Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Icing and Frosting

icing-cook-pdIcing vs. Frosting

Most people think that frosting and icing are two different terms used to describe the same thing. In the U.S., for example, many use the term frosting rather than icing. However, in most European countries, including the U.K., the word icing is preferred. This is one of the reasons why there has been much debate about the two either having a difference, or whether they can be utilized interchangeably. Nevertheless, more and more experts agree that there are really some important disparities between them.

It is not a mere case of semantics. Icing is indeed different from frosting. For one, it is said to be thinner, and has a glossier appearance than the latter. Icing is said to be the term used in a more professional sense. It is like confectioner’s sugar combined with milk.

Frosting is more of a thick, usually fluffy layer, like buttercream. Because of this, it is preferably used to cover the outer surface of the cake. The confusion sets in when the frosting is applied in such a way that it is purposely coated thinly on the cake. It is also spread on cakes as a topping, or as an overall outer coating that provides an added layer to the cake. Hence, frostings can be mounded as opposed to icing that just slips, or runs off the cake by nature.

In terms of texture, frostings usually remain soft. They are also a lot creamier, and that’s why people often get the idea that it tastes better, most likely attributed to its buttery flavor. Icing is more fluid, but once it becomes dry, it appears thin and hard.

Frosting is applied either by using a spatula or knife to make a mound over the cake, or by placing it inside a decorating bag with a small outlet at the tip for the frosting to pour (pipe) out. The latter is what’s usually seen in decorating cookies. In the case of icing, the piping approach is the only method to be used, because of its fluid consistency. It is too hard to apply by using a spatula, for it will just run off too easily.

In summary, if ever you’re not that particular with word definitions, it is still okay to use either icing or frosting interchangeably. The ‘right’ usage of the two terms depends on where you are located anyway. but in its most technical sense, they differ because:

1. Icings are runnier in nature compared to frosting.

2. Frostings are thicker than icings.

3. Frosting is the term more commonly used in America, whereas icing is often used in Europe to pertain to the exact same thing.

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  1. “Most European countries”? Actually, in most European countries, people don’t speak English, you know.

    • Everett, That was an ignorant thing to say. Do you have an education at all? Other languages have the same words. You should delete your comment.

      • Actually, Everett is making a plea to not be ignorant.
        Ignorance is a LACK of understanding, meaning, one makes an “ignorant” comment when one’s comment lacks any knowledge on the subject.

        Stupidity, is when someone with understanding on a subject makes a comment that’s contrary to the accepted knowledge of a subject.
        Example of ignorance:
        “Cucumbers don’t taste very good”, from a person who has never even tasted a cucumber.

        Example of stupidity:
        “Cucumbers taste like chocolate”, from a person who has tasted both cucumbers and chocolate. It can be a funny statement, but the point here is that if one argues that cucumbers taste like chocolate even after having eaten both, then they are just being “stupid”.

        Back to the point at hand. Everett is correct in that MOST European countries do NOT have English as their official language. Thus, in MOST European countries, there are different words for “icing” and “frosting”.
        The different words may have the SAME meaning, but they are different and different sounding words.
        I don’t see that Everett is being either ignorant or stupid.

        • Your commenting on something that happened two years ago. Lol so am I. …but your comment was ridiculous and unnessecary. Are you going to make a long speech on how I spelt unnessecary wrong. No? You just have to be mr.smart guy over something so little. Some things I guess are just better off left unsaid

          • Next topic: Thin skin.
            Which onion will make you cry more, thin skinned or thick?

            Bri or Stacey, or whoever you are,

            If you truly feel some things are better off left unsaid, then why did you feel the need to “say” something?

            Listen to your inner voice if it told you to not post that comment.
            It was correct.

            I am a smart guy. 🙂

        • My lord, I think I love you.

  2. Wouldn’t icing be made on a stove (melted butter…warmed milk…and sugar, of course…lots and lots of sugar), while frosting is made at room temp, with simply whipped butter or cream cheese (or whatever other base one might use of which I am not thinking)?

    That seems like the easiest distinction to me.

  3. I take issue with both the article and some of the comments above; much is being made about “many European countries” and their penchant for different languages when the exact same thing is true here in the United States (notice the plural). I’ve heard this exact same discussion a hundred times before but never in the context of U.S. v. Europe but always in the context of South v. North; i.e. — here in the South we always say “icing” for that yummy goodness on top of cake. I’ve even overheard discussions before about “what IS frosting” (because we NEVER use that term). It’s akin to the whole “Dressing v. Stuffing” debate at Thanksgiving. I’ve been American all my life (and my family has been here since 1609) and I’ve never said/eaten/directly heard of “frosting” (or “stuffing” for that matter). In fact, the reason I found this website was because I was looking up the defintion! Of course, now I understand the distinction the author made and agree with it — although what he calls “icing” we would typically call a “glaze” or “glazing the cake.” So next time, dear author, when you presume to speak for ALL your fellow Americans, remember that we are every bit as diverse a lot (lingusitically and otherwise) as “many European countries!”

  4. It is nice to know that for some there is a clear distinction from icing to frosting. I can respect and appreciate the specifics and will consider these distinctions on moving further if the topic should come up and these specifics apply. However do know that in my family icing like frosting all the same vice versa. I am from Cali, the Bay Area to be more specific and in my family you could frosting with icing or ice with frosting. It is all the same. I fell that those distinctions are not needed. I have always thought of both as either glazed or whipped to a cream be it icing or frosting. Hell we can just call it toppings!

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