How To Pipe A Cake

11/04/2011 09:55 am ET | Updated Aug 31, 2012

Chef Kate Cavotti demonstrates basic piping techniques to transform a plain cake into something worth celebrating. She gathers her tools first: a plain frosted cake, two pastry bags, two star tips, and a basket weave tip.

She begins by making a basket weave pattern around the sides of the cake using the basket weave tip -- one side has teeth, another is straight. She starts at the top edge of the cake and makes a vertical line, then makes two short horizontal lines across the first line. She repeats this pattern, creating a basket weave design around the circumference of the entire cake.

Next, chef Cavotti starts working on the bottom of the cake, using a star tip to create a shell pattern along the cake's base. She holds the bag almost horizontal to the cake, piping a dot, which she then draws out into a tail. Once the bottom edge is finished, she pipes a shell pattern around the top rim of the cake. Then, to make a rosette, she holds the bag straight up and down a few centimeters from the top of the cake, pipes a circle, then pulls it off the cake. Feeling fancy? Put a strawberry atop each rosette, she advises.

After piping a few rosettes that incorporate the shell technique, she turns her attention to a cupcake. Using a larger star tip, she pipes a large rosette on top of the cupcake, icing it completely in one swirl.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Cavotti from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: easy piping techniques.

On the counter in front of me I have a few things that can help you turn your very plain cake into one that's a little more exciting. I have a plain finished cake, and I have two pastry bags and three pastry tips - one to do a side design called a basket weave, and two star tips, one small and one large. I also have a small plate that I'm going to use to help me elevate the cake on the side that I'm working on, while I do that basket weave.

A basket weave tip is a tip with one straight side, and one side that has teeth. Applying a little bit of pressure at the very top of your cake, you'll apply one straight line all the way to the bottom. Now, to build the basket weave I need to do some horizontal lines. At the very top edge I'm going to draw a horizontal line across the straight line that I piped, extending out on the sides. I'll leave a space, and then do another horizontal line. The space in between my two horizontal lines is about the same width as my piping tip. My next line is going to be a vertical line; I'll pipe over the edge of the horizontal lines I just piped - leaving a space between vertical lines that's also about the width of the pastry tip - and pipe a straight line down to the bottom. For my next horizontal line (here is where it gets a little bit confusing) there's an open square here, and I'll put my tip into that square and pipe across. The next one goes into the open square also. And I continue to build it; next is going to be a vertical line. Now my squares are in different places, but I'm still going to do my horizontal lines from inside each square, across my vertical line. Again: from inside the square across the vertical line. You'll go all the way around, and you try to match them up so those horizontal lines fit nicely at the end. A quick basket weave dresses up your cake just a little.

When you've finished your basket weave all the way around, you're going to want to do something at the very base of your cake. I'm going to use a small star tip. For this I don't need to elevate the cake any further, so I'll take the plate out of the bottom. I'm going to pipe holding the bag almost horizontal to the cake, and I'm going to pipe a dot and pull a tail, and pipe a dot and pull a tail, and it's going to make a nice smooth shell border going all the way around. Applying a border to the bottom cleans up the space or gap between the cake and whatever you're putting it on.

Now I'll show you a couple of things you can do on the top of your cake. For the same decoration on top that I put on the bottom, the shell border, I hold my pastry bag at a little bit of an angle right at the very edge. I apply pressure, pipe a dot and then pull a tail, and then pipe a dot and then pull a tail. That will put a rim right around the very top edge of your cake. Pipe a dot and then pull a tail, pipe a dot and pull a tail.

Another decorating technique I'll tell you about is making a rosette. Hold your pastry bag nice and straight, apply pressure until you see the icing hit the cake, come around in a circle and come off. You can do another one on the next piece: watch it come down to the cake, pipe around in a circle, and disconnect off. It makes a nice circular motion. I've cut a couple of pieces of strawberry in half, and I can use the rosette to elevate a strawberry; that will tell my guests that maybe there's some kind of strawberry on the inside of the cake, or maybe I just want to use it to add a little bit of color to the top of my cake.

You can use the same motion we used for the rosette to do another border, a little bit fancier than the shell border we already learned. I'm going to pipe a rosette with a tail on the end; another rosette, and a little tail. This combines the shell border I did in the beginning with the tail, and the rosette that I did in the end.

Those are some very basic piping techniques you can do on your cake. Now you can use one of those techniques to decorate a cupcake too. I'll move this cake aside. I have a cupcake here, and I have a star tip that's much bigger than the one I used to decorate the cake. I'm going to use one big rosette to decorate my cupcake. We'll use the same technique we talked about before, holding the tip straight up and down right in the middle of my cupcake. I apply a little bit of pressure so you can see the frosting come down, and make a bigger rosette all around the outside - and that's a nice decoration on the top of the cupcake. If you wanted to, you could even put a raspberry on top.

Happy decorating!

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