Whether a seasoned baker or new to the game, using a pastry bag is something that can be fun but also difficult. With some practice and following some general rules-of-thumb, hopefully you'll be piping like a pro in no time!
DO pick the right size bag. Pastry bags come in a variety of sizes. If you fill a large bag, it will be hard to squeeze and quickly move. For cupcakes, choose a small to medium size bag and for something like a cake, pick one that’s a little larger. You can always refill the bag so make sure to keep that in mind. It may seem easy to fill it at once but it might backfire!
DO choose a tip that you know. This may seem obvious, but playing with new tips is always fun and they make look different than what meets the eye. Whether big or small, round or squiggly, make sure you know what the design will look like because once you start, there is no turning back. If you aren’t sure which tip to use, try them out on a piece of parchment paper before you begin.
DO twist the bag. The best way to hold a pastry bag is to have one hand squeezing the bag at the top of whatever is inside and the other hand twisting to remove air bubbles and push the mix down. Twisting after every frosted cupcake might seem like a little much but it will definitely prevent little “explosions” from the bag when air bubbles form.
DON’T let the bag get messy. This is probably the hardest thing about using a pastry bag. Before filling the bag, fold it over and hold it so your hand is under the fold, leaving a cone. Using a spatula, place filling into the middle of the bag and try not to get it on the sides or the fold. Bring fold up, squeeze up to remove air, and twist. Repeat these steps every time you need to fill the bag. Having it clean will help in holding and letting the filling move through the bag.
DON’T go too fast. If you’re a beginner, take your time. Practice certainly makes perfect when using pastry bags! Eaters won’t know how fast you piped the frosting onto the cake but they will take the time to look at it. Be patient and neat as opposed to speedy and your work will thank you for it.
DON’T hang on for dear life. Let the bag do the work: your hands are simply there to guide it as it moves. Squeezing the bag too tightly will prevent the filling from getting out smoothly and will also create pressure in the bag making it more difficult to pipe. Gently hold and direct the bag as opposed to squeezing from all sides and you’ll see the results you want.
The key is practice, practice and more practice and soon you’ll have desserts that look too pretty to eat. While pastry bags are primarily used for desserts, you can also try piping things like mashed potatoes into skins for double-stuffed potatoes or soft cheese onto crackers for different looks and extra opportunities to practice.