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Learn To Decorate - Basic Decorating Lessons

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I've taught the Wilton method in my classes for many many years- since 1975. I know some people 'pooh pooh' Wilton. But I always found that having the LESSON PLAN books helps beginners so much. Sure, I throw in a lot of my own hints, but basically, this is a good way to start. I recommend you take classes locally. You can learn so much with 'hands-on'. Ceck your local phone directory under 'Cake...' or 'Baking...' for a private-woned shop. These people will probably have the most experience. And they have everything to lose if you don't learn! Then practice, practice, practice. Dolores

Using Your Decorating Bag and Coupler

You can make many different designs with just one decorating bagful of icing by using the Wilton Featherweight or Disposable Decorating bags and coupler and changing decorating tips.

NOTE: Wilton Featherweight bags are the longest lasting. Be sure not to get their RUBBER bags! These are rubber and become harder and stiffer with each use. While Featherweight bags become softer and easier to use with each use.

Just follow these steps:
1. Screw ring off coupler to expose series of tiny threads 1/2 in. above coupler base.
2. Force coupler base as far down into decorating bag as it will go.Then mark where bottom thread of coupler shows through bag; remove coupler and trim bag at pencil mark with a pair of scissors.
3. Reposition coupler in bag and push end through opening to expose bottom two threads.
4. Position decorating tip over coupler and screw ring in place to secure. To change tips, unscrew ring, replace tip and replace ring.
5. To fill, cuff open end of bag over your hand and insert icing with a spatula. Fill bag no more than half full.
6. To close, unfold cuff and twist top of bag shut. Hold twist between your thumb and forefinger. Note: You can eliminate any air bubbles that may have have formed by squeezing bag gently over icing bowl until air is released.

Important: Be sure to wash the Featherweight bag in hot soapy water, then rinse and dry after every use. A degreaser can make clean-up easier.

Baking Instructions
Preheat oven to 350°F per recipe directions. *You may wish to reduce the baking temperature to more like 325°F (from Dolores)...and a lot of other decorators). The cake won't be as brown and crusty at 325°F. It WILL take longer to bake. See how I 'easy' test below. Your cake will unmold easily, without sticking, when you prepare the pan properly.

Grease the inside of pan using a pastry brush and solid vegetable shortening (do not use butter, margarine or liquid vegetable oil). Spread the shortening so that all indentations are covered. Sprinkle about 2 Tablespoons All-Purpose flour inside pan and shake so that flour covers all greased surfaces. Turn pan upside down and tap lightly to remove excess flour.

If any shiny spots remain, touch up with more shortening (Crisco) and flour to prevent cake from sticking. (You can use vegetable oil pan spray or vegetable oil pan spray with flour, in place of solid shortening and flour, or use our pan grease for crumb-free cakes!).

Make one 2-layer cake mix according to package or recipe directions. Pour the cake batter into pan, and if  necessary, spread the batter around with a spatula to fill all areas of the pan evenly. Be careful not to touch pan sides or bottom of pan. Bake cake on middle rack of 350°F oven for 30-40 minutes or until cake tests done according to recipe directions.

*Another way to test for doneness, press your finger gently in the center of the cake. If the indention (barely) springs back up, the cake is done. 

Remove cake from oven and cool on cake rack for 10 minutes. While the cake is still in the pan, *carefully slice off the raised center portion of the cake. This allows the cake to sit more level and helps prevent cracking.

*Another method to level your cake is to lay a kitchen towel on the cake immediately from removing from oven. Press level very gently. If the cake is over-baked this won't work. The cake will just spring back up. 

To remove cake from pan, place cooling rack against cake and turn both cake rack and pan over. Lift pan off carefully. Cool cake at least one hour. Brush loose crumbs off cake. To transfer cake to serving board, hold a cake board against cake and turn both cake and rack over. Lift off rack. Hold another board against bottom of cake and turn cake over. Be sure to hold cake, rack and board close together while turning to prevent cake from cracking.

*You will be decorating what was the BOTTOM that now is inverted and is the TOP. Flat bottoms of cakes are a lot neater to ice than rounded tops.

