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How to Do a Frosting Filigree

by Amelia Allonsy, studioD

Filigree frosting, an intricate network of curls and swirls, is an easy, but elegant design to embellish everything from birthday cakes to wedding cakes. You can pipe the designs directly on a cake, such as for covering the sides, or pipe small filigree decorations to place on a cake or use as cupcake toppers.

Basic Technique

When you look at an entire cake decorated with filigree, it might look intimidating or incredibly difficult, but the technique itself is as easy as drawing curves or the letters "J," "C" and "S" repeatedly over the cake. Think of a filigree design as similar to branches on a tree. Instead of making straight lines as with tree branches, the filigree branches off with curves, often with dots at the ends of the curves. What looks like a complex pattern is much simpler if you think about it as just making one curve at a time.

Decorating Tips

Use a round decorating tip to make a filigree design on a cake, cupcake or cookie. The size of the tip determines the thickness of the lines and the scale of the filigree design, but you would rarely use anything larger than a medium point. Medium round decorating tips work best if you're covering an entire cake with the filigree design, but small tips are best on smaller items, like cakes and cookies. If you want the filigree design to look more like fine lace, choose a small decorating tip that is better suited for fine detail.

Types of Frosting

Buttercream frosting is the standard medium for making filigree on cakes and cupcakes. Crusting buttercream works best because it stiffens as it dries and is able to hold the designs well, which is especially important for maintaining subtle details like small dots at the ends of the curves. While buttercream typically calls for all butter in the recipe, replace all or part of the the butter with vegetable shortening to make a crusting buttercream. If you want filigree decorations that dry rock hard, royal icing, made from egg whites and powdered sugar, works best. You can pipe the royal icing directly on a cake or cookie, or make the filigree design on wax paper. Try piping a filigree design in a circle on wax paper, allow the design to dry overnight, and use it as a cupcake topper that can stand upright or at an angle.

Getting Started

The start of a filigree design is often the hardest part, but gets much easier as you work. Starting at an edge of the cake, cookie or cupcake, make a simple letter "J" as the first curve, thinking of the "J" like the first branching point on a tree. Reposition the decorating tip at the point where the "J" begins to curve and make another hook in the opposite direction. Now that you have two starting curves, you can connect another curve in the shape of the letter "C" or "S" to these starting curves. If you keep repeating this pattern, you'll eventually fill in the entire space. Instead of basic curves, you can spiral each of the curves to make the filigree even more fancy, ending each spiral with a small dot instead of simply breaking off the frosting flow.

About the Author

A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.

Photo Credits

  • Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images