Writing in icing or piped lettering is one of the most daunting challenges for many of us cake enthusiasts. And we probably put off learning and practicing it for as long as we get away with it, turning time and time again to our trusty letter cutters. Yet we all secretly yearn to pipe fine elegant lettering, instead of relying on the clunky lettering produced with cutters, which is great for novelty cakes, but less so for more sophisticated cake designs.
The reason we keep putting it off is that it is a skill that simply doesn’t come naturally to us because it feels so different to holding a pen. After a few failed attempts, we brush it to the side and put it on our “to learn” list. It’s usually only when we have an anniversary cake to pipe that we realise cutters just won’t “cut it”, so to speak.
But once it’s developed, it’s a skill that saves so much time and makes you feel so much more confident in your cake decorating skills. To help you, we have compiled a list of video tutorials we found, with lots of tips and suggestions to guide you on your way.
From our own experience, we discovered the following really helped build our piping skills:
- Make sure your icing is pretty thin/of wet consistency so that it flows easily from the piping nozzle. You need to have it wetter than you would when piping pearls, for instance.
- Only fill your bag with as much icing as you need, so that your bag feels almost like a pen. A big bag of icing will be much more difficult to control.
- Write in handwriting script, i.e, joined writing (cursive) instead of printed lettering. While single printed letters may look easier, printed script is much more unforgiving if you make a tiny mistake.
- Move your whole arm when piping and not just your hand. Your piping will be much more fluid this way.
- When you are comfortable piping in your own handwriting style, practice a fancier script in handwriting first, then practice piping it.
- Pipe your message on your cake first before adding flowers or other decorations. This gives you more scope for “cover-up” later if needs be or if you run out of space a little.
- Once you are confident with piping lettering, it will be like handwriting a letter it will come so naturally. In the meantime, you can pipe your lettering onto a plaque, which you can then add to your cake. This way, if you make a blunder, it’s just the plaque that’s ruined, not your entire cake.
- When you do decide to “go live” on a real cake, practice piping the message on parchment paper first. For your first cakes with piped lettering, choose pastel coloured writing against light coloured fondant/sugarpaste, instead of stronger colours, so it’s easier to fix a mistake. Good luck!
Writing in Icing Tutorials
- Chocolate Cake Writing Tutorial by Wicked Goodies
- How To Write On A Cake by Real Simple
- How To Write on Cakes by the Woodland Bakery
- Handwriting in Buttercream
- Writing A Message on A Cake by Amanda Oakleaf
- Examples of Different Scripts for Piping “Happy Birthday”
- Piping Lettering by Lizy B
Once you are comfortable piping neatly in your own handwriting, you can use Mathew Tapia’s (Lettering and Graphic Artist) piping practice sheet below to master a new piping script!
For expert tuition, check out Helen Mansey of Bellissimo Cakes’ Craftsy class online which covers writing in icing and lettering techniques (plus piping custom lace patterns and more). You’ll find all the details on this class right here: Elegant Techniques for Flawless Cakes.
Craftsy also have the class by renowned expert Nicholas Lodge which covers the art of hand-piping lettering. You’ll find more details here: Custom Monograms & Lettering with Nicholas Lodge.
Piping greetings and calligraphy on cakes is also covered in The White Flower Cake Shop’s Craftsy class below (including fabulous buttercream flowers and other buttercream techniques): White Flower Cake Shop Craftsy Tutorial.
Yener’s Way online cake decorating school also have a “Mastering Inscriptions” tutorial below, details of which you’ll find here: Mastering Inscriptions. (Note that pricing is in Australian dollars – US dollar equivalent $22 approx, STG equivalent £17 approx).
- Piping Techniques Part 1 – How to Pipe Pearls & Beaded Garlands
- Piping Techniques Part 2 – How to Pipe Drop Strings
- Piping Techniques Part 3 – How to Pipe Scrolls
- Lace Piping & Lace Wedding Cakes
Readers might also be interested in our buttercream piping series:
- Buttercream Piping, Part 1: Piping Buttercream Roses
- Buttercream Piping, Part 2: Piping A Buttercream Petal Cake
- Buttercream Piping, Part 3: Piping Buttercream Ruffles & Frills
Coming Up Next: Teapot Cakes
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(Extra Image Credits: writing in icing example top left via NewGrids.fr left and by Wilton, top right. Image above via Martha Stewart Living (left) and via In The Kitchen (right).