Buttercream vs Whipped Icing

Buttercream vs Whipped Icing – What Is the Difference?

Baker or not, everyone loves eating cakes. But which kind of frosting do you enjoy? Buttercream or Whipped icing?

People often use these terms interchangeably, not even realizing they come with many differences you probably need to learn about. Buttercream has a thicker and stiff texture with unique flavors added to it, like chocolate, fruit, etc. Whipping icing is much lighter and airy in terms of taste and texture.

This article will walk you through all the differences between buttercream and whipping icing you probably didn’t know.

Buttercream Frosting

Buttercream Frosting

Image Source – https://www.twosisterscrafting.com/

Buttercream frosting is typically the most common type for cakes and pastries. This frosting is relatively common in baking, not just for cake decorating.

As the name suggests, buttercream is made by “frothing” or “creaming” butter and sugar until it forms a fluffy and airy mixture. Flavorings are added depending on what the person wants the frosting to taste like. Since it’s used for frosting cakes and cookies, the texture is slightly stiffer and firmer than whipped icing.

Essential ingredients used in Buttercream frosting:

Butter – Buttercream uses unsalted butter since it allows the baker to control and monitor the salt content in the frosting. Also, since the butter is creamed with sugar, it must be at room temperature before mixing it with a stand mixer.

Powdered sugar – This is the next important element. There are two options – confectioner’s sugar or icing sugar. Besides sweetening the frosting, the powdered sugar also elevates the texture of the frosting and makes it firmer.

Flavoring – One of the most common types of flavor added to buttercream frosting is vanilla. However, some also add chocolate, citrus zest, etc., to elevate the taste and flavor of the frosting.

Liquid – This isn’t mandatory, but if the sugar content has somehow become more than it should be, a little amount of milk or heavy cream is added to smoothen the texture and eliminate lumps in the frosting.

Different variations of buttercream frosting include:

American buttercream – This is the most common buttercream frosting that uses unsalted butter, powdered sugar, and flavoring, all creamed together in a stand mixer.

Swiss meringue buttercream – If you want to go fancy, you will choose this type of buttercream. Instead of butter, this one uses egg whites, which are “cooked” in a double boiler with sugar until the sugar dissolves. The mixture is then transferred to a stand mixer and whipped until stiff peaks form.

Italian meringue buttercream – This one is a lot similar to Swiss meringue. Still, instead of “cooking the egg whites and sugar,” the sugar syrup is prepared separately and is later added to the beaten egg whites and then mixed until it forms a smooth, silky texture with soft peaks.

Also, you must taste the buttercream while preparing it since the texture can become stiff or too sweet to taste.

Breaking down the basics:

With the types and ingredients out of the way, let us shift our focus on the taste, texture, and consistency of the buttercream frosting.

Taste – It has a sweet and rich taste, and the added flavorings further enhance the taste.

Texture – The texture of the buttercream will vary depending on the type you are making. For example, the traditional buttercream has a slightly gritty texture, while the Swiss and Italian meringue has a smoother texture.

Consistency – The consistency will again depend on how much you beat the buttercream. It can range from somewhat spreading to piping consistency too. Buttercream can hold its shape when piped but can also melt or soften if exposed to heat or high humidity.

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Whipped Icing

Whipped Icing

Image Source – https://www.twosisterscrafting.com/

With buttercream frosting out of the way, let us shift our focus to whipping icing. This one is a lighter and fluffier frosting often used as a substitute for whipped cream. Like buttercream, this can be used to frost cakes, cookies, and even cupcakes.

Main ingredients of whipped icing:

Whipped cream – You need heavy whipping cream as the main ingredient, which is why this type of frosting has a smoother and lighter texture.

Sweetener – No one likes their frosting to lack sugar, so even whipped icing has some sweetener added. In most cases, it is granulated or powdered sugar.

Flavoring – The last ingredient is added flavors. It can include vanilla, fruit extracts, citrus, or even cocoa powder.

Types of whipped icing:

Traditional – Combines whipping heavy cream with sugar and vanilla extract until it reaches a smooth and fluffy texture.

Stabilized – To ensure that the whipped cream doesn’t lose its fluffy texture, stabilizers like gelatin or cream of tartar are added while whipping to achieve the stabilized whipped icing.

Non-dairy – This includes non-dairy alternatives of whipping cream like coconut cream, non-dairy whipped toppings, etc.

Breaking down the basics:

Taste – Unlike buttercream frosting, whipped icing is slightly less sweet and has a light texture.

Texture – Whipped icing is soft and airy, similar to freshly whipped cream. It is light and fluffy, making it ideal for desserts that require a lighter frosting.

Consistency – Whipped icing is typically spreadable and easy to work with. However, it is more firm and stable than buttercream, so it may not hold intricate designs or shapes for extended periods. Stabilized whipped cream is used in those cases.

