Cake coverings and Fillings

Today's post comes in the hope that I can help some of you when it comes to ordering your cakes. There are so many options and I know that when I ask my potential customers which options they would prefer it is very common for me to need to explain in more detail what choices they have.

So with that in mind I hope this helps to explain some of those technical terms and help you to decide what you want to create your dream cake.

I started out with the intention of covering all aspects of the cake process here but it started to become like a rewrite of War and Peace so for today I will concentrate on cake fillings and coverings.

Cake coverings, commonly known as icing come in a variety of textures, flavours and colours. Icing starts out white and the colouring is added using coloured pastes, liquids and powders.

They are all very sweet as they are all made using icing sugar also known as confectioners sugar and they can be flavoured by adding natural or synthetic flavourings.

Cake fillings are used between the layers of the sponge to add to the flavour and texture to the cake.


Sugarpaste is also known as fondant or ready to roll icing. It is has a soft dough like consistency which is ideal for rolling out and placing over the cake to cover it. It is also used for modelling. The icing dries slightly on the cake but still keeps its softness.

This cake and all of it's decorations are made using Sugarpste.

Hardeners such as Tylo powder can be added to sugarpaste when making models to keep them sturdy. (Other pastes are also used to create models and sugar flowers which I will cover in more detail in another post)

Sugarpaste is primarily made from sugar, water, gelatine, vegetable fat or shortening, and glycerine.

Royal Icing

Royal icing is used for covering cakes and for piping decoration onto covered cakes. It is a thick paste made primarily of icing sugar and egg whites. Traditional recipes use fresh egg whites however more modern recipes replace the fresh egg for meringue or egg white powder. It is mixed to a paste like consistency.

When covering cakes a thicker consistency of icing is used. It is spread over the cake using a spatula and left to dry. A bit like plastering a wall!

The piped design on this wedding cake is Royal Icing

When royal icing is used for piping the consistency is slightly thinner but is still left to air dry on the cake after the design is piped.

Royal icing is also used to decorate biscuits. The outline is piped onto the biscuit and then a more watered down version of the icing is used to fill in the picture This is called a run out. And like the other versions is left to air dry.

Water icing

Water icing also known as glace icing, is simply that, Icing sugar and water, although sometimes glycerine is added to give it a shine. It has a runny consistency and is mainly used on fairy cakes and sometimes for biscuits. It is left to air dry and the top of the icing will be dry to touch but will be soft underneath.

These fairy cakes are decorated with water icing


Buttercream is used to cover and fill cakes. It is made by combining butter and sugar to form a thick fluffy paste.

Buttercream can be spread between the layers of cakes or piped onto cupcakes. It is also used to cover cakes and can be smooth or left textured. A very thin layer of buttercream is used to coat a cake to create a smooth base before covering in sugarpaste. This is called a crumb coat.

Buttercream doesn't dry out but will go hard if you put in the fridge.

This is Buttercream in its simplest form and also referred to as American Buttercream.

These cakes are covered and decorated using Buttercream

There are other types of buttercream such as Italian meringue buttercream , swiss meringue buttercream which both include egg white in the recipe and heating the sugar. French buttercream uses egg yolks to create a creamy rich butter cream. You wouldn't use French buttercream to cover your cakes just to fill them.


Marzipan can also be referred to as almond paste but it doesn't have the consistency of a paste it more of a sticky dough. Marzipan is made with ground almonds and sugar.

It is often used to cover fruit cakes before they are iced and can also be used to make models especially the popular fruit shaped sweets often found at Christmas time.

These are blocks of Marzipan and sugarpaste ready to cover the fruit cakes.

Those that know me an read my blog often are all to aware of my love of Marzipan, I always look out for the marzipan bars covered in chocolate in the sweet shop!


Ganache is used to fill and cover cakes. Recently it has started to be used as crumb coat like the buttercream to to create a smooth layer before the cake is covered in sugarpaste.

This cake is covered in Rosegole buttercream with a White chocolate ganache drip

It is made by whisking melted chocolate and cream into a smooth creamy sauce, the ratio of cream to chocolate will determine how thick the ganache is.

Ganache can be made with White, Milk and Dark Chocolate.

I hope this helps a bit when deciding which icing and filling to choose for your cake or cupcakes in the future.

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