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Episode 3: Buttercream Effects

For use with Culinary School series videos only

Video Length: 6:18
Produced by: Sarah Breckenridge; videography by Gary Junken and Cari Delahanty; edited by Cari Delahanty

If you don't want to cover your cake with fondant, there are many decorations you can make with some basic buttercream and a piping bag. This video demonstrates how to create some of the most popular buttercream decorations, including pearls, ruffles, and rosettes.

Get Erin's Recipe: Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

You want to start with a cake that you've already filled and crumb-coated with buttercream. The key to creating these buttercream effects is to use real homemade Swiss meringue buttercream, rather than canned frosting-the canned stuff won't hold its shape the way real buttercream will.

More Episodes in this Series
Episode 1: Leveling and Splitting Layer Cakes   Episode 2: Crumb Coat for Fondant Cakes   Episode 3: Buttercream Effects
Episode 1: Leveling and Splitting Layer Cakes
  Episode 2: Crumb Coat for Fondant Cakes   Episode 3: Buttercream Effects


Episode 4: Fondant-Coated Cake   Episode 5: Doweling and Stacking Multi-Tiered Cakes   Episode 6: Fruit Leather Decorations
Episode 4: Fondant-Coated Cake   Episode 5: Doweling and Stacking Multi-Tiered Cakes   Episode 6: Fruit Leather Decorations


Episode 1: Leveling and Splitting Layer Cakes   Back to Series Intro   Erin Gardner
Episode 7: Simple Fondant Shapes   Episode 8: Stamping   Back to Series Intro


Great Cake Decorating by Erin Gardner


To start, we have our piping bag filled with buttercream, and it's fitted with a large round tip-but you can use pretty much any size of tip to create different sizes of pearls.

You place the tip right where you want the pearl, and gently squeeze the pastry bag until the pearl is about half the size you want. Now reduce the pressure on the pastry bag and pull the tip away from the cake. Pulling away leaves a little point on the pearl, so you just dip your finger in some water and gently smooth it over for a perfectly round tip.

To build a row of pearls, simply continue making them the same way.

Once you've mastered rounded pearls, you can try a variation: pressed pearls, which creates an effect that looks a bit like fish scales.

First, make a vertical row of pearls up the side of the cake. Then, using a small metal spatula, smear the pearls horizontally across the cake. To layer the scales, start another row of pearls at the center of the first row of scales.

Continue piping and smearing the pearls all the way around the cake.

Another simple and popular way to cover an entire layer is with ruffles. For this you want to use a leaf tip, which has a triangular opening, wider at one end than the other.

Hold the pastry bag  next to the side of the cake so that the wide part of the tip is parallel to the cake.
Gently squeeze the bag and pipe the buttercream with a back and forth motion, piping up and down, toward and then away from the surface of the cake.

You can vary the look of your ruffles-for tighter ruffles, go back and forth very quickly, or for a looser look, go more slowly.

Finally, let's do rosettes. To make them, fit your pastry bag with a star tip.

Place the tip where you want the center of the rosette to be. Squeeze gently and steadily, piping in a clockwise spiral out from that center point. When you've made a couple circles the center point, pull the piping bag away, but rather than pulling straight up, continue along the path of the spiral.

You can add these sparingly as a final touch, or create a dramatic effect by covering an entire cake with rosettes.

posted in: erin gardner, great cake decorating

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