Using Parchment Bags
Parchment bags made from parchment paper triangles give you more versatility and the convenience of one-time use. Follow package directions. To "pipe-in" using a cut parchment bag, cut the point of the bag to desired opening.

Decorating With Sugarcraft's Buttercream Icings
Sugarcraft Frosting Mix: You will need 2-3 packages of White Buttercream Icing Mix.

To prepare, follow package directions. Each package makes about 2 cups icing. Excellent for tinting any shade required. If you're using another type of frosting mix, you will need three 15.4 oz. packages of the white buttercream type that will frost two 8 in. or 9 in. layers. For each package of frosting mix, use four less teaspoons water than package directs. Each package makes about 1 3/4 cups icing. Do not refrigerate icing before decorating. Cake may be refrigerated after it is iced.

Sugarcraft's Ready-to-Use Decorator's Icing: You will need approximately 2-3 cans of our delicious white icing. Each 16.5 oz. can holds about 2 cups. It's ideal for all of your decorating needs –frosting, decorating and flower making.

Making Buttercream Icing
The thick, but creamy texture of this flavorful icing makes it ideal for decorating*. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. It can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Rewhip before using. YIELD: 3 CUPS.

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine
4 cups (1 lb.) sifted confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk (or more)
1 tsp. Clear Vanilla Extract

Cream butter and shortening with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. *To thin for icing cake, add a small amount of light corn syrup.

Practice Icing for Roses:
1 cup Crisco
1 lb confectioners' sugar
5-6 Tbsps water
You will find this icing to be greasy. But it will hep you to learn to make roses so much easier.

Coloring Your Icing
Sugarcraft's Icing Colors are best for decorating because they are concentrated and give the deepest, most vivid icing colors. Use a toothpick to swirl icing color into icing, then mix well. Add color gradually until you get the icing color you desire.
Let's Practice Decorating
Use decorating bag and coupler as directed in this booklet. Practice each of the following techniques on the back of a cookie sheet with white icing. The practice decorations can be scraped off the cookie sheet back into the mixing bowl and rewhipped for use again. To hold bag while decorating, curl fingers around bag with the end twist locked between your thumb and index finger. This forces the icing down into the tip each time you squeeze. Apply an even pressure with all four fingers and icing will come out of the tip until you stop squeezing. As you decorate, periodically twist the bag down further, forcing the icing down into the tip. Use fingers of other hand to
guide as you decorate. For more about decorating, refer to the Wilton Yearbook of Cake Decorating.
To Write or Print
Use tip 3. Hold bag at a 45° ° angle to surface of cake with bag toward your right so that fingers face you (see illustration). As you write or print, always work from left to right. To write, squeeze out icing with a steady, even pressure as you glide tip along surface in a smooth continuous motion. Keep wrist straight; use your arm, not your fingers to form each line, letter or word. Tip should lightly touch cake at all times. To print, touch tip to surface and then raise tip slightly as you continue to squeeze. The icing will flow out of the tip while you direct it along surface. Stop squeezing and touch tip to surface to end each stroke of printed letter, then lift tip and pull away.
Icing Smooth With A Spatula
With a spatula, place icing on cake. Spread icing over area to be covered. For a smooth effect, run spatula lightly over the icing in the same direction, blending it in for an even look. For a fluffy effect, swirl icing into peaks using the edge of the spatula.
TIP: Holding the spatula so only the edge touches the icing will help aliviate airholes.
To Make Rosettes
Use tip 21. Hold decorating bag straight up with tip 1 /8 in. above surface. Squeeze and hold tip in place momentarily, then move tip around to the right using a short circular motion. Stop pressure just before reaching original starting point and pull tip away.
To Make Outlines
Use tip 4 or 5. (Lines made using tip 5 won't get covered up accidentely). Hold bag at a 45° angle and touch tip to surface. Squeeze at starting point so that icing sticks to surface. Nowraise the tip slightly andcontinue to squeeze. The icing will flow out of the tip while you direct it along surface. To end an outline, touch tip back to surface, stop squeezing and pull away. If icing ripples, you are  squeezing bag too hard. If icing outline breaks, you are moving bag too quickly or icing is too thick.
To Make Zigzags
Use tip 3 or 21. Hold bag at a 45° angle with tip lightly touching surface. As you squeeze out icing with a steady, even pressure, move hand in a side-to-side motion for a zigzag effect. To end zigzag, stop pressure and pull tip away. Loose, overpiped zigzags are made following the basic zigzag technique. As you move the tip in the side-to-side motion, vary the width of the zigzags and overpipe areas to create dimension. Cover the entire area, with no background showing.
To Outline & Pipe-In
After outlining, using the same tip. squeeze out rowsof lines to fill area. Pat icing down with fingertip dipped in cornstarch or smooth with dampened art brush.
To Make Zigzag Puffs
Use tip 12 or 21. Hold bag at a 45° angle to surface, fingertips on bag facing you. Touch tip to surface and use a light-to-heavy-to-light pressure and zigzag motion to form puff. Repeat procedure again and again as you move tip in a straight line to form row of puffs. To end row, stop pressure, pull tip away.
To Make Stars
Use tip 16, 17 or 18. Hold bag straight up and down (see illustration) with tip 1/8 in. above surface. Squeeze until a star is formed, then stop pressure and pull tip away. Your stars will be neatly formed only if you stop squeezing before you pull the tip away.

