Of the many things I love about pastry & desserts and all the techniques involved, I think I might enjoy the act of piping the most. It is at once practical and artful and is, I believe, a mark of a skilled pastry chef. Of course, having the correct (and sometimes expensive) tools on hand can make even amateurs look like they've been piping for years.
One such tool is the "sultan". At about $30 and made of strong polycarbonate, it looks like a wide mouth fluted tip with an inverted cone protruding from the center. The prongs that hold the cone in place are set near the middle of the shaft so as not to interfere with the medium in the bag. The simple act of piping whipped cream using the kiss* method yields a striking, almost barnacle shaped garnish.
For a recent order, I wanted this chocolate mousse cake, layered with pistachio financier and caramel marshmallows, to also be decorated with flavors corresponding with the interior. A smooth glaze of chocolate gave me a dark blank canvas from which to work. Using the sultan tip, random and clustered droppings of green tinted pistachio cream lay the "sculpted" groundwork to the design. The donut shape of the cream also serves as a vessel into which I dispense gooey salted caramel. Pure white dots of white chantilly, piped with a plain round tip, add contrast and help to fill in some of the gaps. A sparing sprinkling of pistachios and caramelized white chocolate pearls add an elegant finishing touch.
This tip is also popular with those who make "religeuses", where it easily creates a collar to connect the smaller globe of pâte à choux to its larger base.
*With the pastry bag and tip perpendicular to the cake or piping surface, dispense a dot of chosen medium with even pressure. As your hand pulls straight up away from the cake, release pressure until the medium tails off to a point. The finished pipe should resemble a Hershey's Kiss.