I get such a kick out of making miniature decorations for my baking projects. One of my favorite are these little bumble bees made with buttercream frosting, chocolate piping and almond slices. I have used them many times to decorate my mini lemon tarts, which I will be posting about in the very near future. But in order to make these little bees, first you have to be able to make a parchment paper cone to pipe the chocolate.
A parchment paper piping cone is a really handy tool to know how to make, because it can be used for fine writing on cakes, or directly on a plate. You could also make them in a larger size and use them for any piping job where a ziplock bag with the corner sniped off is too flimsy, and you don’t need the heavy-duty structure of a pastry bag and tip. You can use them to make chocolate decorations that are piped on parchment paper, hardened and pressed to the icing.
Cut an 8-inch square of parchment and cut it in half diagonally. Put the two end points together and press down on the center, making a small fold to mark the point where the tip of the cone will be.
With the long side facing you, curl the right point around to the left inside to make a cone and matching the two points at the top, with the tip of the cone where your mark is on the bottom. Slide the paper around up and down a little, making sure there is no opening in the tip. Then take the left point and curl it around to the right and back, matching up the points. All three points should be in the same place now. There should be no space between the inner and outer cone. Fold the points down into the inside of the cone, so it is even with the rest of the upper edge, to secure the structure. Congratulations. Well done.
Break off a couple pieces of your chocolate, about 3 tablespoons, and put them in the cone. I used a Scharffen Burger Semi Sweet bar, but any semi sweet or bitter sweet chocolate will do. Flatten the top of the cone, bend down the corners and then fold the top over two times. Set this aside until later.
Now you need to make a parchment covered cardboard platform on which to pipe out your bees. I used part of a cardboard box cut into an 8×10” rectangle. It needs to be sturdy, so the thickness of a file folder is not enough. I folded the parchment paper around the board and taped it to the back.
Get your piping bag with a plain ¼-inch tip ready. Make the buttercream frosting, which is the same used for the Twirly Lemon Cookies I made a few posts ago. The recipe is below, and I have left out the lemon zest so the surface of the bees will be smooth. Pipe 3/4-inch lengths of frosting on the board. Use a knife to slice off the frosting as it comes out to the desired length. I used my finger to round the head end and pinched the other end into a slight point.
Now you will take your piping cone with the chocolate inside and microwave it for 30 seconds on high. Take it out and press it between your fingers. If it feels all melted, good. If not and you still feel a lump, microwave it for about 10 seconds more.
Now this is the tricky part: cutting the tip off the cone. You want to cut a miniscule piece off the tip. Then test it on a napkin or paper plate. If the opening needs to be bigger, cut off another teenyweeny piece. If you cut off too much, you will have to start over with a new cone.
Pipe two stripes across the back of each bee, starting and finishing as close to the parchment as possible. It takes a steady hand, but doesn’t need to be perfect. This is supposed to be fun, remember. Put two little dots for the eyes.
Separate out the good almond slices, trying to match up pairs that are the same size. If they are really big, cut off one end so your bee doesn’t look like a dragon fly. You can see how I cut mine in the photo above. Stick the wings into the body at a jaunty angle. Step back and admire your work. Grin.
8×10” piece of heavy cardboard
pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch open plain tip
frosting, recipe below
chocolate, semi or bitter sweet, bar
sliced almonds, ¼ cup package
2 1/3 cups powdered sugar, plus more if needed
7 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick minus 1 tablespoon), slightly softened, cut into tablespoons
1 ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed
1 drop yellow liquid food coloring (optional)
1. Whiz the powdered sugar and the butter in a food processor until very little pebbles form. Add the lemon juice and food coloring and whiz until well blended and smooth.
2. Remove frosting to a bowl and mix thoroughly with a spoon to ensure the food coloring is evenly distributed.
3. Put the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch open plain tip. Pipe ¾ to 1-inch lengths on the parchment paper covered board. Use a knife to cut the frosting as it comes out of the bag.