If you want to refine your icing techniques, you may ask yourself “how can I practice piping with or without icing?”
Bakers love to try different cakes and decorating tips, but practicing can also mean wasting good ingredients. Piping icing the right way can take a lot of practice, which means you will need to spend a lot of money to get ingredients for making icing.
The good news is that you won’t have to waste your icing. Not only can you practice with regular icing, but you can also use a shortening, mashed potato, peanut butter, and royal icing. There are also ways to reuse your icing so that you won't have to make new icing every time you practice.
I know you love making cakes but you also want to minimize waste. That is why I have written this guide to help you understand how to make regular icing and icing alternatives to practice as well as ways you can reuse and store your icing.
As an icing expert, I have spent countless hours using cheap and affordable ingredients to practice my piping skills, and I would like you to know the secret as well.
Practicing Piping With or Without Icing
We totally get where you are coming from. You want to become an icing master and create all sorts of amazing decorations for your cake, but you can’t keep buying new icing every time or make new frosting before you have to practice.
Here are some ways you can practice your piping with and without icing.
Piping on a Pan or Paper
If you keep practicing your piping on an actual cake, you will need to buy a cake every time you need to practice. This is not very economical. Plus, eating so much cake is not good for you.
We strongly suggest that you practice piping on parchment paper or an upside down saucepan that can dub as a cake.
Once you have practiced your piping skills, you can just scrape off the icing and put it on an actual cake to eat. Alternatively, you can also store the icing in an airtight container.
Store-bought icing is a better option for storing since it has preservatives that give it a longer shelf life. This icing can be stored for about two weeks in the fridge and for three to six months in the freezer.
So, if you plan to freeze your icing, you can get a lot of practice in the months before it expires or you decide to eat it.
Practicing with Buttercream Icing
Now we understand you have read and seen many tutorials which make the most delicious looking icing with expensive ingredients and complex techniques. However, I am here to tell you that making icing does not have to be a complicated affair. All you need is some butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and a bit of milk.
Whip the butter with sugar and vanilla extract until all the sugar is incorporated and the mixture becomes fluffy. Depending on how thick or thin you want your icing, you can spoon in milk until your icing has the right consistency.
If you feel your icing is a bit runny, you can place it in the fridge for some time so that the fat solidifies again and the icing sets the right way.
You can then pipe this icing on an upside down pot or parchment paper to practice. Scrape it off the surface once done and either top an actual cake with it to eat or store it in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer for reuse later.
Practicing with Mock Icing
Although butter makes the best type of frosting, if you want a cheaper product to work with which has a longer shelf life, we recommend using shortening to make your icing.
This is a very easy to make and reusable icing that is often used by bakers who want to practice their piping.
Take some inexpensive solid vegetable shortening in lieu of butter and add powdered sugar to it. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to loosen the thick mixture and some light corn syrup so that your shortening icing does not have any crystals, which would make for a gritty bite.
If you want to create rosettes, we suggest leaving off the corn syrup.
However, if you want to make icing of a thinner consistency for writing, or piping on flat stems and leaves, use the corn syrup as well as water so that your icing reaches the desired consistency.
Once you have practiced with it, you can scrape it off and store it in a container in a cool and dry place for up to a year. The great thing about this shortening mock icing is that it has a very long life. However, before using it again, let it thaw out on the counter and whip it again if needed.
This is a wonderful inexpensive alternative to real buttercream frosting. However, I would only use this for piping practice since it does not taste as good as the real deal.
Instant Mash Potato
Yes, mashed potato can be used to pipe just as well as buttercream. It makes a lot of sense considering how you have probably eaten silky mash potato as a side when you go to a restaurant. You may have also noticed that they have almost the same type of consistency as buttercream.
If you buy instant mash potatoes, it will also not have any lumps as compared to home-made potato puree. Plus, this puree is very affordable.
To make this puree, stir in water in small amounts to the potatoes until they reach the desired consistency. You can also add some food dye to this mix to make it more fun for kids.
Mash potatoes are a great option if you want to create rosettes, shells, and weaves. You should try the star tip when trying this trick since it will give you the best results. Mash potatoes can also help you become more confident with filling, holding, and squeezing the piping bag.
Smooth Peanut Butter
Do you know that many baking experts recommend the use of smooth peanut butter for piping practice? As you know, the consistency of peanut butter is thicker than buttercream.
This can be very helpful if you are a beginner baker and would like some extra time for your frosting to flow or are liable to squeeze the piping bag too hard. This can be very helpful if you are designing intricate cake art like rosettes and swirls.
If you think the peanut butter is too thick, just add some milk slowly to it and mix it well until it reaches the consistency of buttercream.
Store-bought peanut butter can last for several months in the fridge so you can keep practicing with this mixture again and again. You can also use this same icing as spread on your bread or for covering your cake with a smooth layer.
Royal icing consists of just three simple ingredients to make: powdered sugar, meringue powder, and some water. You can also use egg whites instead of meringue powder to make royal icing.
Mix the ingredients together until the desired consistency is achieved. This icing can be dyed in different colors and cost very little.
Once you have practiced the different style on parchment paper or on a saucepan, you can scrape it all off, mix it again, and start practicing again. This icing is an excellent alternative to buttercream frosting if you want to make elaborate flowers, shells, nests, baskets, curlicues, and swirls.
You can store royal icing in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to three days.
The best thing about royal icing is that since it is not made from butter or cream, but for eggs, it can be dried and used as hardened decorations for your cake.
Place the designs you practiced on parchment paper in the oven on a very low setting for about 15 minutes.
The designs will harden, and you can use them as cute little cake or cookie decorations!
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore