Types Of Icing: How Many Do You Know?


Ever found yourself bamboozled by the different types of cake icing out there? We’re here to help!

 

First of all, we know there’s a bit of a language barrier here. Some will say types of icing, whilst others would be asking about types of frosting, all depending on where you come from!

We embrace the global audience here at Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft magazine, so we’ll be using the words interchangeably! 

Whether you’re an icer or a froster, we know the world of cake decoration can be a confusing one. So, we’ve rounded up the different types of icing (and frosting!) you can find, what they are best for and how you can use them! 

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Type Of Icing

Buttercream

Caramel Icing

Ganache

Glace Icing

Marzipan

Meringue

Royal Icing

Sugarpaste

 

Buttercream

Buttercream cupcakes

 

What is buttercream?

We will all have come across buttercream at some point. Whether it’s your first foray into decorating cupcakes, or a quick filling for a hastily-baked birthday cake. 

This type of icing is made by combining a fat (usually butter, hence the name) with icing or powdered sugar. Some like to add eggs as well to add an airyness to the consistency, however that’s not compulsory. 

Can you add extra ingredients?

Oh yes! One of the wonderful things about buttercream and what helps make it one of the most popular types of cake icing is the fact that it is so versatile. Add any number of colours to your buttercream and flavour it with whatever you wish!

While you should always be aware of the buttercream’s consistency, you can generally go to town on the ingredients you add. Try and stick to dried flavourings where possible, especially if using food colouring as well. Lemon zest and cocoa powder are excellent buttercream flavouring agents. 

Are there alternatives? 

Many! While butter is the usual go-to fat for making buttercream, the fact it melts at room temperature makes it fairly unsuitable for buttercream decorations. However, if you use vegetable shortening instead of butter, you will get a more stable and pliable type of frosting. The only downside is that this type of icing lacks flavour, so you may want to throw in a smidge of butter and a good whack of flavouring of some sort if you plan to make this type of cake icing.


Buttercream decoration

 

Caramel Icing

Caramel icing

 

What is caramel icing?

This type of icing is traditionally found more often across the pond and it takes time and patience to create. 

You need a saucepan and skillet to make this type of frosting successfully. Use the saucepan to melt sugar, butter and evaporated milk together, stirring lightly. Make sure the mixture doesn’t come to the boil and reduce the heat once the sugar is melted. Put sugar into the skillet and caramelise it, keeping the heat medium-low and gently push the sugar around the skillet to cook it evenly. The sugar will crystallise and clump up, then after around ten minutes it will become liquid. Do not raise the heat during this process. Bring the heat in the saucepan back to medium-low and VERY CAREFULLY pour the caramelized sugar from the skiller into the saucepan. It will bubble and steam a lot - stir immediately! Stir and stir and stir! You will need to do this for around half an hour, until the mixture reaches 112 degrees celsius. Remove from the heat, add vanilla extract and wait 10-15 minutes for it to cool. You can now pour this onto your cakes and it will harden in place over 3-4 hours.

Can you add extra ingredients? 

As this type of icing takes a lot of care and attention, it’s not really a good idea to add extra ingredients. Plus, it’s already caramel flavoured, so what more do you want?!

If you are greedy, however (not judging!), feel free to stir in a little rock salt with the vanilla extract to get that totally on trend salted caramel flavouring. 

Are there alternatives?

You may come across a similar type of frosting called toffee icing. This is slightly less rich as it uses regular milk rather than condensed milk. It’s also much less time consuming and more versatile, as you can add more liquid to make it more of a drizzle than a frosting. 

 

Caramel icing

 

Ganache

Ganache

 

What is ganache?

This is super silky smooth and so indulgent, chocolate mixed with cream. What’s not to love?

You need to gently heat double or heavy cream. You can do this either in the microwave or on the hob. Whichever method you choose, don’t boil the cream. Add chocolate chips (or chopped up chocolate if you’re frugal like we are!) and stir in slowly. Allow it to cool and apply! 

