While the pros may make decorating a cake look easy, as they zip along adding borders and rosettes at lightning speed, anyone who's tried piping frosting for the first time knows that cake decorating and piping is far harder than it seems. There's definitely a learning curve and getting those picture-perfect piping skills requires practice — a lot of practice.
If you're determined to master your piping, you have two options: bake and decorate a whole lot of cakes or make a lot of frosting that you then use for practice purposes only. However, these options can get pricey and pretty wasteful. Enter, a new solution: instant mashed potatoes. Instant mashed potatoes are very cheap and, when mixed with water, instant potato flakes can form a consistency very much like that of buttercream. You can then use this mixture to easily and cheaply practice your piping skills on a piece of wax paper. (And if you don't have any instant potatoes on hand and want to try this out right now, you can do the same with regular, from-scratch mashed potatoes; it'll just take a little more time to make the mashed potatoes and you'll want to make sure there are absolutely no lumps.)
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Other Frosting Alternatives For Practice Piping
Since some people find it tricky to get the mashed potatoes' thickness just right, it may help to take your time when adding the water, gradually mixing it in until you achieve the desired results. Some folks may get multiple uses out of their practice batch, storing it in the fridge for several days before finally tossing it. If you don't have any instant mashed potatoes on hand or don't want to make a batch of from-scratch mashed potatoes (or maybe just can't stand the thought of letting all those potatoes go to waste after you're done piping, no matter how affordable they are), you do have other options.
Smooth peanut butter is one option to consider if you specifically need a little bit more practice controlling the flow of icing from your piping bag. Peanut butter is a bit thicker than both mashed potatoes and frosting, so it gives you more time to really think about what you're doing, as you're doing it. Other options include using a basic buttercream recipe, but just omitting a few ingredients. For example, if you have powdered sugar on hand, but no butter, you can mix the powdered sugar with shortening to form a frosting-adjacent mixture for practice piping. Likewise, if you have butter but no powdered sugar, you can whip up the butter in your stand mixer, and use it for practice once it's light and airy.
Read the original article on Mashed.