Frosting 101: Our Mini-Guide to Types of Frosting

Frosting 101: Our Mini-Guide to Types of Frosting

Baking enthusiasts love to experiment with new recipes for some of their favorite baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, and cupcakes. Are you ready to step up your game with some delicious new frostings.

How many kinds of frosting are there? What type of frosting works best with which baked goods?

We will be discussing the following:

Differences Between Frosting Types

Buttercream Frosting


Cooked Frosting

Whipped Cream Frosting

Royal Icing



Tips on how to use frosting



Differences Between Frosting Types

Have you ever baked the perfect cake and then been disappointed because the frosting ruined it? Are you puzzled by which type of frosting to use?

If you have followed a recipe and used the recommended topping only to discover you or your guests really don't like the flavor or texture, it's time to learn about all the possibilities the crowning glory of frosting can offer to your baked goodies.

Buttercream Frosting

Buttercream is one of the most popular frostings. It is fairly easy to make and can range from extremely sweet to even a delicate, savory flavor. 

( In fact, here's our recipe for Chocolate Buttercream )

American Simple Buttercream

This is one of the easiest buttercream frostings. It is made with butter, shortening, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. This frosting is popular for being smooth and creamy. It can also be stiffened for piping by adding more powdered sugar and takes color well.

Meringue Buttercream

There are different varieties of meringue types of frosting. The key difference is that this is a lighter, fluffier type of buttercream. Because it is very soft, it is not ideal for piping.

If you're concerned about your sugar intake, meringue also offers a less sweet option than traditional buttercream.

French Buttercream

This is a very creamy custard-style of frosting. The super-rich texture is achieved by using egg yolks.

It gives a beautifully smooth finish and is great as a filling. 

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting and Cake


The type of frosting that you see on very elegant cakes is usually a fondant. This a very different type of frosting than a buttercream.

It has a sturdy dough texture that can be poured or rolled into various designs. It also hardens for stability when shaping or using as a filling. Fondant can also be tinted and holds color well. 

Be careful when adding flavorings. Flavors that are creamy or may melt will alter the stability of this frosting.

Cooked Frosting

Some of the names for cooked frosting are flour frosting, boiled frosting, or Ermine frosting.

It has a similar texture to a whipped topping, but it holds its shape better than a buttercream. You can use it for piping or spreading beautiful swirls.

It also tastes very much like cream cheese, but is made by cooking flour and sugar with milk to make a light paste. It is usually flavored with vanilla and a bit of salt.

Whipped Cream Frosting

For a frosting with fewer calories, whipped cream is the way to go. This type of frosting is made by whipping heavy cream to a light and fluffy consistency that can be spread easily.

Whipped frosting needs to be refrigerated to keep its shape. 

Royal Icing

When you think of frosting, you expect a spreadable topping that has some thickness to hold its shape. Icing is thinner than frosting and also hardens.

Royal icing is perfect for cookies! It is a simple recipe using beaten egg whites, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Think holiday cookies with many options for coloring. Sprinkles and colored sugars hold well to this icing.


A ganache is a filling often used in pastries. It is made with chocolate and cream. Unlike a chocolate glaze, a ganache becomes thicker when more chocolate is added during mixing overheat.


A glaze is a very thin type of icing, often used to drizzle or brush over pastries. The most basic recipe is water and powdered sugar. You can also add flavoring from extracts or chocolates. Adding different oils will make it shinier.

Some Tips on How to Make Different Kinds of Frosting

Now that you know a little bit more about the various types of frostings, let's look at some helpful tips for finding your preferred texture and flavoring.

Group of Cupcakes With Frosting

Keep it Cool!

The main ingredient of many frostings is butter or other fats. Always begin with slightly cooler than room temperature ingredients. If your fats are too cold, the frosting may become brittle. 

Make sure your kitchen is at a comfortable temperature. If you have a lot of food you are preparing and your kitchen is hot, you can count on frosting not retaining its shape.

Give it a Whipping Not a Beating

Overly mixing can cause many frostings to fail.

When working with buttercreams, you want a smooth texture, not a sauce. Similarly, meringues can become fragile and fail to hold moisture when the egg whites are over-beaten. 

Consistently mix with folding motions to give airy lightness to a whipped cream topping. Beating it or over-mixing will result in butter!

Do Your Flavor a Favor

Many frosting recipes call for powdered sugar and lots of it. For controlling shape and texture, the powdered sugar is increased. 

There are ways to temper the sweetness. Lemon zest is often used. 

Cream cheese frostings are an option for keeping a thicker texture without over-sweetening. Think of flavors such as herbs, cheeses, or nuts to offer savory deliciousness.

Get More Tasty Tips

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