Buttercream is a smooth, creamy mix of butter, sugar and eggs that may be used to frost the entire cake or just for piping borders and decorations. It has a silky texture and a not-too-sweet taste often infused with colors and flavors like vanilla, chocolate, lemon, espresso, coconut or hazelnut. It’s a good value per slice, but it isn’t a good idea for a warm-weather outdoor wedding, as it may melt in the heat. Buttercream is also used as filling.
Cornelli is a freehand piping technique for decorating cakes in a lacy pattern.
Dotted Swiss is another piping technique; it forms tiny dots that resemble patterned fabric.
Dragees are edible silver- or gold-coated balls used for decoration.
Fondant is a matte-smooth icing that gives your cake a flawless finish, creating a canvas for intricate embellishments. This sweet sugar dough is rolled out like a pancake and wrapped around each layer on the cake. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated. But because elaborately decorated fondant-iced cakes are laborintensive, they tend to cost more.
Ganache is a sinfully rich dark-chocolate glaze poured over the entire cake.
Marzipan is a sweet, smooth paste made of ground almonds, sugar and egg whites. With its moist, chewy texture, it may be placed beneath other icings or used as the final icing itself. You’ll also see it colored and molded into flowers or other shapes as an alternative to sugarpaste.
Pulled or spun sugar is a boiled-sugar syrup manipulated (“pulled”) to create flowers and bows and other embellishments or spun into gossamer strands.
Royal icing, a combination of egg whites and sugar, is piped onto the cake and dries to a hard finish; it’s traditionally used to make leaves, flowers, lace and other edible decorations—not to cover the entire cake.
Sugarpaste, or gumpaste, a substance made of sugar, cornstarch and gelatin, produces those amazingly authentic-looking flowers, fruits and leaves, among other whimsical shapes, that decorate many wedding cakes. Unlike fondant, sugarpaste hardens after it dries.