Kitchen Tip: Cupcake Piping Tricks

Kitchen Tips & Tricks | 25 comments

You’ll see in the recipe index that I’ve only featured a few cupcake recipes. Cakes in general kind of overwhelm me. Especially layer cakes and it’s only recently that I’ve gotten more into making and frosting cupcakes.

This post should probably be titled “The Kitchen Tip Most People Probably Already Know.” But even a year ago this info was new to me. I was never too happy with how my cupcakes looked in the end, but I’ve recently put just a little more effort into the frosting and it’s totally paid off.

First of all: I started using a disposable pastry bag to pipe the frosting rather than trying to spread the frosting with a knife (or worse – putting it into a ziplock bag and squeezing it on top). I think pastry bags offer so much more control.

how to pipe cupcakes

How to Fill a Pastry Bag with Frosting:

  1. Place your preferred piping tip inside the bag (with the end snipped off so that the tip fits through the hole).
  2. Place the bag inside a tall cup or glass.
  3. Fold the excess bag that doesn’t fit inside the cup over the edges of the cup.
  4. Spoon the frosting inside the bag, leaving a few inches of space so that the frosting doesn’t fill the entire bag.
  5. Remove the bag from the cup and squeeze any air bubbles out of the bag.
  6. Twist the top part of the bag and proceed with piping.

For bags I like CIA Masters Collection 12 Inch Disposable Pastry Bags or Wilton Disposable 12 Inch Decorating Bags, Pack Of 24.

tips for frosting cupcakes

It’s all in the Right Tip

Getting that big, pretty swirl on top of a cupcake was a mystery to me for many years. I tried and tried, but it never looked right.

The other important trick when it comes to cupcake decorating is really in the tip you choose. From my friend Jamie I learned that the type of tip you are using is actually what makes the difference. For a long time I had a few really small tips but nothing really suited to getting that big, pretty swirl on top of a cupcake. For big swirls, you need BIG openings.

tips for frosting cupcakes

After you’ve got the right kind of tip, really all you have to do is swirl the frosting around the top of the cupcake, starting on the outside edge and working your way in. Top things off with a few sprinkles for extra pretties and you’re all set!

If your frosting is having trouble holding it’s shape I’ve found that refrigerating for about a half hour or so prior to piping helps with that. Or if the frosting isn’t too sweet you can add extra powdered sugar to thicken it up.

My Tip Recommendations

For the Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream I used a Closed Star Giant Pastry Tip from Bake it Pretty. This is probably my favorite. I also have their French Giant Pastry Tip.

I have been wanting to get a Giant Round Tip too because I think those are nice when you don’t want something that comes across as too pretty or feminine. The Wilton Open Star #32 Tip is also a fun choice. I used that for Logan’s Solar System Cupcakes for his Solar System Birthday Party

Katie Goodman

About the Author:

Katie’s lifelong interest in cooking good food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. She is: Mom. Writer. Photographer. Recipe Developer. Website Founder. Lover of all things good in life. A mix of great recipes, family memories, and yummy photography is what Katie serves up each week at GoodLife Eats™. Katie and her family reside in Colorado.

Email  Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest

  • 1
    Blog is the New Black - February 16, 2011 @ 6:09 am

    Frosting sounds SO easy, but it can be difficult depending on what you have to work with, and the temp of the frosting… I learned the hard way!


  • 2
    Danielle - February 16, 2011 @ 6:42 am

    I always remind people to make sure they squeeze the pastry bag from the top so you don’t end up with frosting oozing out of the top of the bag. Great tip!


  • 3
    melissa @IWasBornToCook - February 16, 2011 @ 6:43 am

    Perfect timing for me, considering I have to make a lot of cupcakes for my nephew’s birthday party this weekend. Never piped before, so I’m hoping this will help me :) Thanks!


  • 4
    Candi - February 16, 2011 @ 6:55 am

    My friend and I are taking cake decorating classes. Your swirls looks fabulous!


  • 5
    Pili - February 16, 2011 @ 7:16 am

    Okay, the tip about filling the pastry bag inside a glass was one I didn’t have and needed! Thank you!


    • Amy replied: — February 17th, 2011 @ 1:08 PM

      I agree completely. Thanks!

