20 Different Types of Frosting or Icing

Ultimate Fresh Strawberry Butter Cake (UFSBC) Tutorial RecipeWhat's Included in Frosting and Icing Recipes?

The basic frosting or icing recipe contains butter, sugar, and a liquid such as water or milk. More liquid is added for a glaze. Flavorings such as extracts, fruit zest or juice, and chocolate are often added. Sugar is the most important ingredient in all types of frostings, providing sweetness, flavor, bulk and structure. For richer flavor, unsalted grade A butter is used instead of margarine or shortening, but icings made with shortening will hold up better in warmer environments. For safety, frostings containing raw eggs should be heated to certain temperatures to kill any bacteria. Frostings containing egg whites should be whipped with oil-free utensils. Any oil on utensils or in the mixing bowl will prevent the egg whites from whipping into peaks.
SARAH SAYS: If tinting the filling, frosting, etc use restraint. I recommend using gel food colors because they are much more subtle than the paste ones, and allow for a greater margin of error. Mix the color a few shades lighter than you want because as it dries, the color will get darker as it sits, especially overnight. Always mix more than you think you'll need of each. It is almost impossible to mix the exact color again if you need more.
How Much Frosting or Icing Do I Need to Cover my Cake With? Answer
How much Fondant do I need to cover my cake with? Answer

Different Types of Frosting and Icing

Commonly used frostings or icings, fillings and glazes:
Marshmallow-like texture, 100% fat free.
ex: Seven Minute Vanilla Bean Icing Recipe
Made by warming egg whites, sugar, and a bit of water and beating until it's fluffy and glossy. Substituting light brown sugar for granulated sugar makes sea-foam frosting. Sets quickly. Most commonly used both between layers and to cover a devil's food cake. / Is pure white and can be tinted to yield pastels. Best used immediately. Iced cake can be stored at room temperature. Keeps for about 24 hours, and then deflates. Does not freeze well. Will deflate if mixed with ingredients containing fat such as chocolate or whipped cream.
Several styles. Is most popular choice for frosting. Sweet, buttery flavior. Can be slightly gritty. Great for most decorating.
ex: Tami's or Perfect Buttercream Recipe or Tami's or Perfect Buttercream - Not as Sweet Version
Butter(and/or shortening) and cream or milk are beaten together, and then confectioners' sugar added. Flavored with extracts and chocolate. Can be made thin to stiff consistency, and fluffy or smooth. 

Bettercream from www.richs.com: whipped buttercream icing used to decorate cakes that store bakeries use.
Use as an frosting and filling. Can be piped for smooth, borders, writing. Most decorations including roses, drop flowers, sweet peas and figure piping. Flowers remain soft enough to be cut with a knife. Use or serve at room temperature. / Yields all colors. Most colors deepen overnight. Some colors may fade sitting in bright light. Icing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 weeks or frozen. Iced cake can be stored at cool side of room temperature for 2-3 days. Does not hold up well in warm weather, unless shortening is used. Jams and ganache are always great alternatives to buttercream fillings and hold-up well in warm weather.
Is very rich.
ex: Neoclassic French Buttercream Recipe
Uses  egg yolks (or whole eggs) and is made the same way as Italian meringue. Filling and frosting. Needs refrigeration Due to the egg yolks, this buttercream is very perishable and should be kept refrigerated.
Fluffy and buttery. Medium to thick consistency.
exs: Italian Meringue or Mousseline Buttercream Recipe (IMBC)
Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe (SMBC)
Both use only egg whites, but differences are how they are made. Italian: Hot sugar syrup is added to already whipped egg whites. Swiss: The whites and sugar are mixed together over heat and whipped. Then, cooled before the butter and flavoring are added. This type of buttercream is the simplest. Frosting and filling on cake. Suggest making a filling dam if used as a filling otherwise may squish from cake. / Yields pastel colors. Needs refrigeration. Italian holds up well in warm weather (75 degrees plus) and is more dependable. Swiss tends to deflate a little quicker and doesn't hold up as well in warm environments.
Sweet. Similar to fondant.
ex: Rolled Buttercream Recipe
Made from stiff American buttercream.
Dough-like consistency that is rolled out before applied to cake.
Covering cakes and cookies / Can be tinted; see buttercream Same as American Buttercream Is very soft and can be hard to work with.
Edible and sweet. Texture like Play Doh. Also makes a delicious chocolate candy.
ex: Easy Candy Clay or Chocolate Plastic from Candy Melts Recipe
Can be made with a mixture of heated Candy Melts and corn syrup. Dough-like consistency that is rolled out before applied to cake. 

