Well, here it is. The last article for cake decorating basics.
I honestly can't tell you how excited I am that we have already come this far!
You are well on your way to becoming a pro decorator!
Today I am going to talk about pressure control and how it affects your piping skills.
When it comes to cake decorating (and cookie decorating) there are 3 things that are the most important and the most challenging to learn:
ONE - Getting the right frosting consistency for your needs;
TWO - Understanding how to hold your pastry bag - and doing it correctly;
THREE- Pressure control.
If you haven't read these articles then I highly recommend you do so now.
Pressure control is the ability to squeeze your pastry bag with the same amount of pressure while you are moving it.
Here's a great example why pressure control is so important:
In the above picture, I used a #12 tip (the end is just a circle) for all 4 lines.
The top line I didn't use enough pressure for this tip size.
The third line I slightly used less pressure in the middle and more at the end.
The bottom line I squeezed too hard for this sized tip and made my pressures sparatic throughout the entire line.
(The second line from the top is the best line out of the 4.)
When you are piping borders, words, zig zags and other decorations, you need to have a steady and constant pressure or it will look messy.
There is only one way you will learn pressure control and that is from practicing.
Whether you practice once a day or once a week, a little goes a long way!
When I started I didn't practice regularly, I only practiced when I made a cake or cupcakes. I didn't get good until I devoted 2 hours every Thursday to the art of piping.
If this is something you are serious about, dedicate and devote and you will get there.
The next chapter to my cake decorating tutorials is diving into the world of piping.
During these tutorials you will:
*Get used to holding your piping bag;
*Learn how to apply a constant pressure;
*And learn piping fundamentals.
Thanks for stopping by! If you have any questions or comments please post them below.
See you next time,
Julie - XOXO
Before we can start piping we must discuss how to hold and position your pastry bag.
Along with frosting consistency, holding your bag correctly is important or your decorations will be difficult to make and will not look right in the end.
Each piping technique will define a time and degree.
The time tells us where to hold the bag .
The degree tells us how the bag is angled.
Together they tell us how the bag is to be held and position.
There's a little bit of math terms involved, such as “angles” and “degrees,” but trust me it’s easy… I will show you.
In this context, "degrees" references angles, thus the angle to position the bag.
Now let's talk about HOW your bag should be angled.
Typically you’ll only hear about 2 degrees:
90 degrees and 45 degrees
That was pretty easy to understand, right?
90 degrees is holding your bag straight up and down
45 degrees is holding your bag in between...
Now let's talk about WHERE to hold the bag
When you angle your bag at 90 degrees (straight up and down) you will not always have a time to hold the bag at (like when you are writing words, you will hold the bag straight up and down, a.k.a. 90 degrees, but the bag will be positioned wherever you are writing the letter; however, when we are piping a daisy, we will hold the tip upright at 90 degrees but start the tip at 12:00)
However, when you angle your bag at 45 degrees, there are different TIMES (referencing a clock) to hold your bag at.
Picture the face of the clock to be the top of your cake, or whatever your work surface may be.
The most common times to "hold your bag at" are 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00.
You stand at 6:00.
12:00 is directly across from you and feels odd - if it doesn't feel odd then you are not doing it right.
3:00 will have your hand upside down (knuckles upwards).
6:00 will have your thumb knuckle pointing towards your body
9:00 willl have your knuckles downwards (pointing towards the floor).
3:00 and 9:00 are opposite for those that are left handed.
When you are practicing regularly stop yourself and check your angle and "time" to make sure you didn't accidentally change the position.
It is very easy to change your position and you don't want to do that. Get in the habit of checking your position over and over.
A different position will have a different outcome.
Still troubleshooting? Check the consistency of your frosting ;-) The tutorial should tell you if the frosting should be thin, medium or stiff. Click here to read more about consistencies.
