What is a Pastry Bag?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A pastry bag is a fantastic thing to have in the kitchen, particularly if you like piping icing onto cakes or attempting more complicated cake decorations. You can also use a pastry bag to create decorative arrangements of any type of semi-solid food. Operating the bag is fairly simple, though it can take time and a little artistry to create more complex designs.

Pastries made with a pastry bag.
Pastries made with a pastry bag.

The simple pastry bag can be made of cloth (often cotton), plastic, nylon, canvass, or plastic-lined cotton. These bags are meant to be used repeatedly, and can be washed and saved for later use. Lightweight plastic or disposable pastry bags can be handy too, particularly if you’re decorating or piping food on the go, or don’t plan to do a lot of decorating. The shape of each bag is conical, with a small opening at the bottom of the cone and a large one at the top. Some bags have a coupler at the smaller hole that looks a bit like a screw, onto which you’d fit various decorating tips.

Choice of decorating tips, which are typically made of plastic or metal, is highly variable. They come in star and flower shapes, and in a variety of different opening sizes. The basic tip has either a round opening, or just a semi-oblong one. If you have the type of bag that doesn’t have the coupler, you merely inset the tip into the smaller hole, from inside the bag, load in your frosting or other semi-solid food, and are ready to pipe and decorate to you heart’s content.

Though you can be extremely elaborate in your choice of pastry bag tips, if you just want basic piping you may be able to buy just a few. Alternately, you can buy a set of tips that give you a lot of different options. Having a good book on cake decorating, if you’re planning on making rosettes, flowers, or other things is an excellent idea. For piping more basic things, a simple, fairly wide tip will make beautiful toppings of whipped cream on desserts, or fill éclairs or cream puffs decoratively, or add a little extra flare and style to the presentation of other semi solid foods.

Pastry bag price and decorative tip prices vary. Expect to pay a little more for the durable types, and less for disposable ones. If you do find you love piping and decorating, it’s well worth spending the money for durable bags. You’ll find the greatest selection of bags and tips online and at cake decoration stores. Other places to look are stores that offer a wide variety of kitchen gadgets, such as Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table, and many crafts stores carry cake-decorating equipment too.

It is possible to make your own temporary pastry bag, and actually some find this much easier. Sometimes the tips outlast the bag, and you find yourself needing a pastry bag, without the time to purchase one. The easiest method for creating a pastry bag is to use a plastic, gallon-size resealable bag. Cut a hole in the bag at one of its bottom corners, just large enough for the decorative tip to fit. This will easily allow you to easily pipe and decorate, though it usually only works for one use.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Has anyone tried a two color cake decorating pastry bag? Those are awesome! It's two bags attached together with a single tip. So you can decorate with two different colors of frosting at the same time.


@SarahGen-- I'm not an expert on this topic. My only recommendation is to get large pastry bags. I think that the sixteen inch ones are great. The twelve inch pastry bags are not large enough and you have to refill them with more frosting which is a pain. A sixteen inch one is perfect and it does not require a refill. You will finish decorating more quickly.

If you get a disposable one, make sure that it comes with different size tips. Some disposable ones do not have tips, so the tips have to be bought separately. I accidentally ordered one like that and I was in a difficult situation because I had to find tips at the last minute.


I'm new to baking and I'm still learning about decorating and piping. I plan on getting some disposable pastry bags to practice with, before I switch to better quality, professional pastry bags. Does anyone have a recommendation for either type?

What kind of a pastry bag is best for a beginner? I'm looking for something that's easy to use and sturdy, even if it's disposable.

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