  • 6
    Leika - February 16, 2011 @ 7:26 am

    This is precisely what I needed! I am doing a bunch of cupcakes for an upcoming birthday party for my husband and his cousin (one of my best friends!), so I really needed a good tip that wouldn’t be too feminine OR too masculine! Going to check out that giant round tip now!


  • 7
    Hannah at FleurDeLicious - February 16, 2011 @ 9:13 am

    those look beautiful! i agree about filling the pastry bag inside a cup…solves the problem of it flopping and sliding all over the place while you’re trying to fill it! thanks :)


  • 8
    Delishhh - February 16, 2011 @ 9:16 am

    The glass tip is awesome. I always make a huge mess!!


  • 9
    Jenn - February 16, 2011 @ 9:40 am

    Katie, gorgeous pictures! Piping cupcakes is really fun and the result is so pretty.

    You can also use re-usable piping bags. I like Wilton featherweight ones because they’re light and you don’t need a coupler (yay).
    Yes you have to clean them but it doesn’t take long.


  • 10
    Heather @Gluten-Free Cat - February 16, 2011 @ 10:46 am

    I’ve always used a knife! So I’m thrilled that you gave such wonderful directions. Also, thanks for the links. I’m going to be ordering some supplies so I can make pretty cupcakes like yours!


  • 11
    Amanda - February 16, 2011 @ 11:09 am

    So pretty!


  • 12
    Jaden - February 16, 2011 @ 11:41 am

    you are so talented in baking, my dear! that swirly, swoopy frosting thing is beautiful.


  • 13
    KitchenArtistry - February 16, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

    Beautiful cupcakes – they look too good to eat! We’d love to feature your photos on kitchenartistry.com


  • 14
    Katrina (gluten free gidget) - February 16, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

    I actually didn’t know about the cup trick! brilliant! Thank you for enlightening me!


  • 15
    Mike @theflavorjunkie - February 16, 2011 @ 8:20 pm

    Love, love, love your blog. Your pictures are beautiful and this post is no different. Love the piping bag tips and tricks. I still resort to the ziplock disaster.

    I feel the same way about cupcakes but maybe i’ll give them another shot.

    Thanks! Michael


  • 16
    Lisa {Smart Food & Fit} - February 17, 2011 @ 9:27 am

    Perfect looking frosting on cupcakes! So talented with your food styling and photos!


  • 17
    Sukaina - February 17, 2011 @ 11:35 am

    Great tutorial! A post liek this is exactly what i needed. And I love the tip about filling your bag in a glass. Very handy!


  • 18
    Nienke at Revel - February 17, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

    Awesome tips – thanks!

    I somehow always end up with icing coming out of the other end of the bag and me getting my hands messy :)


    • Katie Walker replied: — April 20th, 2013 @ 4:54 PM

      You mentioned that the frosting comes up out of the bag? Well, Wilton sells these small rubber things that goes around the top of the bag and they DO NOT allow the frosting to come up out of the bag. They are available at Michaels, which is where I bought mine and I just love them. Try them, you’ll love ‘em!

  • 19
    Kristy - March 08, 2011 @ 9:53 am

    I LOVE my giant round tip :) You should totally buy one!! I do fun twists as well as cute blobbs topped with cute sprinkles :)


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — March 8th, 2011 @ 10:06 AM

      Where did you get the giant round tip? It looks like it’s only available sold in a set now on Bake it Pretty and I already have some of the others in a set.

  • 20
    Christina Reed - March 15, 2011 @ 12:17 pm

    Thank you for these useful decorating tips. I have always wanted to decorate pretty cupcakes. The way you explain things, I think I will be able to it. Thanks again.


  • 21
    Ann - May 17, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

    This is a great tip…the piping bags make it look so easy. And your cupcakes look AWESOME!


  • 22
    Emma - November 02, 2012 @ 5:28 am

    Best tip I found when starting was when piping on cupcakes keep the bag straight, I was always tempted to tilt it thinking I could see better. But it straight gives you much more control and keeps the swirl more even. Also don’t forget to get the air bubbles out from the bottom and the top! :)


Leave a Comment