Let’s talk about piping.
Piping is one of those areas where there there are a near-infinite amount of tutorials on the interwebs, most of them better than I can do. But how can I NOT talk about piping?
It’s also an area where it doesn’t matter how much you learn; you just have to give it a lot of practice.
I am not the best piper in the world. And when I am making a cake to sell, I want to play to my strengths. So I have a few techniques that work well for me, and I stick to them.
One thing I will say – techniques won’t be worth a darn unless you have a stable frosting that will holds its shape, and a steady hand. I can’t pipe when I’m rushed, or overcaffeinated, or super distracted. I am right handed, but I use my left hand to steady my right hand, and rest my elbows on the table if I can. Beyond that, just practice a lot! If you have a new technique you want to try, lay out some parchment paper and practice it for a while. You can just scrape your practice piping back into your bag and use it again.
Piping words: One thing I am pretty good at is piping words. I learned cursive at a young age and have practiced to do it well.
Printing is a little harder. Cursive is more organic, so it’s a little more forgiving. Printing is supposed to be square, so it goes wrong sometimes. I also find straight lines generally harder.
Piped rosettes: I mean the sort of swirls that you pipe straight on something:
These are so easy! And it’s fun, when you get a set of tips, to play with all the different star shapes and see how they each make different-looking swirls.
For this cake, I put different colors of frosting into different bags each with a different tip, and made rosettes and stars of all sizes. I find this so effective, and really easy and fun to do!
In addition to big swirl rosettes, you can also of course make just little stars. These look so sweet just scattered in an organic way.
Buttercream roses: Full-on piped roses are a bit of a different animal.
For these you need an actual rose petal tip. There’s a whole technique to it, and I like to make them in advance and freeze them before putting them on the cake. Just search “buttercream roses” on youtube and you will find umpteen tutorials.
I also kind of love adding the leaves at the end with a leaf tip. I went crazy once and decorated a cake with just leaves. It wasn’t my best work, but it was a good experiment.
Hair/Grass: I haven’t had a ton of experience with the grass tip. It’s a little challenging. The one tip I received was, make sure your frosting isn’t too soft. I imagine those Russian tips have similar difficulties. I would need a lot more practice to become more skilled with them!
Shells: the above cake is also a great example of the use of shells. I’m not the best at them, but I do like them for in between cake layers, and on these more sheet-sized cakes.
That’s about all I have to say about piping. It’s sort of… hard but not? Make sure you have the right frosting for it, and don’t forget to practice if you’re not sure. It’s definitely an area where I have a lot to learn!
What are your favorite piping techniques?