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Nancy, I'm new to cake decorating, but I love it! What is the difference between buttercream and royal icing, and when do you use each one?

Amanda - from Shelbyville, KY

Buttercream icing is made with either a combination of butter and vegetable shortening or shortening alone, and confectioners' sugar. It stays soft and creamy, so it is used to ice cakes. It is also used for making cake decorations and borders. It can be flavored with extracts and other flavorings, too.

Royal icing is made with a combination of meringue powder, water and confectioners' sugar. This smooth, hard-drying icing is perfect for making decorations that last. It is also useful as a "cement" to fasten decorations together. Royal icing is edible, but it is hard and candy-like when dried. It should not be used for icing cakes.


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The Public Television cake decorating show providing easy projects for special celebrations. Not intended to replace instructional classes.