MORE about dominant hands:
If a tutorial does not specify the working hand, then assume it describes a right hand. 12:00 and 6:00 is the same for everyone. But all other times should be mirrored for the left handed. Imagine the mirror to be a straight placed vertically in the center (running from 12:00 to 6:00).
1:00 right handed; 11:00 for left handed
3:00 right handed; 9:00 for left handed
4:00 right handed; 8:00 for left handed
and so on...
Great! Let's start piping!
When learning how to cake decorate, if you want to get better you must
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
It is the only way you can get better.
When I was learning how to cake decorate, I would bake a cake, wash dishes, make frosting (sometimes even a filling), and by the time I frosted the cake and saw the mountain of new dishes I had to wash, I was no longer interested in practicing decorating, I didn't even fill a piping bag, I just served the cake as it was, an undecorated cake.
I am sure you have also felt this way at least once.
Of course, it would have been different if I already knew what I was doing. It would have been simple to quickly set up a bag and start piping, but I was CLUELESS. I did not know about couplers, consistencies, etc. I only knew how to do basic swirls with whatever tip I decided to throw in the bag.
Until I had an epiphany....
> LIGHT BULB! <
Reusable Practice Icing - and to make it even better - one that does not expire, one that is easy and cheap to make!
First, let's go over my practice icing rules:
Practice icing is not for you to eat.
It's not for applying onto a real cake, or any food for that matter.
You don't even use it on a fake cake...
Practice icing is simply used on wax paper, parchment paper, and plastic practice boards.
Why I love it soooo much:
You no longer have to make icing every time you want to practice. When you are done practicing scrape the frosting off of the practice surface with a rubber spatula and put it in an air-tight container and save it until you are ready to practice again.
Don't worry about putting a date on it - these ingredients don't expire. (smiley face) Though, I would label it as practice icing.
AND with the noted practice surfaces, there's no chance for accidental mixed contaminants.
Just be sure to store your practice icing in an air tight container at room temperature - preferably in a cupboard - you're fridge is fine, just make sure you let it come to room temperature before you use it.
4 cups POWDERED (CONFECTIONARY) SUGAR
7 teaspoons WATER
1 cup VEGETABLE SHORTENING (crisco)
Alternate adding small amounts of sugar and water until all is fully incorporated.
NOTE: Even though this recipe mimics the consistency of a buttercream frosting, you can mix by hand or with a hand mixer.
* This makes a STIFF consistency. If you need a Medium consistency add 1 more teaspoon of water. If you need a Thin consistency add 2 more teaspoons of water.
There are 4 different pastry bags to help with your decorating needs. Each bag has different qualities; however all have one thing in common: they can be used to pipe your favorite frosting and royal icing decorations on cakes, cookies and even brownies!
So how do you know which one you need?
Well... nothing is set in stone, you can use all of them the same.
So the real question, when it comes to purchasing decorating bags, is which is best for your needs, which do you prefer?
I have every kind because my preference changes with each sweet treat, job size, job complexity and even with how I feel that day.
Here is a quick "run down" on the four different pastry bags you can purchase to help you choose which bag is best for your baking needs.
From Left to Right: Parchment Triangle (folded), Featherweight, Plastic, Canvas.
~ These need to be made/folded.
~ Disposable - a.k.a. "throw-aways."
~ Made of grease resistant pre-cut parchment triangles or
~ You can use the parchment paper right in your kitchen.
~ Great for small jobs and all frosting and icings.
~ I would not recommend for use with a decorating coupler.
PLASTIC - MOST POPULAR FOR AT HOME BAKERS
~ Disposable - a.k.a. "throw-aways."
~ Made of clear plastic.
~ Great for beginners, hobbyists, occasional bakers, small- medium jobs, great for any frosting, and the only bag I will use for royal icing.
~ Can be used with some batters.
~ Great for using with a coupler.
~ Reusable - hand wash.
~ Made of Lightweight Coated Polyester.
~ Can be purchased in different sizes.
~ Great for non-commercial bakers/at-home bakers, small-medium- big jobs, and all frosting/icings.
