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What is cake glazing made of?

Cake glazing is a sweet, shiny coating applied to cakes and other baked goods to enhance their appearance and taste. Glazes can be made from a variety of ingredients including sugar, water, corn syrup, gelatin, extracts, and food coloring.

Main Ingredients

The main ingredients in most glazes are sugar and liquid. Here are some of the most common ingredients used:

  • Sugar – White granulated sugar adds sweetness, texture, and bulk to glazes. Powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar) also works well and dissolves more smoothly.
  • Water – The liquid ingredient helps dissolve the sugar and brings everything together into a smooth, pourable consistency.
  • Corn syrup – Glucose syrups like corn syrup help prevent crystallization so the glaze remains smooth and glossy when dry.
  • Cream or milk – Small amounts of dairy thicken and enrich glazes.
  • Flavor extracts – Vanilla, almond, lemon, and other extracts infuse glazes with flavor.
  • Food coloring – Liquid or gel food colorings add vibrant hues to glazes.
  • Cocoa powder – Cocoa makes chocolate glazes.

The basic ratio for a simple glaze is about 1 cup sugar to 1/4 cup liquid. This can be adjusted to make thicker or thinner glazes as desired.

Types of Glazes

There are several major types of cake glazes, differentiated by their ingredients and textures:

Simple Syrup Glazes

Simple syrup glazes are very thin, made by dissolving sugar into hot water. They soak evenly into cakes with a porous crumb for moisture and a hint of sweetness.

Fondant Glazes

Fondant glazes contain gelatin dissolved into simple syrup, which gives them a thick, viscous texture. They coat cakes smoothly without running off.

Ganache Glazes

Ganache is made by pouring hot cream over chopped chocolate, then cooling and whipping until spreadable. Chocolate ganache glazes add rich flavor and decadence.

Buttercream Glazes

Buttercream and other icings can be thinned out and used to glaze cakes for a creamy texture and sweet flavor.

Royal Icing Glazes

Royal icing is made with beaten egg whites and confectioners’ sugar. It dries very hard, so it works well for glazing decorated cookies.

Mirror Glazes

Mirror glazes are made by gelatinizing fruit juice or combining condensed milk and gelatin. When poured over cakes, they create a smooth, mirror-like coating when cooled.

Meringue Glazes

These are made by whipping egg whites and sugar into a fluffy meringue which is spread over cakes. The peaks give the glaze an ethereal, textured look.

Glaze Ingredients by Type

Here is more detail on the most common ingredients used in cake glazes:


  • Granulated white sugar – The most commonly used sugar for glazes, it provides bulk, texture and sweetness.
  • Powdered sugar – Also called confectioners’ or icing sugar, this provides smoothness and dissolves easily into glazes.
  • Brown sugar – For richer flavored glazes, though can cause crystallization.
  • Corn syrup and honey – Help inhibit crystallization and create glossy glazes.
  • Molasses – Used in small amounts for flavor in brown sugar or chocolate glazes.


  • Water – The most common liquid for glazes. Helps the sugar dissolve and makes a pourable consistency.
  • Milk – Whole milk or cream adds flavor, fat, and thickness to glazes.
  • Coffee, juices, spirits – Small amounts of other liquids can be used for flavor.

Binding and Thickening Agents

  • Gelatin, pectin, guar gum – Used in small amounts to help glazes set up with a thicker, firmer texture.
  • Cornstarch – A small amount of cornstarch mixed with water makes a thickener to help glazes coat cakes smoothly.
  • Egg whites – Whipped egg whites thicken and stabilize meringue glazes.


  • Vanilla extract – The most popular flavoring for white and cream glazes.
  • Almond, coconut, lemon extracts – Commonly used for fruit and nut flavored glazes
  • Cocoa powder – For chocolate glazes.
  • Spices – Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger add spice flavors.
  • Citrus zest – Orange, lemon or lime zest add bright flavor.

Food Coloring

  • Liquid food coloring – A few drops tint glazes brightly.
  • Gel food coloring – More intense than liquid and less likely to cause thinning.
  • Powdered food coloring – Used for deeper colors in thick glazes like ganache.

How to Make Basic Glazes

Mastering a simple syrup glaze is a good starting point for learning how to make cake glazes. Here is a recipe and directions:

Simple Syrup Glaze


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla or other extract
  • Food coloring (optional)


  1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has fully dissolved.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and food coloring, if using. Add more water by the teaspoon if needed to thin to a glazing consistency.
  3. Let the glaze cool slightly so it thickens up. It should coat the back of a spoon evenly.
  4. Pour the glaze smoothly over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Use a spatula to spread it evenly on top.
  5. Let the glazed cake sit until the glaze has set, about 20 minutes.

