Welcome to the Cake Decorators Q&A

asked March 6th 2014

Difference between Royal Icing & Sugarpaste

I apologise for my ignorance but please could someone tell me what the difference is between sugarpaste and royal icing – when is royal icing used instead of white sugarpaste, and is it handled differently? Thank you!


I apologise for my ignorance but please could someone tell me what the difference is between sugarpaste and royal icing – when is royal icing used instead of white sugarpaste, and is it handled differently? Thank you!


Hi goldengoose25

Royal icing is a wet icing made of egg white and icing sugar. The egg white is first whisked to a froth and icing sugar added a little at a time to make a paste which is beaten to different peak consistencies. There are different consistencies of royal icing depending on what is being made. It can be used to cover cakes completely where it sets hard. Royal icing is also used for piping decorations like flowers and borders, making cake collars, and small decorations like animals. Because it sets really hard it is an ideal glue for sticking together large pieces of decorations like gingerbread houses.

Paul has a tutorial on brush embroidery using royal icing here:

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He shows how royal icing is made here:


If you’d like to see more tutorials on royal icing have a look at all the Elaine Mcgregor royal icing tutorials here

Sugar paste is what you see in online tutorials. It is also made of sugar but has added ingredients that make it into a pliable dough that can be rolled out for covering cakes and for making other decorations. You can see some recipes here:

How to make Sugarpaste from scratch?

Most people just buy ready-made sugar paste. It is also called roll-out icing, and regal ice in the UK. It is mostly referred to as fondant in America and other parts of the world. Fondant in the UK is a product like icing sugar with added ingredients. It is mixed with water to make it into a pouring consistency for decorating little cakes called fancies. The glaze sets but is not hard like royal icing.

I hope some of this helps, however, there is much more comprehensive information on the internet if you’d like to google ‘difference between royal icing and sugar paste’.


This is the first time I’m going to bake a wedding cake. I’m kind of nervous cos in worried about how to add alcohol for preservation or if there is any other method of preservation to use.
Note: I only bake cake for home consumption so I don’t add alcohol


Hi belloaisha844

Alcohol is mostly used in fruit cakes which have to be made well in advance to help with maturing and improving flavour as well as a preservative.

If you are baking fruit cakes, allow approximately two to three months for maturing.

To feed the cake, prick holes over the cake with a wooden skewer, and every couple of weeks splash or brush the surface with approximately two or three tablespoonfuls of your favourite spirit eg brandy, whiskey, rum, etc. Each time you feed, turn the cake over so the unfed side receives moisture too. Wrap the cake in parchment paper and clingfilm and store in an airtight cake tin at a cool temperature.

Stop feeding the cake two weeks before you need to decorate it to allow any surface moisture to disperse.

Ensure that the cake is perfectly smooth, all holes plugged in with little pills of marzipan, and any sticking out bits of fruit gently pushed in. Use your smoother to make flush. The top of the cake may have a slight dome. Slice this off to give the top a flat surface. Turn the cake over before decorating.

The underside of the turned-over cake is completely flat for decorating. Fill any gap between the cake and the board at the bottom with a roll of fondant. Smooth it flush with the cake to make a perfect seal and seam or pipe the gap with some ganache and swipe it flush with the cake.

Marzipan the cake and leave for three days to dry before icing.

Sponge cakes don’t need to be fed with alcohol since they are baked for quick consumption, best eaten within five days from baking. Some Madeira cakes can last for two weeks depending on the recipe. Sponge cakes can be moistened with simple syrup to stop them from staling too quickly.

Simple syrup is a solution of equal quantities of sugar and water boiled for one minute. Once cool, pour it into a sterilised container or jar and use it when required to brush over cake layers to keep them moist. Layers should only be moistened, not saturated.

Please let me know the type of cake you are baking so I can better advise you on timelines. Hope this helps. 🙂

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