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Learn How to Pipe
All cakes are wonderful, but when piped with stars, hearts, or friendly faces, they're truly something to celebrate. Read on to learn how to use a pastry bag and pastry tips to create a unique masterpiece. It's so easy that even kids can do it!
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Tools and Equipment
- Pastry bags with plastic couplers
- Assorted decorating tips
- Straight and offset icing spatulas
- Rotating cake stand or lazy susan
- Food coloring for tinting icing (optional)
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Create a Perfect Base
Every icing job begins with a smooth layer of base icing.
1. Place a chilled cake on a platter or cardboard cake round, and transfer it to a rotating cake stand. Smooth on a base layer of slightly chilled buttercream with a straight icing spatula to seal the cake crumbs. Chill the cake until icing has hardened, about 15 minutes.
2. Coat the sides of the cake with 1/4 inch of buttercream. Hold the spatula parallel to the sides of the cake with the blade slightly angled towards you. Apply pressure with the spatula against the sides of the cake, and use your other hand to rotate the cake stand, smoothing the sides.
3. Spread excess icing from the sides onto the top of the cake and add more to coat. Position the spatula almost flat halfway across the top of the cake. Apply pressure as you rotate the cake stand, smoothing the top. Chill until the icing has hardened, about 15 minutes, before decorating.
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Use gel-paste food colorings to tint frostings in stages. Because they’re more concentrated than liquid colorings, gel-pastes won’t dilute the buttercream.
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Step 1: Fit Pastry Bag with Tip
Snip off the end of the pastry bag; slide a coupler into the opening (couplers allow you to change tips without emptying the bag of frosting). Choose a tip and twist on.
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Step 2: Fill Bag
"Cuff" the bag top over one hand, or place the bag, tip down, in a tall glass and fold cuff around the rim. Insert icing with a spatula using your other hand, scraping the icing against the side of the bag to release it. Do not fill the bag more than halfway. Unfold the cuff.
Gather the top edges together with one hand, and drag the thumb and index finger of your other hand downward to let out air, forcing icing into bag and decorating tip. Twist the top of the bag to close and to maintain pressure.
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Step 3: The Proper Grip
Hold the top of the bag in your right hand -- that's your squeezing hand. Your left hand steers the bag. (Lefties hold the bag with their left hand and steer with their right.) In general, for lines and writing, the bag is held straight up and down; for most designs and trim, the bag is slanted.
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Tip: Practice Strokes
If you practice on parchment paper, you may scrape off the frosting and use it again. You can also write letters on a piece of paper, then place it underneath the parchment to use as a guide.
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Tip: Toothpick Trick
Before piping, poke holes into the surface of the frosting with a toothpick to sketch out shapes and letters. If you don't like the look of your toothpick pattern, just smooth over the frosting with an offset spatula and try again.
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Tip: Cookie Cutter Trick
To make a design that's nice and neat, press a cookie cutter lightly into the frosting, then pipe over the imprint.
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