Cake Decorating Blog

Cake Basics: How to Make (and Use!) Piping Gel

I receive all sorts of questions from students in my Craftsy classes, but one of the most frequently asked questions is, “What is piping gel and where can I find it?” It may seem like some fancy-schmancy-secret cake supply, but piping gel is nothing more than a thickened corn syrup.

You can buy it online or at most craft or cake decorating stores — but you don’t have to! All of the ingredients are probably waiting for you in your own pantry. Save on time and make it for pennies at home!

Learn creative uses for piping gel + how to make your own!

Cake By Craftsy User Gabriellabell | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Image via Craftsy user Gabriellabell

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If you're new to cake decorating and not familiar with piping gel, you should get to know it fast! It's such a versatile product with seemingly endless uses.

Uses for piping gel

Edible glue

Piping gel is really, really sticky, so the most obvious use for it is to glue things together! It has a long dry-time, so it's easy to reposition decor elements when you're using piping gel as the adhesive.

Another added bonus is that piping gel is clear, unlike royal icing or chocolate, so it can be used in places where the adhesive might be visible. It's also easily tinted to match the color of the items you want to stick together.

Cake by Stevi Auble | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Craftsy instructor Stevi Auble

Piping gel is an essential ingredient to have on hand when working with wafer paper. Use the gel to glue flower petals together, stick cut paper elements onto a fondant covered cake, or when creating a wafer paper flower arrangement.

Cake by Stevi Auble | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Craftsy instructor Stevi Auble

Thinning crusting buttercream

Adding a small amount of piping gel to crusting buttercream will help make the icing smoother and prevent it from crusting as quickly as it would otherwise. This can be helpful when piping intricate patterns or buttercream flowers.

Added shine

Piping gel is perfect for adding sheen to fondant covered cakes or decorations. Use it as-is, or thin it down with a little but of vodka before brushing on. Thinning the gel down first with alcohol helps give your work a more even sheen with fewer visible brush strokes.
Cake by Maggie Austin | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Craftsy instructor Maggie Austin

Brush piping gel onto a stained glass cake for a slick, glassy sheen.

Stained Glass Cake by Craftsy user pamz9 | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Craftsy user pamz9

Next time you make a fruit tart, flavor some piping gel with clear vanilla extract or lemon juice and brush it onto the cut fruit. This not only adds a beautiful shine, but helps preserve the fruit, keeping the tart fresher longer.

Fruit Tart by Craftsy user Miss Cara | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Craftsy user Miss Cara

A decor element

Tinted piping gel can be used to pipe lines, dots, or messages onto a cake design. It's also the perfect medium for adding a water to a pool or beach cake.

Cake by Craftsy user mandybeach | Erin Gardner |Craftsy
Image via Craftsy user mandybeach

Whipped cream stabilizer

Add 2 Tbsp of piping gel for every 4 cups of heavy cream used. Add the gel after you've whipped the cream and sugar to soft peaks. The cornstarch in the piping gel will help keep the whipped cream stable at room temperature for longer periods of time.

Nick Malgieri's Mousse Cups | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Craftsy instructor Nick Malgieri

Piping gel

Yields 1/2-cup

Ingredients:

  • 1/4-cup cold water
  • 1/4-cup corn starch
  • 1/2-cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp clear flavor extract (optional)
  • Gel food coloring (optional)

Piping Gel Ingredients | Erin Gardner| Craftsy

Images via Erin Bakes

Step 1:

Combine the cold water and corn starch in a heat-proof container. Whisk until no cornstarch lumps remain. Whisk in the corn syrup until combined.

Combining The Ingredients | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Step 2:

Microwave for 2-3 minutes on high, stopping every minute or so to stir. The mixture will bubble up and boil before thickening to the consistency of hair gel. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before adding flavoring or color.

Cooked Piping Gel | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Step 3:

If the piping gel becomes too thick, add a tiny amount of water until you achieve your desired consistency. Store piping gel refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three months.

