June 5, 2013 by Shweta D'souza
It is not a mere case of semantics. Icing is indeed different from frosting. For one, it is said to be thinner, and has a glossier appearance than the latter. Icing is said to be the term used in a more professional sense. It is like confectioner’s sugar combined with milk.
Frosting is more of a thick, usually fluffy layer, like buttercream. Because of this, it is preferably used to cover the outer surface of the cake. The confusion sets in when the frosting is applied in such a way that it is purposely coated thinly on the cake. It is also spread on cakes as a topping, or as an overall outer coating that provides an added layer to the cake. Hence, frostings can be mounded as opposed to icing that just slips, or runs off the cake by nature.
In terms of texture, frostings usually remain soft. They are also a lot creamier, and that’s why people often get the idea that it tastes better, most likely attributed to its buttery flavor. Icing is more fluid, but once it becomes dry, it appears thin and hard.
Frosting is applied either by using a spatula or knife to make a mound over the cake, or by placing it inside a decorating bag with a small outlet at the tip for the frosting to pour (pipe) out. The latter is what’s usually seen in decorating cookies. In the case of icing, the piping approach is the only method to be used, because of its fluid consistency. It is too hard to apply by using a spatula, for it will just run off too easily.
In summary, if ever you’re not that particular with word definitions, it is still okay to use either icing or frosting interchangeably. The ‘right’ usage of the two terms depends on where you are located anyway. but in its most technical sense, they differ because:
1. Icings are runnier in nature compared to frosting.
2. Frostings are thicker than icings.
3. Frosting is the term more commonly used in America, whereas icing is often used in Europe to pertain to the exact same thing