Use this simple buttercream icing recipe to decorate your birthday cakes, cupcakes and sandwich biscuits. Try adding a little food colouring gel for a splash of colour to your butter icing.

Cakes and baking

Buyer's guide

Icing sugar comes in different grades according to how finely the sugar is milled, denoted by the number of Xs on the packet.


Icing sugar easily absorbs moisture and odours – keep in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Unopened packets of icing sugar can be stored for up to two years.


Because of its fine texture, icing sugar has a tendency to lump together (despite the addition of anti-caking agents such as cornstarch in commercial varieties), so sift it before use.

Other considerations

Icing sugar can sometimes include wheat starch or cornstarch to keep the sugar soft and powdery, and so may not be suitable for coeliacs – check the packaging carefully before buying. Specialist bake shops may stock starch-free 'pure' icing sugar – as such, it may be lumpy and will require extra sifting before use. Pure icing sugar is preferred for making royal icing as the result will keep its shape better when piped or moulded.