~ Can be used with some batter and doughs.
~Great for using with a coupler.
CANVAS - MOST POPULAR FOR BUSINESS USE
~ Reusable - hand wash.
~ Heavy Duty.
~ Has the longest use-life.
~ Made of Heavyweight Coated Canvas.
~ Can be purchased in different sizes.
~ Great for serious bakers, commercial bakeries/businesses, medium - big jobs, and all frosting/icings.
~ Can be used with some batters and doughs.
~ Great for using with a coupler.
Have you ever attempted cake decorating and found it frustrating, even when you were following the directions or doing something as simple as just frosting a cake?
The issue could have been how thick the frosting was.
Having the right icing consistency helps you as a decorator - your job will be easier - and it helps the decorations hold their shape.
So, today I am going to teach you the differences between the three icing consistencies, when you need them, how to check your frosting consistency, how to get your icing the right thickness and how to adjust mistakes in your consistencies.
In the world of cake decorating, there are three different icing consistencies you need to know: STIFF, MEDIUM and THIN.
The main reason for decorating difficulty is having the wrong icing consistency.
It's simple, different techniques require different consistencies and following the consistency rule will help resolve most decorating errors.
Stiff frosting is used when you make decorations that stand upright for example: 3D buttercream flowers that are made on a nail and later transferred onto the cake.
The stiff consistency helps the petals stand UPright. If the frosting is not stiff enough, it will sag or even fall over.
You can check your frosting consistency by putting a spatula upright in your frosting, if it continues to stand upright by itself, and does not move, it is STIFF.
Medium frosting is used to make basic decorations that are normally piped right onto the cake and do not stand UPright such as: borders, stars, two-dimensional circles, "flat" drop flowers, fur, grass, leaves, rosettes, swirls and zig-zags. (In short: 2D decorations and frosting cupcakes.)
You can check your frosting consistency by putting a spatula upright in your frosting, if the spatula starts to lean by itself then it has a medium consistency.
Thin frosting will not hold a 2 dimensional shape. It is used for basic things like filling cakes with frosting, crumb coating, icing the exterior of a cake, applying a flat smooth layer on top of a cupcake and for piping letters - both printed handwriting and cursive.
You can check your frosting consistency by putting a spatula upright in your frosting, if the spatula falls over by itself then it has a THIN consistency.
Here's a quick conversion chart to adjust your frosting's consistency.
Every frosting has a different liquid, some examples include: water, milk or heavy cream. When thinning out your buttercream frosting, be sure to use the same liquid in your recipe.
In my American Buttercream frosting recipe I use heavy cream as my liquid, so I would add more heavy cream to thin out my frosting.
In my Practice Buttercream Icing recipe I use water as my liquid, so I would add more water to thin out my frosting.
TO THICKEN your frosting slowly add sifted powdered-sugar in increments of 1 tablespoon at a time until you have reached your desired consistency.
How to Build a Cake - FULL TUTORIAL- includes video.
Get your cake ready for decorating by learning how to level, torte, fill and crumb coat your cake. In this tutorial I will teach you how to use a cake leveler, cake lifter, and turntable.
First let's learn about these techniques and why us bakers use them.
We level cakes so they are flat on the top. It is better for stacking cakes, it makes them look cleaner and have a professional appearance.
Torting a cake is simply dividing the cake into layers so you can apply a filling or frosting in between the layers you have made. Torting is also great for naked style cakes.
We fill cakes to balance the amount of frosting in each bite, and to add different flavors and/or textures. Cake fillings can be custards, fruit preservatives, ganache, frosting, or whatever else your taste buds desire!
The secret to a crumb-free cake. A crumb coat is an initial thin-layer of frosting applied to a cake. It acts as a barrier between the final frosting to help prevent crumbs from getting in your final layer of frosting.
The amount of frosting you use in your crumb coat depends on how you will complete your cake. (Naked cakes are just a simple crumb coat, so you may want to add a little more than if you were applying a second layer of buttercream.)
