Too often do I hear people talking about baking and putting the wrong topping on it. I’m talking about icing and frosting, two very different pastry toppers that each has their own personality. It’s important to know the difference between these two commonly confused toppers because although they can be interchangeable, their tastes are different.



Photo by Annie Madole

Typically, icing is much thinner and glossier than its cousin frosting. If you type “how to make icing” (or glaze, you get better results when the word “glaze” is used), into Google, the first couple of links have to do with frosting, not icing. So, as you can see, even the smartest search engine can’t differentiate the two.

To make icing, mix sugar and a liquid, usually melted butter or egg whites, and you can flavor it or color it with food dye. Icing is also referred to as “glaze” because of its glossy texture and hardening upon cooling.

Icing is popular when topping cookies, especially sugar or lemon. It can be used on cakes and cupcakes, but it won’t give you the look of traditional cupcakes because its consistency doesn’t allow it to hold shape. It does, however, go great with a donut or a cinnamon roll.



Photo by Jisoo Kim

If you want more of a buttery taste, frosting is your best friend. Frosting is thicker and creates more of a “fluffy” appeal. If you type “how to make frosting” into Google, the first three links are the exact same links as when “how to make icing” is searched. See how easy it is to confuse the two?

Frosting has a cream base, instead of a sugar base, and is mixed with butter, giving it a stronger butter taste, of course. Sometimes, frosting is referred to as buttercream, and food coloring can be added for decoration. Because of its ability to hold shapes, frosting can be used to create other decorations such as shapes and flowers to add to your pastry.

Cakes and cupcakes are the most popular pastries that take a frosting top. The cloud-like appearance and soft texture make it a favorite among kids and adults and the creations that can be made with frosting are endless. It can even be put in between layers of a cake, yum!

Don’t be fooled, icing and frosting are different. Icing has a sugary base while frosting has a cream. Although they can be interchangeable, make sure to pay attention to what type of consistency and taste you want to choose the right one.