Finished Piping Gel | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

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91 Comments

Patricia

Fantastic. Many thanks. Piping gel in the UK is very expensive. The other ideas for its use are the “the icing on the cake” !

Reply
Tara

do i need to use corn starch or can i do without, as it is very hard to find in australia
also is there a substitute for it?

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Erin Gardner

Hi! You would need to replace it with another thickener. Arrowroot powder works as well.

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Tracey

Corn starch is the same as our corn flour

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Toni

I think Tarawa was talking about corn syrup. It’s hard to find in Amanda when you do find it it’s around $15 a bottle. Can you suggest an alternative please? I was thinking of glucose, what do you think?

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Toni

###### auto correct. It should be Tara and Australia. Lol

Jessica

A 50/50 mix of glucose & water seems to work out well as a substitute everytime I’ve come across a recipe requiring corn syrup.

Vf

In Nz cornstarch is called cornflour, it may be in australia too?

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Sumali

Here in Australia we call corn starch ‘corn flour’, which is found everywhere 🙂

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Nathan

Hi!

Can I make this without using a microwave oven? ill just put it over the flame? If I can do it how many minutes and what is the flame setting?

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Risha Callender

Thank you for this craftsy, I was just about to make Piping Gel today so i’ll use this recipe instead. I see local supermarket in my country using colored piping gel for piping names and messages on their cakes, so that’s another use!

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Erin Gardner

That’s a great idea too! 🙂 Have fun making your piping gel today!

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Marie Godoy

Thank you. Love it

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Jodie

Hi
Just wondering if you could use glucose instead of light corn syrup? Corn syrup is hard to find in australia

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Erin Gardner

Hmmm, that is a great question! I believe that it would work. I honestly can’t think of a reason why it wouldn’t. Glucose is already pretty thick, so maybe try it out with a little less cornstarch at first? Please let me know how it turns out if you try it!

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Kimmie Weaver

Yes glucose works! Because all glucose is, is light corn syrup..Read the ingredients…and glucose is so much more expensive than corn syrup is! But its the same thing!

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Anne Jenkins

Hello, I don’t use corn syrup in recipes. I use honey. Would honey work in this recipe???

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amber

I am pretty sure u can.

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Larissa

Hi did it work? Using glucose?

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Shafeeka

This is great.Actually I was looking for piping gel Resipie.

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patricia collins

how to use piping gel with royal icing?

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Erin Gardner

Hi Patricia! I’m not sure of the question. For what do you want to use piping gel and royal icing together?

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laxmi

Can i use tinted piping gel on fresh cream cakes?

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Erin Gardner

Hi! I think it would depend on what it is that you wanted to do with it. Did you want to use it to write on a cake? I think that would work just fine.

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mylene

thank you for sharing this recipe.

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Rocio Estrella

can you make a video showing how to apply de piping gel decoration in a cake
step by step

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Elize Quinn

Hello there.

Thanks for all your great tips. I enjoy it very much. I am new at sugar crafting and really learns allot from all your tips,
I am from South Africa and would like to know, my client wants to take the cake topper of and put it in a box to save it. I have made a fisherman fishing at a dam from fondant and want to use the piping gel on the water to give it that watery look. Will the piping gel stay as good as the fondant for ever after? I don’t want to use it if it will get mold or go off.

Thanks.

Elize

Reply
Erin Gardner

Hi! If you’re planning on saving the figurine for a long time then I wouldn’t use piping gel. It would probably crack and become flaky after a while. Thanks!

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Kathleen

How about sugar .Jolly Rancher candy melted down and you already have the blue color.???

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philippa

This is great tryed it today using glucose and looks great. I thought it was going wrong when heating but whisked it really well and was fine. Thanks

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Sue D

Hi, thank you so much for sharing the recipe… I was wondering if I can use the recipe to stabilize my whipped cream… I stumble upon a youtube video that suggested to use piping gel as a stabilizer…. Will this recipe works the same?
Thank you…

Reply
Erin Gardner

You’re so welcome! 🙂 Yes, you can absolutely use this piping gel to stabilize whipped cream. I include the technique in the uses part of the blog post. Thanks!

