How To Frost a Cupcake: 5 Easy Ways

How To Frost a Cupcake: 5 Easy Ways

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Emma Christensen
Oct 5, 2015
(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Trends come and trends go, but the ubiquity of the cupcake as core comfort food remains. Birthdays, breakups, barbecues on the lawn — a cupcake piled high with frosting is appropriate for just about any occasion.

Ready to up your cupcake game? Today I'm showing you five different ways to frost your cupcakes in style.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Filling and Using a Piping Bag

Because most of us don't use them very often, I think piping bags can feel a bit intimidating. If you've never used one before, or if you need a refresher, go read through our lesson on filling and using piping bags:

→ Read More: How To Use a Piping Bag

In brief, insert the tip you want to use into the bag and make sure it's snug. If you want to pipe different designs using different tips, use a coupler. When you're ready to fill the piping bag, grip it in your hand and fold the top down around your fingers, like a cuff. Fill the bag about three-quarters full, twist the top, and squeeze lightly to "burp" out any air bubbles. When you pipe, hold the tip a little above the surface of the cupcake and squeeze from the top with one hand while using your other to help guide the piping bag.

I also whole-heartedly endorse picking up a package of disposable piping bags. Yes, they're rather wasteful, but they're so easy to use. You also don't have to worry about snipping too much off the end when you insert the piping tip or cleaning them up after (which is a pain). For me, they're totally worth it for the few times a year when I want to pipe something fancy.

Find piping bags on Amazon: Wilton Disposable 16-inch Piping Bags (12 pack)

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Practice Makes Perfect

The pros make this look easy, but that's because they're slinging piping bags and turning out cupcakes every day! Piping frosting is easy, but it still takes some practice.

Before you go to work on your batch of cupcakes, do a few trial runs on a piece of parchment to get a feel for holding the piping bag and for the design you want to do. Once you've got a feel for it, just scrape the buttercream off the parchment, put it back in your piping bag, and move on to the cupcakes!

Even once you've started on the cupcakes, it's totally OK if you goof up on one of them. Just scrape the frosting off the top and try again. It's all just butter and sugar — nothing to fuss about!

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Playing Around with Frosting

That's what this is — play time! With just two different tips — a medium star tip and a medium round tip — you can make a world of different designs. Today we're just going over five very basic designs, but once you get a feel for how this works, you can play around with your own ideas! Even just varying the speed at which you pipe your swirls, or moving to a slightly larger or slightly smaller tip, can make a completely new, unique design.

Frosting is fun! Go play with it!

How To Frost a Cupcake

How To Frost a Cupcake: 5 Easy Ways

What You Need

Ingredients
1 batch buttercream, like basic buttercream or French buttercream

Equipment
1 16-inch piping bag
Spatula
Medium star tip or medium plain round tip
Butterknife or offset spatula

Instructions

  1. Classic cupcake swirl: Fit your piping bag with a medium star tip and fill with buttercream. Starting from the outside edge, slowly pipe around the circumference of the cupcake. Start to spiral inward as you pipe, finishing in the middle with a little peak.
  2. Buttercream roses: Fit your piping bag with a medium star tip and fill with buttercream. Start from the center and pipe slowly outwards in circles until you reach the outer edge.
  3. Buttercream hydrangea flowers: Fit your piping bag with a medium star tip and fill with buttercream. Starting in the middle and then working your way outwards, pipe small dots of buttercream all over the cupcake. Pipe straight downward and space the dots fairly close together. Pipe a second row of dots on top of the first if you'd like more height.
  4. "Soft-serve ice cream" cupcake swirl: Fit your piping bag with a medium plain round tip and fill with buttercream. Starting from the outside edge, slowly pipe around the circumference of the cupcake. Circle inward as you continue piping, finishing in the middle with a little peak.
  5. No-piping-needed unfussy frosting: Dollop a generous portion of buttercream on top of the cupcake with a butterknife or offset spatula. Use the tip of the knife to push the buttercream to the edge of the cupcake and add some artsy swirls. The messier and more swoopy-looking, the better.
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