Really useful piping basics and top tips

Piping can come in a so many different forms, the two most popular icing types include royal icing and buttercream. Get some starter tips and techniques.

Image credit: Woman making creamy top of cupcakes closeup. Selective focus.

Piping often looks incredibly complicated and if you're a first-timer we're here to lend a hand...

Piping can come in so many different shapes and sizes, the two most popular icing types include royal icing and buttercream as they work very successfully but equally require a bit of patience. Buttercream icing is brilliant for a few reasons. It's got a soft texture which makes it nice and easy to pack into a pastry bag and pipe. Buttercream is most commonly used for piping borders, patterns and flowers. It is also a little tastier because it has more fat content than royal icing or fondant icing which can give it a richer flavour. One of the main downsides to buttercream is that it isn't quite as strong a royal icing. It can suffer due to heat and humidity therefore it's best to keep it in the fridge for as long as possible before you use it on your cake, it will be a lot easier to work with. Really useful piping basics and top tips Royal icing is a lot firmer and will last a long time, one cake-hack is to build up a stock of flowers or dots and save them for when you need them! Royal icing tends to be perfect for decorating cookies, you can transport them very easily with them being ruined. Another benefit of this icing: the colours do not bleed into each other, whereas buttercream icing is known to do this when you place it on fondant icing. Just be careful as this icing can crack in cold temperatures! Lets go through the basics:

  • Plan it! Have a go at drawing out your design on paper, try not to just delve straight into the icing, even though it's the most fun part. Make sure you practice your design with some icing too.
  • Get the right nozzle for your design and place it in the bag.
  • Fill up that bag with icing although be careful not to overload it as it will be a real mess if you do, the icing will begin to ooze over from the top.

Really useful piping basics and top tips

Tip 1 : Squeeze from the top not the middle of the bag. Tip 2: See any bubbles in your icing bag? Consistency is key for your icing. Air bubbles are bad news when it comes to piping. Spend a bit of time to gently squeeze your bag which will eliminate those pesky air bubbles!
  • Once you've filled it, twist the top of the bag and hold the end with one hand and place the nozzle tip end in your other hand. To start off squeeze the icing at the top of the bag to make it come out the nozzle.
  • Get in the habit early and try to keep the tip off of the cake or the practice area.
  • Attempt lines  first as they are nice and simple. To create lines, hold the bag at a 45 degree angle, remember keep it away from the surface, squeeze the icing and keep the pressure consistent. Ensure that you allow the line to fall naturally as you take it in each direction.
Tip 3: Watch out! Don't pull the piping bag until it has met the surface, as you'll get an uneven thickness.
  • To pipe other designs such as swirls on cupcakes practice on glassware first as it give you a sense of decorating on a cake but thankfully doesn't require the commitment of making a real cake.

Really useful piping basics and top tips Once you've moved up a level from glassware and soft swirls why not try some more complicated designs such as:

  • Rosettes hold the bag vertically and pipe a little mound in one area then push the bag down and draw up quickly to finish. To reduce the height of your peak, wet your finger and just press it down until you get the desired result.
  • Dots hold the bag vertically and keep the nozzle close to the surface then squeeze a small amount of icing out to the desired size to finish it off stop squeezing push down and then draw up sharpish!

This article was adapted from BBC Good Food and Craftsy


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