• Hummingbird cake with cream cheese frosting, dried pineapple and toffee pecans (Petrina Tinslay)Source: Petrina Tinslay
We might call it a celebration 'cake', but we all know everyone's just here for the icing.
14 Sep 2020 - 3:47 PM  UPDATED 14 Sep 2020 - 3:57 PM

Remember as a kid, eating the icing off the top of the cupcake and then leave the cake behind? Yeah, we still do that.

Baking cakes is fun and all, but they are really just an elaborate vehicle for the sugary stuff (carrot cake, we're looking at you). Great slabs of icing, fluffing up the top, the thicker the better. That heavenly feeling when you slide your tongue right through the lot.

A quick note on fondant icing. We'll include a recipe for the traditionalists, but, let's be honest, if it requires rolling, it's not our favourite. Give us a swirly buttercream any day of the week. Or every day of the week. We'd like that.

Buttercream us up

Swiss meringue buttercream

This frosting is the ultimate slatherer. It's basically a meringue with added butter, so it holds its shape beautifully and tastes like a dream. Swirl it, pipe it, tint it, drag it and lick it straight off the spatula when you're done.

Buttercream doing its thing
Gold cupcakes

We're all about cupcake bling and this stunner is shining bright like a sweet, sweet diamond. #MardiGras40

Confetti layer cake

I first made a version of this cake for my daughter’s fifth birthday. At the time I thought it was completely original, very clever idea I had dreamed up with colourful sprinkles decorating not only the outside but also the inside of the cake.

Choc honeycomb cupcakes

There have been many takes on the creamy Aussie classic, the Golden Gaytime, we might be biased but we think this indulgent cupcake could well be the best of the bunch!

Nuts about frosting

Chocolate layer cake with peanut butter frosting

Peanut butter, sour cream, butter and... dextose?. Because we wouldn't want to bump up the calories on a chocolate layer cake any more than necessary, right? Regardless, this nutty sour cream frosting is all the way okay.

Fondant memories

We promised a fondant recipe, and here it is. Fussy, but good at weddings. Also rather lovely in a peppermint slice biscuit.

1 tbs gelatine powder
1/4 cup cold water
1 1/2 tbs glycerine
1/2 cup glucose syrup
1 tsp vanilla essence
7 cups pure icing sugar, sifted

Dissolve gelatine into water over a low heat without boiling. Remove from heat and stir in glycerine and glucose syrup. Add vanilla essence and set aside to cool.

Sift the icing sugar into a large glass bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the gelatine mixture into the well and stir until combined.

Knead the icing until it is smooth then roll out with a rolling pin to desired thickness.

Simple is good

When your grandma/nonna/ยาย/omi made icing, she probably made it just like this. Icing sugar mixed with a bit of lemon or orange juice. It's been lifting cakes around the world since forever.

Nothing remotely vanilla here
Donna Hay's cupcakes

Top these light, bright-tasting cupcakes with your favourite icing. This Donna Hay recipe includes recipes for smooth vanilla and luxurious chocolate icing options. 

Gluten-free and dairy-free vanilla cupcakes

Super simple, and equally delicious, these cupcakes with chocolate frosting are the perfect party cake for kids (both big and small) when gluten and dairy needs to be avoided – no more missing out on the fun stuff! 

Stem ginger loaf with vanilla frosting

This is a very spicy cake. The frosting is really yummy — save any leftovers to spread on cupcakes or cookies.

If you have to

Another of the fussier icings, marzipan has a distinctive flavour that is integral to many of the traditional cakes it wraps. A Sri Lankan Christmas cake just wouldn't be the same without it. There's an easy-to-follow recipe for marizpan here.

Whole 'lotta ricotta

Fresh ricotta perfectly takes the place of cream cheese in this maple syrup-sweetened ricotta icing. Be extra-generous when slathering. We'll accept nothing less than teeth marks.

Never enough chocolate

The cake that cures everything

A genius move sees melted dark chocolate whipped through a cream cheese icing that also has added butter. This frosting literally melts on the tongue and could well be our undoing. What a way to go!

Other chocolate icings trying hard
Everyday chocolate cake

I know this is another chocolate cake, but this version is a little lighter but no less delicious. 

