Icing Guide

There are many different types of icing, each one perfect for a different kind of application or palette. Here is our guide to some of the most popular icing types along with a recipe for each!


Buttercream - Icing GuideButtercream is very sweet and creamy. You make it by creaming butter and icing sugar together until it is pale. Vanilla extract or essence can then be added and a little milk poured in if a softer consistency is required. If you want the icing to be a particular colour then colouring can be added. It is best to start with a very small drop and keep adding until you get to your desired shade.  One thing worth remembering here though is that the colour normally deepens slightly when set.

The buttercream can either be spread or piped depending on the effect required. A lot of cupcakes normally have buttercream icing piped into a swirl on top.  It can also be used for writing on a cake or icing other shapes and decorations. Buttercream will only keep for 2 -3 days max and must be kept cool otherwise it will melt.


250g softened butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

600g icing sugar

2 tablespoons milk (if required)

Measure out your butter and icing sugar and cream them together in a large bowl. Blend the sugar in a little at a time. When this is done beat in the vanilla and mix it until it is nice and fluffy. If the mixture is too thick add in the milk a little at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.

Royal Icing - Icing GuideRoyal Icing

Royal icing was first used on Queen Victoria’s wedding cake, hence its name. It is quite a hard icing when set and is very sweet. It is one of the traditional icings used on wedding cakes but it is also perfect for making things like sugar flowers and decorating biscuits. Royal icing can be coloured but more colouring is normally required to achieve the desired shade than you would use with buttercream for example.


1 large egg white
240g icing sugar
4-6 drops Acetic acid or lemon juice

Beat your egg, adding a little of the icing sugar at intervals. Once your icing has reached your desired consistency add in the acetic acid and mix well. Leave it to stand for about 30mins before use.


Fondant icing can be both rolled and poured depending on what you are using it for. Pouring fondant icing can be used to cover fairy cakes leaving a stiff and satin looking surface. You need to use pouring fondant very quickly and make sure that a glaze is applied to the cake beforehand to seal in the freshness. Rolled fondant can be kneaded and rolled and then spread over bigger cakes with ease. It is often the icing of choice on Christmas cakes and draped over a layer of delicious marzipan. Due to its workability it is great for using to make shapes and figures on themed cakes. Rolled fondant will keep for a couple of weeks when stored in a container in the fridge.

RecipePouring Fondant - Icing Guide


750g icing sugar, sifted

125ml water

2 tablespoons golden syrup

1 teaspoon almond extract

Using a saucepan combine the sugar, water and golden syrup over a low heat. Make sure that you stir it constantly and keep an eye out for the mixture getting to 33 degrees C.  When it reaches this temperature it should now be ready to pour.

RollingRolled Fondant - Icing Guide

 1 sachet gelatine

60ml cold water

125ml glucose syrup

1 tablespoon glycerine

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1kg icing sugar

Firstly you need to combine the gelatine and the cold water, letting it stand until it thickens. The gelatine mixture should then be placed in a double boiler and heated until it dissolves. Add in the glucose and glycerine, making sure you mix it very well. Next add the butter and just before it is completely melted remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Place half of the icing sugar in a bowl with a well in the middle. Pour the gelatine mixture into the well and stir using a wooden spoon. Next add in the the other half of the sugar one spoonful at a time until the mixture becomes less sticky. Knead in the remaining sugar and keep kneading until the mixture is smooth and does not stick to your hands.

MeringueMeringue Icing - Icing Guide

Meringue icing is very similar to royal icing but does not contain acetic acid. The basic ingredients are egg whites, sugar and water which are whipped and then spread lavishly over the cake. This type of icing is very fluffy and perfect for a lighter cake where you don’t want the sweetness of a butter icing.


3/4 cup (170 g) granulated white sugar
3 large egg whites
2 tbsp cold water
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Place all of the ingredients in a mixer and whisk them until they are thoroughly combined. Place a couple of cups of water into a saucepan and turn on the heat. When the water is gently simmering, place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan (it must not touch the bottom of the pan) and whisk the mixture without letting it boil. The mixture needs to reach 70C, when it has done this place it back under the mixer and whisk until the mixture has peaks. This normally takes between 10 – 15 minutes.


Ganache - Icing GuideGanache is a chocolate based icing that contains cream. It is often used in pastries and deserts. Both white and dark chocolate can be used when making ganache depending on your requirements. Ganache can be poured whilst it is still warm or whipped when it has cooled in order to thicken it to a consistently that can be spread on a cake.  Ganache can be used to make chocolate truffles, coat brownies, fill chocolate layer cakes and much more!


9 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
1 cup of thick cream

Chop your chocolate into small pieces.  Heat the cream in a small pan and when it has just about reached the boil pour over the chocolate and whisk until well combined. You must allow the mixture to cool before using in on a cake.