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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 almost 4 years ago
5 answers 5418 views
added almost 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.

added almost 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!


amysarah is a trusted home cook.

added almost 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.

added almost 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...

added almost 4 years ago

From Food Lover's Companion:

"Icing: See Frosting"

"Glaze: A thin, glossy coating…"