Kitchen Basics: Frosting Basics

By October 16, 2017Kitchen Basics

It’s the icing on the cake! If you’ve ever heard that saying, you know that frosting is arguably the best part of any baked goodie. And if you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ve likely got a favorite. But with so many frosting options, it can be hard to keep them straight. So we’ve whipped up a quick guide to frosting types, when best to use them, and added in a few of our favorite recipes to help you get started.

Types of Frosting

This list could go on and on, but here are a few of the tried and true frosting types you will want to know.


As you may have guessed, the foundation of a buttercream icing is in fact butter. Lots and lots of unsalted butter, added to powdered sugar and milk/cream.  Some recipes may call for the addition of shortening, which will add to the stiffness and stability of the frosting. If you are not a fan of shortening, you can opt to leave it out, but may sacrifice some of the height and drama that usually comes from baked goods topped with buttercream. Another handy ingredient to keep in the kitchen if you are opting for this type of frosting is meringue powder. If you are hoping for a smooth icing for your next birthday cake, or want to get creative and add decorations, this handy ingredient will add a “crust” to your icing to help you do just that. A little goes a long way but its a worthwhile item to keep in the pantry if you are a regular baker. There are of course variations on the buttercream theme if you are adventurous.

When to use: Buttercream frosting is perfect for cupcakes, cakes, and even cookies.

Whipped Cream

You might opt for whipped cream frosting if you are hoping to cut down on some of the fat and even sugar in your frosting. The foundation of this frosting is of course, cream. The key to creating a good, fluffy whipped cream is the beating process and the equipment. You will want to opt for chipped cream, beaters, and a glass or metal bowl, in order to achieve fluffy peaks.  The upside of whipped cream frosting is the light, smooth texture, but the downside is that it must be refrigerated and doesn’t tend to keep as long as buttercream. Some bakers do recommend the addition of gelatin to the mix to help stiffen the frosting for spreading!

When to use: Whipped cream frosting is perfect for cupcakes and cakes, and even pies.

Cream Cheese

Cream cheese is often thought of as a savory topping (hello bagels!) but this frosting deserves to be on this list as its rich and thick texture is perfect for sweet baked goods. The foundation of this frosting is cream cheese, and traditionally powdered sugar, although you might find variations that use granulated sugar and cream instead.  You will want to add a little bit of vanilla to the mix to give this frosting a little extra hint of sweetness.

When to use: Cakes (think carrot cake or red velvet), cupcakes, and especially cinnamon rolls.


This is the frosting for you chocolate lovers. Ganache can be found in several different forms, as more of a glaze (seen above), a filling found inside a truffle, or whipped to look for like a buttercream. The foundation of this frosting is of course good quality chocolate melted into heavy cream. If you prefer a frosting that is less sweet, make your ganache with a dark chocolate with a high cocoa percentage. The beauty of the ganache is that it is so simple to make, and yet so elegant. Because the frosting is made with heavy cream, it can easily be chilled and whipped into a thick consistency. The perfect frosting for the baking beginner!

When to use: Cakes, truffles, fillings, and candies.

Royal Icing and Glazes

When you think royal icing you probably think holidays. The reason for this is that the foundation of this frosting is egg whites, which harden quickly and allow for ease of decorating, perfect for that batch of fall pumpkin cookies or holiday gingerbread men. As simple as the ganache, this frosting consists typically of egg whites, powdered sugar, and food coloring. It can be difficult for the beginner baker because its often runny and hard to control. You’ll want to invest in some piping tools and parchment paper as you perfect your skills. You might want to read up on these handy tips on getting your next batch of holiday cookies iced just right.

When to use Royal Icing: Sugar cookies, gingerbread houses, and cookies.

So what is the difference between a glaze and royal icing? A frosting glaze typically consists of powdered sugar and milk, and flavoring of some sort (in the form of juice, vanilla etc). Its easy to mix, will harden slightly when added to baked goods and adds just a hint of sweetness to things like breakfast cakes.

When to use a glaze:Your favorite loaf of sweet bread (lemon, zucchini, pumpkin), coffee cake, pastries

Check out some of our favorite sweet recipes made with your favorite AHO produce.

Carrot Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Orange Glazed Coffee Cake

Lavender Frosting

Apple pop tarts

Fudgy Beet Cupcakes

Author AHO Kitchen Team

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