Frosting vs. Icing for Cakes, Cookies, and Donuts

Updated on February 5, 2020
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Margaret Minnicks is a health-conscious person who researches the health benefits of foods and drinks.

Chocolate Cake Frosting
Chocolate Cake Frosting | Source

Are Frosting and Icing the Same Thing?

Even though many people use the words "frosting" and "icing" interchangeably, there is a big difference between the two pastry toppings. Do you know what the differences are?

To think they are the same is to do an injustice to both of them. They each have their own personalities. Besides, they are not made the same way. Even though both frosting and icing are delicious, their taste is not the same. However, most people don't notice because they are more focused on the dessert underneath.

When trying to decide which to use, think of the consistency and taste you want for your dessert.

Frosting Facts

Frosting is a topping for a cake. It is similar to icing, but it is different. It is a sweet mixture that can be cooked or uncooked, and it is used as a coating or filling cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and donuts.

Frosting is a thick and fluffy coating made with cream or butter. Even though some cakes and cookies don't need to be decorated, frosting is usually the option most bakers choose. Not only is frosting used to beautify the dessert, but it also enhances the taste.

Use frosting instead of icing if you want a creamy and buttery taste. Frosting is thicker than icing because it has a cream base instead of a sugar base. The butter in frosting gives the finished product a stronger, buttery taste. Sometimes frosting is referred to as buttercream.

Grocery stores have plenty of boxes of frosting mix on their shelves. However, most cooks like to use a quick and easy recipe to make their own. Simply mix soft butter with powdered sugar, salt, heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Food coloring can be added to frosting for decoration.

It is much easier to use frosting for decoration instead of icing. Frosting can hold sprinkles, flowers, and other decorations. Even though frosting is more popular as a topping, it can also be spread between layers of cakes.

Frosting is used more often on cakes and cupcakes than icing. It tends to be more popular than its first cousin. Even though people love both toppings, frosting is a favorite among children and adults.


Icing Facts

Icing is thinner than frosting. It has a sugary base rather than a creamy base. Like frosting, icing is used to cover or decorate baked goods, such as cakes, cookies, or donuts. The thin sugary glaze spread hardens as it cools. Icing shines on the top of desserts because it is glossier than frosting. In fact, icing is sometimes referred to as glaze because of its shiny texture.

You can purchase icing from your local grocery store, but it is easy to make your own. You simply mix sugar and a liquid, usually melted butter, milk or egg whites. Add vanilla extract for that extra good taste.

It is better to choose icing rather than frosting to top cookies. Icing can be used to top cupcakes, but frosting is much better because of its creamy consistency. Icing is too thin for cupcakes.

Frosting vs. Icing: What's the Difference?

Coating for outside of cakes and cookies; can also be used between layers of cakes
Glaze on cakes and pastry
Cream or butter
Sugar base, or egg whites, butter or cream
More popular than icing
Less popular than frosting

Now You Know the Differences

Now that you know the differences, you can choose wisely. It all depends on what you are decorating. Frosting is better for some pastries, while icing is better for others.


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    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the education. I thought that icing and frosting were the same thing in North America. I'm glad I've learned the difference. The table is a great addition to the article.

    • Cheryl E Preston profile image

      Cheryl E Preston 

      6 months ago from Roanoke

      This looks delicious. Reminds me of my great grandma’s chocolate cake


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