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Dee

Hello Erin thanks for the recipe. a quick one please. i am making a small fondant fruit basket to place on an 8″ cake.can i use piping gel to stick the basket to the cake?if not. what do uou advice i use. thanks

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cristine

Hi im from philippines..im new at cake decorating..i just want to ask something..
i dont have a microwave oven..how can i make the procedure in a stove?have you tried it before?thank you for the help..
God Bless You.. 🙂

Reply
Erin Gardner

Hi! Yes, this will definitely work on the stove top. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat while stirring until it comes to a boil. Once it boils it’s done. It’s that easy! Hope this helps. 🙂

Reply
Michele

Thank you so much for the recipe. I just made it and it will be perfect for my project. I don’t like commercial piping gel’s taste or smell, this tastes much better (not that I eat it, just tasted).
The recipe gave me a good amount without being too much.
Thanks again.

Reply
Siddiqa

Thank you so much for the piping gel recipe 😍 I was looking for the recipe from few months to make a swimming pool cake but couldn’t find one but today found your blog … Thanx again ❤️

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RJ TREATS

this recipes has helped me. Thanks

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Edirin Bob-manuel

Thanks for this wonderful recipe. Pls, does piping gel gets dried or hard when used for piping names on cake ?

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Erin Gardner

Hi! Piping gell will not harden, it will just sort of firm up – almost like a gummy bear but softer. It will definitely hold a line and work very well for writing out a message. Thanks!

Reply
Charlotte

How long will it keep for and how do you store it?

Reply
Erin Gardner

Hi! Storage instructions are in step 3: Store piping gel refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three months. Thanks!

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Shira

Hi! Thank you for the instructions!
Does the gel dry aventually like royal icing?

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Erin Gardner

You’re so welcome! 🙂 No, it doesn’t dry crispy like royal icing. It firms up but remains supple, similar to a gummy bear. Thanks!

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Elaine Morello

I forgot to put sugar sprinkles on my cookies before my icing hardened. What can I use to Remoisten them slightly to add the sprinkles rather than reicing them. Thanks

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Erin Gardner

I think you’re in the right place, because piping gel would do the job! 😉

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Kim Steranko Tabor

Will the piping gel dry – or will it remain soft? Concerned the sprinkles will shift or fall off

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Linda

I have a rosr-shaped cake pan. I would like to decorate it without ruining the look of the sculpted rose, but would like to do more than sprinkle with powdered sugar. Can I use a watered-down clear gel painted on the unfrosted cake to adhere colored sugar crystals? And does the gel have a taste, good or bad?

Reply
Erin Gardner

Hi! From the way you describe your pan, I think I would use a thinned out royal icing to decorate your cake. That way you could add a little color while maintaining the shape created by the pan. Plus, the icing would form a nice barrier to keep the cake fresher longer. Piping gel doesn’t really taste like anything. You can flavor it with extracts. You could also brush your cake with a thinned out jam if you wanted to add some flavor along with the sanding sugar.

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Riza

Hello thank you for your recipe…. I just wanted to find out if I can add piping gel to Swiss buttercream to have more structure. I was trying to make a cup with whip cream on top and was planning to use buttercream but I was thinking it might not hold its shape if I used buttercream alone. Is this possible ?, if so how do you advice I should go about it. Thank you and you are much appreciated.

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Erin

Hi Riza! I would not add piping gel to SMBC for more structure. I actually think it would have the opposite effect and thin the buttercream out. So I understand, you’re thinking of using buttercream to mimic the look of whipped cream? If that’s the case, then buttercream alone will work beautifully. SMBC is typically pretty stable, but if you’re concerned then you might want to use American buttercream. Thanks!

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Me

I really wanted this to work, but it doesn’t. Cornstarch makes the piping gel yellow, and there’s no way around it. I’m so disappointed!!

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Erin Gardner

Hi! I’m sorry that you’re having trouble. Are you sure that you’re using corn starch and not corn meal? Corn starch is pure white and makes a clear gel. Corn meal would certainly be yellow. I’ve used this recipe dozens of times, so I’m confident it works. Let me know if I can help at all. Thanks!

