How to Pipe Vegan Icing Like a Pro
How to Pipe Vegan Icing Like a Pro
What inspires me most as a pastry chef is the story of the baked good.
The intricate and well thought out dance of taste, texture, aroma, and je ne sais quoi. The appreciation of the thin creative line that was drawn by the chef between the requirements and the endless possibilities that could make that treat so special.
My favourite part of recipe development is taking the task or goal, and finding the most unique, interesting or unexpected connections between elements that make up that task. For example, we need to launch a new cookie for the spring, and we have an excess of poppyseeds from our bagel production. Finding that perfect treat that is the intersection between all three elements, and then testing testing testing until it is perfection… that’s what inspires me most about pastry.
That is where I am most creative.
Me, absolutely delighted, as we were unboxing our order from Cedric Grolet in Paris, 2023.
My (slightly stoned) attempt at fixing a 4 tiered wedding cake I made for a family friends wedding that fell over halfway during dinner service.
When it comes to presentation, however, to this day, I really could care less what it looks like.
Thank god for my husband Michael teaching me the value of brand and how others perceive beauty. If it wasn’t for him harping on me daily to try and make on brand content, on brand messaging, and on brand presentation, I doubt Dolled Up would be where it is today.
I had to learn to value presentation. People eat with their eyes. Most people don’t make decisions based on the appreciation for the creativity of the chef (aka how I decide what to eat). They choose either what looks good (how huge is it, how much chocolate or icing is on it), or often, what looks familiar and reliable.
Maybe I lack an appreciation for presentation because I lack visual artistic skill. I have never had the patience to draw, focus on detail and be meticulous in visual art. The story behind the artwork, the research and truths that make up the piece is more of my interest.
But with pastry arts, the visual is just as, if not more important, in the delight of a baked good than the taste.
Most people do not have a trained tongue to understand the nuances of unique taste and texture.
I talk about visual presentation in relation to using a piping bag because the piping bag is a pastry chefs best friend when it comes to taking something plain (or even hideous) and turning it into a sight to behold. An easy to control, consistent tool that allows for repetitive decoration to the limits of what the mind can imagine. Be it thin drizzle of white chocolate on a quarter of a pumpkin pie, to a unique rosette on a cupcake, to a piped linzer cookie that looks as consistent as its sibling, to almost real buttercream flowers on a wedding cake. Knowing how to use a piping bag is necessary to expressing your visual creativity.
And quite possibly, this could be why I lacked an appreciation for presentation. Because for years, I could not effectively use a piping bag. I lacked the coordination, skills and patience to get a perfect drizzle, write a perfect “happy birthday”, or make a consistent rosette on a cake.
Teaching Amanda Pope, CHCH television host, how to hold a piping bag and decorate Halloween themed cupcakes.
It was my lack of confidence, dare I say fear of failure, of decorating aesthetically, that prevented me from pursuing beautiful pastry design.
Today, I am going to teach you how to use a piping bag. Today, you are going to rid yourself of that same fear, because if I can pipe beautifully, you can too.
The key to piping vegan icing like a pro lies in your dominant hand and your subconscious understanding of subtle pressure. To get a beautiful pipe, you need control over the flow of the piping bag. With no control, you’re making mistakes on the treat or making a mess on your hands.
To set yourself up for success, invest in some basic piping tips (round, open and closed star) and some disposable piping bags. Reusable ones are great from a waste perspective, however they’re a pain to clean. When you are learning, sometimes its the single use stuff that makes the idea of a new task easier.
HOW TO USE A PIPING TIP
If you are using a piping tip, be sure to insert it into your piping bag first. Plop it into the bag and take an approximate eyeball measurement as to where you should cut the bag. You will cut it about a half centimeter above where the opening of the tip ends. You want the opening fully exposed, but there still to be enough friction from the bag against the metal tip to hold it in place when you apply pressure to the icing.
Once you have taken the measurement, push the tip out of the way, make the cut, and push the tip into place so it sits snugly.
HOW TO FILL A PIPING BAG
To fill a piping bag without getting the bag, and your hands, a stick oily mess, you will take the bag and flip half of it inside out. Stick your hand in the hole of the bag and open up the bag as wide as possible. We flip the bag inside out to about the half way point of the bags depth because we are only going to fill our bag halfway. Filling it more than half way is adventurous, and possible, but it makes the job of piping much more tricky. You will need to apply more pressure (thus exhausting your hand more) to get the icing out of the bag in a consistent flow. So, when starting out, less icing is more. Refilling the bag can be a pain, sure, but its worse than having an exhausted hand with limited control over flow.
Once the bag is open and flipped, you will take your room temperature buttercream and fill the bag up to where the fold is. We use room temperature buttercream because cold buttercream requires you to use more pressure to get a consistent flow. More pressure, more exhaustion, more chances for failure and frustration.
Once filled, we will reverse the fold over of the bag, and return the bag to its original shape. Try to ensure the sides and edges of the bag do not get covered in icing – this is how greasy sticky hands are formed.
HOW TO SEAL A PIPING BAG SO IT DOES NOT SPILL ON YOUR HANDS
Make an L shape with your dominant hand using your thumb and index finger. Take the bag, and at the top of the icing, give it a twist. Take that twisted section and place it in the crook of the L shape in your hand. Close your thumb and index finger around the twisted part of the bag, and rest the remaining fingers on the enclosed icing in the bag. Twist the bag more to really close it, and then hold it shut with your thumb and index finger. Do not open this twist unless you are refilling the bag.
HOW TO PIPE PROPERLY
You should only pipe with one hand, the same hand that is also holding the piping bag twisted shut. You will use the 3 fingers not held in the twist to apply pressure to the top of the bag. This will force the icing out of the opening in a slow, concentrated stream. Practice applying different levels of pressure and moving the bag around to create designs (lines, dots of all sizes, layering dots on top of one another, a spiral that layers on top of itself).
Practice stopping mid flow, and pulling the bag away. Notice the direction and shape the icing takes with these varying pressures. As icing empties, move your hand down the bag like you would squeeze the resistant remains in a tube of toothpaste.
HOW TO REFILL THE BAG
Once your icing is nearly out, release the twist from the bag, and flip over the top of the bag to expose the inside. Roll the bag down to half way, opening the bag mouth as much as possible. Reload your icing, flip the bag back to being closed while avoiding getting icing on the outer parts of the bag.
Re twist, seal, lock n load.
Practice makes perfect with piping, but equipped with these tips, and you’re well on your way to aesthetic greatness!
Until next time,