Basic Vanilla Cake Glaze With Flavor Variations

Basic 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. Or drizzle some glaze over muffins, cinnamon rolls, or quick bread.

It's an easy, versatile icing with several possible flavor variations. We've included some of our favorite options after the recipe. 


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  • 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
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  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, or in a bowl or cup in the microwave.

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  3. Sift 2 cups of powdered sugar into a medium-size 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.

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

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

    Vanilla icing over bundt cake
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  7. Serve and enjoy!


  • 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 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 re-use some of the drips if they are crumb-free.

Recipe Variations

  • 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 mocha glaze, mix in 2 teaspoons of instant coffee granules, 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 ounces 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.