Reply
Me

I apologize. I was having a rough day and was feeling grumpy! I double-checked and it was in fact corn starch. And white as snow. It still made my gel yellow, and not at all clear. I tried making it with sugar too, instead of corn syrup, and it came out yellow again.

What I don’t understand is how something that is not clear (like corn starch), can become clear. I find similar recipes to this one everywhere online and they seem to work for most people… but no matter how hard I try it doesn’t work for me. I only found one woman who said something like: “If you use corn starch, you will never get clear piping gel”.

I ended up using gelatin… and had to ask my kids not to eat it because we’re vegetarian :(.

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Erin Gardner

I’m really sorry. I truly have no idea why it’s not working for you. The pictures in the post represent exactly what it looks like when I make it at home. I use Clabber Girl or Argo corn starch. Maybe it’s the brand you’re using? Also, do you have well water? Maybe try using bottled or filtered water when making your piping gel? Maybe even give another starch a try, like arrowroot. I hope one of these suggestions helps. Thanks!

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Frances

Thank you. We don’t get piping gel in South Africa

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Barb

This is the worst recipe I’ve ever tried and I’ve been baking for 40+ years. It hardens like a rock after only one minute in the microwave and then separates on the cake. Won’t be using it again.

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Erin Gardner

Hi Barb! So sorry that you’re having trouble with the recipe. I’ve used it for years with no issues at all, and many others I’ve shared it with (including in this thread) have used it with no problems. I’m totally confident that it works. I’d be happy to help you troubleshoot. If it hardened like a rock after only one minute, I’m concerned that maybe not all of the liquid was added.

Reply
Francine

Hi Erin.
I just made the piping gel according to your instructions. The consistency seems OK, just a bit on the thick side. What concerns me is that the gel is opaque. I didn’t add flavor or color. I wanted to use it to add shine to items on a project. If it stays opaque it will ruin my project. Any suggestions will be most welcome. Another question: Can I expect the gel to be dry to the touch eventually or will it always be sticky?

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Francine

Hi .
It’s me again Erin … with the opaque piping gel:
I just did an experiment on a piece that I didn’t need. After mixing with an equal quantity of alcohol I painted the gel on and it did NOT paint on opaque, at all. It gave a nice shine and I could see the color underneath. I think that what the previous commenter called “yellow” might have been the opaqueness that I experienced. I would still like to know how long I should expect that it will take for the gel to dry and not feel wet or sticky. Thanks for your help 🙂

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Erin Gardner

Hi! Dry time will really depend on your environment, especially with some of us living in hot, humid areas this time of year. It also depends on the application. If you’re spreading on a thin coat to give something a shine, then I would think it wouldn’t take more than 15-20 mins to set up. Longer in humid areas, less time in dry areas. When I was using piping gel in Denver it was setting up on me very quickly. Here on the east coast it takes longer. Thanks!

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Francine

Hi Erin,
It’s me gain with yet another query. After having the piping gel sit in the fridge overnight, some of the water separated out. Someone else mentioned that that happened to her as well. Should that just be poured off or should I try to integrate it once more into the gel. Thanks for your time … and patience!

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Erin Gardner

Hi, again! 🙂 I haven’t experienced this myself, so I’m just making an educated guess here. I always find it easier to have a product like this on the thick side, so that I can thin it as needed depending on what I’m making. I would use your best judgement and make the call based on how thick the remaining gel is. Stir it back in if you think the gel needs it, pour it off if you don’t think it does. Water can always be added back in at any time; it’s much more difficult to make the piping gel thicker. Hope this helps!

Out of curiosity, was the gel very warm when you stored it in the fridge? When I store anything liquidy that’s been warmed (pastry cream, pudding, this recipe, etc.) I always press a layer of plastic wrap against the surface before putting the lid on the container. This just helps things to keep better in general (the less surface area exposed to air, the better). Maybe it would help in preventing the separation that you’re experiencing?

