Which Icing Should I Use?

02/15

Since I started teaching my cake decorating classes, one question comes up every lesson. ‘Which icing should I use?’

I decided it was high time to answer this common question so hopefully by the end of this article you will be savvy about sugar! All types of icing have their uses for one project or another, but it’s important to use the right one to get a good finish. Here are the most popular icings that I use and get asked about;

Sugarpaste

Also known as; icing, ‘ready to roll’ icing, cake covering, fondant (in America) and ‘roll out’ icing. This is the softest icing to use. Because it is so soft, it’s perfect to cover cakes, cupcakes and cookies with as even though it sets slightly, it doesn’t go too hard. With all things, however, you get what you pay for. I personally and in my classes use a professional brand of sugarpaste as it gets you a great finish. That said, nowadays with baking being more popular than ever, supermarkets and the like are putting a lot of time and energy into getting their own brands of sugarpaste up to scratch, appealing to professional and home bakers alike. I wouldn’t recommend modelling with this icing or cutting out delicate shapes as it is just too soft.

Modelling Paste

Modelling paste is an icing that has been strengthened and dries harder than sugarpaste. It is more elastic and as the name suggests, is perfect for modelling with. It is readily available in cake shops and on cake equipment websites however, those of you may remember one of my first ever blog posts was about Sainsbury’s Flower & Modelling Paste which I still highly recommend as it is great value and gives fab results. It’s easily available in white so you can colour yourself with concentrated food colourings or more recently, I have seen a wide range of coloured modelling paste for sale.

Flower Paste

Flower paste (also known as gum paste) is an icing that has been strengthened even more than modelling paste and dries a bit harder. It is perfect for rolling out very thinly to make flowers, stars, butterflies and other delicate decorations. This can also be bought easily in white but several companies now provide a rainbow of colours.

Mexican Paste

Mexican paste, which I’m pretty sure has nothing to do with Mexico, is a stretchy paste which can be rolled super thin. On my classes, I use Mexican paste with letter cutters such as FMM Tappits or Windsor Clickstix (available from Iced Jems). It is also perfect for patchwork cutters too. Weirdly, I really like the smell of this paste as well. Check out my Tappit Tutorial here.

Royal Icing

Royal icing is make using icing sugar, water, lemon juice and egg white and if you didn’t want to make your own, comes in a handy powder that you just mix with water. It is also available to buy ready made. At one time it was the covering of choice for all cake decorators but now is more commonly used to pipe details, messages and decorations. As well as being a solid ‘glue’ for sticking decorations.

Glacé Icing

This is your standard icing to cover the fairy cakes you made as a kid. Icing sugar and warm water. Perfect for reminiscing and for a soft and sweet finish to your bakes.

Buttercream/Frosting

Buttercream is a mixture of butter and icing sugar to create a filling for inside cakes, topping cupcakes and for a crumb coat before covering in sugarpaste. You can find my recipe here. Frosting is another name for this but can also mean a filling made with shortening instead of butter.

I hope that has helped clear up questions and provide sugar solutions!

If you’re looking to turn your baking hobby into a career, check out my ebook How To Start A Cake Business From Home for everything you need to know about running a successful baking business, including pricing, marketing, insurance and much more!

Happy baking!

Britt xo

 

  • Mavis Houldsworth

    my Mexican paste is very soft and elastic, do I need to put more icing sugar to it?

    • Britt Whyatt

      I wouldn’t Mavis, no. Mexican paste is meant to be soft and elastic. If you add more icing sugar it may not dry as it is supposed to. I use cornflour to dust my surfaces. B xo

  • Sarah Margaret Woollard

    Hi Britt! just been reading through your blog again to make sure i haven’t missed anything and i found this post really interesting, i bake and decorate cakes for family and friends i eventually hope to start a business so i brought your Ebook as well which is really helpful so thank you 🙂 i just wanted to know do you colour your own icing/fondant for covering your cakes or do you buy it already coloured? i sometimes find when I’ve coloured mine its a bit harder to work with and find it cracks and tears more easily when covering a cake even if i colour it the day before and leave it to rest it still ends up cracking! thanks sarah x

    • Britt Whyatt

      Hi Sarah,
      It depends on the colour. If it’s a light colour I will usually colour myself. If it’s a dark colour (red, black, dark blue or dark green) I will always buy it. I use Renshaw sugarpaste as I find it’s easier to colour. Hope that helps! Really pleased you’ve enjoyed the book! B xo

  • Astarte Mimosa

    From Australia here. What’s the difference between icing and frosting? We call it all the same thing over here, but I noticed that there was no mention of one of the most common ones – buttercream. Is this because of a difference in icing and frosting labelling? What is the difference? Do you have a seperate post about frostings?

    • Britt Whyatt

      Frosting is buttercream. Buttercream has a very specific role in covering cakes and cupcakes. It wouldn’t be confused with the icing you need to cut letters out with. By ‘icing’, I am talking about the different types of hard and soft sugar you can model with and cover cakes with. In the UK, buttercream and icing are two different things. 🙂 But, I will add a little bit at the end for you. B xo

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