For Lucy’s mum’s birthday, I wanted to experiment with my Russian piping tips. What are Russian piping tips, you ask? They are decorative icing nozzles that create floral patterns [I even have snowflake ones!], and, as far as I can gather, they have nothing to do with Russia (let me know if I’m wrong!). In this post I will take you through how to use Russian piping tips for beginners like me!
I wasn’t expecting decorating with these tips to be easy, but OMG are they’re difficult to use. My cake turned out quite pretty, but there’s definitely room for improvement. I couldn’t help but feel that my cake deserved a spot on those cake disaster blogs with the ‘expectation’ vs. ‘reality’ comparisons. Not going to lie, it was stressful. Watch this space for future attempts!
Some considerations when using Russian piping tips:
A LOT of icing
In order to have the requisite pressure to form the icing flower, you need to have an almost full bag of icing. This is very wasteful if you only want to make a few flowers out of a particular stencil or colour.
Too many choices
The point of these stencils is to use a variety to create a “bouquet”, and then you’ll likely want to have the flowers be different colours. This means that a reusable icing bag won’t work if you change colours, and it just generally makes it a time-consuming, fiddly process to switch nozzles and pipe different patterns in one colour. They are also very large tips, so you really need to use large piping bags. I had two bags burst on me from the pressure needed.
Consistency is key
You’d be best off using an Italian buttercream with these tips. I’ve never made an Italian buttercream, and I wasn’t about to start experimenting with molten sugar and egg whites a few hours before we needed to go to the party. My go-to icing is standard buttercream. It certainly works with these tips; you just need the correct consistency. Too runny and the flowers won’t set. Too stiff and the icing will be impossible to get out of the stencil.
It’s all about the prep!
In order to get the flowers to stick to your cake, they MUST have an adhesive base. The first time I used my Russian piping tips, I just piped directly onto the cupcakes and they didn’t stick on to the cake. This time I put a thin layer of chocolate frosting on the top of the cake and it helped to grab onto the flowers.
A different technique
If you do get some of these tips, I’d recommend watching a few tutorial videos before getting started. The technique of piping is different from normal tips where you are applying continuous pressure as you pipe the swirl and then release. These tips require vertical pressure down and then a release and pull up (because you are making a 3D flower). Half of the time my flowers ended up squat or had long straggly petals as I couldn’t quite get the hang of the ‘squeeze, lift, release’ technique. Add to this using a half empty bag of stiff buttercream and no surface to stick to, and you’re in for a world of trouble.
Are they worth it?
Yes. When done properly, Russian piping tips make beautiful designs. I’d recommend starting out simple with just one stencil and colour on some cupcakes and refining your technique before venturing into a full floral design on a cake. I’d also save them for special occasions only to avoid excessive waste, and the time it takes to use them.
What cake did I make to show off these decorative flowers?
For this chocolate cake recipe see: Chocolate Layer Cake