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Josephine

I just made the icing gel using this recipe , the icing is not transparent but opaque instead ! Is this normal and will it still dry clear ?

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Erin Gardner

Hi! The piping gel should be pretty clear and should dry clear as well. I am not sure if some people are experiencing variations because of the kinds of cornstarch, corn syrup, or water they’re using (well vs city). I would suggest trying it out on a sample piece of fondant before using it if you’re concerned. Thanks!

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cakebelly

What a patient lady!!! I know there are decorators from all over the world leaving comments here and you seem to be dealing with language barriers as well as impatience and incompetence. But from a UK based happy veggie bunny- thank you for your recipe; if it doesn’t work first time I will assume it is MY culinary skills letting me down and just have another go until I get it right. I’m just so happy it doesn’t have gelatin in it…! Keep smiling!

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cakebelly

Hey Erin!
As an update- I just made my gel and it came out fine thanks!! I had to add a bit extra water at the end but I think I worked out what the ‘yellow’ thing is.. I added wilton clear vanilla.. and my opaque gel went a kinda yellowish colour. If other bakers have used either this or maybe ordinary vanilla essence- that may be their problem. I must say tho- I licked off the spoon (had to test it!) and it really doesn’t taste that bad at all!!
Thanks for the recipe. Happy baking 🙂

Reply
Erin

Hi Cakebelly! Thanks so much for the kind words. 🙂 I know trying something new can be difficult, so I try to be as patient and accommodating as possible. Thanks so much for the info on the clear vanilla extract! That very well might be what the issue is. I typically make mine without any favoring. That’s probably why I haven’t experienced it myself. I appreciate the update!

Reply
Elizabeth

Hi thanks for the recipe, it saves me from having to go to another store 🙂 Quick question, can I add a little icing sugar to make it a little white? I’m making an adult theme cake and my “man” is going to be very happy if you know what I mean. Sorry if it’s too much info but I thought it would be easier to answer the question if you knew what it was for.

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Erin G.

Haha! No worries. I know the kinds of requests people can make! 😉 I would think a little bit of icing sugar would work. The addition would likely cause the gel to thicken, so you’ll probably want to add a little more water. You could also use white gel coloring. Hope this helps!

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Hope

Hi!!! I want to try this recipe ,a question,what can I use instead of corn syrup??regular sugar syrup?if so,what would be the proportions?thanks in advance!!

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Erin Gardner

Hi! Piping gel is thickened corn syrup, so there really wouldn’t be an alternative if you want the gel to come out clear. I suppose you could use glucose, but it’s the same thing as corn syrup, only thicker. I have used honey to make a similar gel, but it comes out the color of honey. A regular simple syrup would not thicken or dry the same way corn syrup does. What are you using it for that you can’t use corn syrup? If high fructose corn syrup is your concern, the two are not the same thing. Corn syrup is glucose, and high fructose corn syrup has had some of the glucose converted into fructose. Fructose is the concern for some people, though not all agree that the body processes it any differently than glucose. Consuming regular corn syrup is the same as any other common sweetener (table sugar, honey, etc.). It’s all glucose. Hope this helps!

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Sylvia

Hi thank you for the recipe, just have a quick question. I used the piping gel as decoration on top of a fondant covered cake. While finishing the details on the cake I noticed the piping gel was almost melting my fondant right under it. I am not 100 % sure if I let it cool long enough but I had to basically scrape it off of the cake before it did any more damage. I ended up making a second batch of piping gel in order to cover up the places where the fondant was ruined but I’m afraid I’d have the same result. I’m letting the fondant dry over night and I have the cake due tomorrow. Please any advise I could really use your help.

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Erin G

I’m so sorry to hear that you’re having a problem with your cake. What kind of decoration are you putting the piping gel on? Are you just trying to give your fondant some shine? Piping gel works best is very, very thin coats. If you’re just trying to give your fondant some shine, then I recommend thinning the piping gel down with a little bit of clear alcohol before brushing it on. Definitely use piping gel that has been completely cooled. What kind of fondant did you use? Is it home made? If you can provide some more details I might be able to help you pinpoint the problem. Thanks!

