A tub of piping gel among your cake decorating supplies comes in handy for a variety of techniques, and is not limited to just fondant and buttercream frosting. The shiny gel works well for adding a glossy finish to cakes, transferring images to cakes, preventing whipped cream from liquefying and gluing fondant decorations. Use piping gel in its natural clear color or tint it with food coloring gels and powders just as you would tint frosting.
Matte frosting benefits from piping gel when you want shiny features on your cake to look as realistic as possible. Mix blue food coloring with piping gel to make “water” shimmer on a cake. Spread the blue piping gel with an icing spatula. Press the tip of the spatula or back side of a spoon into the gel and lift straight up to create picks similar to waves in water. The piping gel can also be mixed into frosting if you prefer to use buttercream frosting to make water. Brush tinted piping gel on cakes to make stained glass windows, or brush clear piping gel to make clear windows or other glass decorations. A cake or torte topped with glazed fruit can look especially shiny with a generous coat of piping gel over the fruit.
Piping gel eliminates the need for elaborate drawing skills because you can transfer a printed image directly to a cake. Print the image on paper and tape it to the work surface face down so the mirror image shows through. Tape a piece of wax paper over the original image. Add clear or tinted piping gel to a decorating bag with a round decorating tip. Trace over the mirror image with the piping gel, using it just as you would pipe buttercream frosting from a decorating bag. Frost the cake with crusting buttercream frosting — replace at least half of the butter with shortening — and wait 30 minutes for the frosting to form a crust. Flip the wax paper over onto the cake. Brush over the lines with your fingertip or a small paintbrush to press the piping gel into the crusted frosting. Peel back the wax paper. Fill in the design with buttercream frosting.
Stabilized Whipped Cream
Whipped cream quickly returns to liquid state, especially at room temperature, but piping gel helps stabilize the semi-solid state so you can use it in place of frosting for cakes and other desserts. Beat powdered sugar and heavy whipping cream together in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Powdered sugar is added to taste, but as a general guideline, use 2 tablespoons of sugar for every cup of whipping cream. Vanilla or other flavor extracts can be added to taste or approximately 1/2 teaspoon for every cup of whipping cream. Add the piping gel to the soft peak whipping cream at a ratio of about 2 tablespoons of piping gel for every cup of whipping cream in the batch. Whip the ingredients for a few minutes or until stiff peaks form. The whipped cream won’t melt immediately as you decorate the cake, but it should still be stored in the refrigerator.
Try using piping gel to adhere fondant decorations to cake. Instead of applying a crumb coat of buttercream frosting beneath fondant, spread a thin layer of piping gel to seal in the crumbs. Cover the cake with fondant immediately, using the piping gel as a glue to keep the fondant from slipping. When attaching small decorations to a fondant-covered cake, such as stars, circles or letters, brush a thin layer of piping gel on the back side of the decoration. Set the decoration in place on the cake. Rub your finger lightly over the decoration or brush it with a dry paintbrush to secure it to the cake. Brush piping gel lightly over matte fondant to give it a shiny finish. If you incorporate fondant figures on the cake, brush a small amount of piping gel over the eyes to make them glossy.
References and ResourcesWilton: Transferring Patterns
Wilton: Beach Cake Techniques: Sand and Surf
Wilton: Stabilized Whipped Cream Icing
The Cake & Cookie Closet: All Dolled Up In Sugar: Debra J. Mosely