Bakery Poll: The _____ on the Cake

Having posted not one but two snarky political entries in recent days, I feel like I owe the Internet a couple of ResearchBlogging posts to make up for it. It’s the last week of classes here, though, which means I have a lot of frantic work to do. Thus, a frivolous poll inspired by the cinnamon rolls I had with breakfast:

While this will almost certainly get more votes for “I will explain in a comment” than comments– that seems to be an Internet tradition– it’s still a classical poll, and thus you must choose one and only one answer, not a quantum superposition of multiple answers.

23 thoughts on “Bakery Poll: The _____ on the Cake

  1. The expression is “icing on the cake.” We usually say frosting, especially when it is chocolate instead of white. But icing works and is understandable.

  2. It depends on the viscosity at the time of application.

    If it goes on liquid and dries to a shell-like consistency, it’s icing.

    If it goes on as a thick gel that has to be spread with a spatula, and maintains that consistency, it’s frosting.

    If it starts as a paste that is rolled out separately and applied in layers, it’s a fondant.

  3. @ HP
    “If it goes on liquid and dries to a shell-like consistency, it’s icing.”

    Unless it’s applied in a very thin layer, in which it becomes a glaze.

  4. To be even more pedantic, fondant can be either icing or rolled decorative paste; the same word is used for both forms. Though fondant is usually cooked, “royal icing” is sometimes just sugar and water mixed together.

  5. Either language evolution or evolution in dessert preferences is at work here. The traditional metaphor, as Beth points out, is “icing on the cake,” although in modern usage it’s now usually called frosting. But other baked goods–particularly donuts and cookies–have icing on them. (They can have frosting, too, but the word has a different meaning in that context: a coating of powdery sugar.) There is a difference: icing is thinner but more solid, frosting (on a cake) is thick but not fully solidified. As I am not a frequent baker I have no knowledge of pre-cooking consistencies.

  6. Agreed with HP and asad. Icing is sugar+liquid, frosting is sugar+fat+liquid, and fondant is disgusting. Plain powdered sugar is neither icing nor frosting nor glaze, though it can be a component of any one of them.

  7. For cakes, it’s icing if it comes out of my mouth (in metaphor form) and frosting when it goes in. On cookies and in hockey, it’s generally icing.

  8. As to whether it’s The root cause of the Obesity Epidemic, I refer you to the CNN article in your own Links Dump from earlier today.

    Another question: Why is called icing or frosting, since it’s not actually cold?

  9. It’s neither icing nor frosting. Being a speaker of the queen’s English, I define icing as gooey stuff that goes on top of a cake and frosting as the gunk that builds up in a freezer (hence the term defrosting). I suppose we would just call it “icing sugar” or “a dusting of icing sugar”. Then again, if you are putting it on anything other than a Victoria sponge we would likely turn our noses up at it anyway.

  10. What HP (#5) said. Icing and frosting are different categories of sugary baked-good toppings. Both of which I have seen applied to cinnamon rolls!

  11. The distinction I learned growing up is that the frosting is the stuff that gets spread on to form the outer surface of the cake (which happens to be sugar+fat in my prototypical example), and icing is the stuff you squeeze through a nozzle in decorative patterns (which happens to be mostly sugar) after you apply the frosting.

  12. Icing is the noun that you put on the cake by frosting it(the verb). Which is why we have icing sugar (the powdered stuff). Which is powdered sugar only when it is on doughnuts…

    Now ask me about the distinction between curtains and drapes. or why I’m sitting on the chesterfield… [/Canadian]

  13. My naive answer would be it’s frosting if you speak American English and icing if you prefer the British variety.

    I wonder though, if there is a regional variation in the US along the lines of “pop” versus “soda” or “seesaw” versus “teeter-totter”.

    Perhaps Chad is on the border between icing country and the land of frosting.

    I could be wrong, but I think Chad’s locale is right on the pop/soda cusp. With pop to the west and soda to the east. Not sure about seesaw/tetter-totter!


  14. We Brits would probably say icing in all cases of such toppings. Frosting brings to mind icing sugar sprinkled over the top – it looks like frost. Fondant is … delicious but only as a filling, at least until you’ve eaten the first pound of it.

  15. Both are sugar-based, but icing is thinner — usually an aggregation of powdered sugar, flavorings, mixed with milk or water — while frosting is thicker/flufflier — typically including butter or cream cheese. Unfortunately, they ARE both yummy! earose

  16. I use the two terms more or less interchangeably, depending on my whim, although ‘frosting’ has the edge.

    But the phrase is definitely “the icing on the cake.”

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