We’ve got a brilliant video tutorial and recipe to show you How To Cover A Cake With Ganache, so check it out to see the best way to make and apply this type of icing!

Can you add extra ingredients?

Of course! As with buttercream, you need to be aware of your ganache’s consistency and offset any extra liquid with more chocolate (a terrible shame, we know!). If you want fruit flavouring in your chocolate, we recommend creating an intense fruit reduction and adding that to your ganache, rather than a syrup. 

If you like a tipple and want to add some boozy deliciousness to your ganache, replace some of your cream with a good thick Irish cream or a rich brandy. 

Are there alternatives? 

You can make ganache using any type of chocolate! White chocolate ganache is best if you want to add flavours, just bear in mind that you may need a splash of food colouring to keep the ganache the colour you would like it to be.

You can also change the consistency of your ganache, depending on the ratio of chocolate to cream that you use. If you’re looking to create a thick glaze type of frosting, you’ll want to use a 1:1 ratio. For a very thick, almost fudge-like ganache that you can use to fill tarts or create truffles, you’ll need to use a 2:1 ratio of chocolate to cream. Finally, if you want your ganache to be thin and pourable for dipping or whipping, you’ll need to have a 1:2 ratio of chocolate to cream. 

Ganache

 

Glace Icing

Glace icing

 

What is glace icing?

This is the least professional-looking type of icing on this list, but it’s great for decorating cakes with kids as they can help out and get involved in making fun flavour combinations! 

Simply mix icing or powdered sugar with water to create a thin, shiny white icing perfect for drizzling on top of cakes and biscuits. 

Can you add extra ingredients? 

Absolutely. Vanilla, almond or coffee flavourings are ideal for glace icing and compliment the basic sugar taste nicely. This is another type of icing that you may wish to have food colouring on hand in case your flavourings turn it an odd colour! 

Are there alternatives? 

If you’re feeling adventurous, swap out water for fruit juice! This is a great way of adding natural flavourings without having to rely on extracts. It just takes some trial and error to work out which juices work and which don’t. Generally, orange or lemon juice are good choices for the type of frosting, however why not try cherries or cranberries, maybe even mango! The possibilities are endless and kids will love getting to choose which fruit juice they would like to try mixing into their icing. 

 

Glace icing

 

Marzipan

 

Marzipan

 

What is marzipan?

This gorgeous, golden confection is best known as forming the glorious inner layer of deliciousness that runs between the royal icing and fruit cake sections of a Christmas cake. Sadly unsuitable for those with nut allergies, marzipan is made of either sugar or honey and ground almonds. Marzipan forms a thick paste, so can be used as a modelling ingredient as well as a type of cake icing. 

Can you add extra ingredients? 

As marzipan is made from almonds, it already has a delicious natural flavour. Make it with honey instead of sugar and you get a delectable taste of ancient grecian flavours. You can always mix it up though, as you know we love to break a tradition or two here at CD&S! Our go-to marzipan extra ingredient would of course be Amaretto, to enhance the almond flavouring that’s already there.  

Marzipan also responds well to sweet spicing, especially nutmeg and cinnamon. Floral flavours complement marzipan too, so if you’re a fan of rose water or lavender you may want to try adding a splash of those to make you marzipan extra special.  

Are there alternatives? 

Marzipan is an ancient type of icing and there are different versions to be found around the world. It is more common in Europe for it to be used to cover cakes, whilst in the Middle East and Asia, marzipan tends to be used as a modelling ingredient to shape and give as gifts. In India, you can find a type of marzipan called Goan marzipan, which uses cashew nuts instead of almonds. 

 

Marzipan

 

Meringue

 

Meringue

 

What is meringue?

