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Whipped Icing Vs. Buttercream: Which One is Better?

In today’s article, we will have a battle of whipped icing vs. buttercream. These two cake frosting types are quite common; you’ve probably tasted them both. But do you know what makes them different from one another?

This article will discuss what whipped icing and buttercream are. We’ll also tell you about these frostings’ ingredients and uses.

Cupcakes with buttercream frosting and jar filled with whipped icing.

What Is Whipped Icing?

Whipped icing is a common frosting people make out of just two ingredients.

You only need heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar for whipped icing.

How To Make It

To make this frosting, you need to chill the whipped cream first. Then, whisk the chilled whipping cream until soft peaks form. An electric mixer does this job well. Then, slowly add powdered sugar and continue whisking until soft peaks form.

Make it your own

Using whipped cream and powdered sugar alone will give you a white, airy, sweet frosting. If you want more flavor, you may add some vanilla extract.

And, if you want to add some color, a little food coloring will do the job. Do note that the light texture of whipped icing pairs well with light and pastel colors only.

How To Use It

The delicate nature of this frosting means that you should only let it sit out at room temperature for a short time. Remember, the only thing keeping the icing standing is the air bubbles from whipping. These air bubbles are difficult to hold down at room temperature.

For this reason, it is best to make whipped icing right before you use it. If you make it ahead, you should always store the frosted cake inside the refrigerator. Adding meringue powder is also an option for a more stable whipped icing.

You are better off using whipped icing for simple designs that take little time. If you use it to make curls all over the cake, it will melt before you finish decorating it. The curls will not hold anyway.

whipped_cream in a mixing bowl of the standing mixer

What is Buttercream Frosting?

People use butter or shortening, powdered sugar, and milk to make buttercream frosting.

The process starts with whipping the butter or shortening (or both) until they’re fluffy.

How To Make It

Slowly add powdered sugar and milk until you reach your preferred texture. If you use butter, the resulting buttercream icing will be yellow. But, if you use shortening, you can achieve a white color similar to whipped icing.

How To Use It

You may add food coloring and flavorings to make the icing prettier and tastier. The smooth texture and dense consistency of buttercream do well in bright colors. But pastel colors are also a good choice for this.

Types Of Buttercream

American Buttercream – American buttercream is what we discussed above. This type is the most common buttercream most bakers use because it is easy to make and uses only a few ingredients.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream – Swiss buttercream pipes well because it is silky, light, and creamy.

This kind of buttercream uses the following ingredients:

  • Egg whites
  • Granulated sugar
  • Softened butter
  • Salt
  • Flavoring

To make Swiss buttercream, you first whisk egg whites and sugar together in a double boiler. Do so until the sugar melts and the mixture is thin. Transfer the warm mixture into a bowl and whisk it until stiff peaks form. Slowly add butter, flavoring, and salt.

Italian Meringue Buttercream – Italian buttercream is also a frosting based on meringue, like Swiss buttercream. However, Italian buttercream requires you to make sugar syrup first. The sugar syrup helps stabilize the buttercream.

Mix water and sugar until the sugar dissolves to make simple syrup. You then whip egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Slowly add the simple syrup and slices of room-temperature unsalted butter. Then finally, add salt and your flavoring of choice.

French Buttercream – French buttercream is rich-tasting, thick, and velvety. What differentiates it from the other buttercream is that it uses egg yolks. It won’t hold as well as buttercreams that use egg whites.

To make it, you whisk the egg yolks until they’re thick and foamy. And then, add sugar syrup and pieces of room-temperature butter. Finally, you add flavoring and salt.

Cupcakes topped with white whipped icing and buttercream.

Whipped Icing vs. Buttercream Frosting Differences


Whipped frosting only uses two basic ingredients – sugar and whipped cream. On the other hand, buttercream has more elements as it uses milk and egg whites.

For this reason, whipped icing is easier to make. Buttercream contains allergens. So, people with lactose intolerance and egg allergies will find it unsuitable.

The ingredients in whipped icing also mean that you will spend less when making it. The butter alone adds a significant cost to your recipe if you make the buttercream.


