10 Wedding Cake Frosting Options to Top Your Big-Day Dessert

From smooth fondant and sweet buttercream to rich ganache and airy whipped cream, we're bringing you the most popular frosting types for your wedding cake.
Every Type of Wedding Cake Frosting You Need to Know
Photo: Samantha Jay Photography
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Cake: Jen Roach Cakes
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by
Jacqueline Mann
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Jacqueline Mann
The Knot Contributor
  • Jacqueline writes articles for The Knot Worldwide that cover an array of wedding-related topics.
  • She previously worked as a marketing manager for a wedding venue where she learned the intricate details of wedding planning.
  • Jacqueline graduated from Bluefield University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and communications.
Updated May 11, 2023

Wedding cakes aren't just delicious but also add to the ambiance of your wedding day. In order to create the perfect wedding cake, the wedding cake frosting you choose matters. Frosting can give your dessert a modern look, layered texture, or smooth, elegant surface.

Before you get to selecting the best frosting for a wedding cake, pick a wedding cake design that matches the overall theme of your big day. It's also important to find a wedding cake baker who can make your vision a reality and understands the ins and out of different frosting types. Whether you want fluffy whipped cream, a chic fondant finish, or silky chocolate ganache, there's a frosting type that will match your wedding style. We chatted with wedding expert Dorothy Benner, partner of Pennsylvania-based Sugar Dusted Bakers, to explore the most popular wedding cake frosting types so you can find the best option for your cake. Read on to learn everything you need to know about wedding cake frosting and to learn what variation is the best icing for wedding cakes.

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What Kind of Wedding Cake Frosting Is the Most Popular?

To start, it's important to know what wedding cake frosting is. In short, it's what encases any wedding cake. Although wedding cake icing is technically ever-so-slightly different from wedding cake frosting (icing is thinner than frosting generally), many people use the two phrases interchangeably.

Benner said she sees lots of requests for buttercream wedding cake frosting. "In my experience, the most popular buttercreams are traditional American buttercream and Swiss meringue buttercream," she said. Both varieties are sweet and simple with a delectable combination of butter and sugar. While buttercreams are delicious on their own, bakers can also add different flavors and colors to the frosting for a custom design and taste. Think orange-flavored buttercream paired with spice cake, or chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream.

Which Wedding Cake Frosting Type Is the Most Stable?

In order to answer the question, "What is the best frosting for a wedding cake?" we need to talk about frosting stability and structure. While American buttercream melts easily in warm temperatures compared to other wedding cake frosting types, a Swiss meringue variety can withstand more heat. "Swiss meringue buttercream is surprisingly very stable," Benner said. "It holds up very well; although I prefer to refrigerate before transportation." The biggest difference between the two types of wedding cake icing is the addition of egg whites in the Swiss meringue, which allows it to endure those warmer temps. Benner said if a couple prefers American buttercream, but is hosting a spring or summer wedding, she can adjust the liquid in the frosting to make it stiffer. This does, however, affect the consistency and taste of the buttercream wedding cake frosting.

Can You Freeze a Frosted Cake?

Reminisce about your wedding day as you dig a fork into your cake on your anniversary. A frosted wedding cake will last in the freezer if it is stored away properly. Remove decorative elements from the top tier of your wedding cake and cover it with layers of plastic wrap to keep air from ruining its texture and taste. Store your wedding cake in an airtight container in the freezer until you're ready to enjoy a slice with your partner.

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Types of Wedding Cake Frosting

So what is the best icing for wedding cakes? While buttercream wedding cake icing take the cake for popularity, maybe a cream cheese or chocolate fudge variety of wedding cake icing is more your style. Select a frosting type and design that matches the vision and vibe of your wedding. A fluffy lemon buttercream is a refreshing option for a summer wedding, while a decadent ganache is comforting on a cool fall day. Check out the wedding cake frosting types below to find the best choice for your wedding.

1. Swiss Meringue Buttercream Wedding Cake Icing

Swiss meringue buttercream combines egg whites and sugar with butter to create a smooth and fluffy texture. This delicious combination isn't as sweet as American buttercream, which is sometimes preferable to couples and their guests. Benner said there aren't many drawbacks to using Swiss meringue buttercream on a wedding cake. One con is the limitation of certain styles due to its soft texture. "You can't do a watercolor painted finish on buttercream to the same effect as on fondant," Benner said. However, there are still ways to get creative with this wedding cake frosting type, including an ombre effect or playing with textures. One of Benner's favorite designs is a strawberry Swiss buttercream decorated with white flowers and natural-colored greenery.

2. Fondant Wedding Cake Frosting

Fondant gives a smooth and elegant finish to your wedding cake that's difficult to emulate with traditional wedding cake frosting. The moldable texture is great for creating detailed patterns and shapes. It's also the perfect canvas for watercolor and geode cutout designs.

