Difference between: frosting and icing

We’ve done a more specific buttercream versus pastry cream Difference Between, but we haven’t actually looked at frosting and icing yet – let’s pin down the differences.

small white bowls of pink, blue, yellow, and purple frosting


  • Frosting: a sweet mixture, cooked or uncooked, for coating or filling cakes, cookies, and the like; icing.
  • Icing: a sweet, creamy spread, as of confectioners’ sugar, butter, and flavoring, for covering cakes, cookies, etc; frosting.

From the definitions, we can see the words can basically be used interchangeably.

Delving deeper…


  • Has a cream or butter base; like buttercream.
  • Coats the outside or inside of a cake.
  • Has a thick and gooey consistency.
  • Has a fluffy appearance.
  • Can hold shapes better for decorating.


  • Has a sugar base (but can have an egg white, butter, or cream base).
  • Glazes cakes, cookies, pastries.
  • Has a thin, more liquid-y consistency (hardens up as it dries).
  • Has a glossy appearance.

Colors can be added to both, and both tend to be opaque. Icing was around before frosting was, but now both can used to complement our baked goods.

In conclusion, frosting is thicker and more malleable to work with, being used for cakes and sometimes cookies and other treats. It tastes almost buttery.

Icing is more of a glaze, is less dense, and is used on pastries as well as cakes and etc. It tastes very sugary.