The Big Cake Question: Fondant vs. Buttercream

No need to get caught up in the great icing debate — we gathered a gorgeous selection of fondant and buttercream cakes to show you what each type is capable of. Whether you opt for luscious buttercream — a versatile classic — or the pliable decorating champion known as fondant, you’ll have some amazing techniques to choose from. Use these cakes from real weddings as inspiration to dream up the confection that will be the stunning centerpiece of your day.

Black and White Fondant Cake With Flower Cutouts

This wedding cake by Katherine Sprules demonstrates the eye-popping effects of colored fondant. Sprules used black and white fondant as a base, and then accented the tiers with dots, stripes and bright fondant-flower cutouts. The combination of different designs creates a modern look, and royal icing helps the tiny details stand out.

Buttercream Cake with Ruffles and Gum-Paste Flowers

Using piping tips, cake decorators can create realistic textures with buttercream that look like frilly or draped fabric. Here, Lauren Bohl White smoothed the top of each tier, then piped ruffles in cascading layers down the sides by hand. The texture of buttercream icing is great for organic shapes like ruffles, allowing the decorator to add intricate detail without making the design too uniform.

Watercolor Fondant Cake

A smooth, uniform layer of fondant becomes a blank canvas for cake decorators to paint on. Bakers create coloring using edible pigments, combined with lemon extract or high-proof vodka, which evaporate and leave the color behind on the cake. Katherine Sprules applied wide, blue-green bands of color on the top and bottom tiers to achieve an artsy effect with visible brushstrokes.

Nautical-Themed Buttercream Cake

Icing with buttercream can result in a few visible marks on the cake where the decorator finished frosting, but the creamy consistency allows for a crisp finish and clean edges on each tier. Nautical embellishments like gum-paste roping and navy anchor cutouts add a playful touch.

Ombre Blue Buttercream Cake

Whether you’re talking clothing, hair color or wedding cakes, ombre is in high demand these days. Creating a gradient adds a playful pop of color to a cake, while still maintaining a hint of classic white. Some decorators prefer to use an airbrush for this technique, but Lauren Bohl White mixes several different hues and then applies layers of horizontal stripes, transitioning the color from dark to light.

Buttercream Cable-Knit Cake with Marzipan Pinecones

Lauren Bohl White received a custom order for this cable-knit confection. Using a star tip, she covered the entire surface of the cake with buttercream, creating an intricate sweater-knit pattern as she worked. Buttercream is the go-to choice when it comes to techniques like basketweave, rosettes and other highly detailed looks.

White Fondant Cake With Dragees and Quilting

Quilting is a popular technique that adds a bit of glamour and opulence to wedding cakes. “This has to be done in fondant,” says Lauren Bohl White, who marks the quilted pattern by hand and uses a special tool to create soft indentations on the cake’s surface. Edible silver dragees embellish the corners of each pillowlike shape.

Fondant Cake with Geometric Cutouts

After creating a range of fondant colors, Katherine Sprules rolled out the paste and cut it into geometric shapes for this abstract wedding cake. “Fondant lends itself very well to dark colors and shapes, and helps you maintain uniform color throughout,” says Lauren Bohl White.

Buttercream Cake with Fresh Flowers

This gorgeous number is frosted with pure-white icing in an organic style, with swirls that look like spackle. The rustic technique gives it a traditional, understated look, which contrasts nicely with the brightly colored fresh flowers winding from the top tier to the bottom one.

Silver Ikat Fondant Cake

Here, Lauren Bohl White used lemon extract and edible dust to add a soft ikat design across the middle of the cake. A fondant outer layer gives it a clean white base that helps the blended design stand out.