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What's the difference between icing and frosting?

Does the difference lie in ingredients and/or technique?

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

asked about 4 years ago
5 answers 5728 views
A9f88177 5a41 4b63 8669 9e72eb277c1a  waffle3
added about 4 years ago

Icing is what happens to the road on a cold winter day. Frosting is what happens to your tomato plants on a cold spring day.

Frosting can also happen when you receive a smart aleck answer to an honest question so…

Culinarily speaking, there is no difference, just different words that describe the same thing.

766e7ce3 8394 4788 8337 bbd8a8d3a07e  5.15.11 coconut macaroons best sm
added about 4 years ago

In my kitchen, icing is basically another word for glaze. It might include flavors (such as lemon juice or Grand Marnier), spices (such as nutmeg), or a small amount of butter, but it's the combination of powdered sugar and a liquid. The texture is smooth and the consistency is thin enough to drip down the sides of a cake.

Frosting is what I call any sweet substance that's thick enough to require spreading or smoothing or piping onto a cake or cookies. In my kitchen, that can mean anything from a mixture of butter, powdered sugar, and cream cheese, to pureed cashews and blackberries or whipped coconut cream (vegan versions of frosting).

I suppose I use the terms mainly to distinguish between consistency and technique, though ingredients always influence both of those. Such a fascinating question; I can't wait to hear how other people distinguish them!

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amysarah is a trusted home cook.

added about 4 years ago

I'm not sure, but in my experience the usage seems fairly interchangeable. Maybe it's regional? Like pop : soda, or hoagie : sub (btw, the correct terms are soda and sub. Just saying.)

I guess when I think of icing, I think more of a coating that hardens, like a black & white cookie, and frosting as something that remains soft and creamy, like buttercream, etc. Technically, that may not be correct - but without lifelines, that's my final answer.

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added about 4 years ago

Here is a whole article on the subject. It supports Beyondcelery's response, and also factors glazes into the mix: http://www.cakespy.com...

A9f88177 5a41 4b63 8669 9e72eb277c1a  waffle3
added about 4 years ago

From Food Lover's Companion:

"Icing: See Frosting"

"Glaze: A thin, glossy coating…"