Zebra cake with chocolate fudge glaze

Cocoa and vanilla cake batters "spooned" into a tube tin create this fun zebra pattern.

Lamington fingers

These lamingtons are based on a super simple, super quick, one-bowl butter cake recipe that requires no fussing at all. It is baked in a thin layer and then cut into fingers.

Salt your sweet

Can diet have an effect on Alzheimer's?

Golden syrup is an ingredient in this salted caramel icing and we are here for that. Remember when salted caramel was in everything. Good times.

Regal and a bit stiff

Though lacking proper swirl-properties, royal icing is quite nice on biscuits at Christmas time. It gets its stiff upper lip by adding egg whites to icing sugar and beating them into meringue-like submission. Best keep it covered to prevent it drying to a firm lacquer before you use it.

But just look what royal icing can make
Black sesame & yuzu biscuit sandwich

Wagon Wheel alert! Two black sesame biscuits, sandwiching a vanilla marshmallow and a layer of yuzu jam, all covered in black sesame white chocolate... sign us up! #BringBackTheClassics

Traditional gingerbread men

A classic your kids will love decorating. The dough is soft and pliable, making for easy rolling.

Almond paste sweets (calissons d’aix)

Calissons d’aix are a centuries-old specialty of Aix-en Provence in southern France. The almond paste gives them a texture similar to marzipan, but they’re not as sweet.

Cheesy good

Hummingbird cake with cream cheese frosting, dried pineapple and toffee pecans

The only icing that could possibly give buttercream a run for its money is cream cheese frosting. Especially when troweled onto carrot cake, or passionfruit cake, and especially hummingbird cake.

Even better cheese

Red velvet layer cake with fresh raspberries and mascarpone icing

This icing will see your cream cheese frosting and raise it with a generous hit of mascarpone. Trust us, when it comes to a red velvet layer cake, it wins.

Keep that cheese coming
Elderflower gin sponge with mascarpone cream

If there ever was a cake that epitomised the flavours of England this would be it! The combination of elderflower, strawberries and gin not only make this chic sponge cake uniquely special but also incredibly lust-worthy.

Carrot cake with lemon cream-cheese frosting

It’s hard to beat a great carrot cake with lemony cream cheese frosting. Decorate the cake with edible flowers from the garden, if you have them.

Masala chai carrot cake

Carrot cake is one of my favourite ‘vegetable-type’ cakes to make at home; it’s simple to prepare and rather rustic yet absolutely delicious. I’ve infused this carrot cake with chai (the Hindi word for tea is chai) and used a few of my favourite spices that I use when I have a craving for masala chai (the Hindi word for spice is masala). I've also skipped the vanilla flavour in the cream cheese frosting in favour of pistachio. This recipe is adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks, Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book.


Coconut cream is a worthy addition to a decidedly tropical icing. Whip it through with butter, sugar and passionfruit to send your lucky taste buds on a quick island getaway.

Just add alcohol

The only thing better than icing is booze. So, this recipe had us at rum buttercream.

On thick ice
Coconut kaya cakes

Kaya, or coconut jam, is a popular spread in Singapore and Malaysia, and brings a rich coconut flavour to baking. You can usually find it at Asian grocers and online. 

Masala chai Bundt cakes with honey drizzle icing

These cakes capture the true essence of an aromatic, soul-warming Indian marala chai.

Brown butter loaf with brown butter frosting

The nuttiness and extra flavour that comes from browned butter is fantastic. Just don’t walk away from the pan as those delicious milk solids will change from toasty-brown to nearly burnt in the blink of an eye. 

Coconut and passionfruit cupcakes with meringue frosting
The meringue frosting makes this a statement cupcake - what a treat.
Strawberry kombucha cake

You may have heard of strawberry champagne cake; this cake is a riff on that concept, except using kombucha! 

Melt and mix chocolate coconut cake

Everyone needs a good old-fashioned chocolate cake in their repertoire that is easy enough to whip up on a whim. Made with a simple melt-and-mix method this delicious cake is a real crowd-pleaser.

Strawberry mascarpone cake

This cake is a stunning celebration of summer. At the peak of the strawberry season the best strawberries have intense fragrance and flavour. In this recipe they are layered with coconut meringue and mascarpone to make a beautiful dessert.