How to Make a Basic Cake Glaze (With Variations)

Blueberry Buns With Icing
Blueberry Buns With Icing. Diana Rattray

This basic cake glaze is perfect for a tube cake, bundt cake, or coffee cake. Or drizzle some glaze over muffins, cinnamon rolls, or quick bread.

The Basic Glaze


  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons milk or hot water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Melt 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of butter in a saucepan or a bowl or cup in the microwave.

Sift 2 cups of powdered sugar into a medium size bowl.

Add the melted butter to the powdered sugar.

Add 2 tablespoons of milk or hot water.

Add the 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla. Stir to blend.

Beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, adding a little more milk or hot water if necessary.

Drizzle the finished glaze over a cooled cake, quick bread, coffee cake, cupcakes, or other desserts. 


  • For a richer and creamier glaze or frosting, use heavy cream in place of the milk or water.
  • For a citrus glaze, substitute orange or lemon juice for the milk or water and vanilla and add about 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated zest.
  • For a chocolate glaze, increase the butter to 6 tablespoons and melt with 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate. Reduce the vanilla to 1 teaspoon.
  • For a butter-rum glaze, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of rum flavoring and omit the vanilla.
  • If glazing a spice cake or cinnamon rolls, sprinkle the glaze with cinnamon-sugar while it's still soft.

    Frosting-Making Tips

    • Freeze leftover frosting in freezer containers or zip-close freezer bags for up to 6 months.
    • If your confectioners' sugar tends to leave lumps, sift if before adding it to the frosting or glaze.
    • Brush away any loose crumbs on a cake before frosting or spreading glaze.
    • Before the glaze hardens, sprinkle with chopped toasted pecans or other nuts or decorations.
    • If a cake is particularly delicate, put it in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes before frosting.
    • It might be quicker to dip cupcakes or muffins in the glaze rather than spreading or drizzling.
    • Put a sheet of wax paper under the rack when you glaze the cake. The wax paper will catch drips and make clean-up much easier. You might even be able to re-use some of the drips if they are crumb-free.