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Sylvia

It was home made marshmallow fondant and I was using it as a pond detail for a gone fishing detail cake it loooked beautiful but over an hour I noticed the boat on top and the fondant underneath mealting away. I came to the conclusion that I probably added too much water while I was cooking it. After a minute it actually got way too much thick to whear I couldn’t mix it well enough so I added about a 1/2 of cup of water in order for it to be pliable.

Hi thank you for the recipe, just have a quick question. I used the piping gel as decoration on top of a fondant covered cake. While finishing the details on the cake I noticed the piping gel was almost melting my fondant right under it. I am not 100 % sure if I let it cool long enough but I had to basically scrape it off of the cake before it did any more damage. I ended up making a second batch of piping gel in order to cover up the places where the fondant was ruined but I’m afraid I’d have the same result. I’m letting the fondant dry over night and I have the cake due tomorrow. Please any advise I could really use your help.

Reply
Christine

For all that are having the opaque problem.. I just made the recipe and it was opaque so what I did was added more water and cooked longer… it became clear… hope this helps😊

Reply
Sylvia

Did adding more water help?? I though my idea of adding too much water made it have too much moisture which didn’t hold up with the marshmallow fondant I was using. The fondant seemed to melt right beneath it. I would love to use piping gel it just didn’t work for me the first time I attempted this recipe.

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Erin G

Glad that worked for you, Christine! 🙂 Like I mentioned earlier, the recipe is on the thick side because it’s easier to make it on the thick side and then thin as needed for each project. You can’t really go back in and make piping gel thicker, but thinning it down is easy. Sylvia, I think the quantity of water you used may have been the issue. Christine, can you let us know how much you added? When I thin piping gel I typically add water a tablespoon or two at a time. A little goes a long way! Thanks for sharing what worked for you!

Reply
Clare Boyle

One tiny problem, I live in the UK and we don’t have such a thing as corn syrup or glucose… in fact, I have no idea what corn syrup is, so suggestions for a replacement ingredient please available in the UK (be aware, I am learning disabled and would require “adult supervision” while using sugar based ingredients, despite the fact that I am 34.)

Reply
Erin G.

Hi Clare! I’m in the US, so I’m not entirely sure of all the equivalents available to you. If anyone knows, please feel free to chime in! I can tell you that Lyle’s Golden Syrup would also work. Although, it would probably be slightly tinted because of the color of the syrup. It may or may not work for you depending on what your final application is. Hope this helps!

Reply
Jo Lewis

Hi Claire, I live in the UK as well and from reading the posts on here we can use liquid glucose instead of corn syrup. You should be able to pick up the liquid glucose in a supermarket.

Reply
Corshayla Campbell

Can you substitute the cornstarch for flour.Thank you!

Reply
Erin G.

Hi! I’ve never tried and I’m not sure that it would work. Cornstarch dissolves much smoother than flour.

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Monika

Thank you so much for this recipe and the sugestions! I have never used piping gel before but a client asked for a specific decor on a cake which required piping gel. I have to admit I used shop bought gel, but wondered what can I do with the left-overs… So I am grateful for all the ideas presented here, thank you Erin!

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Mae

I’m so glad I came across this, I’m having so much trouble seeing the clear piping gel on a white icing, this will help me so much to use color to see better

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Raghad

Hello…csn i know if i don’t have microwave how can i prepare it &instead of corn syrup which material could be a good substitution??

Reply
Erin Gardner

Hi! You could just cook the mixture over medium heat in a small sauce pan if you don’t have a microwave. It’s difficult to suggest a substitute for corn syrup, because that’s what piping gel is. Possibly glucose or sugar cane syrup?

Reply
Sarah

Just had a go at this but used ordinary white granulated sugar not any kind of syrup, worked like a dream! My approach with cake decorating is similar to my approach to most cooking, play with a recipe, you never know what you could invent!!

Reply

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