Pretty Bakes Blog

Cake decorating basics for pretty cakes, cupcakes, cookies and other sweet treats

How to pipe a buttercream rose. 4 easy steps

Buttercream rose cupcakes for Mother's Day 2013. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Buttercream rose cupcakes for Mother’s Day 2013. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Happy Mother’s Day! Maybe your mom wants a bouquet of buttercream roses for Mother’s Day. If so, here’s a little helper.

It starts with a tall blob and ends with some C’s.

I’ve read many descriptions on how to pipe a buttercream rose and after trying the technique several times myself, I’ve come up with my own simplified way to describe it.

4 easy steps to piping a buttercream rose

1. Make a tall blob.

2. Using a petal tip, skinny end to the sky, wrap a ribbon of icing around that blob.

3. Make 3 C’s around that blob.

4. Make five C’s around the three C’s. Continue piping C’s in odd numbers and increments of two (3, 5, 7, 9, 11) until you’re satisfied with the rose’s size.

Ta da! You have a rose.

You need:

-a flower nail
-a petal/rose tip
-a piping bag
-a parchment paper square
-to watch this video that shows what the heck I’m talking about. It’s all about the blob and C’s I tell ya.

More advice to pipe a rose right
A rose tip has a narrow end and a wide end. Place the tip so the narrow end is up and the wide end is at the base of your flower nail or work surface. To remember the correct position of the rose tip, think: Fat to floor, skinny to sky.

Always pipe an odd number of petals. The results are offset petals that look more natural.

Once your rose is piped, refrigerate it to make it easier to handle before placing in on cakes or cupcakes.

To remove the flower from the parchment square, use a pair of sterile scissors to snip and slide the flower off the paper and into position. A small offset spatula works too.

I prefer a stiff consistency icing that holds the petal shape best. Mix some more icing sugar into your buttercream if it’s too soft. And/or refrigerate your icing. When icing’s too soft, your rose slips and slides when you pipe and it’s tricky to detach each petal. You see that happening in the video clip.

Angle your tip vertically to create close, tight petals. Angle your tip horizontally for open petals, particularly when you get to the outermost row of petals.

Practise, practise, practise.

So now you know how to pipe a rose. Do you think you’ll give it a try?

Petal tip close up. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Petal tip close up. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Lavender buttercream rose cake. 3 steps to a pretty cake

It was my friend Jen’s birthday in March and that, my dear friends, meant it was time for cake. Yay! Hooray! Yippee! Time for cake!

When I asked Jen what kind of cake she wanted, she gave me free rein by answering “surprise me.”

I’ve wanted to try to do a rose-piped buttercream cake because it’s pretty and feminine and cool. Just like my friend Jen.

I texted Jen with some options:

Vanilla or lemon?


Pink, purple or white?


In a fine feat of mind-reading, Jen’s chose the selections I would’ve made.

One thing I should mention right away: Piping is not my strong suit. With no official cake-decorating training, I haven’t logged enough practice time with a piping bag so I definitely lack confidence when it comes to piping.

Before I could convince myself to try something easier, I embraced the challenge and knew it’d be a good learning opportunity. There’s no time like the present to get that piping practice time.

1. Find inspiration and instruction

First, I searched online for some inspiration photos. I found lovely examples of buttercream rose cakes at and adventuresinsavings.comSo purdy!

Then I watched a few video tutorials that demonstrate the technique for piping large buttercream roses. Like this one….

2. Practise piping technique

With my research complete, it was time to get piping. I used a piping bag with a 1M Wilton star tip. It looks like this:

1M Wilton tip

The 1M Wilton tip is a medium-sized star tip that’s great for piping roses. Photo by Jennifer Melo

And then I cued up the camera so you could see what I was doing. See?

3. Pipe buttercream roses
Then I just kept piping roses. Even when some roses turned out smooshy and air pockets made a stream of icing break off when I least expected it. I told my inner perfectionist to get lost and before I knew it — Hey look! I made a buttercream rose cake. Yay! Not too shabby.





3 lessons learned
1. Aim for a consistent size with each rose piped. See that big rose on the top of the cake? I sort of spazzed out when I was running out of space so I just swirled a large rose but now I see I could’ve squeezed in an extra few roses and kept them looking more uniform in size.

