Difference Between Icing and Frosting


June 5, 2013 by Shweta D'souza

Most people think that frosting and icing are  two different terms used to describe the same thing.  In the U.S., for example,  many use the term frosting rather than icing.  However, in most European  countries, including the U.K., the word icing is preferred.  This is one of the  reasons why there has been much debate about the two either having a difference, or whether they can be  utilized interchangeably.  Nevertheless, more and more experts agree that there  are really some important disparities between them.

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

One thought on “Difference Between Icing and Frosting

  1. Wow, very insightful, I think I know which one to use now 🙂

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