What happens when you have extra cake in the freezer, a surplus of simple creamy vanilla buttercream, and a new favorite quote you’ve been dying to tell someone about?? You write it on a cake and write a post about it, duh.
This week I’m sharing seven essential tips on how to write with buttercream frosting (or any frosting of your choosing) like a pro. But first, I’ll let you in on a little secret…it’s way easier than you think! In fact, sometimes I think it’s easier than writing with pen and paper. And it’s certainly more satisfying. There’s just something about writing with creamy buttercream frosting on a smooth cake top that’s oddly therapeutic. You’ll see what I mean.
So whether you’re writing “happy birthday” or your favorite quote (because why not?), following these tips is sure to make it a piece of cake. Pun for sure intended.
1. Use the right tools
- a piping bag: you can buy a roll of plastic piping bags on amazon, Wilton, or any local cake decorating/baking shop. You can also use reusable pastry bags, which are a great environmental-friendly option and create less waste. If you don’t have either of those you can use a good quality plastic food storage bag. A zip-loc freezer bag would be a good option because it’s thicker and less likely to break apart when squeezed.
- the right piping tip: Wilton and Ateco are both great brands for piping tips. I use the writing tips, which are small and round at the tip. I tend to stay away from the super tiny tips, because they’re more likely to produce a squiggly line if you squeeze your bag too hard. But feel free to play around with sizes!
- a coupler (optional): a coupler is a small tool you insert into your piping bag that allows you to change piping tips. There are two pieces to it: a tube-like piece and a circular piece that screws on to it. To use a coupler, insert the tube-like piece into the pastry bag and cut the tip of the pastry bag to secure it. Put your piping tip onto the tube-like piece and secure it by screwing the circular piece onto it. Now you can change piping tips without having to use another piping bag!
2. Ensure your buttercream is the right consistency
This is very much a Goldilocks situation: not too thin, not too thick, just right.
- If your buttercream is too thin… it will leak/flow too quickly out of your piping tip, be harder to control where it goes, and will spread or fall flat after it’s piped. Fix it by adding 1/4 cup of powdered sugar at a time to your buttercream until the right consistency is reached.
- If your buttercream is too thick… it will be harder to pipe, you’ll risk squiggly lines due to squeezing too hard, and it won’t stick to the cake as easily causing breaks in your lines and lines pulling up from the cake. Fix it by adding 1 Tbsp of whole milk or heavy cream at a time to your buttercream until the right consistency is reached.
- To make sure your buttercream is just right… swirl a rubber spatula or the paddle attachment of your stand mixer around in your buttercream. Pull it out straight up and down so that the buttercream makes a V-shape and hold it upright. The buttercream should keep it’s shape, meaning that it doesn’t slide or fall. The tip might lean a little to one side, that’s totally okay!
3. Don’t overfill your piping bag
Once you have your piping bag fitted with the coupler/piping tip and have ensured your buttercream is juuuust right, it might be first instinct to stuff all of it into the piping bag. Unless you want major hand cramps and buttercream spilling out the top of your bag, please don’t do that! Only fill your bag with what you need. Start with just a few scoops so that your bag easily fits in the palm of your hand and your fingers can wrap all the way around it. A few scoops should do…you can always add more as you go!
4. Hold your piping bag correctly
You’re used to writing with things like pens and pencils, so holding a piping bag as a writing utensil can feel a bit awkward at first. I’ll try my best to explain the easiest way to do it.
- First, use your pointer finger and thumb on your dominant hand to tightly grip the filled piping bag an inch or two above the piping tip. The purpose of these fingers is to keep the buttercream below from going up toward the top of the piping bag.
- Then gently wrap your other three fingers around the 1-2 inches of buttercream below. These fingers will be used to squeeze the buttercream out.
- Then hold the top of the pastry bag out of the way with your non-dominant hand. You don’t have to do this, but I find it’s easier to see, control what I’m doing, and keep my dominant hand steady when I use both hands. (Sorry I couldn’t figure out a way to photograph this by myself!)
- When you’re ready to pipe, hold your pastry bag (or at least the tip) straight up and down with your cake at a 90 degree angle and leave a little bit of space between the cake the tip so that you’re not scraping the cake as you write.
5. Practice on a piece of parchment first
I’ve been writing on cakes since my cake decorator days at Target four years ago and I still to this day practice on parchment first. This step is important because it gives you the opportunity to make sure you like the thickness of your letters, to see what kind of font you like best, and to check that your buttercream consistency is on point.
You can either freehand it or print out/write out your favorite font(s) and slip the printed paper underneath your parchment to trace. To keep your parchment in place while you trace, either tape down the sides or use makeshift paper weights.
Once you’re happy with what you’ve practiced, you can simply scrape the frosting off the parchment, re-insert it into your pastry bag, and save your parchment for another project. No waste necessary! 🙂
6. Write on a cold cake
This tip is so important! It’s much easier to write on a cold cake than a room temp cake, because your blank canvas won’t budge at all when you write your “happy birthday” or “congrats” message. Simply pop your cake in the freezer for 15-20 minutes or until the frosting is hard, then write away!
7. What to do if you don’t like the final product
This happens. You practice on the parchment, it turns out great, you try it on the cake, and….not so great. Trust me, it happened to me several times when making the cake for this post. But it’s an easy fix.
Pop your cake back in the freezer for a few minutes so your writing can harden a bit more (it should already be somewhat hard if you wrote on a cold cake). Then, using an angled spatula (or something similar), gently scrape off your writing, smooth out the surface of your cake, and try again. If the cakes too cold to smooth out again, run the spatula under hot water, dry it off, and then smooth it out. Works like a charm!
Next time there’s a cause for celebration or you’re craving a piece of cake, I hope you get a chance to test these tips out. I’d love to hear how it turns out and what you end up writing!
P.S. The quote I used is from Albert Einstein. “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will get you everywhere.”
Thanks for reading! 🙂