Just when I thought it was over forever, buttercream flowers are back. But we’re taking a fresh, new, updated approach to them. I started my career with buttercream long before fondant was popular in the U.S. My very first cake decorating class was a Wilton class, and whenever people ask me where to start, I always recommend Wilton. The classes are inexpensive, available everywhere, and offer a really solid foundation. I still use many of the techniques and skills I learned with Wilton many years ago. Today, they even offer classes online via Craftsy.
To create a contemporary arrangement of piped flowers in the cake I did below for The Cake Blog, we played around with a variety of techniques and experimented with different color palettes. For fillers, we used some basic drop flowers, buttercream berries, and billy balls. Piping billy balls is easy, fun, and requires just one tip. Photos: Eric Brushett Photography
We used all-butter Swiss meringue buttercream for our flowers. Butter has a lower melting point than shortening (which is why it is so melt-in-your-mouth delicious) and is much more sensitive to changes in temperature. One advantage to using Swiss is that unlike shortening-based buttercreams it firms up in the fridge, so no extra confectioner’s sugar is needed to stiffen it. Is your Swiss too soft? Simply refrigerate until firm. (Of course this can also be a disadvantage in that it softens in warm temperatures.)
To make piped billy balls you will need:
Prepare flower nail by spreading a bit of buttercream with offset spatula. Adhere parchment paper to flower nail.
Heat 1/4 teaspoon measure by submerging into very hot water. Remove and allow to spoon to remain slightly wet.
Fill spoon with green buttercream. Level off on side of bowl.
Practice with tip 233 on piece of parchment to achieve correct amount of pressure and piping length–not too short, not too long.
Holding piping bag in dominant hand and flower nail in the other. Holding bag perpendicular to surface, begin piping on outer edge of mound.
Continue around outer edge, rotating flower nail.
Work inward toward center until mound is covered. Remove paper and billy ball from flower nail and allow to firm in fridge.
Use offset spatula to remove from parchment paper and transfer to cake. Secure using softened buttercream. Repeat to create as many billy balls as needed.
Below is another cake that features billy balls, piped succulents, and buttercream flowers and berries.