2. Give yourself some space between roses to allow the buttercream to flow into the empty spaces while you pipe. You can fill in empty spaces with swipes of buttercream later or as you go along.

3. Most importantly, icing consistency is key. Your icing should be soft enough to flow without breaking but firm enough to hold the rose’s shape.

You need a whole lotta icing

For this 6”, four-layer cake, I used a double batch of Wilton’s buttercream recipe and I omitted 2 tbsp of milk. I refrigerated the buttercream overnight in a glass bowl, covered with plastic wrap.

Then I brought the icing to a slightly chilled room temperature (about 20 minutes, left out on the countertop). I mixed the buttercream with two stripes of violet gel food colouring loaded onto two toothpicks. After filling a piping bag with buttercream, I covered the bowl with cold, damp paper towels to prevent the remaining icing from crusting over and drying out.

Here are the recipes I used to make this cake:

Vanilla cake from
Buttecream icing at

I think this cake would make a lovely dessert for Mother’s Day. What do you think?

Fondant jewelry box cake

Fondant jewelry box cake

Fondant jewelry box cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo

My niece Lauren is a true girly girl. Give her clothes for her birthday and she’ll put on a fashion show for you, modelling her new outfits with a joyful spring in her step. This may or may not have happened yesterday at her birthday party. 😉

Lauren loves makeup, nail polish, perfume and accessories like jewelry. When I considered a cake design for her 9th birthday, my choices were either a One Direction cake or a girly girl cake. Since a One Direction cake would probably be beyond my skill level, a girly girl cake was the way to go.

It starts with a jewelry box vision

A heart-shaped jewelry box came to mind and that’s the inspiration behind this cake. I started with the fondant jewelry box and made the rest up  as I went along. It evolved into girls’ trinkets on a dusty rose dresser.

My baroque fondant and gumpaste mold really came in handy for this project. I used it to make the silver rose, heart, scrolls, bracelet and white pearls.

Then I added a store-bought tiara and a candy ring pop to finish the look.

How to paint fondant silver

To paint some of the fondant silver, I used Wilton’s silver pearl dust mixed with a few drops of vodka. The vodka evaporates as it dries.

For best results, I learned I should use very little vodka to just slightly dampen the fondant. And then swirl more pearl dust on to adhere it to the fondant, and buff the whole thing with a brush, using small circular motions. I found it was best to work in two coats. Brush on the vodka and dust mix and then go over it again with just the dust.

How to make dusty rose with food colouring

To tint fondant a dusty rose colour rather than bubble gum pink, use 2 parts red and 1 part brown food colouring.

What’s under all that fondant?

I tried a new Vanilla Sponge Cake recipe from Cake Art by The Culinary Institute of America and a new whipped cream icing recipe from’s Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. The cake was yummy so I’ll probably make it again but it turned out too dry. Note for next time: Bake for 20-25 minutes instead of 30.

Sponge cake acts like a…sponge

The whipped cream filling was a departure from my go-to buttercream recipe. The cake absorbed much of the whipped cream icing so it didn’t look like there was much icing between the cake layers. Hmph. I wonder if that’s usual for whipped cream icing or if the dry sponge cake soaked up all that moisture.

I prefer the whipped cream icing’s flavour over buttercream  — it has a milky but less sweet taste — but whipped cream icing has a downside. You can’t leave your cake unrefrigerated for too long since it’s a cream-based icing. Like butter, buttercream is more shelf-stable.

That’s enough chatter for now. You wanna see more pictures, don’t you? Cue the photo gallery!

How to make a fondant jewelry box in 10 steps

I had fun working on my niece Lauren’s birthday cake today. I’ll show you the completed cake on Sunday — I can’t give it all away and spoil the birthday girl’s surprise.

I created a fondant jewelry box for a topper so I thought I’d share how I did it.

Fondant jewelry box

Fondant jewelry box. Photo by Jennifer Melo

You’ll need:

    • Fondant
    • A Rolling pin
    • Icing sugar or cornstarch
    • 2 heart-shaped cookie cutters; 3″ and 4″.
    • Ruler
    • Pizza wheel cutter
    • Sharp knife

Fondant jewelry box how-to: Start with the base
1. Dust your workspace with icing sugar or cornstarch. Roll fondant to about 1/8″ thick.

