Those new to cake decorating can find it overwhelming to choose the proper shape and size of tips from the huge assortment available. Decorating tips fall into one of five basic categories according to the type of design made when frosting pipes through them. Generally speaking, the smaller the number printed on the side of the tip, the smaller the opening and size of the finished frosting embellishment.
As the name indicates, round tips feature a simple circular opening in a variety of sizes. These tips shape frosting into smooth lines and balls. The most basic of tips, round tips are used by bakers for outlining, lettering and writing. Large round tips create beaded designs or bundles of balloons, while smaller round tips shape icing into intricate lacework, string-work and vines that extend and curl between flowers and leaves.
This tip's opening resembles the outline of a star and works well for a wide variety of applications. The large, flat areas of cakes baked in special cake pans, such as those shaped like cartoon characters, are usually covered with coloured frosting piped through a medium-sized star tip. These tips also produce fleur-de-lis, rosettes, shells and some types of flowers. The star tip creates the ridged loops and scallops usually seen as borders on wedding and birthday cakes.
Flower and Leaf Tips
The classic icing rose comes from a tip designated for that very purpose. With an opening wide on one end and narrow at the other, decorators pipe stiff frosting through this tip to create the vertical overlapping petals of a rose. It can also be used to create realistic carnations, daisies and pansies. The drop-flower tip makes simpler flowers with just one squeeze. The leaf tip operates as simply, but can create smooth or ruffle-edged leaves.
These large, wide tips help save time while decorating cakes. Generally featuring three or more openings of the same size and shape, multi-opening star-shaped tips help decorators cover large areas of cake quickly. Tips with multiple small round openings make quick work of hair, grass and animal fur designs.
Though most basic cake designs can be created from round, star, flower and leaf tips, other more intricate designs require the purchase of speciality tips. These include basket-weave tips with flat openings smooth on one side and ridged on the other, which are used to create woven designs on tops and sides of cakes. Ruffle tips feature a teardrop-shaped opening and make wide icing ribbons, swags, streamers and ruffles. Other speciality tips help decorators create seasonal designs, such as hearts and Christmas trees.