Now that we know why we utilize these techniques, let's put them in action and Learn How to Build a Cake...
HOW'D SHE DO THAT?
~ When using a cake board (cardboard cake circle), be sure to apply some frosting before your first layer of cake - this acts like a glue, it will help keep it on the cake board and help prevent it from sliding around.
~ When using a turntable - use a piece of non-slip mat (normally used in the kitchen's cupboard for glass cups) to keep the cake board still.
HOW TO LEVEL A CAKE
Using a cake leveler, an object that resembles a band saw, balance the wire ends by having each side on the same notch. Compare the wire next to you cake, where the wire sits, is where it will cut. To level a cake, you are cutting off the crown, or the dome on top.
Once you have lined up where you want the wire to cut, using a sawing like motion, slowly move the leveler back and forth through the cake. While you are leveling the cake, make sure the rubber feet stay flat on your working surface.
HOW TO TORTE A CAKE
Torting a cake is just like leveling a cake. Using a cake leveler, adjust the wire so it rests where you want the levels to be separated. In this video I show dividing the cake in half, so I adjusted the wire to sit at the mid-point; in some cases, you may wish to torte a single layer into 3, 4 or even 5 layers, so be sure to compare the wire next to the cake before you cut into it. Complete the process, as we did in the leveling process.
Using a cake lifter - an amazing invention to easily and quickly separate layers, without having the layer fall apart (especially for thin tortes) - slide it where you just separated the cake to remove the top layer until needed again.
HOW TO FILL A CAKE
First pipe a border around the top of the bottom cake layer using a #12 decorating tip (looks like a circle) and the frosting that you plan to finish the outside of the cake with. This border helps keep the filling in and away from the sides, so if you fill with a fruit preservative, this will prevent it from leaking down the edge - which could ruin your final coat of frosting.
(If you are just filling your cake with frosting - don't pipe a border, just apply a thin layer of your frosting with your spatula.)
Once your border has been piped, apply some filling in the center and using a small angled spatula slowly work it toward the border. It doesn't matter if you pick up any crumbs in your filling because this is going to be covered with your top cake layer.
HOW TO CRUMB COAT A CAKE
When it comes to crumb coating and frosting a cake, turntables are a necessity! It's faster, easier, cleaner and JUST BETTER. Once you have assembled your layers, apply a thin layer of frosting that coats the top and sides of the cake using your angled spatula. This does not need to look perfect - this is a layer that will be covered with more frosting or fondant later. If you are finishing your cake in frosting, I recommend you use the same frosting for your crumb coat. Once the cake is coated let it chill in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, or until firm.
NOTE: do not let it your cake stay in the fridge too long, it will dry your cake out.
Don't be intimidated, folding a parchment triangle is EASY!
So what is a parchment triangle?
It's simple, it's a piece of parchment paper cut into a triangle. These triangles can be "folded" to create a decorating bag. Parchment triangles are cheap, disposable and can be used with a decorating tips.
You can purchase parchment triangles pre-cut and ready to fold or if you need a decorating bag at the last minute you can cut your own off your roll of parchment paper.
Click here to learn more about different types of decorating bags.
Folding a parchment triangle is pretty easy. You're really just making a cone shape < this is shown twice in my video.
Right now it may be easier said then done, but once you try it a few times, you will see it's not that difficult and it's very simple.
After forming the cone (when the 3 corners are lined on top of each other) spread the corners to make the cone tighter, then fold them in, make a small tear, and fold the 2 torn ends. This technique allows you to "seal" the cone or triangle without needed any other supply.
If prefer, you can seal the cone with a small amount of tape instead of tearing.
Here you will learn how to get your pastry bag ready for decorating your sweet treats!
You will learn how to use a coupler, how to put on a piping tip and how to fill your decorating bag with frosting – without making a mess (wink, wink).
