Icing 101 – Buttercream Icing, Royal Icing & Fondant

  • Reading time:6 mins read
  • Post category:Cake Decorating

Icing 101 - about different types of icing

Buttercream Icing

Buttercream icing is similar to the premade canned icing that you buy in the stores but has more flavor. Baking is a trial-and-error venture and discovering the best buttercream icing recipe and consistency takes a few tries to get it just the way you want it. Here’s my favorite buttercream icing recipe. The best consistency is when the peaks stand like sweet mountain tops but I must warn you – I broke my old hand mixer making it because it couldn’t take the thickness! (Happy ending: I have a cherry red Kitchenaid Mixer now.)


1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
4 cups powdered sugar
4 tbsp heavy cream


  1. For the best buttercream icing begin with room temperature butter.
  2. Add the vanilla or almond extract: vanilla for the classic buttercream icing, almond for a whiter icing & a taste that always gets noticed. (This is when you add any other flavorings, such as 2 tbsp pumpkin, a ripe banana, spices, 3/4 c cocoa, 6 oz white chocolate, etc.)
  3. Mix on high until well combined and fluffy.
  4. Add powdered sugar one cup at at time until thick and creamy – it’ll look a little dry or coarse.
  5. Add cream one tablespoon at a time, mixing well on high between each one until the icing is the required consistency. Thicker icing makes frosting cakes and cupcakes easier and is better for piping.
  6. Once icing is the consistency that you want add a teeny tiny amount of coloring gel – I dip the wide end of a tooth pick into the gel to make sure I get a very small amount – and mix. Add more coloring a tinsy weensy bit at a time as necessary to reach the color you wish.

Cookies decorated with buttercream icing and a star tip on the piping bag.

cookies decorated with buttercream icing using a star tip

Royal Icing

Royal icing dries to a smooth, hard finish on cookies or is used to create edible decorations. It uses meringue powder which dries it out to make the icing hard so you should keep royal icing in an air tight container, using only a small quantity at a time – and you should cover that bowl with plastic wrap too. Always use clean utensils when working with royal icing as grease will break it down.


4 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp meringue powder
1/2 tsp vanilla, lemon, peppermint or almond extract
6 tbsp warm water


  1. Combine powdered sugar and meringue powder.
  2. Add warm water and extract, mixing on medium until glossy with stiff peaks – about 7 minutes.

Bunny cookie “flooded” with royal icing.

bunny cookie with royal icing


Originating in France during the mid-19th century, fondant is now one of the most popular ways to finish and decorate a cake, even for amateurs. Rolled fondant is a flexible, easy-to-shape icing that lets you get creative with cake decorations.

bug cupcakeIf you can create things out of playdough with your kids, you can decorate cakes and cupcakes with fondant.

Just shape it into whatever you can imagine, like the polka dot cake at the top of the page or the bug cupcake on the right.
You can also use confectionary tools to create decorations like the cherry blossoms on this cake.

cherry blossom cake

How to Make Fondant Flowers

Roll fondant on surface dusted with cornstarch until it is about 1/8 inch thick.

Cut with blossom cutter.

Remove excess fondant around blossoms and transfer blossoms one at a time to the foam square.
shaping fondant flowersUse ball tool from Confectionery Tool Set to make a cupped shape blossom by depressing tool in center of flower.

finished fondant flowerPipe a Round Decorating Tip 2 dot flower center using thinned royal icing, or roll a tiny fondant ball and push into center.


Visit www.wilton.com for more decorating tips and inspiration or to find cake decorating classes near you.
Wilton Enterprises


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