Save time, reduce waste and prevent messes by using couplers in your piping bags! In this tutorial I'll show you what couplers are, how to use them, and four reasons why you need couplers for cake decorating.
What are couplers? How do you use couplers?
Couplers are pieces of plastic that go into a piping bag before filling the bag with frosting. The piping tip goes onto the outside of the bag, attached with a ring that comes with the coupler.
The coupler holds the tip in place so it doesn't fall off. It means you can put it on and remove it from the outside of the bag instead of having to drop it in through the top of the bag. That makes several steps more convenient - read on to find out more!
Why use couplers?
1. With couplers you can use several different piping tips with just one piping bag of coloured frosting.
For example, with one piping bag I can use a star shaped tip and also a small round tip. After writing the first word on this cake I can unscrew the coupler ring and take the star tip off without squeezing the frosting out of the piping bag. Then I can place a small round piping tip on the coupler instead. The coupler ring is necessary to secure the piping tip.
By using different piping tips you can pipe different styles of lettering with the same colour. You can also use the same colour to pipe different decorations. I used the same piping bag and coupler with a petal tip to pipe a bow on a gift box cake:
And then a leaf tip to pipe the petals of a poinsettia flower:
By using couplers you can use one bag of coloured frosting with several different piping tips without needing to change piping bags each time. I teach how to make all of these Christmas cakes in my tutorial on 6 Christmas Cake Designs.
2. With couplers you can use one piping tip with several colours of frosting.
For this cake I used the same small round piping tip for the reindeer's eyes, antlers and nose and also for the string of Christmas lights. By switching the tip between piping bags with couplers you can easily add lots of colour to a cake even if you only have one piping tip.
After each colour just unscrew the coupler ring, lift the piping tip off, put it onto a coupler on a different piping bag, and screw it on.
You could wash and dry the piping tip in between colours but here's a quicker method! After moving a piping tip onto a coupler on a different piping bag, squeeze the bag over a bowl. The old colour will come though the tip and then the colour will start to change. Once the new colour comes through the tip into the bowl, the tip is clean. Now you can pipe onto your cake.
Without couplers you need to squeeze the frosting out of the piping bag when you finish with each colours. Then you need to reach inside the piping bag to take the piping tip out, wash and dry it, and put it into another piping bag. By using couplers you can take the piping tip off from the outside of the bag, which is much quicker!
3. With couplers you can use the same piping bags with different sized tips
Piping tips are not all the same size. For example, a 1M star tip, an 8B open star tip and a #125 petal tip are a standard size. But smaller piping tips are also common, for example a #104 petal tip and a 4B open star tip. When you cut then end of a piping bag to fit a piping tip, half of the piping tip should stick out. Fitting snugly is important for piping, especially with thick frostings like buttercream.
A bag that has been cut to fit a standard sized tip is not the right size for smaller piping tips.
Smaller tips might fall straight through the end of the bag. Even worse, they’ll fit at first but when you squeeze the piping bag to pipe they’ll pop out! This makes a mess and you'll need to use (and dirty!) another piping bag. Worst case scenario, the piping tip can burst through the piping bag onto your cake and ruin your frosting or decorations.
The solution? Couplers! If your piping bag is cut to fit a standard size tip, when you want to use a smaller tip just drop a coupler into the bag first. Then attach the smaller tip to the outside, screw the ring on, and voila!
4. Use couplers to quickly discard, save or re-purpose leftover frosting
When you finish with a piping bag and want to re-use it or get the tip out, you could squeeze the frosting out through the piping tip. This takes a long time, especially if the piping tip is narrow. If you’re using a coupler there's a quicker and easier option. Take the piping tip off and squeeze the frosting through the much bigger coupler hole, instead.
Now you can store or re-purpose the leftover frosting. Buttercream can be refrigerated for 2 weeks or frozen for 2 months. Alternatively, you can re-use leftover buttercream by adding different gels to tint it another colour.
I hope these tips have been useful! You can watch my video on how to use couplers below. Check out my online course The Basics of Buttercream where I share how to make the perfect buttercream, how to flavour and colour it, use it for piping and for perfectly smooth frosting on cakes, and how to achieve all sorts of unique cake decorating techniques. Join my ClubPLUS for access to EVERY MasterCourse, over 50 MiniCourses, every Live Workshop and 5 Minute Fridays.