Another thing that differentiates whipped icing and buttercream is the process. Whipped icing is less complicated as you only need to whip the cream and add sugar.

Buttercream has many kinds, and each type requires you to follow a more lengthy process. Some need sugar syrup, while another type needs you to use a double boiler.

If you don’t have much time, making buttercream is a challenge. Because of this, the easy process needed for whipped icing is a clear advantage.


Whipped icing has a delicate texture. This light and fluffy icing does not hold well outside refrigeration. The soft texture also makes it difficult to use if you need to pipe intricate designs.

Buttercream is smooth and dense. Its creamy texture is perfect for making curls and swirls. This type of buttercream is also popular because it holds better at room temperature.


Whipped icing tastes basic. After all, it uses basic ingredients. Unless you add flavoring, it will only taste sweet.

In contrast, buttercream is more decadent due to adding butter and shortening.

Buttercream is buttery and sweet, and you can easily add flavoring. Coffee, cocoa powder, almond extract and lemon zest are the top choices people use to flavor buttercream.

You cannot add these ingredients to whipped icings. Doing so will affect the delicate texture. In this aspect, buttercream is a more versatile option.


Both these frostings are great for cakes and cupcakes alike. You can use whipped icing as frosting for cakes you will eat immediately, though. As it easily melts, you should not use this in outdoor events.

Plus, you should only add dry toppings to whipped icing. Watery fruits, for instance, might bleed their color into the icing. Or worse, they might add juices to the icing, making it melt faster.

Buttercream is more stable, so it suits cakes you will serve outdoors. It is also versatile for toppings; you can use it in drip cakes with chocolate ganache.

You may also use buttercream as a filling in between cake layers.

Doing this with whipped icing is quite an endeavor, as it will melt and not serve its purpose well. In extreme conditions, your cake layer may slip if you use whipped icing.

Shelf Life And Storage Options

Another significant difference when comparing buttercream and whipped icing is their shelf life. Understandably, you might want to make these frostings ahead of time.

In most cases, you might also have to store leftover frosted cakes. In that case, you should be mindful of how long they will last.

Whipped icing only last for two days in the refrigerator. And cakes frosted with whipped icing do not freeze well. Once you thaw them, the whipped icing frosting will melt into a liquid mess, making your cake soggy.

Meanwhile, buttercream lasts for two weeks if you store it in the refrigerator.

Freezing cakes with buttercream is an option too. Since buttercream is sturdy and rich, it will thaw beautifully.

Infographic with table comparing facts about whipped Icing vs. Buttercream Frosting.

Which is Better: Buttercream Vs Whipped Cream?

Choosing between whipped icing and buttercream frosting depends on a few factors. Of course, you must consider who will eat the cake and their preferences.

American buttercream should be off your list if you feed people sensitive to eggs and milk. Since whipped icing only has cream and sugar, it is a safer choice if you do not know about your guests’ allergies.

It would be best to look at where you will serve the cake. Buttercream is a better choice when serving cake in humid and hot temperatures. But if you are in an indoor and air-conditioned room, whipped icing might be a decent choice.

Whipped icing is easy to make, so it is better than buttercream if you are in a hurry. But note that whipped icing is a no-no if you want something with intricate designs.

The choice of toppings is also something you should pay attention to. Whipped icing is light and airy, so it cannot hold heavy toppings like ganache and lots of fruits. You should go with buttercream if you plan to add many toppings to decorate your cake.

Lastly, your budget also influences your decision between whipped icing vs. buttercream. Because whipped icing only uses two ingredients, it is more affordable than buttercream.


So, which frosting wins the battle of whipped icing vs. buttercream? Well, that depends. Regarding cost, whipped icing is a better choice than buttercream. After all, it only needs two ingredients. The whipped cream frosting is also a clear winner when it comes to the process of making frosting. It is a good option when you’re in a pinch.

However, when it comes to stability and versatility, buttercream is the champ. It holds well, so you can use it with various toppings. You can also use different piping techniques to create complex designs with buttercream. Choosing the better frosting between buttercream and whipped cream is ultimately your decision.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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