Difference between Icing and Frosting

By: | Updated: Dec-18, 2017
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Are cupcakes topped with icing? Or are they topped with frosting? Many say icing and frosting are one and the same, but others also say they are completely different and are used in different ways. So is there a difference between icing and frosting, and if so, what is it? Read on to find out.

Summary Table

Icing Frosting
Has a thin texture, runny consistency, glossy appearance, and a sugary taste; hardens after a few minutes Has a thick texture, fluffy appearance, and a sweet, buttery taste
Also called “glaze” Also called “buttercream”
Cannot be used to form 3D shapes because of its runny consistency; can be used to create patterns on a flat surface Thick enough to hold shapes and patterns
Used to glaze cookies, rolls, and donuts as well as cookies Used to cover and decorate cakes and cupcakes; also used between cake layers


Cookies with icing
Cookies with white icing

Icing is a thin, runny mixture that is used to decorate cookies. It is sometimes called “glaze” since it turns solid after a few minutes and has a glossy appearance.

Icing has a distinct sugary taste. It is typically made with sugar, water, and egg whites. Since it is used for decoration, food dye may also be added to it.

Because icing has a runny consistency, it cannot be used to form different shapes but may be used to create different flat patterns. Technically, it can be used to decorate cakes and cupcakes, but a fluffy topping cannot be achieved with icing. Aside from cookies, however, icing is also best for glazing donuts, rolls, and other baked goods.

 cake with white frosting
A cake with white frosting

On the other hand, frosting is a thick mixture used to cover the outside of a cake or cupcakes. It has a fluffy appearance, creamy texture, and a sweet, buttery taste.

Frosting is typically made with cream, butter, sugar, and eggs that are whipped together manually or by using a mixer. Because it has a distinct buttery taste, it is sometimes called “buttercream” in some areas.

Artificial food coloring and flavor may also be added to the frosting for decoration and taste. Bakers and cake artists often use frosting to make flowers, leaves, patterns, and other shapes to decorate a cake and other pastries. It is also spread on different layers of cake to make sure they adhere to each other.

Icing vs Frosting

What, then, is the difference between icing and frosting?

Icing has a thin texture and a sugary taste whereas frosting has a thick texture and a buttery taste.

Icing hardens after a few minutes and has a glossy appearance, which is why it is also called “glaze.” On the other hand, frosting has a fluffy, cloudy appearance and a distinct buttery taste, which is why some people call it “buttercream.”

Because icing has a runny consistency, it cannot be used to form 3D shapes. It is, however, perfect for glazing donuts, rolls, cookies, and other baked goods. It can also be used to create patterns on a flat surface. Frosting, on the other hand, is thick enough to hold different shapes and patterns. It is a perfect topping for cakes and cupcakes. It can also be used between cake layers.

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