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15 Different Types of Frosting

Adding colorful frosting to a layered cake.

What is the first thing that truly catches your eyes the first time you look at a cake – is it the fillings between the cake layers, the toppings on the cake top, the amount of the good-old chocolate used or the frosting? For many people, the frosting wins the game and rules over all the other factors.

It goes without saying, there is nothing that can completely transform a cake or a cupcake from ‘just good’ to extraordinarily rich, creamy and heavenly like a super light, buttery and smooth frosting.

There is a lot of work that goes into the making of a delicious and rich cake, from the flavor and filling to the sponge and the ingredients used. However, nothing can up your cake game as well and efficiently as your frosting can. Besides, who doesn’t love a smooth, creamy and thick layer of a silky and airy frosting on their cake, right?

Related: Birthday Cake Alternatives | Wedding cake Alternatives | How to Store Buttercream | Types of Cake Decorating Tools | Blueberry Layer Cake Recipe | How to Store Donuts | How to Store a Lemon Meringue Pie

Frosting Can Make or Break Your Cake

Creamy white frosting on a cake

It cannot be said in a simpler manner than this: frosting is the ultimate deal-breaker for your cake. Whether you slather it on the top of your cake with a spatula, drizzle it on your cookies or cupcakes, pipe it into little frills and patterns on your cake, there is no denying the fact that it is a quintessential factor for your cake.

The key is to get the right kind of creamy and smooth consistency; the best, subtle kind of flavor, and perhaps, a touch of color to make it completely stand out. A little flavor and decoration on the cake go a long way because that perfect frosting can turn your cake from ordinary into extraordinary.

Types of Frosting

Did you know there is a whole world of icing and frosting out there that is filled with different types of frosting where you can enjoy a wide array of different flavors, textures, colors, and consistencies?

Feast your eyes on some of the most mind-blowing types of frosting that will help you make spectacular cake decorations and toppings.

Buttercream Frosting

A bowl of orange buttercream frosting

This is also known as ‘American Buttercream,’ and it definitely is the most basic and most used type of frosting that is applied to kinds of cakes and cupcakes. Not only is it super quick and easy to make, but it also turns out absolutely delicious. Buttercream frosting is also the go-to kind of frosting for most bakers and dessert-fans.

The main reason behind its popularity is the use of a few, basic ingredients and exceptionally easy application. As the name suggests, classic Buttercream frosting requires a lot of butter mixed with confectioner’s sugar, also known as powdered or icing sugar. The key is to keep beating the butter into the icing sugar till it turns into this super fluffy, glossy, and thick paste.

The use of confectioner’s sugar in the buttercream frosting eliminates the need for using eggs by greatly thickening the frosting and resulting in a superfine, flawless texture. Some people also add in a dollop of heavy cream into their buttercream frosting to get that ultra-rich and creamy consistency. It is typically piped onto the top of cakes as a form of coating however, you can also fill it in between cake layers and even use it as decorations in the form of flowers, patterns, designs, etc.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Many people prefer using cream cheese frosting in place of the classic buttercream frosting. This is primarily because both these frosting are almost the same, except that the former has cheese added to it. Cream Cheese Frosting is also an American-style frosting that simply substitutes the choice of fat in the recipe.

This frosting is mainly used is red velvet cakes, both of which go hand-in-hand. You will also find it on carrot cakes in some bakeries.

Cream cheese frosting is popular for its range of thick-to-thin consistencies with a slightly sour, tart taste. It sports a pale, custard-like pastel color that looks beautiful as cake toppings or even fillings. The key with this frosting is to allow it to cool for some time in the refrigerator if you are to get this rich, thick, soft, and delicate texture.

The best way to make this frosting is by whisking together cream cheese, butter, organic sugar, and some vanilla extract. Interestingly, if you add the cream cheese while it is still cold right towards the end, you will end up with the best and the most delicious cream cheese frosting.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Mini shortbread tarts with Swiss meringue buttercream

This is a variation of the classic buttercream frosting that uses Swiss Meringue as a base. Swiss meringue is considered as the most stable type of meringue, which is made by whisking together egg whites and sugar. It is also less sweet than most types of frostings.

To make the Swiss meringue buttercream, you simply add in tons of softened butter to the Swiss meringue base. Keep beating and creaming the two together till everything is well-combined and forms into a light, fluffy mixture. The end result of this frosting is an ultra-satiny and glossy texture, which makes it a super decadent option to top cakes or even use it between cake layers.

Since this frosting is relatively white in color, you can add in different food colors to it and have a beautiful-looking colorful frosting for your cakes.

