Here’s the Difference Between Frosting and Icing

I have an uncomfortable confession to make: I have never been a particularly big cake fan. I don’t have the world’s biggest sweet tooth in general, but I enjoy snacking on some chocolate chip cookies or a handful of candy. But cake has just never done it for me, especially the typical sheet cakes that come out for birthdays. I remember my uncle actually getting angry at me one time for refusing a slice of my cousin’s birthday cake, but I held my ground, so strong is my aversion to cake. 

That being said, one thing that we can all appreciate about cakes is how great they look. I love looking at cakes, and I’m a big fan of TV shows in which contestants compete to make the most elaborate and gorgeous confectionary delight possible—I just wouldn’t wish to eat it. 

And there is nothing more central to the art of cake decorating than icing and frosting. But wait, what is the difference between the two? Is there one? The answer is as easy as pie. 

What is the difference between icing and frosting? 

I’m not sure if I ever made the connection before writing this article, but both “icing” and “frosting” are words that have to do with snow. That’s rather charming, if you ask me. It sort of paints the whole art of cake decorating as someone constructing beautiful sculptures out of a winter wonderland.

But, while undoubtedly poetic, I’m not sure that having both be snow words is helping anyone’s confusion. In common parlance, these words are often used interchangeably. However, there is in fact an actual distinction.

So, let’s get to the difference between icing vs frosting already: Frosting is the thick, fluffy stuff that goes on the top of the cake and in between the layers, making it, say, a yellow cake with chocolate frosting or a carrot cake with vanilla frosting. Frosting comes in many varieties, but some popular ones are buttercream and cream cheese based. 

Icing, by contrast, is thinner and dries faster. It’s made from confectioner’s sugar and cream, but it also comes in a variety of colors, and textures, and is used to add details to a cake or other baked goods. 

So, if you’re writing someone’s name out on a birthday cake, you’re probably using icing to do so. 

If you’re taking a fingerful out of the jar and eating it plain because you just made a cake and there’s a little left and, come on, it’s delicious, you’re probably chowing down on frosting. 

What is a glaze?

Throwing a touch more complication into the whole icing and frosting conversation is a distinctly non-snow-related word: glaze. A glaze is another thing that can be added to a cake or other baked good, but it is not quite the same as icing or frosting. Glaze is thinner than either of its cake decorating cousins. It is made of confectioner’s sugar and liquid. It is typically drizzled over a sweet treat, where it stiffens but doesn’t harden all the way.

And that’s the difference between icing and frosting. There’s just one last thing to say: If we’re having a taste conversation about frosting vs icing, frosting takes the cake, hands down.

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!

Your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *