31 August 2012

Tutorial: 1M Swirl

The Art.
    This is the first in a series of cake decorating tutorials that I'm very excited about. Each time I create a post that uses a standard decorating technique, I will post how-to directions for it a few days before. I think it's important to demonstrate the piping techniques that are used to decorate cakes, cupcakes, and cookies in a step-by-step format, especially for all my readers who are new to decorating.

   The classic 1M swirl is a must-have technique in a cupcake decorator's arsenal.  It is so quick and easy, but still elegant. The term "1M" refers to the decorating tip size that is required. I use a Wilton 1M tip, which can be found at Hobby Lobby or at Wilton's website. This tip can be used for many other techniques, like making large drop flowers, stars, or cake borders.  Definitely worth the $2 investment. This tip can also be used to decorate with a wide range of icings, from chocolate ganache, to whipped cream, to buttercream.

The Science.
    A very important factor for piping beautiful decorations is making sure your icing is the right consistency. When icing is concerned, temperature and consistency go hand in hand. Today, I am demonstrating the 1M swirl with buttercream icing, which is my staple. My recipe uses a mixture of butter and shortening, which simultaneously gives it a nice buttery flavor and a wider temperature range in which it can be used to decorate. All-butter recipes are more difficult to decorate with and transport than those made with shortening. Butter is not a pure fat, but rather an emulsion of oil and water held together by milk protein emulsifiers. It is a hard solid at temperatures below 60oF because of its high saturated fat content, so cool all-butter buttercream cannot be piped. However, butter also has a low melting temperature of only 90oF, which means that it will make icing become oily and soft if left at room temperature for a while [1]. Shortening, on the other hand, is full of hydrogenated fats and is fairly soft at cold temperatures, yet doesn't melt until about 117oF [2]. These qualities make it an ideal fat for decorating icing, but not so great on the flavor front. By blending together butter and shortening in buttercream, you can achieve the best of both worlds and have buttery flavor and temperature tolerance.

The Recipe.

Fluffy Buttercream
1 cup salted butter, room temperature
1 cup vegetable shortening
5-7 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

    In large bowl, beat together butter and shortening on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Add sugar until icing makes stiff, jagged peaks. Beat in vanilla. If icing tastes too sugary or grainy, add a couple tablespoons of milk. Use immediately or store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Makes enough icing for one 9" round cake or 24 cupcakes.

1M Swirl Technique:
   Place a 1M decorating tip in a piping bag and fill with icing, twisting the top shut. Beginning at the outer edge, anchor the frosting on the cupcake by holding the tip at the surface and applying pressure to the bag. Once anchored, raise the tip slightly above the surface.
Pipe around the periphery with constant pressure until you reach your starting point. Continue to pipe, slightly overlapping your first round of icing. Keep on going around until you reach the center of the cupcake. When you come to the point where you want your swirl to end, stop pressure on the piping bag, push the tip down slightly to anchor the end of the swirl, then pull up to release. Please note that I am left-handed, so all you righties might want to mirror what I do in the photos.

1. American Baking Essentials Course 201. "Butter, Shortening, and Oils: The Fats We Bake With." The Prepared Pantry, 2005.
2. O Chef, "Turning the Heat up on Crisco (and Lard)." http://www.ochef.com/1157.htm

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