Covering cakes, hand-molding and decorating. Mix with gumpaste for more strength  / Yields all colors if using white candy melts. 

After making, handles best if hardened overnight. Several weeks at room temperature in a well-sealed container. Will be very hard at the start; knead a small portion at a time until workable.
A conserve or custard with a thick consistency. Tart flavor.
ex: Fresh Lemon Curd Recipe
Made with lemons and butter and eggs and sugar, and cooked on the stovetop. Can be purchased ready-made. Spread on bread or cakes. Used as a filling. Fold in with whipped cream or pastry cream. Keep refrigerated. Needs refrigeration.
Slightly tangy, but can be sweet. Thick and creamy. Thin to medium consistency. Classic pairing for American oil cakes such as carrot and spice cakes.
ex: Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting Recipe
Cream cheese and butter are beaten together, liquid (milk, liqueur) is added and beaten in, then confectioners' sugar is added, with flavoring at end, such as vanilla extract.
Cream cheese frostings get really soft quickly after you take them out of the fridge. Look for Handy Pac cream cheese frosting and filling available online or in cake supply stores.

Filling and frosting cakes. / Colors to pastels.

Iced cake must be refrigerated.
Handy Pac cream cheese is shelf stable vs. using the actual cream cheese which needs to be refrigerated.
To not mar the frosted cake's surface when refrigerating, let it harden first in the refrigerator, then cover with plastic wrap. When you take it from the refrigerator, immediately remove plastic wrap and let it sit to soften before serving. 
Different varieties. Pastry cream or Citrus curd(custards, cooked) or mousse(pudding, not cooked). Thick, smooth and creamy.
exs: Pastry Cream Tutorial
Fresh Lemon Curd Recipe
White Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Recipe
Custard(pastry cream) thickened with flour or cornstarch. See Citrus curd. 
Fruit puree or flavored base(mousse) folded in with whipped cream or beaten egg whites.
Fillings used alone. A small amount can be folded into whipped cream to flavor it. Must remain refrigerated. Highly perishable. Needs refrigeration.
Used for its special look on wedding cakes. Rich, sweet flavor.  Covers with a perfectly smooth, matte finish. Does not dry as hard as royal icing and stays semi-soft. Seals in freshness and moisture.
exs: Rolled Fondant Recipe
Marshmallow Fondant Recipe (MMF)
Combination of sugar and vegetable shortening that makes a thick white dough-like substance, and then rolled out. Can be made with marshmallows. Knead in flavor and color of your choice. Can be purchased ready-made. Rolled out and used as a cake covering. Use on any firm butter, pound or fruit cake. Even on cookies. Can be cut-out and used as decorations. / Yields pastel to deep colors. But, does not have much flavor.  The best choice for outdoor events. Excess can be stored 2 months in an airtight container. Can refrigerate but must take steps to rid of condensation from fondant-covered cake: place in an air-conditioned room or in front of fan after removing.  Holds up well in hot weather but, will soften in warm or humid weather. Prior to applying, cake must be covered in apricot glaze, buttercream icing or marzipan so fondant will adhere. Typically rolled to about 3/8- to 1/4-inch thick.
How much Fondant do I need to cover my cake with? Answer
Very sweet flavor. Covers cakes with perfectly smooth, satiny iced surface. Seals in freshness.
ex: Poured Fondant for Cakes and Cookies Recipe
Simple Fondant Glaze Recipe
Pours and dries to a semi-hard, smooth surface. All cakes, petit fours and cookies. / Yileds pastels.  Excess may be refrigerated, gently reheated and poured again Will soften or become sticky in warm, humid weather.
Is a French term. Dark: decadent, rich, and very, very chocolatey. 
White: Rich velvety taste - a little more complex flavor than a buttercream. Can be glaze, whipped or smooth.
exs: Poured and Whipped Ganache Tutorial
Simple Chocolate Ganache Recipe, Step-by-Step
