Types of Cupcake Frosting

Photo by Katja Seaton

Whether you’re an ambitious home chef ready to bake delicious cupcakes for a special event or a bride selecting the cupcakes for her wedding day, deciding what type of icing to feature on your treats can present a challenge. When reading recipes or consulting with bakeries, you’ll see and hear many terms being used to describe various types of icing, and without a basic understanding of these words, you may quickly become overwhelmed.

We’ve created this handy guide of icing types to help you select the right topping for your cupcakes.

Buttercream Icing

What It Is: Buttercream frosting is perhaps the most commonly used icing for cupcakes. It typically includes butter, sugar and flavorings and is free of eggs.

What It Tastes and Looks Like: As its name suggests, buttercream icing has a hint of butter in its flavor and a smoothy, creamy texture. It can be used to make flowers and decorations as well as to ice the tops of your cupcakes.

Royal Icing

What It Is: Royal icing is made from a blend of egg whites, powdered sugar and cream of tartar.

What It Tastes and Looks Like: Among the many choices of frosting for cupcakes, royal icing is one of the sweetest. When it dries, the icing becomes stiff and rigid, so it is typically used for decorations on cupcakes rather than to frost entire cupcake tops.

Whipped Cream Icing

What It Is: An alternative to buttercream for all-over icing, whipped cream frosting is made from heavy cream that is whipped with sugar.

What It Tastes and Looks Like: Whipped cream frosting is richer in flavor than buttercream and has a lighter, fluffier texture. Typically, whipped cream icing is only suitable for pastel colors, and it must be used quickly to prevent spoilage.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

What It Is: This rich icing is made from a blend of cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar.

What It Tastes and Looks Like: Cream cheese frosting is very dense and has a heavy consistency. The icing is less sweet than other types and is often paired with cupcakes that contain savory ingredients like carrots or zucchini.

If you’re having a hard time deciding between the types of icing for cupcakes, the best thing to do is make test batches or ask your bakery for samples. This can help you get a real taste of what’s available.

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