buttercream is preferred among decorators who want to have a clean, seamless design.

8. Fudge Icing


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Fudge icing is relatively easy to make since it doesn’t require precise temperatures or cooking methods. It is richer than chocolate buttercream and goes well with cupcakes, buttercakes, chocolate cake, or any cake that you fancy. To make fudge icing you need an unsweetened chocolate bar, whole milk, powdered sugar, salt, butter, and vanilla for flavor.

Melt the chocolate and add the milk, salt, and butter until the mixture has a smooth texture. Turn off the heat and add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. It will thicken when left to cool.

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