Grandma and Grandpa, also known in our house as G-Ma and TD, are here for a long visit and we decided to make some tangerine ginger curd-filled cupcakes to welcome them to town. Our grocery store carries this amazing curd, and it looked like the perfect thing to pipe into our vanilla cupcakes. They were SO addictive!

real icing

After we piped the filling into our cupcakes, N thought that piping was SO MUCH FUN that I decided to make a whole activity out of it. I knew she’d want to squeeze gallons of frosting all over everything, and couldn’t bear wasting the good stuff, so we concocted a fake frosting recipe that worked great. So great, in fact, that grandpa thought it was the real deal and almost ate a huge spoonful of it.

I pulled out all of my cake decorating tips so that N could choose the ones she wanted to work with.

frosting tips

I have some lovely cloth bags, but with little kids I’m all about keeping it simple and pulled out the disposable bags. If you don’t have piping bags and/or tips, you could fill Ziploc bags with frosting and then cut off the tip of a corner like this.

piping bags

I thought that a think finger paint recipe would work well for our “frosting,” and tried one made from flour, water, a little bit of salt, and food coloring. Why salt? I’m not sure, but it shows up as an ingredient in just about every homemade paint recipe I’ve encountered. Does anyone have an answer to this?

making frosting

I showed N how to hold the piping bag, and she was off! And man, do I know my kid — she squeezed every last bit of frosting out of those bags!

good form


Why it worked

  • My daughter expressed an interest in learning more about piping frosting, so I followed her lead. As a result, she was wholly invested, wanted to be a part of each step in the process, learned new vocabulary words, and her skills with filling and squeezing the bags improved by the end of our session. In the school world, the design plan behind creating lessons that follow a child’s interests is called an emergent curriculum.
  • N LOVES squeezing things.
  • We made the frosting pink. Her choice. In the words of our blog friends Sherry and Donna, it was irresistible.


What we used to make it happen

  • Disposable piping bags
  • Cake decorating tips
  • “Frosting”: Flour, water, salt, food coloring
  • Surface to squeeze frosting onto

Recipe for fake frosting

This recipe is a work-in-progress as I’m not completely satisfied with how it turned out.It turned out a little lumpy, and a bit of extra water and vigorous stirring seemed to make it work better. Regina at Chalk In My Pockets devised a brilliant recipe using soap flakes that looks absolutely edible and creamy. Next time we’ll have to give that a go. If you come up with another recipe, I’d love to hear about it!

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup hot water
  • Food coloring

Pour flour and salt in saucepan. Add cold water and beat with whisk until smooth. Add hot water and cook over a medium-low heat until mixture is smooth. Color as desired.


How to Make Bathtub Puffy Paint (for piping) from Chalk in my Pocket

How to pipe icing tutorial from TLC

A non-piping frosting that I’m dying to try called “The Best Frosting I’ve Ever Had.” Mmmmm. From The Pioneer Woman.

How to decorate cookies with Royal Icing. From Sweetopia.

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  1. What fun! My daughter also LOVES piping frosting and we did a soapy version of fake frosting for our bathtub puffy paint. The consistency is nearly identical to a good butter cream icing, the texture (if blended well) really shows well with all the different frosting tips I have. My daughter’s technique cracked me up, she’d squeeze the bag a bit and then just jab her thumb into the the frosting tip. Here’s a link to my recipe, I called it “puffy paint” because “soap frosting” didn’t sound to “yummy.” LOL!

    Bathtub Puffy Paint

    • I’m so glad you shared this! I remember seeing an image of this a couple weeks ago, but didn’t read your post until today. It’s awesome!! The texture of you paint is exactly what I was going for, and Claire looks unbelievably happy painting with it 🙂 So, I edited my post to include your fabulous recipe and post. Your pictures are truly gorgeous. xo

  2. Rachelle we have NO IDEA why salt is called for in so many recipes but clearly it worked beautifully in your frosting recipe. We will definitely have to give this one a go!
    Donna 🙂 🙂
    P.S. … and your daughter was right … irresistible indeed! 🙂

    • Hmmm, what is that salt all about?? Thanks for chiming in — you two are a huge inspiration.

    • I know that salt is added to tie die liquids to enhance the color…maybe its the same for the fake frosting recipe?

    • Melissa! I’m so glad you shared this. Cassie’s concentration shows how engaged she is with this. And now that I’ve seen your wonderful, delicious looking cake (I LOVE the colors!), I wish we had made our with real frosting after all! Mmmmmmm….

  3. It looks great! Does it harden at all? I’m making fake cakes for a project and it would be great to use if it hardened up and didn’t look too …am… gross 😉

    • Hi Jaki,
      It took a LONG time to harden, so I wouldn’t recommend it for that, but I do have an ornamental frosting recipe that I haven’t tested yet. You could try it and let me know what you think 🙂

      1. 3 egg whites

      2. 1 tsp cream of tartar

      3. 1 lb powdered sugar, sifted. about 4 cups

      Beat the eggs and cream of tartar together until stiff peaks form. Add sugar and continue beating until the mixture is thick and holds its shape. Cover with a damp cloth when not in use. You can make this several hours or day before. Keep unused frosting in an airtight container in the fridge.

      • Thanks so much Rachelle! I’ll give it a go! x

        • Found this on http://www.ehow.com/how_5516380_craft-fake-cakes.html
          As an alternative to butter cream too. I think it might work.

          If you want to showcase a design that would normally be created in buttercream frosting, you can use drywall spackle in place of real frosting. The look will be the same, and the dummy will last much longer.

          • Thanks for the follow-up. Of course, drywall spackle would totally work. Have fun!

  4. Maybe because salt is a preservative? I don’t know but it sounds good!🤪

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