What’S the Difference Between Buttercream and Fondant?

Buttercream and fondant are two popular cake coverings, each serving different purposes. Buttercream, made from butter and powdered sugar, is smooth and airy with a rich, creamy flavor. It is easy to work with but softens quickly. Fondant, a mixture of sugar, water, and either gelatin or glycerin, is firm and pliable, making it ideal for intricate decorations and maintaining shapes. It offers a subtler sweetness and a flawless finish, perfect for professional-looking cakes. Buttercream is beginner-friendly and allows for easy corrections, while fondant requires more skill to achieve a polished appearance. For more detailed guidance on choosing the best cake covering for your needs, continue exploring.

Key Takeaways

  • Buttercream has a smooth, airy consistency, while fondant is firm and pliable.
  • Buttercream offers a rich, creamy, buttery sweetness, whereas fondant has a milder, sweeter taste.
  • Fondant is ideal for intricate decorations and sculpted figures, while buttercream is better suited for creamy finishes and piped designs.
  • Buttercream is accessible and forgiving for beginners, whereas fondant requires more expertise for a flawless finish.
  • Fondant maintains its form over time, whereas buttercream softens easily.


Buttercream consists primarily of butter and powdered sugar, whereas fondant is made from sugar, water, and either gelatin or glycerin. These ingredients contribute to their distinct characteristics. Butter, derived from milk, is combined with finely ground powdered sugar in buttercream through a simple creaming method, ensuring a smooth, airy texture. In contrast, fondant requires a more complex preparation: sugar is dissolved in water, followed by the addition of gelatin or glycerin to form a pliable dough, which is then kneaded to achieve a smooth consistency. These differing preparation techniques highlight the fundamental differences between buttercream's simplicity and fondant's intricacy, ultimately influencing their respective uses in confectionery.


The distinct textures of buttercream and fondant arise from their unique preparation methods. Buttercream is known for its smooth, airy consistency, making it ideal for creating a creamy, spreadable finish. In contrast, fondant has a firm, pliable texture that can be rolled and molded into intricate shapes, maintaining its form over time. This durability makes fondant particularly suitable for detailed cake decorations that require precise detailing and long-lasting stability.

Aspect Buttercream Fondant
Texture Smooth, airy consistency Firm, pliable surface
Durability Softens easily Maintains form over time
Ideal Use Creamy finishes, easy spreading Intricate decorations, detailed shapes


The primary difference in flavor between buttercream and fondant stems from their ingredients and resultant taste profiles. Buttercream, made from butter, sugar, and sometimes flavorings, has a rich, creamy consistency and a strong, buttery sweetness, often enhanced by vanilla or other extracts. In contrast, fondant is primarily made of sugar, water, and gelatin, yielding a milder, sweeter but less intense flavor. The texture of fondant also contributes to its subtle taste, making it less dominant on the palate compared to the robust flavor of buttercream. Therefore, the choice between buttercream and fondant often depends on the desired taste experience.


Due to its pliability and wide range of applications, fondant offers greater versatility in cake decorating compared to buttercream. Its malleable texture allows for detailed decorations like sculpted figures, intricate patterns, and smooth, flawless coverings often desired for sophisticated wedding cakes. Unlike buttercream, which is generally limited to piped designs and textured finishes, fondant can be rolled, molded, and shaped to achieve various artistic effects. Additionally, fondant can be tinted in multiple colors and painted to produce lifelike images, providing decorators with a broad palette of creative possibilities. This makes fondant particularly suitable for high-end cakes where precision and aesthetic perfection are crucial.

Ease of Use

When comparing the user-friendliness of buttercream and fondant, distinct differences emerge that can significantly influence a decorator's choice, depending on their skill level and the design's complexity. Buttercream's creamy texture requires basic techniques such as spreading and piping, making it accessible to beginners. Its forgiving nature allows for easy corrections, appealing to decorators of varying skill levels. On the other hand, fondant requires more advanced skills like rolling and smoothing to achieve a flawless finish. Its elasticity and potential for intricate detail work make it suitable for experienced decorators who can handle its precise demands. Therefore, the choice between buttercream and fondant often depends on the decorator's expertise and the complexity of the design.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Buttercream and Fondant Be Used Together on One Cake?

Yes, buttercream and fondant can be used together on one cake. This combination provides a pleasing contrast in texture while maintaining stability. Buttercream offers a creamy, flavorful base, and fondant adds a smooth, decorative finish.

How Do You Store Cakes Decorated With Buttercream or Fondant?

To store cakes decorated with buttercream, place them in an airtight container and refrigerate. For fondant-decorated cakes, refrigerate them as well, but ensure they are properly wrapped to prevent condensation and preserve their texture.

Are There Any Dietary Restrictions for Buttercream or Fondant?

Both buttercream and fondant can be adapted to meet specific dietary needs. Traditional buttercream contains dairy, so vegan substitutes are often used. Fondant can contain allergens like eggs or gelatin. Always check ingredient lists to address any allergy concerns effectively.

What Temperature Is Ideal for Working With Buttercream and Fondant?

The ideal temperature for working with buttercream is around 70°F (21°C) to ensure a smooth consistency. For fondant, a slightly cooler environment of approximately 65°F (18°C) yields the best texture. Maintaining these temperatures is crucial for optimal results.

How Long Can Buttercream and Fondant Cakes Be Left Out at Room Temperature?

Buttercream cakes can be safely left out at room temperature for up to 2 days, while fondant cakes can last up to 5 days. For optimal safety and to prevent bacterial growth, it is recommended to refrigerate the cakes.