Couplers are amazing and a necessity for anyone that is decorating with a pastry bag. What’s a coupler you ask? A coupler allows you to switch the decorating tip on your bag of icing in seconds without making a mess.
That’s right! You do NOT need multiple bags of one color! You need a coupler!
Couplers are cheap and reusable, to date where I live, they are $2 for a pack of 4. If you are serious about decorating bakery treats with frosting or icing, you should consider investing in a few packages (I own dozens). I mainly use my couplers when I am working with buttercream frosting and royal icing for either cake or cookie decorating.
LET’S GET STARTED
All you need:
UNDERSTANDING YOUR COUPLER
Your coupler is made of 2 pieces. One piece (with external threads) goes on the inside of the pastry bag.
The other piece (the ring with the internal threads) goes on the outside of the pastry bag – it goes over the piping tip and “screws” onto the piece that’s inside the pastry bag.
LET’S DO THIS!!!
First, insert the inside piece (the bigger piece with external threads) and gently push it to the pointed tip of the bag.
Using your marker, draw a line on the outside of the pastry bag at the bottom thread of the coupler.
You want the pastry bag to cover the entire coupler that you put inside the bag– this will prevent bag rips, splits and the frosting, or even the coupler, from squishing out later.
Now move the coupler out of the way so you can cut the line you made with you scissors.
Push the internal coupler piece back all the way down.
Place your desired piping tip onto the end of the internal coupler and using your other hand, slide the other piece of the coupler, the ring, over the piping tip and twist (righty tighty) so the two pieces of the coupler tighten together.
Do not over tighten the twist. Over-tightening can ruin your coupler, rip your bag and make it very difficult to switch out your tip later.
Now your bag is ready to be filled with your frosting or icing.
HOW TO FILL YOUR DECORATING
BAG LIKE A PRO
There are two ways you can fill your bag without making a mess.
One, you can use just a thin spatula or the other, you can use a cup.
When you are decorating on a cake you want to keep your bag only filled 1/3 with frosting. If you have too much frosting your hand will tire quickly and it can be hard to control the bag as a beginner.
FILLING YOUR BAG WITH A SPATULA
When you fill your bag with a spatula, (I prefer a small angled spatula) you want your spatula to reach as far down the bag as possible. You are going to use your free hand to put pressure on the outside of the pastry bag so it squeezes the spatula.
Position your hand so your squeeze is closest to the spatula's handle.
While your hand is gently applying pressure (squeeze) onto the spatula, pull the spatula out of the bag with your other hand, the frosting will come off the spatula and stay at the bottom of the bag.
You want the spatula near the bottom of the bag because this helps keep the “frosting mess” away from the top (open-end) of the bag and helps prevent air bubbles – you DO NOT want frosting at the top when you are piping your decorations or if you plan on refilling the bag later with more frosting – or it will be VERY MESSY!!!!!
Refilling your bag is simple, just repeat the filling process.
NOTE: After filling or refilling your decorating bag, you may need to use your fingers afterwards to “knead” the frosting in the bag to try to get any air bubbles out of the frosting. Air bubbles throughout the frosting can cause “puffs” of air to release when you are decorating – this is very frustrating and can ruin your design.
FILLING YOUR BAG USING A CUP
If you are brand new to using pastry bags, cake decorating or if you’re doing this with your children then I recommend using a cup.
Start with your prepared bag with a coupler and piping tip.
Fold the decorating piping tip UP as you slide the pastry bag into a tall cup.
Fold the top of the bag down the sides of the cup, a few inches is fine. This helps keep the frosting mess away from the end of the bag (for the same reasons stated earlier).
Make sure the bag is opened up in the cup.
Now use a spatula to put your frosting in the bag by sliding the spatula on the rim of the cup.
HELLO! I'm Julie. My favorite hobby is baking; it’s relaxing and brings out my creative side. < Here I share tutorials to teach you how to cake decorate like a pro! Hungry for more? Subscribe to my newsletter below to get my newest recipes, tutorials, and more! ENJOY.
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