Cupcake Decorating Tutorial


Have you ever looked into a cupcake display case in a shop, and taken a look at all the gorgeous swirls and artfully placed dollops of icing? Have you ever asked yourself, "I wonder how they do that??". Hold on to your piping bags people - you're about to learn (and it's not as hard as you might think)!

Materials
  • Piping bags - I prefer to use a larger piping bag (16"+) for icing cupcakes. You won't have to fill the bag as often, and your icing won't be close to the opening of the bag. If you're wondering what happens if you overfill a piping bag and squeeze - icing will ooze out the top of the bag, making it impossible to keep the outside of the bag clean (and therefore, it'll be difficult to hold onto!).  I like using reusable fabric bags better than plastic - they are easier to grip, and easier on the environment.
  • Extra large decorating tips - these are a must!  Bake it Pretty, and The Cupcake Social both have nice selections.  While you can use large tips from a decorating set, the extra large tips will give you the cupcake shop look.
  • Icing - use your favorite buttercream/cream cheese/etc recipe.  Keep in mind that decorating cupcakes requires a decent amount of buttercream - especially if you like large swirls like I do!  My recommendation is to make a little bit more than you think you need to start - once you decorate your first batch, you'll have a better idea about far your frosting will go.  A helpful tip: once your icing is whipped up, mix it on the lowest speed possible for about 5 minutes.   This will help to get rid of air bubbles in your icing, leaving you with super smooth icing that will help you achieve professional looking swirls! Here's a post with my favorite buttercream recipe: http://decoratethis.blogspot.com/2012/09/swiss-meringue-buttercream.html

Technique
Believe it or not, (almost) all of these cupcakes are decorated using the same piping technique!  I used the following 4 tips to decorate all of the cupcakes in this tutorial:


The open star tip is a Wilton 1M; the closed star, french, and plain round are extra large tips, and were purchased from The Cupcake Social.

Piping Technique for Extra Large Tips
  1. Place tip inside your piping bag, and fill with icing.
  2. Hold your piping tip approximately 1/4" above your cupcake at a 90° angle.  Pipe a spiral of icing, beginning at the outer edge of your cupcake and working inward and upward.  Stop pressure; pull tip straight up and away (complete the entire spiral before stopping pressure and pulling tip away).
  3. That's it!  Super simple, right?  Remember that practice makes perfect - sometimes I pipe several bad swirls before I get one that I actually like.  Keep in mind that you can vary the height of your icing.  I like super tall swirls, but you can easily make them shorter by finishing off your swirl after 1 or 2 trips around the cupcake.

Piping Technique for Large Tips
  1. Place tip inside your piping bag, and fill with icing.
  2. Hold your piping tip approximately 1/4" above your cupcake at a 90° angle.  Pipe one layer of icing around the entire area of the cupcake, beginning at the outer edge and ending in the middle.  Stop pressure, and pull tip away.
  3. Pipe a second, smaller spiral (not quite as wide), on top of your first layer of icing.  End your spiral at the center of the cupcake.  Stop pressure; pull tip straight up and away.

Here are a few mini cupcakes I decorated using the same tips, and just about the same techniques.  The heart sprinkle cupcake was decorated with the french tip, and I piped a single large star.  The remaining two cupcakes were decorated with a large plain round tip, and Wilton 1M respectively, using the instructions above for extra large tips.


Decorating Cupcakes
Ok - now that your cupcakes are decorated with beautiful swirls, now what?

There are truly endless possibilities when it comes to decorating!  This is where you can really get creative, use your imagination, match party decor - or just let the gorgeous swirls speak for themselves!  A few decorating ideas:
  • Sprinkles, coarse sugars, sanding sugars, quins, nonpareils, sugar pearls: there are TONS of options here, available in pretty much any shape, size, color or holiday theme that you can imagine!  A few of my favorite sources: The Cupcake Social, Bake It Pretty, Fancy Flours, Global Sugar Art.


  • Fondant toppers - remember those days back in elementary school, where you got to make cool things out of clay?  Channel your inner grade-schooler and grab some fondant!  If you can mold or cut basic shapes - you can make great fondant toppers.  I made these super cute owls and modern flowers with just a few circle cutters, some flat-back swarovski crystals, and a little bit of patience :)  There is also a pretty nice selection of handmade toppers on etsy.com.


  • Non-edible toppers - thanks to the cupcake craze, there is an extensive selection of themed decorating sets out there.  Take a look at your favorite craft or kitchen specialty store for cute sets.  There are also tons of crafty people out there selling handmade items and printables on Etsy.  If you're feeling crafty, you can go the DIY route (my favorite, being the arts and crafts lover that I am).  Here are a few easy tutorials (that require just a few tools/materials!) that I love: Fabric Flower Cupcake Toppers, Paper Pinwheel Cupcake Toppers, Birthday Cupcake Toppers.