2. Cut a heart using the 3″ cookie cutter. There’s your fondant jewelry box base. Set it aside.

Do the sides and lid
3. Dust your workspace as needed to prevent sticking. Roll fondant to about 1/4″ thick.

4. Using a ruler and pizza wheel, cut a strip that’s about 12″ long and 1 to 1-1/2″ in width.

Tip: If your fondant’s too soft or too thin, the strip will flop, bulge or fall flat. Add powdered sugar to your fondant if it needs a firmer consistency and roll it to at least 1/4″ thick so a strip can stand on its edge without falling over.

5. Cut another heart using the 4″ cookie cutter. That’s your jewelry box lid.

Assemble the jewelry box

6. Lay the jewelry box base on a piece of parchment paper. Lightly moisten the heart’s edge with water.

7. Gently fold the fondant strip in half and pinch it at the center to form a crease at the top of the heart. Place the pinched edge at the top of the heart and wrap the strip around the sides, bringing ends together at the bottom tip. Use your knife to trim the ends and then moisten and press to join them.

8. Gently hold the heart shape in place for a minute or so while the water dries. If needed, use the 3″ cookie cutter as a form to help reshape the heart while the fondant’s soft.

Assemble the jewelry box lid

9. Roll a thin tube of fondant on the counter, spaghetti-style. Using a damp brush or your finger, moisten a heart-shaped line about 1/4 from the edge of the lid. Press your tube-shaped piece on to the lid and trim to fit. Position and pinch as needed to form a heart-shaped rim for the lid.

10. Attach pretty decorations to decorate the lid if desired. Fill the box with fondant or candy jewelry and you’re done.

What do you think?

Wacky spring garden cake

Update: My niece Lauren’s birthday party is coming up this weekend so I’m busy making her cake. I’ll show you what I’m working on tomorrow but in the meantime, let’s revisit the wacky garden cake I made a couple of years ago. It’s one of my favourites. I can tell you this year’s cake won’t be accented with “dirt” or worms.

Spring’s arrival is a fine time to show you my niece Lauren’s wacky spring garden cake.

I wanted to get creative when I made Lauren’s birthday cake. I was inspired by flower pot cakes I saw online so a spring garden-themed cake would do nicely and I was excited to use crushed cookies for dirt.

Wacky spring garden cake

Wacky spring garden cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Store-bought cake accessories

I went to the dollar store in search of accessories. For some strange reason, using store-bought decorations made me feel like I was somehow cheating. But I decided that’s silly.

There’s no reason everything on the cake needs to be edible and handmade, is there? I found giant felt flowers and pretty paper butterflies in the scrapbooking section. I liked the idea of going big with the flowers for a more dramatic, fun and wacky effect. I also picked up the happy birthday candles which are great for folks like me who aren’t so comfortable piping letters.

When cake-decorating mistakes go right

I rolled a big piece of fondant to cover the cake and cut an 8″ rectangle in the center to leave a hole on top of the cake. I’d fill that hole with crushed cookies. Of course, when I lifted the fondant to cover the cake, that hole stretched like crazy and left the sides of the cake wide open too. Although that wasn’t my intention, I actually liked how it looked.

It was tricky to cover the sides of the cake with crushed cookies without making a big mess. I tilted the cake on its base, packed some crushed cookies into the buttercream, made a big mess, and dusted off the excess crumbs with paper towels. Gardens are messy so it’s all good.

The art of hiding imperfections

I added a white fondant fence around the cake and then piped some grass for a border. The grass looked more like leaves so I added fondant leaves here and there. Because my piping technique isn’t so good, fondant leaves were my safety net and I liked how they helped disguise any piping weirdness. The row of hedges you see at the top, right side of the cake covers a giant crack in the fondant.

My cake dome would’ve crushed the flowers and butterflies so I added those onsite while my family milled about. I was sure to keep the paper butterflies and felt flowers well out of reach of the candles’ flames and there were no incidents.

Tip: Consider flammable parts when using accessories to decorate cakes and place them strategically to avoid fire hazards. If needed, remove flammable accessories before lighting candles.

In my hurry to assemble everything, I forgot the finishing touch. Gummy worms!

gummy worm on a garden cake

I forgot to add the gummy worms! Photo by Jennifer Melo