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Pastry Bags: Disposable or Reusable?

Disposable plastic pastry bags

To be fair, there are really 2 kinds of disposable bags. Plastic bags and parchment cones. You can make parchment cones yourself out of parchment paper triangles. You can make them large or small and they can even be fitted with a pastry tip at the end and filled with small amounts of frosting (1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon). Parchment cones are perfect for when you have intricate designs and don’t need a lot of frosting.

Popular disposable plastic piping bag brands include: KEE-SEAL,  Wilton, CIA, and Fat Daddio’s.


  • They’re disposable -woot! A definite convenience.
  • The ones I purchased were transparent so it was easy to tell at a glance what color was in there when I tinted several colors of icing at a time.
  • Clean up is certainly easy.
  • They’re inexpensive if you don’t use them often.
  • You get a clean one each time. No leftover greasy residue from frosting not being washed off properly.


  • In my opinion, the biggest flaw about disposable piping bags is their inherent lack of strength due to the plastic that’s used to make them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pushed my finger right through the flimsy plastic while squeezing out frosting. Other times, the frosting would sneak it’s way between the coupler and the bag. Granted, I should have used a softer frosting or a larger tip so I wasn’t squeezing so hard, but I was still learning that disposable bags were not my friend.  Putting my finger through the bags or frosting squishing out from all the wrong places caused frustrating time delays. I had to scoop out the frosting from the bag into yet another disposable bag. Wilton claims their disposable decorating bags can handle the pressure. However, the disposable bags I purchased from Michael’s were made by Wilton…. Sorry Charlie Wilton. To be fair, I found numerous positive reviews about their plastic decorating bags.
  • Disposable bags are not environmentally friendly.
  • They aren’t as easy to use because disposable plastic bags are not flexible and have a very stiff feel when filled.
  • Disposable bags tend to run on the small side (8″, 10″, & 12″ generally, although I have seen 16″) This means you constantly have to stop and reload it with frosting, which is annoying and wastes time.
  • Disposable are expensive in the long run (if you use a lot of bags) because they are thrown away and have to be purchased again and again.
  • They can slip out of your hands.

Reusable pastry bags

They come in featherweight (white) bags, silicone and also plastic coated fabric bags (cotton & canvas).

Popular brands of reusable piping bags include: Ateco, Wilton, Fat Daddio’s,


  • Some people wash them in the dishwasher, but I haven’t personally had success with doing this. However, I do prefer to wash them by hand and using Dawn dish washing liquid really cuts through the grease.
  • They are more flexible. Especially the Ateco Plastic coated fabric ones.
  • You can probably get about 100 uses out of each featherweight bag.
  • The plastic coated fabric bags last a really, really long time.


  • Unless you have lots of these, you”ll have to wash out the bag after each use with hot soapy water, or when you want to change colors.
  • They are more expensive than disposable bags.
  • White featherweight bags can stain. Especially when filling them with red or black tinted frosting.
  • The plastic coated fabric bags can be a bit bulky to work with.


Reusable Wins!

With experience I can handle all of the bags equally well and I keep them all on hand for different reasons.  I think everyone should try both the disposable and reusable bags to get the feel of each one and try them again as their level of experience increases. Once you know your way around each kind of bag, use what suits you best! When I started, I purchased disposable piping bags. They didn’t cost a lot and I didn’t want an expensive learning experience. Then, I moved on to the featherweight bags, which are usually made out of spun polyester. I bought about 10 Magic Line 12″ bags from a restaurant supply store in town. They have a great, soft feel in my hand. I’ve heard of people lining their featherweight bags with a smaller plastic disposable bag. Not only does the featherweight feel better against your hand, but doubling the bags cuts down on hand heat transferring to the frosting and potentially melting it. Plus, clean up’s a snap! Once I got the feel of the featherweight bags, I purchased an 18″ plastic coated canvas bag from Ateco. I was so pleased with this bag. It was a larger bag so it hold more frosting and I didn’t feel like I was forever refilling it. If I had to choose one bag as my favorite, it would be my reusable plastic coated bag by Ateco.

Frosting a Cupcake: Pipe or Swirl?

There are a lot of ways to frost a cupcake. I’m putting piping against swirling. Each method creates a unique look that looks great. Whether you’re using a rich buttercream or a silky meringue, try each frosting technique to see which you like best. I’m sure you’ll definitely have a preference within the first 15 minutes. Both piping and swirling take practice to get it right. Don’t get too discouraged. After all, it’s only frosting! If you don’t like the results, simply wipe it off and try again.


Frosting Tips

Using a pastry bag with a wide star or round tip, pipe the icing onto the cupcake in a circular motion, starting from the outside and working your way toward the middle of the cupcake. I like to drizzle on hot fudge on top, use sprinkles, or small fondant flowers to create a finished look. A fun cupcake that uses piped on frosting is this Hi-Hat cupcake.


This is also a good way to frost a lot of cupcakes. Perfecting the swirl on top is the key to making these tasty cakes look professional. This demonstration video from Cupcake Royale makes it look easy but trust me, it takes a little longer than 2 minutes to perfect!

Both Magnolia Bakery in New York and Cupcake Royale in Washington use a flat cupcake spatula (large palette knife) to form their trademark swirl on top of their cupcakes.

Offset frosting spatula

I prefer an offset spatula instead of the flat spatula. It makes frosting easier by providing exceptional control. Offset blade icing spatulas keep your finger away from the frosting, especially when working with large cakes. Dragging your knuckles through the frosting does not count as a “design”.


Piping! (by a mile) This is personally my favorite way to frost a cupcake. I have an 18″ (huge) pastry bag which holds a lot of frosting. Piping seems to be the fastest way for me to frost cupcakes and still achieve a beautiful look. Changing the tips (open star, closed star and round) is also a quick way to change the look of your piped frosting. If I’ve got a lot of cupcakes to frost, piping is my first choice. There are also many more piping techniques than swirling, which will make your cupcake look beautiful and unique.

Vanilla Buttercake Recipe

from Cupcake Royale

For those of you who don’t live near a Cupcake Royale location in Washington, or who prefer baking at home, here’s recipe for the shop’s new vanilla cupcake, scaled down for the home baker, which Cupcake Royale owner Jody Hall kindly shared. (recipe from eatallaboutit.com) A few of the brands listed might be tough for the home baker to find, unless you live in Washington, so go ahead and support your own local economy by substituting what’s available where you live. I’m a big fan of shop local, eat local, whenever possible.

makes 1 dozen

2 3/4 c. Shepherd’s Grain cake flour
2 3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 c. local egg whites
1/2 c. warm water
1/3 c. Medosweet sour cream
5 ounces Medosweet butter
3 tbs expeller-pressed canola oil
1 tsp Gahara vanilla bean paste

Line a cupcake tin with your favorite cupcake wrappers, and set your oven to bake at 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a mixer and mix on low speed. In a separate bowl, combine water and sour cream. Add vanilla paste and egg whites to this mixture and stir until combined. Add the butter, oil, and 1/4 of liquid mixture to your dry ingredients, and mix on low speed until moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and gradually add the remainder of the liquid mixture in three doses, beating for 20 seconds after each dose.  Scoop batter into wrappers. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until edges are slightly golden. Set cupcakes aside until they are cool to the touch, then frost ‘em up with real buttercream.

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