Italian Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate coffee hazelnut half sphere cake on a cake stand.

This is quite similar to the swiss meringue buttercream frosting, except that it uses an Italian meringue as a base. Italian meringue is yet another stable kind of meringue and is also the firmest of all. It is made by pouring in sugar syrup to stiff-peaked egg whites. You need to keep whipping the entire mixture to get that firm, shiny looking meringue. The key here is to gradually pour small amounts of the sugar syrup from the sides of the bowl rather than directly into the center of the beaten egg whites.

To make the Italian meringue buttercream, all you need to do is add room-temperature butter to the egg mixture till you see a super smooth and light frosting coming together. Many people use this frosting the same way they use the Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. However, this frosting is ideal for tall layer cakes, and it is also an excellent option when you wish to color your frosting.

French Meringue Buttercream

Cookies with French vanilla buttercream

This variation of the basic buttercream frosting uses French meringue as a base that is often referred to as “ordinary”. It is the most basic among other types of meringues and also the least stable of the trio until it is baked. French meringue is simply made with the help of whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and water.

A boiled mixture of sugar and water is slowly added to well-beaten eggs. The base of egg yolks and whole eggs is also known as a pâte à bombe in the pastry world. This results in a much richer meringue base in terms of color, texture, and flavor.

The meringue base is then mixed and creamed together with room-temperature butter until the whole mixture turns light, airy, and smooth. The final product is your French meringue buttercream frosting.


A bowl of dark chocolate ganache

This is the ultimate chocolate-heaven for all, die-hard chocolate lovers. This is also the epitome of rich, sinfully delicious, and delectable chocolate.

Although Ganache is simply heavy cream beautifully combined together with melted chocolate, it is easily the most decadent, rich, and truffle-like frosting. It is also the most versatile of all frosting because it is so much more than that. It is also a pourable glaze, a smooth cake topping, a rich pastry filling, and even a fluffy, fudgy chocolate filling. As they say, you can’t have enough chocolate!

Basic ganache is simply made by adding together equal amounts of chocolate and cream. However, there is one very important rule to keep in mind to make the best ganache- the better quality chocolate you use, the better it will taste. The most distinct feature or characteristic of a true ganache is that once you use it as a cake frosting, it turns into a beautiful, glistening and shiny coating that is too gorgeous to eat!

Although ganache is typically made with dark chocolate, you can choose to replace it with white or milk chocolate, as per your liking.

Flour Buttercream Frosting

Cake with flour buttercream frosting

This is a very unique kind of a buttercream frosting that is also commonly known as the ‘boiled milk frosting’.

To make the flour buttercream frosting, you need to boil together flour, milk, and sugar till all of them combine to form a thick, pudding-like consistency. Once the mixture cools down, add in softened butter and perhaps some vanilla extract to enhance its flavor. Keep mixing till the mixture turns into a super silky, smooth, and rich frosting that slightly resembles the delicious American buttercream frosting.

Whipped Cream Frosting

A bowl of whipped cream frosting

Just like buttercream, the whipped cream frosting is another commonly and popularly used frosting that takes just a few minutes to make. As the name indicates, this frosting requires heavy whipping cream and white sugar. What could be simpler than that, right?

To make the best and the fluffiest whipped cream frosting, one needs to ensure that the bowl, the whisk, and the heavy cream is really cold. Also, make sure that your mixing bowl is absolutely grease-free. Both these factors will result in the thickest and the richest kind of whipped cream frosting.

This frosting doesn’t just look and taste great with cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and shortcakes, but it also goes amazingly well with fresh fruits and jam toppings. Always refrigerate the frosting once it is ready because a few hours in the refrigerator will help it retain its soft, silky, and smooth texture.

Basic Vanilla Frosting

Traditional cupcakes with vanilla frosting

This frosting is as basic as it can get with just a few simple and basic ingredients: powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and softened butter. Simply combine all the ingredients together till they form a rich, smooth, and fine paste-like frosting.

The key to getting this basic vanilla frosting right is to use real vanilla, perhaps a good quality vanilla bean paste. Since vanilla it the frosting’s star ingredient, it has to be on point. The role of vanilla here isn’t just to enhance the taste and flavor of the frosting, but it also has to do with the degree of sweetness in it. The more vanilla you add to your frosting, the lesser amount of sugar it will require.

Seven-Minute Frosting

Seven-minute frosting on vanilla cupcakes

This frosting has been around since the early 1900s and is still quite popularly used by many bakers and dessert-enthusiasts. As the name obviously suggests, it takes a mere 7-minute to whip up this quick, delicious frosting.

