Flavoured Icings and Fillings

From rhubarb to lavender from mocha to Baileys, there are a hundred and one icings to spread proudly on your cakes. Look around and you’ll find books dedicated to cupcake icing: techniques, flavours, tricks, and so much more. Here are some of our favourite icing flavours – but don’t stick to these – invent your own! Just because nobody else wants to try peanut-butter-icing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make some…

Chocolate and Coffee Icings

Coffee, chocolate and mocha icings are some of the most popular, and no guesses why – a cake covered in creamy mocha buttercream is hard to say no to! For Vanilla Cupcakes, walnut cakes, chocolate cakes, and even Pavlovas or Roulades, these flavoured icings will be the perfect topping.

Favourite Chocolate Buttercream (Butter Icing)

Here’s a rich, sumptuous version of chocolate butter icing. You can make a simple Cocoa-Flavoured Icing by following the basic butter icing recipe (one part butter to two parts icing sugar) and adding 1tbsp of cocoa mixed with 0.5tbsp milk. But this recipe, with real melted chocolate, lends a little extra luxury to your cake.


  • 110g (4oz) icing sugar
  • 50g (2oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 25g (1oz) plain chocolate, broken and melted in a double-boiler, then cooled slightly
  • 1tbsp milk

To Make:

  • Just beat the butter until soft and add the icing sugar, beating vigorously. (You can do this in a food processor if you have a half-size bowl.)
  • Then add the melted chocolate and the milk, and beat to combine.
  • Spread over and inside your cakes.
  • Give it a twist: Try this icing with white chocolate, dark chocolate, or a cream liqueur like Baileys instead of the chocolate and milk.
Favourite Coffee Buttercream (Butter Icing)

You can adjust and tinker with this basic coffee butter icing recipe. Make it into a latte-flavoured icing by dissolving the espresso in hot milk, or make a mocha icing by doubling the amounts and using 1tbsp espresso/1tbsp cocoa.


  • 110g (4oz) icing sugar
  • 50g (2oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1tbsp espresso powder blended with 1tbsp hot water

To Make:

  • Beat the butter until soft, add the coffee, and combine.
  • Finally sift in the icing sugar, beating vigorously.
  • Spread over and inside your cakes.

More Buttercream Variations

Now you’re familiar with the basic butter icing recipe, you can adapt and vary it to your heart’s content.

Replace the liquid with 1-2tbsp of lemon juice, orange juice, lime juice, or grapefruit juice – and use the icing to top a banana muffin or carrot cake.

Have a look in your local baking shop or online for interesting essences or cordials: try rosewater, orange blossom, vanilla bean, elderflower or rum!

Unusual Icings

If you and your family or friends are a little more adventurous, try out some of these novel ideas to give your favourite cakes a new twist!

Caramel or Butterscotch Icing

Make a simple caramel for this delicious icing:

  • Warm 4tbsp water with 6tbsp brown sugar, 1tbsp butter and a pinch of salt in a saucepan; when the sugar has dissolved, leave on a medium heat until the caramel turns a dark golden brown.
  • Add a splash of double cream and remove from the heat.
  • Beat a packet of cream cheese, add three-quarters of the caramel and beat to create a spreadable topping.
  • This very sweet flavoured filling is ideal for a special birthday cake, a chocolate fudge cake, or even coffee-flavoured cupcakes.

Rhubarb Icing

  • Simmer 450g (1lb) of chopped rhubarb in a saucepan with 175g (6oz) caster sugar and 4tbsp water for about 10 minutes.
  • Strain the rhubarb and put the fruit aside (use in muffins or a fool).
  • Meanwhile, whip 110g (4oz) cream cheese or mascarpone.
  • Beat the rhubarb syrup with the cheese, and then sift over up to 225g (8oz) icing sugar until a spreadable consistency is achieved.
Marshmallow Icing
  • Marshmallow icing is made by semi-cooking a meringue mix.
  • This icing is soft, fluffy and sweet, with the appearance of whipped cream.
  • Start with 2 egg whites, and whisk them until they form stiff peaks.
  • Now make a simple sugar syrup: combine 225g (8oz) caster sugar with ½ tbsp cream of tartar and 120ml (4floz) water in a saucepan.
  • Bring it to the boil, then simmer rapidly until the syrup forms a strand when you lift out a spoon.
  • Slowly pour the syrup onto your whipped egg whites, beating (use a food processor or electric whisk for best results).
  • The egg whites will start to cook and thicken, becoming more fluffy.
  • Keep beating until the icing is cool and spreadable.
Inspirational Combinations

If you’re inspired to try one of these original icing ideas, why not find a fabulous cake to match it with? Think out of the box… think lime and coconut, walnut and marshmallow, blue cheese and rhubarb… well, why not? For more inspiration, read our article on Fantasy Cakes.

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