I say this with the absolute authority of a woman experienced beyond my years: Frosting is in.
I hadn’t really attempted it, thus leaving a frosting-shaped hole in my (already-limited) repetoire.
But now I have piping bags and nozzles, and a whole lotta ambition. I’m like Christina Aguilera in the much-maligned film Burlesque. Except I’m realising my cake-related dreams and piping my way to a better future. Below is a guide to basic frosting, plus a recipe for buttercream icing.
Four piping nozzles. When I got them to the checkout at Sainsbury’s, nobody could find a barcode – so I got them for free! Take that capitalism!
1984-skyline, anyone? Or some sort of Lady Gaga stage-show set?
Does what it says on the box. They were too uninspiring to photograph once unravelled.
I had a bit of a Google, and Helen Shroyer on YouTube does a good job of explaining the basics of piping, including how to prepare your piping bag. Below is the basic gist:
When using disposable bags, it couldn’t be easier: All you have to do is snip the end off the bag, and push the nozzle down towards the hole from inside.
Rest the bag in a tall glass or vase and fold the top to keep in in place. This will make it easier to fill with frosting.
Simple Buttercream Recipe:
Ingredients (covers 12 cupcakes):
150g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp hot water
food colouring (optional)
Place butter and sugar in a bowl and beat thoroughly with a fork/ electric mixer. Once well-combined, add vanilla extract and water. Beat until smooth and creamy.
I managed to drop icing sugar on the floor and on my foot. Incredibly, it managed to go through my sock. When I took it off it looked like I had some unusual type of foot fungus. (I don’t.)
After adding water, it very quickly turned into recognisable icing. (If it’s too thick, add a tiny bit more water; if it’s too thin, add more icing sugar.) I then added a few drops of yellow food colouring.
So that was nice.
Then fill the bag with icing. You don’t have to be neat about it, as you’ll eventually be squishing it all down to the end anyway.
The cakes are ready to be iced. The lines on the top are the result of me overzealously tipping them out onto the wire tray. At least it made them flatter.
Doing a bit more Googling, these were the most helpful videos on YouTube:
- Courtesy of Women’s Weekly, this is a really gentle tutorial, harking back to more innocent times.
- Ignore the prominence of this woman’s breasts in the video’s opening and you’ll find an excellent rose-frosting demo.
- Xanthe Milton is my favourite. She’s like a bad-girl Nigella, and shows four great methods for icing cupakes.
I tried a couple of Xanthe Milton’s methods, then went off-piste and tried a few of my own. I only used one nozzle, so was a bit limited in that respect.
My first ever attempt at icing. Look at that jaunty little peak!
Who knows where this will lead?
It’s like eight little pats of butter atop a cake. Which makes it the BEST kind of cake.
A beautiful flower? Or an angry lion’s mane as seen from above?
I then added some embellishment with sugar decorations.
The buttercream is delicious, creamy and sweet. The texture was perfect for piping.
I’m really pleased with these. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d thought, and it was fun being a bit more creative with the cakes. The buttercream recipe was flawless and yielded plenty of icing. It was helpful watching the icing videos online instead of just having written instructions. The sugar decorations worked like magic in pulling the cake designs together.
I can’t think of any. Oh wait, yes I can. The buttercream is so moreish I ate quite a lot of the leftovers once I’d finished the piping. Then I got a tummyache. So, yeah, that. (Admittedly this is less of a recipe-con and more of a personal failing.)