Now that you know all about the different types and flavors of frosting, it’s time to use them!
While consistency and flavor are no doubt important, I’m willing to bet that you didn’t come here just to learn frosting facts. You came here to learn how to make incredible frosting designs! So let’s talk about the how. But first, you’re gonna need some things.
Namely tools, practice, and a whole lotta frosting.
Before you start frosting like a pro, you’re going to need some tools.
Having the right tool for the job makes all the difference. This isn’t just true for frosting- this is universally true. But let’s focus on the frosting part right now. A great frosting job is only possible when you have the right tools for that job.
So, the obvious follow up question is “What tools do I need?”
Now, if you simply do a Google search for frosting tools, you’re going to find a million and one different items. And that’s way too much stuff. You don’t need all those things to frost well. In fact, I’d say that the bare minimum list when it comes to tools you need- like, literally can’t do without- is only two things long. And once you have them, you can frost to perfection. So, what are some frosting must-haves?
Frosting tips and piping bags.
Frosting tips are the small but mighty tool that mold your frosting into unforgettable shapes! They come in either metal or plastic and always tapered so that one end is wider than the other. And it’s this smaller end that you use to decorate.
Now, every frosting tip (except for the round tip) has some sort of detail on this edge. They could be sharp, teeth-like points, an asymmetrical taper, or even just a lot of little holes. But these “details” are how frosting tips are able to mold the frosting into those incredible shapes.
And each tip is unique. So you’ll need to use different tips to create different designs. Which is why every serious baker ends up owning a entire drawer full of frosting tips!
Huh. I guess that means frosting tips are like Pokémon: you gotta catch ’em all!
Now, frosting tips have to be used in conjunction with piping bags- which I’ll tell you more about it two seconds. And the way you use a frosting tip is by placing it inside of a piping bag. You want to see the narrowest point of the tip- the end with the detail on it- showing through the piping bag. (If need be, trim the piping bag with scissors until the tip fits right. But don’t trim off too much- you don’t want the opening so wide that tip escapes!)
Then, fill the bag with frosting and twist the open end of the piping bag to trap the frosting inside. From here, simply squeeze the bag until the frosting comes through the frosting tip. You’ll see that, as the frosting comes out, the frosting tip shapes it into a cool pattern.
And you, the artist, can then apply that pattern to your cake to transform it from a dessert into a masterpiece! 🖼
Now, when it comes brand, any brand of frosting tips will do. But personally, I’m partial to the Wilton brand. I mean, there’s a reason they dominate the world of baking products! They’ve got good stuff!
I like them because every Wilton frosting tip has a number printed on the side. And this number makes it easy to Google both how to use it and cool design ideas for that specific tip. Plus they offer so many resources- from YouTube how-to videos to a killer Pinterest page- that you should check out even if you don’t buy their stuff.
Piping bags will be your best friend while you’re frosting. I own lots of reusable piping bags and I love each one of them. Of course, the also come in a disposable plastic variety, too. What does a piping bag look like? Well, when they’re empty, they look like this:
And when they’re full of frosting, they look like this:
Funny story: Whenever I use a piping bag to frost a dessert, I wash it clean and then stand it up to dry. And when it’s propped upright, it looks exactly like a dunce hat without the point! Of course, now that I’ve told you that, you’ll never be able to un-see it. So that’s my gift to you. 🎁 You’re welcome. 😘😆
Just like cake pans, piping bags are another tool that I highly recommend you own more than one of!
If you’re decorating and you want to use different colors, each color will need its own piping bag. Or if you want to use more than one frosting tips to decorate your cake, you’ll need a fresh piping bag for each different frosting tip. And lastly, they come in different sizes so you can pick the right size bag for your specific project.
Technically, you can DIY a piping bag with a plastic bag a pair of scissors.
Simply trim off one of corners with a pair of scissors and fill the plastic bag with frosting. Of course, the size of the bag you use- either a sandwich bag or gallon sized- is based off the size of your project. But, if you’re serious about baking, I’d highly recommend you buy at least two (one big, one small) reusable piping bags for your kitchen.
Extra tools for the win.
Now I know I said you only need two tools to make a stunning cake. And I stand by that statement.
If you add just a couple more tools to your lexicon, your life will get even easier. All of three of these tools cost less than 20 bucks and, in my opinion, are well worth the investment. (Actually, the first two were both under 10. But the last one skewed the numbers higher. 📈)
So, what are these bonus tools?
An Offset Spatula:
Offset Spatulas are really useful when you want to smooth frosting. They’re ideal for spreading frosting either between the layers of a layered cake or on the top of your cake. And I use mine alllll the time. Seriously, I love this thing.
Icing Smoother Tool:
This tool is such an amazing help when it comes to making cakes that are perfectly smooth on the sides. First, you roughly apply frosting to your cake. Then, hold the smoother against the side of your cake and drag the frosting level.
Turntable or Lazy Suzan:
Having a turntable to assemble and decorate your cake on is wildly helpful. It allows you to spin the cake 360 degrees right in front of you. This way, you can reach every corner of the cake- without ever moving your feet. Without one, you end up running around your table and bending in weird, uncomfortable ways in an effort to frost your cake. My only note is that you try and find one that spins smoothly, without any hiccups or starts and stops.
There’s nothing cuter than a coupler piping tips! (I admit, that one’s a stretch… Not my best work.)
Before you put your frosting in your piping bag, you need to pick out what frosting tip you’re going to use. After you decide, slip that tip into the piping bag so skinner end, the end with the design on it, sticks out of the bag. Then fill the bag with frosting and get to decorating.
