What is Piping Gel, and Does it Harden?

If you’re making a cake with simple or elaborate decoration, you might run across the term “piping gel” within the instructions. 

Piping gel is a clear gel that can be colored, and it is commonly used to decorate cakes with writing or give buttercream some added stretch. The piping gel does not harden.

Hey, there! My name is Michelle, and while I am an experienced baker now, I wasn’t always. When I first started baking cakes, I had no idea what piping gel was and whether or not it hardened. So don’t feel alone if you’re not sure, either.

The best thing you can do is learn and enhance your baking knowledge. And that’s exactly what this article is designed to do. Today, we’re discussing piping gel, its use, whether or not it hardens, and some other helpful info every newbie baker will want to know.

Get your notebook and pen out – it’s time to learn.

What is Piping Gel?

Let’s start with the most critical question – what is piping gel?

Also known as decorating gel, piping gel is essentially a clear and smooth gel applied to cakes and cupcakes using a piping bag – hence the name piping gel. (Although some people use DIY piping bags made out of Ziploc bags, wink wink. We will never tell!)

This product is kept clear in some situations. For example, when adding it to buttercream, it gives more stretch. If used for writing or creating decorations, it can easily be colored to your preferred hue using dry colorants (wet colorants can compromise the consistency).

What is Piping Gel Used For?

Piping gel is a versatile ingredient that every baker should have on hand, especially when creating magnificent cakes and cupcakes. Here are the top five ways it’s used.

1. Writing

The most popular way to use piping gel is to write messages on cakes. Since it has a tacky texture and won’t dry out, it’s the perfect vessel for writing letters and numbers. When writing notes with piping gel, always use a thin nozzle, such as one or two. 

2. Water Effect

The consistency of the piping gel is ideal for bringing “water” effects to life. Think that adorable ocean-themed birthday cake you’re creating for your nephew’s second birthday or the cup of coffee you’re designing on a retirement cake.

3. Give Buttercream More Stretch

Buttercream can be a pickle to work with (imagine pickle-flavored buttercream – yay or nay?). This is especially true if you’re trying to make more detailed designs. With a pinch of piping gel added, buttercream gets a hefty dose of stretchiness that’s easier to play with.

4. Edible Glue

Do you need some “glue” to help your cake stick to a board? How about some decorations that need to adhere to the top of your cake, such as delicate roses? When your cake adventures call for edible glue, the piping gel can answer the call.

5. Fruit Glaze

Have you ever seen fruit that was so glossy and shiny, that it almost appeared inedible? The business likely used piping gel to glaze the fruit. Decorating gel creates a gorgeous sheen on the exterior. As a bonus, it also locks in freshness to extend the fruit’s longevity. 

Does Piping Gel Harden?

The piping gel does not harden, making it vastly different from some decorating items you might use for cakes.

It’s a good thing, though. Since piping gel doesn’t harden, you can be more flexible with your designs without fear of drying up while you’re working. The softness also ensures your “water” features appear more lifelike, so it’s the go-to for that type of technique.

What is Piping Gel Made of?

There are two main kinds of piping gels on the market: those made with cornstarch (vegan-friendly) and those made with gelatin (not vegan-friendly). So, if you’re making a vegan cake, make sure to purchase the cornstarch version.

You can also make piping gel yourself. It’s quick and easy and takes ingredients you may already have hiding in your kitchen cabinet.

1. Gelatin Piping Gel

To make a piping gel with gelatin, you will need gelatin, room temperature water, light corn syrup, and vanilla extract. Then, do the following:

Step 1: Add two tablespoons of gelatin to two tablespoons of water.

Step 2: Wait for the gelatin to dissolve completely (approx. two minutes).

Step 3: Heat in the microwave for 25 seconds.

Step 4: Heat two cups of light corn syrup and a drop of vanilla extract over low heat.

Step 5: Add gelatin mixture once hot.

Step 6: Stir.

Step 7: Pour contents into a bowl – it will thicken as it cools. Add color if desired.

2. Cornstarch Piping Gel

To make the vegan-friendly version, you need white sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and water. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: As stated above, dissolve two tablespoons of gelatin in two tablespoons of water.

Step 2: Heat ⅓ cup of sugar and ⅓ cup of water over low heat.

Step 3: Once hot, add one tablespoon of cornstarch and four tablespoons of lemon juice.

Step 4: Stir until it becomes thick.

Step 5: Pour and wait until it is cooled before using. Add color if desired.

Note: If the piping gel is too thick, you may need to add a pinch of hot water.


Piping gel is a nifty tool you will find helpful in one project or another – and it never gets hard! If you want to learn more about piping gel, check out these handy questions.

Does piping gel dry on cookies?

You can use piping gel on cookies if desired. However, just because you use it on cookies doesn’t mean it will dry. The piping gel will keep its soft consistency, so be extra careful when storing and/or transporting cookies decorated with decorating gel.

Does Wilton decorating icing harden?

Wilton’s decorating gel does not harden.

Does the piping gel need to be refrigerated?

Whether you purchase pre-made piping gel or make your own, you need to keep the piping gel in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last around two or three months when stored properly.

Final Words

Piping gel is essential for specific decorations on cakes and cupcakes, such as messages and water effects. It won’t harden or dry out, making it a viable option without time constraints. 

What are you going to use the piping gel for?

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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