Meringue buttercream is a more complex version of basic buttercream and there are three main versions you can create:

Swiss meringue buttercream: The most common version, to create this type of frosting you heat egg whites and sugar/icing sugar in a bain marie until the sugar has melted. Add the mixture into a stand mixer bowl and mix it on high until it is firmly whipped. Add room temperature butter at the end. 

French meringue buttercream: This type of icing involves using egg yolks instead of egg whites for an even richer flavour. Beat the egg yolks in stand mixer for around five minutes at medium speed, until the are pale in colour. Make a sugar syrup from sugar and water, cooking it on a high heat until it reaches between 118-120 degrees. Slowly pour the syrup over the egg yolks while keeping the mixer on a low speed. Once all the syrup has been added, turn the speed up to medium-high and whip until the outside of the bowl no longer feels warm to the touch.

Italian meringue buttercream: Heat sugar syrup until it reaches a ‘hard boil’ stage, at between 125-133 degrees. Whip your egg whites to a stiff consistency in a stand mixer while you heat the sugar syrup. Slowly add the syrup to the stiff egg mixture and, once all added, continue to mix on a high speed until the bowl is cold to the touch. Finish by adding room temperature cubes of butter and mixing in. 

Can you add extra ingredients? 

Any of the different versions of meringue buttercream can be flavoured and, same as with most other types of frosting, make sure you don’t upset the liquid balance of your mixture. Try orange or lemon zest, vanilla bean paste, instant coffee powder or crush up freeze dried fruit in a blender to stir in. 

Are there alternatives? 

Along with the three main versions mentioned above, there are actually even more variations of meringue buttercream. You can also get German meringue buttercream or a new type that is currently popular on social media called Korean Glossy meringue buttercream. This type of frosting is especially white, as it uses a special korean butter that is white, so the result is a type of cake icing that is almost translucent!

 

Meringue

 

 

Royal Icing

 

Royal icing

 

What is royal icing?

A truly historical type of cake icing, royal icing involves egg whites, icing sugar and a touch of lemon. Simply mix the ingredients together to create a bright white icing that can be piped onto a cake or cookie and it dries hard. 

Can you add extra ingredients? 

Yes… with caution! It’s very easy to mess with the consistency of royal icing, so stick to nice dry ingredients like citrus zests and sweet spices. Just be aware that the colour may be affected! 

Are there alternatives? 

You can make this type of icing to different consistencies, depending on what you need to use it for. You can have it stiff, pipable or pourable, just increase or decrease the amount of liquid depending on what you want to create!

 

Royal icing

 

Sugarpaste 

Fondant sugarpaste

What is sugarpaste?

Also known as fondant, this is an icing that you can roll out to cover a cake or top biscuits and cupcakes. It’s the go-to type of cake icing for covering cakes, as the consistency is perfect for creating a smooth coverage and you can have a lot of fun adding flavours and colours to it. 

Can you add extra ingredients? 

Yes! While you would normally buy fondant ready-made, you can buy it in a variety of colours or make your own colour variations by adding food colouring gel (not liquid!). With flavours, add thicker liquid ingredients like a cherry compote or vanilla bean paste to keep the consistency as similar to the original fondant texture as possible. 

Are there alternatives? 

More than you can imagine! Depending on whether you want to use sugarpaste as a type of frosting, for modelling or intricate decorations, there’s a whole host of different types of pastes out there. Just check out our Cake Decorating Paste Guide to have your mind blown!

 

Fondant sugarpaste

 


 

So there you go, if you’re ever at a quiz, get to the food and drink themed round and hear a question about types of cake icing, you’ll be able to blow everyone’s mind! What will you do with your winnings? Get every type of frosting possible and stuff your face with it, you clever thing!

On a more serious note, if you’ve got cake dilemmas making your baking sessions more stressful than enjoyable, you might want to check out our article on Why Do Cakes Sink? You might just save yourself hours of frustration! 

For more cake decorating info, top tips, tricks, techniques, tutorials and tons more, look no further than the latest issue of Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft magazine!