A Beginner’s Guide to Buttercream Lacework
I really loved creating this cake. It’s been about 12 years since I trained to be a Wilton instructor in buttercream, but I never pursued it as I fell pregnant with Harry. I took a back seat and never revisited the thought of buttercream again. When Create & Craft mentioned buttercream, I thought it’d be fun to have a go again as I always admire buttercream work!
This guide was written by our Cake Decorating Ambassador, Cassie Brown.
I have problems with painful hands so I don’t practice royal icing anymore as it just makes my hands hurt again. But, I must admit that buttercream is much softer to work with. Having the buttercream already made at the right consistency is a huge help, so thanks Wilton for that.
Materials Needed for Buttercream Lacework:
- Wilton Creamy White Buttercream Icing Mix
- Wilton 9-Piece Starter Decorating Tip Set
- Disposable Decorating Bags
- Wilton 9″ Decorator Preferred Straight Palette Knife
- Decorate Smart Icing Smoother
- Wilton Icing Colour – Black
- Wilton Icing Colour – Violet
- Trim-n-Turn Plus Cake Turntable
- Wilton Deluxe Practice Board
Covering the Cake with Buttercream
Covering the cake was not as easy as I was hoping for, using the palette knife to scrape up the buttercream and smudge it around the sides of the cake. I do a paddling motion to move the buttercream around the cake — this also helps to remove any air bubbles.
Holding the smoother to the back of the cake, gently spin the turntable in one movement to make a clean sweep of the buttercream. You’ll remove some of the buttercream but this is good as the first layer is called ‘crumbing’, used to hold the crumbs in place prior to a creating the cake’s thicker layer. Paddle more buttercream on top of the cake and then make one clean wiping movement with the smoother. Remove excess buttercream from the rim.
I put my cake in the fridge to chill for a short time. Repeat the process with the buttercream but with a thicker layer this time, then put it back into the fridge. I think this is where I went wrong as I didn’t leave the cake long enough to dry before trying to take out any marks. I recommend leaving the buttercream cake for a day to settle. Hold a piece of baking paper against the cake and gently rub using the back of your finger to smooth out imperfections.
Practise Piping Buttercream with Different Tips
First, have a good play around with the piping tips. To prepare, put one coupler into a disposable bag and cut about 1″ from the bottom to open the bag. Push the coupler down tight and then add your chosen piping tip. Put the circle ring on by screwing this over the tip. You can just change the piping tips when you need to, so this is great for playing.
I also used the practice board for this which is really good. It has 12 double-sided practice sheets stored inside with everything on there to give you an amazing start, from learning and writing with a piping bag to fancy scroll work and piping flowers. I didn’t use any of these as I wanted to mess around a little but if you do want to use them, you simply pop one under the see-through part of the board and follow the easy instructions. It even tells you what angle to hold the bag at when piping! I’m sure you could also use this board with royal icing, too.
How to Fill Your Piping Bag with Buttercream & Change Tips
To fill the decorating bag, turn the top part of the bag inside out by folding it down about 2 inches from the top. Then, get the palette knife and scoop some Wilton Creamy White Buttercream Icing into the bag. Squeeze the buttercream down to the nozzle end of the bag, twist the top of the bag closed, and then fold it down. Hold the bag in the palm of your hand with the piping tip closest to your little finger. Now you’re ready to pipe!
Have a play with the different piping tips to see what effects you can achieve. Remember to hold the tip at different angles to create different effects. To change the tip, simply unscrew the circle, replace the tip with a different one, and screw it back on again. I did this several times until I got to tip #233, which I thought would be good grass, hair, and maybe flowers.
I discovered that it makes amazing feathers, so I decided to change the piping tip to #1 and practised a few different stitches to see if I could come up with a dreamcatcher, which I did!
Piping the Buttercream into Lacework
I coloured the buttercream with a little Wilton Black Icing Colour to make a nice grey, then used a #1 piping tip to start the pattern off. I didn’t want the dreamcatcher to sit evenly on the cake so I started with the centre on the top of the cake. Use a piece of card (measuring about 11cm long) to get the first marking right. Press the card down onto the cake to make a line, move the card, and press down to make a cross. Repeat to for 8 segments in the centre.
I used 3 different patterns when I piped this. For the first, I held the bag and moved my hand in little circular movements as I squeezed the icing. For the second, I squeezed the bag to make a shell-like shape and then gently pushed the bag back on the shell shape and squeezed again. The third is simple cross stitch made by piping small lines that cross over.
When I started piping, I didn’t plan out my pattern. For me, I like to create as I work and so I pipe where I feel I need to pipe. But, I have tried to create a template for you to copy from. By using the simple stitches, you can recreate this at home. I also added a second colour (Wilton Violet Icing Colour) to the buttercream as I just felt that it needed lifting a little.