Butter cream – This is a smooth, creamy butter-based icing that is generally used to ice the entire cake, giving it a traditional look. Butter cream is often used as the base icing, to which decorations can be attached. Butter cream is not overly sweet and can be giving a wide variety of fruit flavors, such as vanilla, chocolate, lemon, hazelnut, coconut or any other fruit flavors. Butter cream is generally a good choice, and a good value. There is a difference in butter cream icings, however. Some bakers use only butter for the icing.
Some butter cream icings are made using a combination of butter and shortening or just shortening. These butter creams are generally not as smooth as butter cream using 100% butter, but they are less expensive and can be quite acceptable tasting, if not the same a pure butter cream.
Fondant – This icing is one of the most popular choices of brides. It is a very smooth, matte, elastic icing that gives cakes a flawless, porcelain finish. It is rolled out like a pancake, draped over each layer of the cake and smoothed out. Flavored, tinted fondant can be used in a variety of designs, including woven, or checkerboard designs.
It is an extremely labor-intensive process, and therefore is generally more expensive than butter cream icing. To use fondant, a cake must first be coated with a layer of glaze to seal in crumbs. Often this glaze is fruit-flavored. Then a layer of butter cream icing must be applied to the cake to hold the fondant in place. Another thing to keep in mind with a fondant-iced cake is the thickness of the fondant.
Ask your baker how thick the fondant they use is. Usually if it is more than 1/8th of an inch, the cake can be difficult to cut.
Some brides elect to have butter cream frosting with flower-shaped fondant and decorations.
Ganache – Ganache is more properly considered a glaze than a frosting. Made from heavy whipping cream and usually chocolate, the icing is poured over he cake. It dries to a finish similar to fondant, but is less labor intensive. It doesn’t require the cake be sealed with other icings before the ganache, although a flavored mousse can be used first to give the cake a better taste. Ganache itself is extremely rich and sweet and is also used as a filling for cakes.
Royal Icing – royal icing takes on two forms. When applied to the cake it is soft and pliable, then dried to a hard finish. It is usually used to create leaves, flowers and other edible decorations, but rarely on the whole cake. A type of royal icing, run-in sugar is thinner in consistency than royal icing and is generally used to fill in shapes.
Whipped Cream & Mousse – these use large amounts of dairy products. Whipped cream icing not only requires refrigeration, but is also not a good choice for multiple layers because it is not as stiff as most icings, so layers can easily slip. Like whipped cream icing, flavored mousse is sometimes used as an icing. Both of these icings must be refrigerated until servings, so generally are not used on wedding cakes, which are usually on display throughout the reception until serving time.