Distinguishing Buttercream from Royal Icing

Key Difference – Buttercream vs Royal Icing

Buttercream and royal icing are both popular types of icings used for decorating cakes. The main difference between the two lies in their texture and consistency: buttercream is smooth and soft, while royal icing is firm and hard. This difference in consistency affects their functions.

What is Buttercream Icing?

Buttercream is an icing made from powdered sugar (icing sugar), butter or shortening, and milk or cream. Colorings and flavorings such as chocolate are often added to this frosting. It can be used for icing, filling inside cakes, coating, and other decorations. Buttercream is a common topping for cupcakes, cookies, sponge cakes, and other sweets. It has a sweet, creamy, and buttery taste, and a soft and smooth texture and consistency that is ideal for covering cakes. It is also used as the main glue between a layer of fondant icing and cake.

It is important to note that buttercream has a short shelf life since it is made from dairy. Once applied to a cake, it can remain at room temperature for about two or three days. Unused buttercream can be kept for about two weeks if stored in an airtight container and placed in the refrigerator.

What is Royal Icing?

Royal icing is a hard icing made from confectioner’s sugar and softly beaten egg whites. Other ingredients such as lemon, lime, and cream of tartar can also be added. This white-colored icing starts out soft but hardens over time. Some cake makers and decorators add glycerin to prevent royal icing from getting too hard.

Royal icing is used to decorate wedding cakes, Christmas cakes, and many other cakes. Since this icing has a firm and dried texture, decorations can be made in advance. It can also be used to make intricate designs and piping. Royal icing is mostly used as a decorating element rather than a tasty covering, but different flavors can be added to the icing to make it more flavorful. Additionally, it cannot be used to cover a large surface since it tends to crack. It should be gently and carefully coated (applied in coats) on a cake. Royal icing that is used to cover a cake is usually thinned with water.

What is the difference between Buttercream and Royal Icing?

Buttercream: Buttercream is made using icing sugar, butter or shortening, and milk or cream.
Royal Icing: Royal icing is made from confectioner’s sugar and softly beaten egg whites.

Buttercream: Buttercream has a buttery and creamy taste.
Royal Icing: Royal icing is very sweet since it contains a large amount of icing sugar.

Buttercream: Buttercream can be used as a filling, coating, and icing and can be used for other decorations.
Royal Icing: Royal icing is ideal for piping intricate designs, making flowers, creating letters, etc.

Buttercream: Buttercream has a soft and smooth consistency.
Royal Icing: Royal icing has a firm and hard texture.

Shelf Life:
Buttercream: Buttercream has a short shelf life.
Royal Icing: Decorations made from royal icing can be kept for a long time.

Image Courtesy:
“PME Professional Diploma in Royal Icing” (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
“Gallery 1” By Sarah Howells- Own work  (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

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Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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