Basic Vanilla Cake Glaze With Flavor Variations

Basic cake glaze

The Spruce


  • Total: 11 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 1 mins
  • Yield: 16 servings

This basic cake glaze is the perfect icing for a tube cakeBundt cake, or coffee cake. You can even drizzle it over muffins, cinnamon rolls, or quick bread. It's an easy recipe, requiring just four basic kitchen staples and a few minutes of your time, and one you'll use often in your baking adventures.

While the basic icing is vanilla-flavored, there are several possible flavor variations to use on all sorts of goodies. From citrus and strawberry to mocha, chocolate, and even a delicious butter-rum version, you'll find tips for all of them. Try a few and use them as inspiration for custom creations.


Click Play to See This Simple Pastry Glaze Recipe Come Together


  • 4 tablespoons butter 
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons milk (or hot water, for desired consistency)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for glaze
    The Spruce
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan or in a bowl or cup in the microwave.

    Butter in a saucepan
    The Spruce
  3. Sift 2 cups of powdered sugar into a medium-sized bowl.

    Sugar sifted into a bowl
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  4. Add the melted butter, 2 tablespoons of milk or hot water, and the vanilla to the powdered sugar. Stir to blend.

    Sugar, milk and butter mixture in a bowl
    The Spruce
  5. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, adding a little more milk or hot water if necessary.

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

    Vanilla icing over Bundt cake
    The Spruce
  7. Serve and enjoy.


  • Freeze leftover frosting in freezer containers or zipper freezer bags for up to 6 months.
  • If your confectioners' sugar tends to leave lumps, sift it 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 reuse some of the drips if they are crumb free.

Recipe Variations

  • For a richer and creamier glaze, 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 mocha glaze, mix in 2 teaspoons of instant coffee granules, 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 ounce of melted unsweetened baking chocolate.
  • For strawberry icing, puree or mash 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen sliced strawberries. Combine the melted butter and powdered sugar with the strawberry puree. Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Add more powdered sugar or some milk, as needed for spreading or drizzling.
  • 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.