Dessert Toppings: Frosting, Icing, Filling & Glaze

The difference between frosting, icing, filling & glaze

A delicious cake is made even sweeter when topped with a scrumptious frosting. But what about those other delicious dessert toppings? What exactly is the difference and when do you use frosting, icing, glaze and fillings? The answer below was first published in our vintage cookbook from 1959, Icings, Frostings and Cake Decorating Made Easy.

Frosting is a thick and opaque mixture used for topping and covering the outside (and sometimes filling the inside) of cakes. All frostings may be used to cover a cake, but there are specific types that are best for decorating.

Icing is defined as a mixture of confectioners powdered sugar and liquid, thin enough to be brushed on with a pastry brush or spread. It is usually used on pastries, rolls, and coffee cakes. It may be used on simple cakes.

Glaze is a mixture of sugar and liquid thin enough to be poured - about the consistency of thin corn syrup. Glazes are used to coat fruit cakes, cupcakes and pieces of cake which are to be used for tea cakes or petits fours.

Filling is a thick mixture which is used between the layers of cake. It may be some of the frosting to which nuts, marshmallows or fruits are added. Whipped cream and custard mixtures are sometimes used for fillings. Each of these dessert toppings clearly has its place. But if frosting is the right choice for your dessert, you’ve got another sweet problem on your hands. What kind of frosting will you pick to top your cake? We’ve developed several types and flavors and gathered some of our favorite frosting recipes for you below. For a complete listing of all our dessert toppings including frosting, icing, glaze and filling recipes - visit our website. We have over 65 dessert toppings and that list continues to grow.

Before you get out your spatula, check out these four tips for making top-notch frostings:

  1. To thicken frostings which are too thin, add powdered sugar, a little at a time, until of the desired consistency. Variations in weather, temperature or the size and freshness of eggs can cause consistency variations. If powdered sugar had been previously opened, it is best to sift the powdered sugar to avoid any possibility of lumps.
  2. To thin frosting that is too thick, add more liquid (usually milk or cream), a drop at a time until just right.
  3. To color frosting, place a small amount in a cup. Blend this frosting into the rest of the mixture, a little at a time, until the desired color is obtained. It is usually best to tint frostings delicately. Too much color may give a cheap appearance. Natural food colors are available online if desired.
  4. To prevent frostings from crusting over, cover bowl of frosting with a damp cloth when not in use, or cover with plastic food wrap with the wrap touching the frosting to minimize air space.

Did You Know?  According to Imperial Sugar’s Pastry Chef, Eddy Van Damme, recipes for frosting or fillings that use margarine or shortening can easily be replaced with the same amount of unsalted butter.

Different Types of Frosting:

dessert toppingsButter Cream Frosting: All you need are 5 ingredients (butter, powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract and salt) and 5 minutes to whip up a sweet and creamy batch of 3-step homemade butter cream frosting. We use this as a base for many of our dessert recipes. For additional tips on how to make the perfect buttercream, watch our How to Fix a Broken Buttercream videoCream Cheese Frosting.jpgCream Cheese Frosting:  Mildly sweet and creamy, you can’t go wrong with Chef Eddy’s classic Cream Cheese Frosting recipe. Quick, easy and delicious. dessert toppingsWhipped Cream Frosting: Sweet and spicy, this cayenne-spiced frosting  pairs well with any other chocolate-based cake or cupcake. Here are some frosting flavor twists on some classic flavors. These delectable frostings make showstopping holiday recipes: dessert toppingsPumpkin Pie Frosting: Buttercream frosting is mixed with pumpkin pie spice to create a warm and spicy flavor. Delicious when used as a frosting over a chocolate or vanilla cupcake, this recipe is perfect for the fall season. dessert toppingsGingerbread Buttercream Frosting: This sweet molasses butter cream frosting marries with our ginger spiced cupcakes - making an irresistible winter holiday dessert. dessert toppingsLemon Butter Frosting: A light lemony twist on a classic frosting. Spread on sugar cookies, cakes or cupcakes for a refreshing and sweet topping to welcome the spring months. dessert toppingsFresh Raspberry Frosting: Sweet with bright flavor, our Raspberry Icing is made with fresh raspberries for a just-off-the-vine taste, perfect for summer sweet treats. What dessert toppings do you like to make and what is your favorite kind of frosting?


See the difference between frosting, filling and glaze in our video.



  1. dessert toppings: the difference between frosting, icing, glaze and fillings