Saturday, November 5, 2011

How to Pipe Icing Roses

First of all, sorry for my long absence. Real life has been pretty busy, between work, avoiding rugby, having wisdom teeth removed, sickness, and bathroom renovations (long story) - and unfortunately the blog loses out when I run out of hours and/or energy. However, I am back! With a decorating technique which you may remember from my Grandmother's 80th birthday rainbow cake.

This is my favourite decorating discovery in quite a while - probably since I figured out how easy it is to pipe cupcake swirls and impress everyone. All you need to make this cake is a bit of control over a piping bag - actually, if you don't have it when you start have a few practice goes then scrape the icing off and start again. Even if you're a complete icing novice you should be able to do this!

Unfortunately a cake covered in rose-like swirls isn't appropriate for every occasion, but there are still opportunities and if there aren't make your own. I made this cake (which, incidentally, is kumara and ginger cake, very yummy!) for my dentist, who I don't imagine is much a fan of swirly roses but who needed a cake on account of removing five teeth from my mouth with relatively minimal discomfort and generally being a good sort. Most people are accepting enough of cake that they will eat it regardless of the decoration. ;-)

To ice a cake this way, you need a few things;
1. A cake
2. Icing soft enough to pipe but firm enough to hold its shape
3. A large piping bag
4. A large open star piping tip (Wilton 1M or equivalent)
5. A spatula
6. Gel colour and a paintbrush (optional)

For icing, buttercream is the easiest to get the correct consistency, and any recipe will do - generally, if it's not stiff enough add a little more icing sugar. I frequently use cream cheese icing, though cream cheese and icing sugar can do strange non-Newtonian liquid type things so make sure you use butter as well. Ganache also works but you'll want to whip it so that it's not too heavy and pipe it soon after.

The dual-colour effect is optional, but pretty simple to achieve - paint a stripe of gel colour (your accent colour) down one side of the piping bag before filling it (if you need to refill the bag, which you probably will, do this again each time).

The icing on one side of the bag will be tinted by this, and the rotation of the bag as you pipe will naturally swirl the colour through each rose. The saturation of colour will diminish as you go (i.e. the first couple will be darkest) so you might want to pipe in a semi-random order rather than progressing around the cake.

Getting down to business; piping the rosettes is really easy, and (bonus) you really can scrape the icing off and start over (just don't put crumb-infested icing back in with pure icing - use it for filling your next cake instead, or just eat it off a spoon) so there's no need for stress.

Scoop icing into the piping bag, filling it no more than two-thirds (if you over-fill it the icing will squeeze out the top end when you're not looking). Try to squeeze any air out, then twist the top of the bag and grasp it firmly in whichever hand feels more natural - probably your writing hand.

Squeeze a bit of icing out into the icing bowl to get any air out of the tip and get it flowing. Position the piping tip where you want the centre of the first rose to be, apply firm, even pressure, and move the tip in a close spiral out from the centre point, allowing the icing to lay on the cake. When the rose is large enough (size is up to you), release the pressure so the icing stops flowing, then pull the icing tip away. Voila!

Repeat this to cover the cake. Once you get the hang of it it's pretty speedy.

Try to arrange the roses so there aren't huge gaps, but you can fill the holes by piping semi-circles as needed. Use the same technique but just run the nozzle along the gap you need to fill. When the cake is complete these bits will just blend into the overall picture.

To do the sides the technique is the same, just make sure you get the nozzle nice and close to the cake so the icing sticks on, since gravity won't be on your side. Again, swoopy semi-circles will fill large gaps. 

If there are small holes between roses (i.e. measurable in millimetres; too small to pipe into) use something small (the end of a teaspoon, as I did, or a skewer) to poke into the holes - you'll be able to push the icing around a little until it joins up. Sort of hard to explain but just give it a go - it will make more sense when you're doing it!

And that's that. You have a cake worthy of a dentist... Or a grandmother... Or another deserving person or occasion. And the dentist loved it. Would you give your dentist a cake? What's the most unusual occasion you've ever applied cake to?


  1. Looks spectacular.
    I probably wouldn't be baking my dentist a cake...the handsome sum I hand over when I leave their joint is substantial payment enough!

  2. Yay,I'm so pleased you're back!

    Thanks for the tutorial,I've just had a go and I'm quite pleased with the results.I used it on a banana cake and will experiment a bit more with my sister's cake next week.

  3. Wow that cake looks beautiful!!!

  4. I was so excited when I saw your first post on this and immediately searched the internet for lessons. You are right, it is really easy and looks stunning. I made Annabelle White's sour cream lemon cake and covered it with icing roses for my daughter's 40th birthday. I needed to make it a week in advance so froze the iced cake unwrapped, covered it in clingfilm when it was hard, then made sure I took the clingfilm off again while it was still frozen when I needed the cake. Perfect.

    Thank you for the most exciting technique I have seen in ages.

    Hope you are on the up and up with life again - remember that every day above ground is a good one!

  5. Thanks for the tutorial Rosa! I will have to find some courage and give this a go. Looks too amazing not to! :-)

  6. Hooray! I loved your post on the cake you made your grandmother... have been keeping an eye out for the icing tutorial. Thanks for the tips!

  7. Jacksta, I did feel maybe I'd paid him enough, but he didn't charge me for my bonus wisdom tooth so I figured maybe I had a debt to settle. ;-)

    Cheryl, thanks! And wow, that was quick - glad it worked for you too - I really do love it as a decorating technique.

    Alison, so glad it worked well for you, sounds like you're much more organised than I, to do that all ahead of time! And thanks - I am gathering speed again now. :-)

    Shirleen, definitely gather your courage. Trust me, it's pretty easy and you can re-do any that don't come out right the first time if you need to!

    Jemma, no worries, thanks for waiting so patiently. ;-)

  8. So pretty! I so should get in to some cake baking & decorating!

  9. I'm going to have a go this weekend, fingers crossed it turns out as good as yours

    I'm pretty sure I would never give a dentist a cake, and can't think of any unusual occasion, probably it will be this weekends for my flax weaving class.

  10. Mairi, thanks! And yes - surely one of these would be spot on for your afternoon tea? ;-)

    Kat, hope it all goes well for you - let me know how it turns out! :-)


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