This simple 1:4 ratio of sugar to water can be customized by using different types of sugar, liquids, and flavorings. For fruit cakes, try an orange simple syrup made with orange juice. For chocolate cakes, use a chocolate simple syrup with cocoa powder added. Get creative with spices, coffee, citrus zest, or liqueurs for unique flavor twists.

Tips for Perfect Cake Glazes

Follow these tips when creating and applying cake glazes:

  • Make glazes in small batches since they set up quickly. Any leftovers can be reheated and reused.
  • Stir glazes frequently while heating so the sugar dissolves properly without burning.
  • Cool glazes slightly before using so they don’t melt delicate decorations on the cake.
  • Use a cake turntable or lazy susan to make it easy to pour glazes smoothly over the entire cake.
  • Spread glazes evenly with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon right after pouring.
  • Let the cake sit for at least 20 minutes so the glaze sets completely before serving.
  • Store glazed cakes covered at room temperature; the glaze seals in moisture.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between icing and glaze?

Icing is typically made with butter, shortening or cream cheese and has a soft, creamy texture that holds its shape when spread on cakes. Glazes are thinner and more liquid-like, so they drip down the sides of cakes for a smooth, glassy look.

How long does it take for cake glaze to set?

Most glazes take about 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature to set up. Thinner glazes may take only 15 minutes. Cooler temperatures can prolong the setting time. Once the glaze is dry to the touch, the cake can be handled and served.

Can I make glaze ahead of time?

Finished glazes can be made 1-2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until needed. Reheat over low heat or microwave in short bursts, stirring frequently, until pourable but not too hot before using.

How do I get a smooth glaze on my cake?

Using a cake turntable makes it easier to pour glaze smoothly over the entire cake. Immediately after pouring, use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the glaze evenly across the top and sides for a flawless coated look.

How do I fix white streaks in glaze?

Small pockets of air or bubbles in the glaze as it’s applied can leave white streaks or spots as it dries. Gently smooth over the glaze with a spatula while still wet to eliminate bubbles and ensure an even coating.

Cake Glazing Techniques

There are many creative ways to use glazes on cakes beyond just pouring over the entire cake:

  • Drizzle – Thin glaze to drizzling consistency and drizzle it decoratively over the top in zigzags or a random pattern. Let set slightly before drizzling more layers.
  • Marble – Pour alternating colors of glaze over the cake and use a toothpick to “marble” through them in swirls.
  • Ombre – Tint the glaze with gradually darker shades of food coloring and glaze the cake in tiers for an ombre effect.
  • Accent – Use glaze to highlight just the top or bottom border of the cake rather than covering it completely.
  • Splatter – Flick droplets of colored glaze randomly onto the cake with a whisk or spoon.
  • Paint – Use a clean paintbrush to paint glaze designs like flowers or patterns onto the cake surface.

Edible glitter, sanding sugar, chocolate shavings or other decorations can be added on top of fresh glaze so they stick and get coated for extra sparkle and texture.

Troubleshooting Cake Glazes

Issue Cause Solution
Thin, runny glaze Too much liquid added Cook glaze down to reduce liquid or add more sugar
Thick, sticky glaze Overcooked or too little liquid Add more liquid a teaspoon at a time until smooth
Grainy glaze Sugar not fully dissolved Heat glaze longer, stirring constantly, until smooth
Crystallized glaze Sugar recrystallized Reheat glaze gently to dissolve crystals
Bubbles or streaks Air incorporated while glazing Smooth glaze quickly before drying
Cracks or ripples Cake too cold or glaze dried too fast Warm cake slightly before glazing; glaze in warmer area

Fun Cake Glazing Ideas

Take your cake glazes up a notch with these creative flavor ideas:

Vanilla Bean Glaze

Infuse smooth vanilla glaze with vanilla bean seeds scraped from the pod before blending.

Salted Caramel Glaze

Make a rich caramel glaze and add a pinch of flaky sea salt to accentuate the flavor.

Mocha Glaze

Blend together chocolate ganache and coffee syrup or espresso for an intense mocha glaze.

Spiced Orange Glaze

Simmer orange juice with cinnamon sticks, star anise and cloves for a festive citrus glaze.

Earl Grey Glaze

Infuse hot cream with Earl Grey tea before mixing into white chocolate ganache.

Rosé Champagne Glaze

Use rosé champagne as the liquid in a light pink glaze for an elegant, effervescent flavor.


Cake glazes add moisture, visual appeal and exciting flavors to cakes and cupcakes. Mastering basic glaze recipes opens up a whole world of creativity. The glazing process is simple enough for beginners but can be customized endlessly by experienced bakers. Whip up a perfectly glossy glazed dessert for your next celebration!