I would like to share a secret with you. I don’t like specialty tips. I can’t make those push flower tips work right. There’s an endless list of fancy tips with strange shaped ends that I throw in a little tiny junk drawer in my tip tool box. Sure, once in awhile when I’m feeling a little crazy I might test one out, but in the end I always go back to my favorites; Rounds, stars, basket weave, and a leaf.
For this little talk I’d like to tell you all about my most trusted tips. The round tips! So many sizes, but in the end, let’s face it – it’s just a tube with a round hole in the end. I’d like to show you some of the most basic and classic things you can pipe with these guys. And I know right now some people are saying, “But I can’t draw!” We’ll get to that and you’ll see it’s actually pretty simple once you break it down.
So, without further ado let’s begin our little lesson featuring the humble workhorse of the tip drawer, the round tip!
Go-to Round Tip Sizes
Today I’m going to be using 4 sizes of tips, sizes 1, 3, 7, and 10. The larger the number, the larger the hole in the end of the tip. There are, of course, sizes in between but the difference between a 6 and 7 or a 3 or a 4 isn’t really much when you are starting out. A size 1 is good for tiny details like dots and strings. The 3 is the one I use to write with the most, along with drawing lines, vines, small flowers. A 7 is good for piping medium sized figures and shapes and if I’m writing on a large cake I could use this one. The 10 is great for balloons, polk-a-dots, and piping large figures. You can see from the picture the nice range of size you can get with these four sizes.
Three Basic Shapes
When piping borders or shapes or even complex drawings you use 3 basic shapes. A line, a dot, and a teardrop shape. All of these shapes can be combined to create endless designs. Here you can see those along with the bubble border. On the surface it seems simple enough, but the trick to piping is to avoid those little tails sticking up in the air. Take a look at the next image to see the right way and wrong way to make a dot.
How to make a Dot
Let’s start with making a dot. First you just aim and squeeze. Keep the tip close to the surface of your cake, holding the tip at a 90 degree angle. You want to put the frosting in the precise spot, not let it fall where it wants. Remember, you are the boss here. Apply pressure until your dot is the desired size, hold the tip steady; as your dot grows you may need to lift the tip up, but just slightly since you don’t want to make a cone. When it’s the size you want stop squeezing, after the flow has stopped give a very small circular flick of the tip. This will take care of that little peak that gets left behind otherwise. If you still have a point on top, let the frosting sit for a bit, and when it firms you can tap it down. However, if you are covering a cake in dots it can be a time saver to not have to go back and fix each one.
How to make a Teardrop
For the teardrop shape it ‘s a similar motion. This time, however, you want to hold your tip at a 45 degree angle. Make your little frosting dot the desired size, then as you let off the pressure you are applying, pull a little tail out across your surface. Depending on how much pressure you are still applying you can make as short or long a tail as you want. The important part is the initial frosting blob you make, otherwise you are just drawing a line. You will use this teardrop technique a lot when icing your cakes.
How to draw a Balloon
I think we are ready to start drawing the basics. Let’s start with balloons. Balloons are 3 simple shapes. The round dot, a long line for string, and the little teardrop shape for the reflection. (That little white dot does wonders in making your balloon look extra awesome.) Simply pipe a dot, I prefer the size 10 round, then using a size 1 make you string. Finally, use the same size 1 to make the little teardrop white reflection on the balloon. That wasn’t too hard! Note: if you are having trouble with the size 1 for the string a 3 works, too, I just really like skinny strings. If the line is breaking while drawing you may be trying to draw your line too fast. If it’s getting too squiggled then you may need to squeeze a bit more gently or move your drawing hand faster.
How to draw a Heart
A heart! For anytime you need to tell someone you love them. It’s much easier, and faster, just to pipe one than trying to draw it out. It’s 2 teardrop shapes. Just have an imaginary line on the cake where you are going to put it. Then have the tails of the drops angle towards each other, meeting on the way down. That’s about all there is to it!
How to draw a Daisy
Now, let’s get a little more fancy – daises. Start with a circle. If you need to, you can use a little cookie cutter, a small cup, a film canister (ok, the chances of you having one of those may be slim) and mark a little circle as a guide. Then start making your teardrop shapes with the big end starting on the line of the circle, pulling in the middle. It’s okay if the center where they meet is a little ugly, we’ll cover it up. Once you have all your petals you put a dot in the middle. You can use a size 3 round and make itty bitty flowers or a size 10 for giant ones. I usually use a 7 for these. For simple leaves you can use, once again, your round tip! Make more teardrop shapes, but this time have the big end start near the flower and pull outward. Instant cute little leaves! Extra bonus: Make your flowers with just a few big petals in bright colors for a groovy look. For a more natural look use a smaller size tip with 8 or so petals in a color you find in nature. Play with the length of the petals too; have some fun!
How to draw a Butterfly
After this you can let your imagination go. Take, for example, this butterfly. I broke it down into the basic shapes. The wings are teardrop shapes, made like you would make a heart. Then pipe skinny lines for antennae and a thicker line for the body. With this method you can draw so much more than you think.
The Sky is the Limit
Once you practice a bit you can use different sized tips. Mix big butterflies with little butterflies for variety. Draw a big ladybug with a trail of baby ladybugs. Drawing with a 3 or 1 round is a little different, so make sure you do a test on a surface that isn’t your cake.
Think about what you want to draw and then look at the shapes involved. In their most basic forms everything can be broken down to lines, circles, and drops. You can stack shapes and give your piping extra depth. By changing the pressure you apply you can affect the sizes without even having to change tips. When someone comes in with a request for, let’s say.. a guy floating in an inner tube surrounded by alligators, I don’t panic. I just see a bunch of circles and lines.
Practice up, folks. Next time we meet we’ll do a little creative writing lesson. Stop plopping boring writing on your beautiful cakes. Make it part of the design! I’ll share some of my favorite “fonts” to write with.
Coborn’s Cake Decorator, Sauk Rapids, MN
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