I've been asked for the recipes I use to make cupcakes and I'll be doing that post soon. I've also been asked for my icing recipes and for tips on how to pipe the icing so I thought I'd do a tutorial post.
Disclaimer: my icing never comes out the same each time and I kind of eyeball it rather than using exact measurements.
For chocolate icing I melt 150g (about a stick and a third) of butter, then mix in 4 heaped tablespoons of cocoa powder and a couple of teaspoons of vanilla flavouring. Then I either put it into my food processor or get out my hand mixer and beat in around 4 cups of icing sugar. I don't really measure, I just add icing sugar until it goes really thick and paste-like, then I add some milk to make it mixable again, then add some more icing sugar until it looks right. Melting the butter first makes this a really nice rich icing with a fudgy flavour.
For buttercream I mix 250g butter (around 2 sticks) with around 4 cups of icing sugar and add milk tablespoon by tablespoon to get it thin enough to pipe with but thick enough to hold a nice shape. Don't forget your colouring (if appropriate - I use Wilton gel colours) and vanilla flavouring, or try strawberry, peppermint, lemon, orange, caramel or any other flavouring you fancy.
Okay, onto the actual piping. The tip I use is by Kaiser and I got it from CSN Stores. It looks like this:
It's pretty big - here you can see it beside a standard tip:
I use a heavy-duty 35cm (14-inch) piping bag, also by Kaiser, also from CSN Stores. It feels like canvas on the outside and plastic on the inside and it looks like this:
Here's how it looks with the tip in, filled with icing and tied with a rubber band:
I did a quick video to show you how I do a rose and how I do a classic swirl:
(Please excuse the flour all over my sleeve and the blue food colouring all over my hand!)
Did that make sense? What I meant by holding the bag centered and moving the tip around is that I used to move the bag in a circle as I piped the circle onto the cupcake, so the bag was always completely vertical. I found it makes a much better swirl if you hold the bag in the centre and tilt the tip outwards and move the tip around. It kind of pushes the icing outwards rather than dropping it straight down. Which makes sense in my head. If this is just confusing you ... it's me, not you. Time to move on.
I hope that was helpful! Let me know your tips for frosting with an icing bag, and if you like the recipes (or any alterations you make). If you have a favourite icing recipe I'd love to hear it!