With all my cake decorating so far, if I needed to write anything on the cake, I would just use cut outs because I just couldn’t do it properly. I’d practice and practice with pen and paper, but when it came time to do it on the cake/cupcakes with icing and piping bag, I’d stuff up the style and spacing and it just looked really bodgy.
So I decided to do a piping course. I’ve always admired Lorinda Seto’s cakes and when I saw that she was offering a piping course, I signed up.
It was a half day course from 10am till 1:30 and we started with learning how to mix the royal icing powder with a small amount of water to get the right consistency for pipe work. I’d always made my royal icing from scratch, but I think from now on, I’ll always get this mixed powder as there’s no need to fumble around with egg whites and it also means I can make up a small amounts as all recipes I’ve come across for royal icing have always said to use 1 egg white, 250 grams icing sugar and some lemon juice, which makes a fair bit and I usually only use half of it.
After watching Lorinda make a batch, we try mix our own at our own little stations set up with all the equipment we’ll need for the day. Lorinda comes around to check everyone’s icing to make sure it’s the right consistency – not too runny and thick enough to fall back on it self but still hold its peak. And if it’s too thick and you’re close to the right consistency, all it takes is the smallest dab of water to make it perfect.
The next tip I learnt is so simple and has made my (cake decorating) life so much easier!! When working with lots of different colours or different consistency of icing (ie thick for outlining and thinner for flooding), Lorinda said to put the icing in a plastic sandwich/freezer bag then insert that into your piping bag, cut the corner of the bag attach nozzle/tip and pipe as normal. That way, when you need to change to a different icing, you’re just swapping the internal bag, cleaning your nozzles and don’t need to wash your piping bag. What a fantastic idea!!
The first exercise was to practice little round balls. Sounds easier than it is to do. It’s all about getting squeezing the bag with the right amount of pressure then knowing when to stop squeezing so you get the right size. After some (ie quite a bit) of practice I finally got the hang of it.
The next exercise was ‘snails’, which is like the little round balls but with a tail. I found these a lot easier to do, because you just flow from one snail to the next.
Once we got the hang of balls, we moved onto piping straight lines, curved lines and shapes. Then we had another demonstration from Lorinda on how to pipe letter and words. I always thought when piping thicker parts of the letter, you’d go back over it, but no, all you do is go a little slower so more icing is piped in that area and quicker at the thinner bits of the letter. Hopefully you can see the different thickness in the letter in the photo above.
The border in the above photos were done freehand and the monogram letter was done by tracing the mirror-image version of the letter on baking/tracing paper from printed out fonts using a pencil then transferring the image to the iced cookie by putting the traced out letter, pencil side down, on the cookie and tracing it again, so that the pencil marks on the cookie transfer onto it. Easy Peasy!
We then practised ‘icing writing’ on iced practice boards, practicing the more common words – ‘congratulations’ and ‘happy birthday’.
Last exercise for the day was the cute little bird cage cookies. Except for the little bird, they weren’t too hard to do, just requiring a steady hand.
The bird was a little tricky, but as there were pretty good instructions in the manual provided, it didn’t take too long to get right.
At this stage, I was glad it was the end of the class as my hand was starting to get quite sore from squeezing the bag and the neck ache was creeping in from leaning over the table trying to keep a steady hand. God help me if I did this for a living! After a light lunch we were homeward bound.
A few weeks later, I decided to put my newly learnt skills to practice and made some monogram cupcakes for a friend’s birthday. Still a little bodgy, but not too bad if I say so myself!