How to Actually Use a Piping Bag

Ready to learn how to use a piping bag? Bring on the buttercream!

Turn on any baking show and you’re sure to find bakers using pastry bags to frost their creations. Think it’s difficult? Think again! With a piping bag, piping tips and a little bit of practice, you’ll be able to frost cookies, cakes and cupcakes just like the pros.

Looking for more ways to improve your baking? Check out eight tips from pro pastry chefs.

1. Invest in real piping bags

First things first. If you’ve been using zip-top bags as makeshift piping bags, it’s time to invest in some real piping bags that won’t explode! You’ll find both disposable and reusable piping bags on the market. Both are great options, but reusable bags can be difficult to clean, which is particularly important if you’re switching between icings. The thinner plastic on disposable bags means they are easier to work with.

See which buttercream frostings are the best for your cake.

2. Try a tip coupler

If you’ll be switching back and forth between piping tips, try using a coupler. The two-piece coupler allows you to switch tips without getting a new bag. One of the pieces goes inside the bag before you fill it, and the other piece twists on the outside to hold the tip in place. It’s generally recommended to trim your piping bag so that the first thread of the coupler pops out. If you’re using a thin filling, or you’ve had leaky fillings in the past, try snipping off a little less than that. Better to be safe than sorry!

Take a peek at some of the most popular piping tips in our cake decorating guide.

3. Create a barrier

If you’re using a runny filling or are prepping your piping bag to use later, try this trick: after you’ve inserted the coupler, twist the bag just above the coupler and tuck it inside. This creates a barrier to prevent any filling from leaking through. Once you’re ready to frost, simply untwist.

You can also close off the top of your piping bag with bag ties or clips to prevent the filling from leaking out the other side.

4. Use a tall glass

When you’re ready to fill the bag, grab a tall glass or quart container to stabilize it. Fold down the top of the bag over the side of the glass to make a cuff. This keeps the top part frosting-free and gives you a surface to scrape frosting from your spatula as you fill. When the bag is about two-thirds full, uncuff, push the icing down and twist. You’re ready to frost!

If you need to take a break while frosting, grab the same tall glass to rest the bag in so your filling doesn’t leak out.

5. Hold the bag properly

Once you get started, hold the top of the bag with your dominant hand and guide the bag with your non-dominant hand. Using only one hand to squeeze the bag will give you even pressure. You typically want to keep the bag perpendicular to the surface. For decorative designs, though, try holding the bag at a 45-degree angle.

Now all you need is a homemade frosting and a cake to decorate!

Test your skills on a beautiful layer cake
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Alexa Hackfort
Alexa is a writer who believes there’s always room for ice cream. Based in Milwaukee, she enjoys exploring the city, tackling new recipes and planning her next trip.