You don't have to be wary of them though as, with a little bit of practise, they are a great addition to your cake decorating equipment and give you the versatility of being able to use a wide range of nozzles with them (we've met many people at events who are disappointed to learn that the fabulous Mr Whippy nozzle cannot be used with their treasured plunger decorator!!).
When it comes to choosing a piping bag you have a couple of options.
Firstly there are the disposable bags. Many people prefer these as they do exactly as they say on the tin (well, they come in a box actually!!). Simply use them and then throw them away (don't forget to take your nozzle out first though!!). It means less mess and less washing up HOORAH!!! but if you are decorating a lot of cakes/ cupcakes you may find that you go through quite a few bags. But saying that we do think that they are worth having in the cupboard as sometimes the thought of washing up buttercream from your piping bag is just too much!!
Secondly you have the trusty re-usable piping bags. You will find these in many shops including some supermarkets. But be warned you do get what you pay for. Some bags seem a great price but when you actually use them you will find that the icing is piping from places you wish is wasn't!! This is particularly true if you choose a bag that is stitched down the side - quite often the stitches start to stretch and icing sneaks out (tut tut!). Our favourite piping bags are the Wilton Featherweight Bags. These come in a variety of sizes and are glued, not stitched.
In fact we have a number of these bags that we use all the time that we have been using for years and years. They can go in the dishwasher (top shelf) and are a fantastic quality.
The trick to using piping bags (whether disposable or re-usable) is getting comfortable holding them. You will find that you have your own style of piping but here are some pointers to get you started:
- Don't over fill the bag. Don't fill more than half full otherwise you will find the icing coming out of the top!!
- Once you've filled the bag give it a twist so that you keep the icing in place in the bag - this also helps put pressure on the icing so that when you start piping the icing should come out nice and easily!
- Don't put your second hand around the bag whilst you are piping. If you need to steady the bag (as a lot of people do) then simply use your finger and direct the piping bag by pushing the nozzle. If you put your whole hand around the piping bag then you are warming up the icing and eventually it will get very hot and not very nice!!
- Take your time. Piping takes practise...but once you've got it then, well, you've got it!!
- Get your icing right!! The right consistency icing makes a huge difference. If your icing is too stiff then you will probably find that you are popping veins in your neck as you try to push the icing out. The icing needs to be a nice medium consistency - not too thin as you don't want it running out but not so stiff than you can't get it out of the bag. Before you fill the bag give it a good stir and make sure it is nice and soft. If not add a little bit of milk or water (but not too much at a time!!).
We hope this helps - if it doesn't then please tell us how we've confused you :o) and we'll do our best to explain!! We'll be back soon with details on the nozzles...