I hope that this was helpful - if you have any questions or comments, please let me know!  Now, go make some gorgeous cupcakes! :)

50 comments:

Erica's Blog said...

I have been needing this tutorial! Thanks so much!!! :) My local Party Fair actually didn't have the 1M when I went a few weeks ago, so now I have some other options to look for.

Kristen said...

Yay I'm so glad Erica! You are very welcome! :)

Fina Fröken said...

All the way from Sweden. I'm been needing this too. Thanks for sharing!

Milenna {www.Party-Tales.blogspot.com} said...

Nice tutorial!!

Heidi said...

What is the actual size of the plain round tip? Where can I find one?

Kristen said...

@Fina and @Milenna - so glad this helped you both!

@Heidi - the plain round tip is a 9PT. There are many sources online that have them, here's one: http://www.confectioneryhouse.com/9pt-extra-large-round-tip

Heidi said...

Thanks So much! Ive been looking for a large tip for weeks now! Just started the cupcake thing and Im loving it! Is it the same size as the 1A for wilton? OR bigger or smaller?

Thanks again! You have a new fan! Loving what you do here!

Kristen said...

You are very welcome Heidi, and thank you so much!! If there are any tutorials you'd like to see here, please let me know.

The 9PT is much bigger than a 1A - probably about 2x larger. 1A would work great for frosting mini cupcakes, but the XL tips are really fabulous for standard or jumbo sized cupcakes.

So glad to hear you're enjoying making cupcakes - do you post your creations anywhere? I'd love to see!

Heidi said...

WOW! So happy to hear that there is a bigger tip that the 1A! Ive been searching a couple of weeks now, and everywhere I go they tell me the 1A is the largest. Your my cupcake making hero! lol I just placed my order and cant wait till it gets here! Thank you Thank you!
I havent started posting my creations anywhere just yet, but I do plan on starting that soon, since I would love to go back and see my progress in a few years. Ill let you know. Thanks for the great blog!

Kristen said...

@Heidi - you are very, very welcome! :) I'd definitely recommend starting to document what you make - it is fun to go back in time and see what you made years ago. Definitely let me know!

Jenna-Marie said...

Hi! I've been trying to figure out how to do the bottom, right corner swirl - I used the same tip but mine doesn't look like that. Do you have to fold back in on yourself, or hold the bag sideways or something? Thanks for your help! I'm really enjoying this cupcake thing.
www.cupcakesbyjennamarie.com

Kristen said...

Hi Jenna-Marie - I assume you're talking about the open star swirl? You don't have to do anything special for this swirl - keep your piping bag upright, and pipe a spiral of frosting, working inward and upward. If you are not using a jumbo tip, you'll need to pipe the swirl in two layers (see "Piping Technique for Large Tips").

blue eyed girl said...

I was wondering what number/letter the french tip is. I've been looking around but can't find it.

Kristen said...

blue eyed girl - the XL french tip is 9FT (plain round is 9PT; open star 9ST; closed star 9CS).

Anonymous said...

http://glorioustreats.blogspot.com/2011/08/cupcake-basics-how-to-frost-cupcakes.html

Dont you think this girl copied you? She needs to give credit where it is due.

Kristen said...

Anonymous - thank you so much for the concern. I took a look at the post and it's definitely different enough to be her own, and she's using her own words, pictures, etc. I'm not worried about it :) Thank you again though!

Natalie said...

I keep going to Michaels hoping that one day they will have large tips for icing cupcakes but it just hasn't happened yet! Thank you for pointing me in the right direction!

TheGrubDaily said...

This is great! Ialways get which tips produce each effect, so this is helpful!

Kristen said...

Nathalie and TheGrubDaily - you're both very welcome! So glad this tutorial helped both of you :)

Dona/florida said...

Thank you so much for the information on where to buy the extra large tips. I have been looking everywhere for them and had no idea where to buy them. Thanks again , so glad I saw your tutorial on Pinterest

AJ said...

Hi there, I'm having trouble finding a very large piping bag that doesn't split at the seams! Can you recommend anywhere? Thank you :)

Kristen said...

Dona/florida - so glad the tutorial was helpful!! :)

AJ - what a bummer your frosting bags are splitting apart! I've had great luck with fabric bags - Ateco is a great brand, as is Fat Daddio's. Take a look on http://www.globalsugarart.com/ - they have a great selection.

Carissa @ Pretty/Hungry said...