Or, instead of just using a frosting tip, you can use a coupler.
What’s a coupler? A coupler is a frosting tool that lets you switch between different frosting tips- all while using a single bag of frosting. Now, this is especially cool because you can’t traditionally “switch out” your frosting tip. I mean, it’s on the inside of the piping bag, buried in frosting!
But couplers can because they come in two pieces. A main piece, which looks like a round frosting tip with the grooved edges of a screw, and a ring that tightens onto that main piece.
To use it, simply unscrew the ring piece and set it aside. Then, slide the frosting-tip-looking piece into your piping bag just like normal. But, unlike normal, you don’t pick out your piping tip until after the piping bag is full of frosting. And, even stranger, you place it on the outside of your piping bag! You then lock the tip in place by screwing the ring tight to the coupler base buried inside the piping bag.
From here, simply unscrew the ring so you can pop piping tips on and off your big bag o’ frosting at will.
Pretty darn cool, right?
Ready to become the Pied Piper of Piping?
(I know that the Pied Piper was actually totes sketchy, but I couldn’t pass up that alliteration! Especially after such a weak subheading last paragraph. So, sorry I just called you a kidnapper- I didn’t mean it. But you’ve got to admit that that’s one snappy headline. Right?)
Before you can get to decorating, you need to put your frosting into a piping bag! But you don’t want fill your bag too full. The heat from your hand could change the consistency, (aka melt it) so it’s better add more frosting as you need it. Also, if your frosting’s super thick, squeezing it over and over again will eventually tire out your muscles.
Full disclosure: I’m guilty of ignoring this rule. Like, all the time. But I wanted to give you the “correct” advice, instead of just telling you what my lazy bones do.
Now, there’s more to piping than just the consistency of your frosting and which frosting tip you use. Although, they are both super important. But did you know that the way you hold your piping bag actually plays a role in what design you can make? It’s true- but don’t panic. There’s only two angles that you’ll use to hold your piping bag.
You’ll either be holding it straight up and down or at a 45 degree angle.
Holding it straight up and down creates dollops, like you’d expect on top of a cupcake. Meanwhile holding it at a 45 degree angle is better for creating decorative patterns, so this angle is more common with cakes. That said, no technique is limited to any dessert. And, the decorator always has full artistic control. But, as a general rule, both angles do have their own niche.
My last advice before you start piping directly on your cake is that you practice.
Practice piping on a napkin first, before you go straight to your dessert. Especially if you’ve never piped anything before! Play with piping in different directions. Get a feel for how easy or stiff your frosting comes out of the bag.
Or, if you pipe onto a clean piece of parchment paper, you can actually reuse your practice frosting on your cake! Because one thing that George W. Bush and I agree on is: no frosting left behind! (Wait, he wasn’t talking about frosting?) Once you’re ready to frost on your cake, simply scrape the frosting off the parchment and put it right back into your piping bag. Easy as cake. 😉
Are you feelin’ fancy? Cause it’s time to put on your fancy pants and make a filled cake!
Now, in like 10 seconds, I’m going to get super specific about how to frost an entire cake. There’s a whole topic on it, titled “How to Frost a Cake.” But, before we dive head first into frosting, I want to teach you a trick you can use with your layered cakes. It feels super fancy, but it’s actually really easy to do. Are you ready?
You can add a layer of jam in between your cake layers!
Instead of just straight frosting, you can go fruity with jam! Of course, it doesn’t have to be jam- it could be pudding. Or Nutella. Anything that’s tasty, but would squish out the second you sandwiched it between two layers of cakes. Now, doing this does two things. It adds a powerful punch of flavor. Plus, it adds a lot of visual interest to the individual slices of cake.
Not to mention you’ll just feel like a cake boss after you make a filled layer cake! 🏆 (Seriously, how cool are you?!)
Ready to learn how?
Start by setting down the first layer of cake and pipe a ring of frosting around the outside edge. You’ll want to use a buttercream or cream cheese frosting here. Or just any type of frosting with a thick consistency that stays where you put it. Now, the entire purpose of this “ring of frosting” is to create a dam that keeps your filling in place. Since the filling is naturally thin and runny, it needs a barrier to keep it in place. Otherwise, it would ooze out as soon as you added the second layer. Which would be bad.
Now, if you’re at all concerned that there’s a weak spot in your border, reinforce it.
You can touch up the gap in the frosting or even add a whole second circle, just to be safe. Then, spread your filling inside the ring.
You’ll want to use about the same amount of filling in between each layer. But the amount you add is up to you. You’re in control, so personalize it as much as you want! (Although, I still recommend you use your cake recipe as a guide.) Just be careful not to add so much filling that your frosting dam can no longer contain it. That would also be bad. And messy.
Repeat this process for each layer of cake (if it’s more than two layers).
And just like that, you’ve made a filled cake! 👏 From this point you can frost and decorate how you’d like. But you’ve now got an exciting, tasty surprise hidden inside your layer cake! How epic is that?! (The correct answer is: Very!)
Did you get all that?
Great! Cause it’s time to move on to that cake decorating topic I promised you! And you can bet there’s a video in there of how this girl frosts herself a cake. (For better or for worse… 😅 I don’t feel like frosting is my strongest suit. So, please don’t judge me too much.) So hop on into “Frosting a Cake” to see me, plus a cake, and a whole lotta frosting.
👩🍳 + 🎂 + 🧁 (In this translation, the cupcake represents frosting. Just use your imagination.)