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Frosting is simply “Icing on the cake”

Don’t know your ganache from your galoshes? Before you begin looking for your dream wedding cake, here are some definitions to help you decide what best suits your needs.


This is a smooth, creamy butter-based icing that is generally used to ice the entire cake, giving it a traditional look. Buttercream is not overly sweet and can be given a wide variety of flavors, such as vanilla, chocolate, lemon, hazelnut, coconut or any variety of fruit flavors. Buttercream icings require special care. They do not do well in heat and must be kept cool.


  • Not overly sweet.
  • Can take on a wide variety of flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, lemon, hazelnut, coconut or any variety of fruit flavors.
  • Easily colored.
  • Can be applied in a variety of textures from piped swirls or scrolls and flowers to a smooth finish.


  • Buttercream icings do not do well in heat and must be kept cool.
  • Can be smoothed out extremely well, but not as smooth as fondant.
  • Does not work well to cover carved cakes.


This icing is one of the most popular choices of brides. It is a very smooth, matte, elastic icing that gives cakes a flawless, porcelain finish. It is rolled out like a pie crust, draped over each layer of the cake and smoothed out. It is generally more expensive than buttercream icing.


  • Gives cakes a flawless, porcelain finish.
  • Can be folded to create ribbons and swags.
  • Various tools can be used to create textured designs such as quilting, stripes, etc.
  • Also often used to create appliques applied directly to the cake.
  • Covered cakes will stay fresh for days in the fridge.


  • Usually more expensive than buttercream.
  • Errors in finish or texture often require starting from scratch.
  • Considered not as tasty as buttercream, depending on brand and type. Newer fondant recipes are better tasting. Many bakers will put a layer of buttercream under the fondant.


Royal icing takes on two forms. When applied to the cake it is soft and pliable, then dried to a hard finish. It is usually used to create leaves, flowers and other edible decorations, but rarely on the whole cake.


Ganache is more properly considered a glaze than a frosting. Made from heavy whipping cream and usually chocolate, the icing is poured over the cake. It dries to a finish similar to fondant, but is less labor intensive. Ganache itself is extremely rich and sweet and is also used as a filling for cakes.


Gum paste is an edible sugar dough used primarily to create decorations such as flowers, leaves, etc.


These use large amounts of dairy products. Both of these icings must be refrigerated until serving, so generally are not used on wedding cakes, which are usually on display throughout the reception until serving time.

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