Best Types of Icing for Birthday CakesNo novelty birthday cake can be without cake decorating icing.  It is the most important part of the cake as it conveys the theme and is what makes the cake ‘novel’.

Not only does it make the cake more attractive, it is also important to protect the cake from moisture loss and improve its keeping qualities.

However, there are many different types of icing to choose from, so what is the best one for your cake?  The following video discusses a few of the different varieties and gives a good overview.

Five Types of Cake Icing

So essentially the five main types of cake decorating icing are:

Buttercream – flavourful, easily coloured and consistency can be controlled.

Royal Icing – a meringue based icing (i.e. egg whites) that dries hard and must be kept covered.

Rolled Fondant – gives a smooth finish, can be coloured, moulded and cut out.

Poured Fondant – mainly used for petits fours.

Whipped Cream The two most common types of icing used for birthday cakes are buttercream and rolled fondant.  They can both be easily worked to produce a decorative result.  Royal icing can also be used but is mostly suitable for elaborate tube work and sugar art.

Buttercream Icing

A mixture of butter, icing sugar and milk, this icing is generally spread over the cake using a spatula or flat knife.  Alternatively it can be piped to create decorations, images and writing.

Before coloring buttercream it is important to whip the butter very well and get it as white as possible.  This ensures a good color can be achieved, otherwise the yellow of the butter can affect the end color.  It can sometimes be difficult to get a deep color with buttercream icing.

Buttercream Icing Recipe


  • 125g butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Beat the butter until it is as white as possible.  Gradually beat in the icing sugar and milk, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla and beat well.  Color as required.

  • This recipe is sufficient for an average sized cake e.g. 8 inch (20 cm) round or square.
  • Adjust quantities according to the size of the cake to be made.
  • The vanilla can be replaced with other essences or grated citrus rind to create different flavors.
  • To make a chocolate variation, add 1/3 cup (35 g) sifted cocoa powder with the first addition of icing sugar.

Rolled Fondant Icing

This is a soft, pliable cake decorating icing made from icing sugar and glucose.  It can be rolled, molded and cut out to create a variety of decorative effects.  While it’s not as flavorful as buttercream, it results in a smooth, even surface on the cake and looks great. Rolled fondant icing can be bought ready-made.

To color the icing, it must be kneaded first.  The color is then added by dipping a skewer into the coloring then dabbing it into the fondant.  Continue to knead the icing until there are no streaks and a uniform color is achieved.

To cover a novelty birthday cake with fondant, brush the cake with jam, roll the icing to the desired thickness, then lift it onto the cake using either your hands or a rolling pin.  Smooth with the palms of your hands that have been dusted with icing sugar.  Trim the surplus paste from the base of the cake with a sharp knife.

Selecting the right icing for your birthday cake is an important step.  Choose from buttercream or rolled fondant icing based on the information above and your cake will be fantastic.

Are you ready to try learn some new buttercream skills?  Check out this recommended course by Wilton on Craftsy

Wilton Method Buttercream Skills Craftsy