Although it looks beautiful, Benner added it doesn't always have a great taste. Thankfully, there are a few ways to remedy this. "We often use a homemade marshmallow fondant which tastes better," she said. "Also, by using a heavier layer of base buttercream under the fondant, [guests can] peel the fondant layer off instead of eating it." Fondant also comes with a heftier price tag, costing an additional .50 per serving at Benner's bakery in Pennsylvania.

3. Cream Cheese Wedding Cake Icing

Made with butter, powdered sugar and, of course, cream cheese, this tangy and creamy frosting boasts a unique flavor compared to other options. Pair cream cheese wedding cake frosting with fresh fruit flavors during a spring or summer wedding, or spiced or red velvet cake in the fall or winter. This versatile frosting is also not overly sweet so it might be the best wedding cake icing for you if you have a mild sweet tooth. A downside to cream cheese wedding cake frosting is its soft texture is not ideal for intricate details, so keep that in mind if you're looking for a more elaborate cake design.

4. American Buttercream Wedding Cake Frosting

American Buttercream Wedding Cake Frosting
Photo: Alexandra Knight Photography

The sweetest of all the buttercream wedding cake icing types is American buttercream which has the highest ratio of sugar to butter. If you and your guests have a sweet tooth, this option will certainly satisfy that craving. Unlike Swiss buttercream, American buttercream forms a light crust as it dries, making it an ideal surface for piping or painting. Just be careful to keep your cake out of high temperatures or high humidity, as it has a tendency to melt. In terms of cost, Benner said she charges the same amount for all buttercream frosting options. So, whether you choose the American or Swiss version, the price is usually the same.

5. Ganache Wedding Cake Icing

Dreaming of wedding cake with chocolate frosting? "Ganache is very stable and makes for a lovely filling for your wedding day," Benner said. "It's rich, creamy and very delightful for your special day." Made with chocolate, cream and butter, ganache has a velvety, smooth texture. Pour icing over your wedding cake for a dip effect, or use it as an all-over frosting. Ganache can melt and lose its shape if exposed to warm temperatures, so it's not the best option for an outdoor summer wedding.

6. Whipped Cream Wedding Cake Frosting

Whipped Cream Wedding Cake Frosting
Photo: Therese Beth Photography,Cake: The Fenwick Bakery

Wedding cake whipped cream frosting has a light and airy texture that isn't too sweet. Pair it with layers of sponge cake and fresh fruit for a delicate dessert that won't weigh your guests down (they might even ask for a second slice). While it's a refreshing option for a spring or summer wedding, make sure your cake stays refrigerated before your reception and stays out of the heat and direct sunlight. Otherwise, you may end up with a soupy mess on your dessert table.

7. Barely Frosted Semi-Naked Cake

Another frosting option is having very little frosting at all. Semi-naked cakes allow a little bit of the cake itself to show through, giving it a rustic look. This barely frosted wedding cake vibe is achieved by spreading a thin layer of frosting over the layers of cake and filling. A semi-naked cake might be a great option if you're looking to complement your decor or simply don't want a lot of frosting on your cake. A downside to this option is air is allowed to get to the portion of the cake not covered in frosting. "One issue I have heard brought up from other brides is that the trend of semi-nude and nude cakes can dry out," Benner said. "One way we prevent that is using a cake wash. This helps seal the moisture in."

8. Royal Icing

Often seen on sugar cookies, royal icing is a traditional wedding cake frosting on English wedding cakes. Made with egg whites and confectioner's sugar, royal icing has a hard, candy-like exterior that offers a unique texture. The frosting is also sturdy enough for piping on intricate designs. A downside to royal icing is it can crack, which may alter the look of your royal icing wedding cake.

9. Chocolate Fudge Wedding Cake Icing

Treat yourself and your guests to a decadent wedding cake frosted with chocolate fudge. This dense frosting has a flavor combination of buttercream and thick candy-like fudge. It truly is a chocolate-lovers dream. Chocolate fudge frosting is often made with melted chocolate and cocoa powder that is added to milk, butter and sugar. A downside to this option is sugar crystals can harden in the frosting and give it a grainy texture. Ask your baker to used powdered sugar instead to prevent this from happening.

10. Marzipan Wedding Cake Frosting

Marzipan Wedding Cake Frosting
Photo: Melody Sundberg / Shutterstock

Similar to fondant, marzipan provides a smooth finish over your wedding cake, but with its own unique flavor. Bakers create marzipan using almond paste or ground almonds along with water, sugar and sometimes egg whites. The subtle, nutty flavor pairs well with cakes made with sweet spices or citrus. Marzipan's clay-like texture can also form ornamental shapes to decorate the exterior of your cake. The biggest downside to marzipan is it's not safe for guests with nut allergies. Make sure to check for dietary restrictions before deciding on marzipan frosting.

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