Sure, fondant is the latest and greatest design medium, popular for its smooth texture and pliability. But don't count out classic buttercream when you're looking to do smooth designs or even figurines. With the right buttercream texture and practice with technique, you have just as many options with buttercream as you do with fondant.
"Anything fondant can do, I can do in buttercream," Bob Brougham, celebrity decorator and owner of The Cakery in Aurora, IL, said at Icing on the Cake, a charity cake event held in Kansas City on April 17.
During his demonstration, Brougham showed the audience how to buttercream figurines that topped jumbo cupcakes. He says to make sure your buttercream is nice and smooth. If it's a good, smooth buttercream, you could actually pipe figures with just about any size tip, although Brougham mostly pipes with a #10 or #12. "You just have to squeeze a lot harder with a smaller tip," he says.
His biggest suggestion for piping figures is to think of the biggest base element and start there. For a single figure such as Santa, leprechaun or witch, follow this basic order of structure.
A couple of time-saving tips: Fill multiple bags with the same color and different tips, and organize your bags by tip size.
Some quick and easy Easter or springtime piped figures are: Easter egg with bunny; fairy on a mushroom seat; baby inside a flower. Brougham likes to use leftover royal icing to make small pieces, such as flower petals, to store and have on-hand for accent pieces with buttercream figures—like the flower where the baby sits. And flower petals broken off of a flower make perfect fairy's wings.
For the fairy's mushroom, use royal icing. Pipe the base and top separately on waxed paper. Then let it harden overnight and place the top on the base the next day. Warning! Don't wait too long, or they'll be too hard to attach. "I guess then you could use them for rocks in a construction theme after that," Brougham says.
If you use real butter in your buttercream, it will crust nicely, and the figures will stand up just fine.