Get the fast facts on the most popular icings, from fondant to ganache.
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As you plan your wedding, you will likely come across several details that you aren't completely familiar with, from flower types to vendor insurance. You do, however, have to educate yourself on the unknowns to ensure your big day goes off without a hitch. Another one of these details few couples know a great deal about? Cake frosting. While you may think you have an idea of what you want for your wedding dessert, you might feel overwhelmed by the many icing options to choose from.
To make sure you walk into your tasting completely prepared, we asked a few wedding cake experts to share the pros and cons associated with the most popular types of frosting. Ahead, you'll learn all about each coating option—from fondant to ganache. When it comes to choosing what to cover your cake in, Tânia Sérgio of T Bakes says it's best to start by considering two factors: aesthetics and flavor. The reason? "Never overlook the experience you and your guests will have when enjoying a piece of cake and how the frosting will affect it," she says. If you want your cake to both look and taste good, she suggests doing your research on different bakers' styles portfolios and scheduling a cake tasting with whomever you eventually choose.
Whether you want to know what frosting is best for a clean, polished look or simply want to satisfy your sweet tooth, this helpful guide will point you in the right direction. With these expert-approved tips, you'll approach your cake frosting selection with confidence.
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Fondant, a firm sugar icing, is perhaps one of the most popular wedding cake coatings. Why? Due to its clean, polished look, Tiffany MacIsaac of Buttercream Bakeshop says it's extremely versatile, meaning you can add on edible illustrations, sugar crystals and flowers, and other decorative elements. Bakers also favor fondant because it can be easily dyed and won't stain your guests' mouths.
Another benefit of this coating? Fondant holds up well in warmer temperatures and keeps your cake fresh, says Tânia Sérgio of T Bakes.
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Although fondant is a wedding favorite, it "is not the most delectable option," says Sérgio, "but if done right, you won't even notice it, allowing for the cake's flavors to shine. It requires a skilled baker or cake designer to achieve the perfect balance between aesthetics and flavor." Fondant is also the most expensive option, which might work against your budget.
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If you (or your future husband or wife) have a sweet tooth, American buttercream is the icing for you. According to Stevi Auble of Hey There, Cupcake!, this topping is made with a combination of confectioners' sugar, butter, and either milk or cream—making it much sweeter than other options on this list.
While buttercream may not be one of the most versatile frostings (its gritty texture makes it a bit harder to work with), MacIsaac prefers it for more rustic designs, like naked cakes. She also says its pairs well with fresh flowers. "It's really easy to get texture with this buttercream, so I only use it when I don't need a super smooth finish," says Cassidy Budge Harrison of Flour & Flourish.
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Cons: American Buttercream
However, due to its "grittiness," this frosting type is more difficult to apply, says MacIsaac. Harrison agrees: "I find it tricky to get really sharp corners and smooth sides when I frost with it."
Another con? Much like fondant, buttercream can be dyed any color you choose—but be careful when picking darker hues, adds MacIssac, since more pigmented hues "require a lot of coloring and will dye mouths."
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As far as buttercream options go, MacIsaac says Swiss and Italian meringue are the two most delicious options. "Both Italian and Swiss are made using meringue, just with slightly different techniques—resulting in a light, fluffy, exceptionally smooth, and less-sweet buttercream," she explains. Due to their silky textures, they give the cake a shiny finish. "I can get it so smooth it almost looks like fondant and it also looks really pretty with different textures," says Harrison.
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Cons: Italian and Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Throwing an outdoor summer celebration? You might want to steer clear of Italian and Swiss meringue buttercream. Their composition makes them susceptible to melting in moderate to high temperatures, says Auble.
Much like American buttercream, Italian and Swiss meringue will stain your attendees' mouths—so take color into consideration when selecting this frosting option.
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Chocolate lovers, ganache is for you. According to Auble, this frosting is "essentially chocolate and cream mixed to a thick, spreadable consistency." Ganache holds color and flavor well, so it can easily be transformed into the ideal palette for any design, Auble continues. It holds up well in higher temperatures—but it's also "quite susceptible to temperature variations, so it's important to know how the cake will be transported and what conditions it will be in at the venue," Sérgio explains.
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Depending on the quality of ingredients your baker uses, ganache could come at a higher price than other frosting options. "The biggest con of a ganache finish would likely be the cost," says Sérgio, since "high quality chocolate can definitely add to the bottom line."