Even a novice can master decorating techniques to create impressive cakes (like the Clown Cake shown at right). To make the task easier, use pastry bags or heavy-duty resealable bags, metal or plastic cake decorating tips and a coupler. A coupler lets you switch tips without changing pastry bags when using the same color frosting.
To use a coupler, place the large part of the coupler inside the pastry bag. Trim the top of the bag if necessary in order to let the coupler extend about 1/4 inch outside the bag. Place the coupler ring over the tip and screw both parts of the coupler together. To change tips and continue using the same color frosting, unscrew the coupler ring, replace tip and screw on the ring.
Below are some common cake decorating techniques. Unless otherwise noted, hold the pastry bag at a 45° angle.
- Shell Border. Using a No. 16-21 star tip, hold the bag just above the surface. Squeeze bag; slightly lift tip as frosting builds and fans out. Relax pressure as you lower tip to make tail. Stop pressure completely and pull tip away. Work from left to right, resting the head of one shell on the tail of the previous shell.
- Writing, Outline, Facial Features, Zigzag. Using a No. 1-3 round tip, touch surface lightly, squeezing frosting out evenly as you go. Release pressure and gently touch cake surface to stop. To zigzag, continue piping up and down with steady pressure.
- Star Fill-in. Using a No. 16-21 star tip, hold bag at a 90° angle with tip just above the surface. Squeeze bag; hold tip in place as star is formed. Stop pressure and pull tip up. Pipe rows of stars evenly and close together until entire area is filled.
- Ruffle Garland. Using a No. 102-104 tip, angle the narrow end of the tip slightly away from the surface. Squeeze bag, moving your hand up and down slightly to ruffle the icing and positioning the bag to form the curve.
- Sotas (Lace). Using a No. 1-3 round tip, squeeze bag and allow frosting to drop randomly in a series of overlapping loops.