Buttercream Essentials: What you NEED to get started
Liking the look of this Buttercream thing? Wanna have a try? Awesome!
Your first visit to a Cake Supply Store can be overwhelming. Everything is shiny, and looks really useful. So just what do you NEED to get started?
I'm breaking down my personal list of 'must haves', complete with prices, to get you started on your Buttercream journey, and to hopefully save you some money!
There are SO many Piping Tips available, you could be forgiven for getting the shakes just looking at them! While pretty much every piping tip is useful, you can get by with just 3 to get started.
104 Petal Tip - Supremely versatile, perfect for Roses, Ranunculus, Gardenia, Blossoms, Pansys, Anemones, Poppies, and Daisies, as well as ruffles, borders, and frills.
352 Leaf Tip - Perfect for pretty much every leaf you'll need, also great for Sunflowers, Poinsettias, Hydrangeas, Violets, and Ferns. Also really cool for borders, scales, and wings.
233 Grass Tip - Such an underated tip! Used mostly for Grass and fur, its also brilliant for flower centres, gumnuts, thistles, sea urchins, and probably a stack more I haven't though of yet!
Seriously, with these 3 tips, you could pipe a 3 tier Wedding Cake. Not even kidding. Start small, and expand your collection as you need to.
Approximate Cost: AU$4 each
In some cases you can pipe your flowers or designs directly to the cake, but for large flowers like Roses, you may want to pre-pipe them, so you can add them to the cake when you are ready.
A piping nail, also known as a Flower Nail, is a simple tool, and yet its one that rather unique, and can't really be substituted with something from around your kitchen, like some tools can. They come in a few sizes, and you can even by them in sets of different sizes.
Approximate Cost: AU$5
While not strictly a tool, but a consumable (something you use new everytime), I want to have a word about saving some $$.
Pre cut Parchment Squares can be insanely over priced, and I'm far too 'frugal' to waste money that easily! You can very quickly and easily make your own from non stick Kitchen Paper, in my case here in Australia I use Multix Bake, which retails for about AU$4 for 20 metres (65 feet).
Approximate Cost: AU$4 per 20 Metre Roll
You need something to get the frosting onto your cake, and an offset spatula is a great tool. Sure you can use a Butter Knife, so why bother with an Offset Spatula? Because they don't just spread, they blend, smooth, and texture, better than any other not for the purpose tool.
They are also pretty cheap, and unless you're The Incredible Hulk, you probably won't go through too many. I personally like the wooden handle ones, they are sturdy, and they look nice.
Approximate Cost: AU$7
The secret to a perfectly smooth finish, is a really good bench scraper. It MUST have a flat bottom edge. Sure you can wing it, but precision takes practice, lots of it, so make it easy for yourself and always use a flat edge scraper.
I also recommend a steel bladed scraper, they heat easier for 'hot knifing', and they are easy to keep clean. Whatever you choose, PLEASE make sure your scraper is FOOD SAFE. Plastic Putty Scrapers from the Hardware store, are NOT intended for use on food.
I use and recommend the awesome hand made scrapers from Fat Girl Cakes in the US.
Approximate Cost: AU$40 for an 8" Scraper
Arguably the most important tool. A dodgy turntable will not give you a smooth finish, and they can make annoying noises too, which doesn't sound like a big deal, but if you're cake isn't going right, a squeaky scratchy noise, might just be the straw that breaks the camels back.
I use and recommend the Ateco 613, and the 360 Pro from Loyal Bakeware (here in Australia).
Now let's be real here, they aren'y cheap, BUT, it's worth it. They have ball bearing bases, so not only are they blessedly silent, they're unfailingly smooth.
You could use another brand, of course you can, I just personally recommend this one. If you are going to splurge on anything, this it the thing to do it on.
Approximate Cost: AU$130 (keep an eye out for sales! I've seen them as cheap as $110)
Colours are pretty. Pretty things are hard to resist, especially when they are organised by colour, and just so epically appeal to my 'neat freak' streak. But here's the thing with colours, they mix!
Tempting as it may be to buy ALL of them, you really only need a few to make pretty much ANY colour. Now arguably you could just buy Red, Blue, and Yellow, but that's excessively frugal, even for me!
I have listed my absolute 'must haves' here for you, and as you know I use Americolor, so the shades may vary between brands.
For my take on the NEW shades from Americolor, check out my Product Review.
Approximate Cost: AU$6 per bottle, so AU$48 for all of the above
Once you pipe all those Buttercream pretties, where you gonna put 'em?
To make Buttercream flowers easier to manage, and also to apply them to the side of the cake, I recommend freezing them over night, which means you need a freezer safe container to put them in. You can also cover them and freeze them for up to 3 months (rad huh!), but again, you will need a container that closes.
I use these thin profile containers from a local dollar store, which is a great place to look for inexpensive, and often oddly shaped containers.
Whatever you buy, make sure it closes air tight if you plan to freeze for an extended time, and try not too spend to much, I'll know, and it will make me itch.
Approximate Cost: AU$2.50 (from The Reject Shop here in OZ)
Now you have made an awesome cake, what are you going to put it on? A dinner plate? Please no.
Works of Art should be on a pedestal, and edible ones should be on a Cake Stand.
Cake Stands are kinds like Cakers Candy, its hard to resist reaching for another one, but in reality, you can pretty much get by with a clean line, basic shaped, white stand. It goes with everything, and it lets the cake show off, rather than taking focus.
If you are selling your cakes, you NEED to make them appealing, and a dodgy photo on your stove top doesn't foster confidence.
Approximate Cost: AU$20 (you can also pick them up from Second hand stores if you're lucky!)
Total - just under AU$250
Now its worth remembering that almost half of that is the turntable alone, although I do believe that its worth the money.
There are heaps of awesome, clever, and time saving tools and gadgets available, but work up to it. If you are just getting started, it can be tempting to buy EVERYTHING with the word 'cake' attached, but pace yourself, you can send yourself broke, and its just unnecessary. With what I have recommended above, you could make a Wedding Cake. Seriously.
If you are planning to start a Cake Business, I highly recommend you check out The Business of Baking by Michelle Green. A more useful Cake Business resource you will not find.
For easy to follow, really forgiving to lazy bakers like me, recipes, check out my Recipes page.
Got a question? Want an opinion on a cake tool? Contact Me!
Viva La Buttercream x