I'm still trying to determine where I am messing this up... your directions seem so simple! Do you think holding the piping bag directly perpendicular to the cupcake is what gives you the nice even swirl pattern? (Usually I find myself angling my wrist.)

Lovely cupcakes!

Kristen said...

@Carissa - the key is holding the piping bag straight up and down. Angling your wrist can have all sorts of undesired effects.

Anonymous said...

could you give me a receipt for your icing please? mine's to heavy for this. thx

KP said...

I was also wondering if you could share an icing recipe that looks nice and smooth like yours. I just made some for your tutorial and it worked out WELL but not fabulous (I'm sure its just because of the texture of the icing) Thank you very very much for this post :)

Emma said...

Very nice and useful!
Thank you! :)

Momma Marie said...

Thanks for the info on finding extra large tips! I love a single star from the french tip so finding an extra large one is awesome!

Have to say...the comment about glorious treats copying you was funny. I did truly laugh out loud. They must be very new to the baking blog world to not have heard about her or know the respect she is due!! Guess it's good you have a fan looking out for you :-)

Thanks again!

Emily said...

Love this! My kids would be so excited for us to try this- and to make that little owl one ;-)

Renee said...

Hi! Loved your tutorial, but I have a question. I've been frosting cupcakes using the open star tip with no problems. The first time I tried the closed star tip, though, it didn't turn out right. Some of the frosting came out in a thin squiggly line while the rest of it came out fine, causing a big mess. Is there a different way to hold the bag so this doesn't happen? Or a way to prevent this at all? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Are the closed star tip and the Open star tip captions switched?

maduracuppies said...

Love your open start design .

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips, just a quick question for you, i know you mentioned that the round tip was larger than the wilton 1A, are the rest of the tips larger as well? went to the cupcake social site and hard to get a grasp of what size the tips are other than that they say extra large, are these bigger than say the 1M and the 2D as well? just assuming you purchased the four of them from that site.
Thanks!

Jenna said...

Hi, I just wondered if anyone knows where I can get these extra large tips in the UK ....?

Thanks in advance!

Jenna x

Anonymous said...

Any way to get your Buttercream Icing recipe? Please. It looks fabulous! Thanks. :)

Poppy said...

Hi,
I found these tips if anyone is still looking for them....

http://www.etsy.com/listing/73363825/the-best-cupcake-frosting-tip-kit-set-of

Julia said...

I love these cupcakes! I was looking at buying some new decorating tips a couple minutes ago!! You made the cupcakes beautiful!

Tia said...

Hi...I was woundering what size the closed star was?

Kyla said...

Excellent post. Great ideas and info. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I need a tip for cupcakes what should I use and what brand ???????????

Anonymous said...

Great advice thnx..recently started a baking business and this really was helpful xx :)

Kathleen Richardson said...

Thanks for this info. I just used 1M tip and 10" bag to do open stars on cupcakes for a fundraiser bake sale. They turned out beautifully. I rubber-banded the end to keep it from oozing back out. You're right, that can be a big problem, but I did have a bigger bag.

Kathleen Richardson said...

Correction, "... I did NOT have a bigger bag."

Anonymous said...

would it be possible to post the recepie for the frosting you make? Thank you!

Cloudy said...

Hi Kirsten great tutorial thank you!
Regarding the tips do you know of any sellers on eBay who stock these large tips?
Many thanks :)

Kristen said...

Hi all - I recently posted a recipe for Swiss Meringue Buttercream - my favorite. Check it out here: http://decoratethis.blogspot.com/2012/09/swiss-meringue-buttercream.html

Megan Orlandella said...

Thanks so much for this. I have been baking for only a couple of years but I love it. I bring them to my class mates at school and they love them. This blog helped me so much because now i have new techniques to use on my cupcakes.

Jessica R said...

Hi, I recently discovered your blog and I'm loving it! I wonder if you have any suggestions for cupcake sizes. I have the Wilton cupcake pan that makes (what I believe to be) standard cupcakes. But whenever I visit a cupcake bakery, their cupcakes look much larger than mine but not quite jumbo either. Is there a certain pan that produces these larger size cupcakes or will buying larger liners produce the size I'm looking for. Hope you can shed some light on this cupcake mystery of mine. :) Thanks, Jessica

Kristen said...

Hi Jessica R! Thanks so much for stopping by, and I'm very glad to hear that you're enjoying my blog :)

To the best of my knowledge, a standard size cupcake/muffin pan is all you should need (I personally haven't seen one between standard and jumbo). Cupcake liners DEFINITELY vary in size - finding larger liners should do the trick.

Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

thanks for share..