In her biweekly column, Kitchen Basics, Susan Pachikara of Cardamom Kitchen demystifies essential cooking skills with step-by-step instructions and her own handsome photos. Whether she's showing us how much brown sugar we're meant to "pack"(or is it cram?) into measuring cups or how to detect when our onions are properly caramelized, Susan is the nonna we never had -- until now. Now, go on and get cozy under her wing.
This week, Susan demonstrates how to fill a pastry bag and pipe frosting.
My mom hosted unforgettable birthday parties when I was young. She served homemade hamburgers and fries and topped off glasses of Kool-Aid. At the end of the meal, she always brought out a chocolate cake. As an April baby, my sister’s cake took the form of a three-dimensional rabbit. My cake, which we gobbled in May, was decorated like a butterfly. Over the years, homemade cakes have become almost as rare as dinosaurs. That seems to make them all the more coveted. Cakes make for wonderful gifts year-round. If you want to decorate one for Mother’s Day, try using these tips.
Basic Tools for Piping Frosting
Sample designs using a round pastry tip
Sample designs using an open star pastry tip (note the shallow ridges)
Sample designs using a closed star pastry tip (note the deep ridges)
How to Assemble a Pastry Bag
Push the base of the coupler into the pastry bag as far as it will go. Use a pencil to mark the point where the smooth section of the base begins. Remove the base and cut off the tip based on the mark.
Push the base back into the pastry bag until the smooth section pokes out of the pastry bag.
Fit a decorating tip onto the base of the coupler.
Encircle the decorating tip with the coupler ring and screw the ring onto the coupler base.
Fold over the end of the pastry bag and spoon icing into the bag, filling it about halfway. Push the icing as far into the bag as possible.
Unfold the pastry bag. Gather the end together and twist it to force the icing down the lower half of the bag and toward the tip. Hold the bag in your dominant hand where it begins to twist. Squeeze a bit of icing into a bowl to remove air bubbles to "burp" the bag.
How to Pipe Frosting
There are two basic things to keep in mind when piping icing. First, the harder you squeeze the pastry bag, the faster the icing will flow out of it. Second, the speed at which you move the pastry bag over a cupcake, cookie, or cake will also affect your design work.
To pipe a simple rose, fit a pastry bag with an open, closed, or French rose tip. Begin piping in the center of the cupcake, then move the tip in concentric circles toward the outer edge. When you run out of space, reduce the pressure and quickly pull away to create a smooth edge.
I’d love to see your tips for piping frosting! Share them with your fellow cooks in the comments section below.
Are you new to cooking? Tell me what skills you'd like to learn and your idea could be featured in an upcoming post!
Want more basic tips from Susan? Check out her previous post: Kitchen Basics: Asparagus.
All photos by Susan Pachikara.
Susan writes the blog Cardamom Kitchen to share her culinary experiences as an Indian-American rooted in the Midwest.