This is a rich emulsified mixture of chocolate and cream. Buttercream consistency can be made by whipping soft butter into its base, resulting in ganache beurre.  Glaze. filling and/or frosting: whipped or smooth / Natural color is dark to medium brown or white. Can be flavored(oil-based). White can also be tinted(oil-based) Needs refrigeration after 2 to 3 days at room temperature, 2 weeks refrigerated and 6 months frozen. Keep excess with a piece of plastic wrap pushed on its surface. Gently reheat. The better the chocolate used, the better the ganache. Good for warm (not hot) weather.
Simple and sugary. Smooth: thick or thin.
ex: Chocolate Glaze Recipe
Dough-like. Thick and malleable.
ex: Gumpase or Tylose Gum Paste Recipe
Gum based paste with a stiffening agent. Can be purchased ready-made.  Cutting molding and modeling decorations. / Deep to pastel colors. Excess can be stored 2 months in an airtight container. Best not refrigerated. Do not freeze.  Decorations will survive warm days, but is susceptible to extreme heat and humidity where it will soften.
ex: Italian Strawberry Tart or Crostata di Fragole Tutorial  
Ultimate Fresh Strawberry Butter Cake Recipe (UFSBC)
Can purchase ready-made: stir it to soften, or heat with small amount of liquid if it's too thick, and strain to remove the seeds. Used as a filling alone or in combination with other fillings such as buttercream or ganache. Refrigerate after opening. Is not perishable if used as a filling. Great for warm or hot weather. But, filled cakes should be stored in refrigerator for long-term storage to prevent mold.
is used similarly to rolled fondant because it gives a smooth look. It has a delicious and unique almond flavor.
ex: Marzipan Recipe  
Marzipan is made of almond paste. Can purchase ready-made.
Dough-like consistency that is rolled out before applied to cake. Is stretchy. Stays semi-soft on cakes.
Rolled out and used as a cake or cookie covering, and then, covered with a sugar icing, such as fondant or buttercream. Can be used to mold flowers and other decorations that are then placed on a cake or served alone. / Is off-white and can used in its natural color or be tinted. Keep almond paste well covered and refrigerated, since it contains almonds which can go rancid. Holds up well in warm weather.
Pure white fluffy beaten egg whites.
ex: How To Beating Techniques for Meringue
Is made from beating egg whites with sugar. There are many types depending on the ratio of its ingredients. Used for covering pies, cakes and Baked Alaska. Can be piped. Does not need refrigeration. Becomes sticky when refrigerated. Can weep after storage, even for a day or two. Refrigeration speeds up the weeping process.
Pure white, sticky icing that dries to a hard finish.
ex: Royal Icing Master Recipe
Heavy paste of egg whites and confectioners' sugar beaten with a little vinegar or lemon juice. Can be made in different consistencies. Used for general piping or delicate work such as elaborate "string" decorations. Decorating cookies and gingerbread houses. / Tints to pastel to dark colors. Does not need refrigeration. Air-dried decorations last for months. Will soften when placed on butter or fat based frostings.
Simple and sugary.
ex: Basic Simple Sugar Syrup Recipe with Flavor Variations 
Made from sugar and water, and then cooked. Can be flavored which should complement or match the flavors of the cake. Brushed on drier cake layers to moisten them, such as genoise. Syrup is popular in wedding cakes and other large projects that must be made in multiple stages; keeps it tasting fresh and moist longer. Syrup is not usually used alone as a filling; the layers are brushed with syrup and then another filling, such as jam or buttercream, is spread on top. Keep excess refrigerated. Cakes that are moistened with sugar syrups can mold easily. Holds up well in warm weather, but gets sticky when humid. Bowls/utensils must be grease-free. Cover icing with damp cloth while working, to prevent crusting.
Creamy, delicate sweetness. Perishable.
exs: Whipped Cream Tutorial
Stabilized Whipped Cream Recipe
Whipping cream beaten with sugar. Can be flavored. Stabilized for longer life with gelatin. Can be used as a filling and frosting. Can be piped to form soft decorations. /Tints in pastel colors. Must remain refrigerated. Use immediately because deflates readily. Iced cake must be refrigerated. Texture remains soft on decorated cake. 

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