The first thing to look at when thinking about how to pipe buttercream is general piping bag techniques, and tricks. Firstly, it is really important to make sure you do not overfill the piping bag, as this will make it more difficult to handle, and more likely to create mess if the contents starts to come out of the top of the bag as you squeeze. When filling a bag, turn over the top 4 inches and fill the bag to that level, to give you plenty of space when holding the bag upright to pipe.Read More
Once you have filled your bag you should also think about your hand position when piping. We would always suggest supporting the top of the bag with your weaker hand, and positioning your dominant hand lower down the bag to be the hand you do most of the squeezing with. This will give you control over the bag, as well as allowing you to more closely control how much pressure is applied and therefore how much comes out of the bag. From this position you can pipe easily with control and this will allow you to start to experiment with decorative piping and different shaped designs.
The same basic technique also applies when thinking about how to pipe icing too, but the different consistencies will mean you need to adjust the pressure you apply when squeezing.
How to Pipe Swirls on a Cake
One of the basic decorative piping styles that works really well with buttercream is piping swirls, or rosettes. To do this, you need to make sure you have a fluted nozzle (here meaning one with a star-like end, that creates lines in the buttercream as it pipes). You put this into the bag first, then trim the end of the bag to allow the nozzle to poke through, meaning the buttercream will come through with the correct shape. This piping decoration is particularly popular in decorating cupcakes, but can be used to border the top of a larger cake as well.Read More
It is a good idea to practice the piping technique itself separate from the finished product first, so you can get a feel for the exact movement required for the best results, before doing it onto your cake or cupcakes.
So in order to do a swirl of buttercream, the best place to start is by raising the piping bag to 90 degrees from the table and almost touching the surface, then squeezing as evenly as possible whilst moving the bag around in a circle, trying to keep it as tight as possible. As you continue to pipe, simply allow the buttercream to overlap with the first circle, getting smaller until you reach a simple peak on top. Once you have reached the peak, stop squeezing and flick the edge of the bag away from the swirl, which should help to produce a spiked tip.
You can vary this technique according to the size needed, and it may mean more rotations and layers if you choose to do it a larger size. The important thing is always to keep the pressure on the bag as even as you can to make the swirl as neat and tidy as possible.
How to Pipe flowers on a cake
When piping a buttercream rose, it is important to make sure that you have the correct nozzle, known as a petal nozzle and a piping nail, that allows you to turn the flower as you pipe (this is not entirely necessary but can be very helpful especially if you are doing a lot of roses). You can tell what a petal nozzle is by the tear like tapered shape. Once you have the nozzle, fill the piping bag as normal, again making sure to not overfill it.
To begin piping the rose, start with the bag horizontally and pipe a single cone shape, with a taper to the top. Once this is done, move the bag slightly further from the centre and pipe a short length of buttercream, and turn and repeat on the other side to create two distinct petal shapes, one on each side of the central cone.
Continue the same process of adding petals, filling in the gaps between the previous layers, in the same pattern as a brick wall (with overlaps from layer to layer). Once the rose is the desired size, simply finish the last layer and then it is time to remove the rose from the piping nail.
To do so, slide a sharp knife under the buttercream, and pull the flower off gently and place directly onto the cake you want to decorate.
It is possible to pipe a rose of buttercream directly onto a cake or cupcake, just make sure to turn the product as you do so to make sure you get the best build up of layers and the best finish.