Getting Started with Stars 

The star creates the most celebrated, yet easily accomplished decorations! Puffy rosettes, majestic stars... scrolls... swirls... garlands... shells... fleur-de-lis and more. Even some of the prettiest flowers around are made with one quick squeeze!

The serrated edges of the star tip make ridges in the icing as you squeeze it out. The angle at which you hold your icing bag and the way you move it determines the many different decorations you can make. Today, you'll learn three essential decorations with your star tip.

Getting Ready
Set up your practice board.

Insert a coupler base in your Featherweight bag and lock star tip 16 onto it with your coupler ring.

Fill bag half full with medium consistency Buttercream Icing for practice.

Tip: 16
Icing: medium consistency
- Bag: 90° angle (straight up)
- Tip: 1/4 in. above surface

1. Squeeze firmly.
2. Stop squeezing, lift tip away.

Hold decorating bag straight up; the tip should be between 1/8 and 1/4 in. above surface, as shown. Squeeze bag to form star, stop pressure and pull tip straight up and away. Increase or decrease pressure to change star size.

Stars will be neatly formed only if you stop squeezing before you pull tip away. See what happens if you forget and continue to squeeze as you lift the bag (A), or if the tip is not kept straight up (B).

Try This: Pipe a series of stars all the same–in height and width. 

Star Border

Star Border is a line of stars used to edge a cake or outline an area on the cake surface. Make the stars as uniform as possible, and place them close enough together so there are no gaps between.

Star Fill-in

Star Fill-in is a method of covering a section or the entire surface of the cake with stars. Pipe the stars evenly and close together, adjusting the tip position slightly each time so that the points of the stars interlock and cover the entire area without any gaps.

Triple Star Tip

Triple Star Tip pipes three stars close together at once. Stars are equal in size to tip 17. The Triple Star Tip covers large areas of cake quickly and easily. As you pipe stars, turn tip to interlock.

To Make Dots
Use tip 3. Hold bag at 90° angle with tip almost touching surface.  Steadily squeeze out a dot of icing, lifting the bag slightly and keeping tip in icing as it builds up into a small mound. Then stop pressure and pull tip away. Vary size of dots by lengthening the amount of time you apply pressure to the bag.
Cake Release
For perfect, crumb-free cakes! No need to grease and flour your baking pan — Cake Release coats in one step. Simply spread Cake Release lightly on pan bottom and sides with a pastry brush and fill with batter. Cakes release perfectly c"E!' without crumbs every time, giving you the ideal surface for decorating. Now in convenient dispensing bottle. Certified Kosher. 8 oz.. 702-6016

Baking Hints: On this page you will find the baking hints that I always furnish my students. Chances are you will find the answers to baking questions here. Better Baking-Hints