Want to make professional-looking cupcakes at home? We asked The Great British Bake Off finalist Holly Bell for her top 10 cupcake decorating tips...
Want to make professional-looking cupcakes at home? We asked Great British Bake Off finalist Holly Bell for her top 10 cupcake decorating tips…
(Images copyright Holly Bell unless otherwise stated)
‘If you’re just starting to ice cupcakes, I’d recommend starting with piping icing swirls. To pipe a tall ‘ice-cream style’ swirl, start from the outside of the cupcake and work inwards and upwards. Practise on a plate first so you don’t waste lots of cake and icing while perfecting the technique.’
‘Buttercream isn’t a one-size fits all icing. The consistency should depend on what kind of look you’re going for. Fancy piping ribbon-style swirls in high peaks? Make sure you add enough milk to the buttercream to pipe in fluid ribbons. Want a Hummingbird Bakery-style thick, flat swirl? Hold off on the milk for a stiffer buttercream.’
(image Victoria Threader/goodtoknow)
‘Truly fluffy buttercream takes a good 5 minutes in the mixer, longer if whisking by hand, to achieve that really soft, almost cloud-like texture. I use soft unsalted butter, icing sugar and a good vanilla extract, then add milk depending on the consistency I need.’
‘I only use gels to colour icing as they achieve stronger and more zingy colours than liquid food colourings. Larger supermarkets are now starting to stock gels, so look out for them.’
‘To fill a piping bag, cut the corner off a disposable icing bag to fit the width of your chosen tip. Pop the tip in, then twist the bag just above the tip. Place the whole thing, tip end down, into a pint glass and carefully pull the open end of the icing bag over the pint glass. Spoon buttercream into the bag, twist the top and push the icing down to meet the tip.’
(image from Celebration Cupcakes by Kim Morphew)
‘I get lots of tweets and emails from people telling me about their problems using traditional icing bags. I only use disposable plastic ones for buttercream. No mess, no leaks and no washing up! A disposable bag and a Wilton 1M icing tip are my most used tools.’
When you’re creating fondant decorations for your cupcakes, a basic modelling tool set is desirable but not essential. You’d be surprised at how useful the humble toothpick is for creating details and features.’
‘How much you need to knead fondant icing depends on the temperature and time of year. In cold weather, knead fondant well before icing. In hot weather, you still have to knead the fondant before using it but be careful not to over-handle it or it’ll get too sticky. You can carefully add a little icing sugar if it gets too sticky, but beware of making it too dry as it might crack.’
‘My hands are my most useful tool when modelling fondant icing. I use my palms to shine up rolled icing before it’s cut, to smooth circles of icing over cupcakes, to model little creatures and roses…the possibilities are endless.
‘Be careful about the cleanliness of your kitchen when handling fondant. A speck of dust can ruin your cake design if it gets into the icing. Clean surfaces equal beautiful cupcakes.’
If you would like to learn more on one of Holly Bell’s cupcake decorating courses, you can book one of her classes here and follow her on Twitter @hollybellmummy.