It is a type of a cooked frosting that is classically made by heating together corn syrup, sugar, and water in a pan and bringing the mixture to a boil. Once boiled, the mixture is added to a bowl of stiff-peak meringue. While the beater is on-going, the key to getting a flawless seven-minute frosting is to gradually add the hot liquid into the meringue from the sides of the bowl rather directly into the center.

The use of hot liquid helps coagulate the proteins contained in the egg whites which greatly allows the frosting to hold its shape and also stabilizes the meringue. Since it doesn’t contain any butter, it doesn’t end up being too rich, however, it is quite a simple, sweet and playful kind of a frosting that tastes great and looks amazing in the form of swirls and billows.

Lemon Curd Frosting

Vanilla cupcakes with lemon curd frosting

This is one of the most fascinating and distinct types of frosting that is ultra-rich, flavorful, glossy, and smooth.

Since it features lemon curd as its star ingredient, this frosting ends up being a mixture of sweet and sour with a tangy hit that comes from the lemons. Since this frosting has a very thick, custard-like consistency, most people prefer to use it as a filling rather than as an icing. However, it works really well in both cases.

Lemon curd frosting requires lemon zest, lemon juice, butter, and sugar, all of which need to be whisked together over a water bath. Add in a little whipped cream to significantly enrich its texture, taste, and consistency.

Royal Icing

Cookie with white royal icing snowflakes

This is one of the most popular types of icings that is well-known for being hard and brittle. These characteristics make the royal icing ideal for decorating cookies and cakes. It is quite similar to the glazed frosting, but it hardens better than that. This icing works best when you have to decorate something like sugar cookies or perhaps, pipe it into gingerbread snowflake or cupcakes.

Royal icing requires four basic ingredients, which are egg whites, lemon juice, powdered sugar, and vanilla essence. Whisk together all the ingredients on high speed until it is well blended together and turns into a thick, shiny white mixture. The consistency of this icing varies according to the ratio of the ingredients, and many people also add in a bit of butter to it in order to get that creamy and fluffy consistency.

Marshmallow Buttercream

Colorful marshmallow frosted cake

This type of buttercream is proof of how versatile and multi-purpose the basic buttercream frosting is. You can experiment with it by using a variety of different flavors, colors, and ingredients and end up with a delicious and flavorful frosting.

Marshmallow buttercream is all about marshmallow so needless to say, the star ingredient here is marshmallow crème or fluff. Simply make the classic buttercream frosting, and then add some almond extract to it followed by gently folding in the marshmallow.

This frosting is easily the fluffiest and the lightest of all types of frostings and icings in terms of the texture. The final result is usually a super dense and sweet frosting that you can use to make swirls on top of cakes and cupcakes or even fill it between cake layers. This frosting is a true marshmallow galore for all marshmallow lovers out there!

Cookie Frosting

Frosted sugar cookies

As the name suggests, the cookie frosting is ideal for covering the tops of cookies. It is also quite similar to the glazed frosting, except that it is made with milk instead of water, so you end up with a very rich, creamy cookie frosting.

Cookie frosting is one of the easiest, quickest, and most basic of all types of frostings. All it requires is heaps of sifted powdered sugar and organic milk, both of which need to be whisked together thoroughly till you see a silky smooth paste that is neither too thick nor too thin.

To make you frosting even smoother and glossier, you can also add in some corn syrup and almond extract, both of which also elevate the frosting’s taste altogether.

Glazed Frosting

Donuts with chocolate glaze

This is the simplest kind of frosting that has a very thin consistency and is usually used as a drizzle on top of cakes, cookies, cupcakes, donuts, and other similar sweet treats. Glazed frostings, like ganache, leave behind a smooth, light, shiny, and ‘glazed’ look. Not just this but when the glaze sets, it also forms a glossy, hard crust that produces a slight crunch sound when you bite into it.

There are two basic kinds of glazed frosting or icing. One is a ‘powdered sugar glaze’ that uses a small amount of water or milk mixed together with powdered sugar. Depending on the ratio of sugar to liquid, your glaze can end up having quite a thick syrup-like consistency or can be more liquid-like, which you can use as an all-over translucent topping for donuts, for instance.

The other type of glazed frosting is a simple ‘chocolate glaze’ that can be used on pound cakes, butter cookies, chocolate cakes, and doughnuts. A basic chocolate glaze is an excellent choice if you are looking for a thin, chocolate icing that is firm enough to set on the cake but doesn’t end up getting too viscous or sticky.

Always remember, no cake is complete without a heavenly layer of icing or frosting. Be it plain buttercream, chocolate ganache, or basic glazed frosting- your cake will taste out of this world with any of them!

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