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Differences between Buttercream and Whipped Icing

Now that we have the basics sorted let us walk you through the differences between these two types of frosting.

1. Ingredients

As we discussed, buttercream frosting is made by creaming unsalted butter with powdered sugar for a thick, fluffy, and stiff consistency.

Whipping icing is made with whipping cream, non-dairy alternatives, and mixed or beaten sugar to attain a fluffy and airy texture.

2. Taste

Buttercream frosting has a rich, thick, and creamy flavor since it contains butter, powdered sugar, and cream.

Whipped icing has a lighter, fresher, and less sweet taste, allowing the flavor of the actual dessert to shine through.

3. Texture and Consistency

Buttercream uses powdered sugar and is sometimes even cooked on a double boiler for a smooth and velvety texture. It has incredible spreadability and is thus great for piping, crumb-coating cakes, decorating cakes, and cookies.

Whipped icing has an airy and light texture, making it less stable in high temperatures. Hence, it is often used as a topping on desserts.

4. Sweetness

Both of these frostings are sweet and high-calorie elements in a dessert. However, the good thing is that the sweetness level is adjustable according to one’s preference.

In general, the buttercream frosting is slightly sweeter than whipped icing. But, it is also true that the sweetness is adjustable.

5. Stability and Durability

Now, this might sound confusing but hear us out first.

Buttercream frosting is more stable and can hold its shape better, even in fluctuating temperatures. Hence, they make great options for celebration cakes since they can withstand transportation.

On the other hand, whipped icing is highly unstable and can melt quite quickly. It is also prone to deflating when exposed to high temperatures.

6. Nutrition

Both buttercream frosting and whipped icing are treats and should be enjoyed in moderation due to their high-calorie content. However, there are some differences:

Buttercream has around 100-150 calories per serving. Whipped icing has about 30-80 calories per serving.

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Uses and Applications

Now, fizzling down to the main point of discussion – which kind of frosting is used where. There are specific attributes that you need to focus on. So, let us break those down first.


Buttercream frosting is versatile and widely used in various baking applications. Its characteristics make it ideal for:

Decorating cakes – designs, borders, intricate designs.

Frosting cakes – can be used as a crumb coat, top coat, smoothing edges, etc.

Cupcakes – frosting cupcakes and adding designs

Whipped icing

Whipped icing is best suited for lighter, less formal desserts that benefit from its airy texture and fresh taste. Some common uses include:

Topping for tarts – a dollop of whipped icing compliments the tartness and acidity of the fruits.

Cupcake topping – perfect for a lighter, less sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth kind of frosting on the cupcakes.

Filling for cakes and pastries – filling between cake layers to make a balanced dessert.

Both frostings offer different characteristics that can enhance the appearance and taste of various desserts.

Factors to Consider When Choosing between Buttercream and Whipped Icing

Last but not the least is making the final choice. Being confused between buttercream and whipped icing is common for a beginner baker.

Which one should I choose? What would better pair with the dessert? These questions are recurrent and common. The following are some factors to consider:

Taste preferences – The flavor profile of the dessert makes all the decisions. If you want something rich and decadent, buttercream is the way. If you want something light and fresh, whipped icing is the best.

Texture and appearance – Buttercream offers a firm, stable, and smoother texture to the dessert, hence why it is used for cake frosting. Whipped icing is better on tarts and as a decorative element on the dessert.

Weather conditions and serving environment – Lastly, pay attention to the environment. Will you have to travel with the dessert? Will there be humidity in the surroundings? If yes, buttercream is a better choice.

In short, buttercream frosting is a more versatile but sweeter option. But whipped icing is the way to go if you want something light and refreshing with fewer calories. It all fizzles down to personal preferences.


Buttercream frosting and whipped icing often spark debate. If you need clarification on these two and have wondered which would be a better choice, we hope this article gives you all the insights. Remember that the choice comes down to the kind of dessert you are making and the sweetness level you want.


  • Ava Jones

    Meet Ava Jones, the heart behind BlissfulBblog.com. Passionate about parenting, cooking, and fostering harmonious homes, she invites you on an incredible journey of shared insights, experiences, and tips. As a fellow mom, Ava offers a virtual hand of support and inspiration, understanding the joys, challenges, and rewarding moments of raising children. Welcome to her world of love and guidance.

Ava Jones

Meet Ava Jones, the heart behind BlissfulBblog.com. Passionate about parenting, cooking, and fostering harmonious homes, she invites you on an incredible journey of shared insights, experiences, and tips. As a fellow mom, Ava offers a virtual hand of support and inspiration, understanding the joys, challenges, and rewarding moments of raising children. Welcome to her world of love and guidance.

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