Kitchen Crafts: How to Pipe the Prettiest Cupcakes

Boutique-bakery cupcakes are easy to make at home with just a few inexpensive supplies. Learn how to pipe buttercream roses, starry swirls and lofty ruffles. Four basic piping tips are used in this tutorial, but there are scores more to choose from — so feel free to branch out! Just one word of advice: Jumbo piping tips are ideal for filling up the top of a cupcake with buttercream. They make an impressive and pretty topping without much work.

Photo by: Heather Baird

Heather Baird

Materials Needed

  • baked cupcakes
  • jumbo petal decorator piping tip
  • jumbo closed star decorator piping tip
  • plain 1/2" decorator piping tip
  • Russian ball decorator piping tip
  • disposable piping bags
  • scissors
  • buttercream frosting, 4 cups
  • assorted gel food colors

Choose a Flavor

You’ll need at least one dozen baked cupcakes on which to practice your technique. Choose your favorite flavor box mix for a speedy 24 cakes, or use your favorite scratch-made recipe.

Photo by: Heather Baird

Heather Baird

Select Piping Tips

Decorator piping tips come in all shapes and sizes, but for cupcakes, big piping tips work best. Pictured from left to right, we’re using a large petal tip, a large closed star piping tip, a large 1/2-inch round tip, and a Russian ball tip. All of these are inexpensive and can be found at most craft stores in the baking aisle.

Photo by: Heather Baird

Heather Baird

Prep the Piping Bag

Drop each piping tip into disposable bag and fit it into the end until it is secure. Use scissors to score around the decorator tip, cutting off the tip of the piping bag.

Photo by: Heather Baird

Heather Baird

Tint the Frosting

Place 1 cup of buttercream in each of four bowls and tint each one a different shade. Fill the piping bags with the frosting and prepare to pipe.

Photo by: Heather Baird

Heather Baird

Make a Bouquet of Cupcakes

The rose buttercream piping technique may look complicated, but it’s really easy.

Photo by: Heather Baird

Heather Baird

Place a dot of frosting in the center of the cupcake. Position the piping bag so the thin end of the petal tip points upward (toward the sky). Pipe a half circle of frosting that crosses onto itself. This is the center bud (Image 1). Position the bag alongside the center bud with the thin end of the petal tip upward (Image 2). Pipe petals around the bud using half circle motions. As you pipe the half circles, be sure to overlap the petals (Image 3). Travel outward as you pipe, making the half circles slightly bigger and longer (Image 4). Practice your technique with more cupcakes. If you find some less pleasing than others — eat them first!

Create Starry Swirls

This style of frosting is what you’ll often find most often at cupcake shops and cake boutiques. It’s a classic, ruffled look that couldn’t be easier to create. Use the jumbo closed star piping tip for this technique. Position the piping bag directly over the top of the cupcake and pipe the frosting on in a big swirl (Image 1). Pipe a second swirl of frosting over the first to finish the technique (Image 2).

Keep It Simple

Use a decorator piping tip with a 1/2" round opening to create this simple swirl of frosting. It’s appropriate for any time of year, but you may want to bookmark these for winter holidays because this effect can create a Christmas tree-themed confection.

Photo by: Heather Baird

Heather Baird

Begin by piping a tall double swirl of frosting in the center of the cupcake (Image 1). Pipe a line of frosting around the bottom edge of the cupcake, turning the cake as you pipe to ensure an even line (Image 2). Pipe a second line of frosting on top of the first, once again turning the cupcake as you pipe (Image 3). Finish this technique with a single mound of frosting on the top center (Image 4). The tiers of frosting look beautiful with a scatter of sprinkles on top.

Experiment With New Products

Russian piping tips are a relative newcomer to the baking world, but they are becoming widely available at kitchen supply shops and they are ever present for purchase online. Begin by placing the ball tip directly on the surface of the cupcake. Apply pressure to the bag, and as fronds of frosting appear, begin to move the tip upward (Image 1). Twist the bag back and forth as you travel upward, creating ruffles as you pipe (Image 2). Simply lift up on the bag to release.

Practice Makes Perfect

The more you practice these techniques, the better your end result. You'll be a pastry pro in no time!

Photo by: Heather Baird

Heather Baird

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