The Icing on Your Cake

Green wedding cake

Buttercream or fondant? Ganache or whipped cream? And marzipan….?? Icing is a very personal preference for both taste and appearance, and choosing the best option for you and your wedding guests can often be tricky. Here is an overview of the most popular varieties:

Buttercream–Generally the most popular icing option for cakes of all occasions. Aside from being versatile for pairing with a wide range of cake flavors and textures, buttercream tends to be a crowd-pleaser in terms of taste, and works well for a variety of decorating styles.  Be aware that buttercream has many variations–American, Swiss or Italian Meringue and French.  Most people are familiar with the American version, made with confectioner’s sugar, milk and butter (or even shortening).  This variety tends to be the sweetest option with a slightly sugary texture which holds up well in a range of temperatures and climates.   Swiss and Italian Meringue buttercreams are made with egg whites, sugar syrups and softened butter.  These are lighter in texture and smooth as silk, yet with a less sweet and more buttery taste than their American cousin.  French Buttercream is made using the yolks and is the most delicate of the bunch, tending to become very soft in warm temperatures.

Fondant–A pliable, rolled icing which has become a very popular choice for stylish wedding cakes. Fondant is rolled out in thin sheets and then wrapped around the wedding cake for a satin smooth finish.  These cakes are most delicious when a iced first with a tasty layer of buttercream before being encased in a very thin fondant covering.  The cake underneath stays very moist, but it is best to choose a more dense variety of cake that can hold up to cutting through both the fondant and buttercream.  Fondant is not always the best choice in humid climates, as it can become sticky and very soft.

Cream Cheese–Cream cheese icing is a variation on buttercream, yet with a rich tangy flavor that marries well to carrot or spice cake, lemon or red velvet.  This type of icing is ivory in color and very soft, making it more suitable for designs that do not require highly detailed icing decorations.

Ganache–A classic combination of chocolate and cream in equal ratios, often with butter or liqueur added.  Ganache can be poured over a cake for a shiny, sleek finish or chilled and whipped for more of a mousse-like texture and taste.  Ganache, like French Buttercream, should be avoided in very warm temperatures, yet is more stable than a simple whipped cream icing.

Royal Icing, Marzipan, Pastillage, Spun Sugar and Gum Paste–These confections are usually reserved for decorations such as flowers, figurines, lattice work or other design elements that are typically not eaten.  Although edible, they are more for the eye than the palate.

When it comes to decision time, bring together your personal tastes, consider your guests and environment and what you envision your dream wedding cake to look like.  A cake tasting with a skilled cake artist can help pull all of these elements together and leave you feeling satisfied and full of anticipation for that special shared bite at the reception!