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Kitchen Tip: Cupcake Piping Tricks

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

cream of roasted garlic and cauliflower soup
Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower Soup
strawberry and lemon scone
Strawberry Scones with Meyer Lemon


Friday 2nd of November 2012

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! :)


Tuesday 17th of May 2011

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

Christina Reed

Tuesday 15th of March 2011

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.


Tuesday 8th of March 2011

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


Tuesday 8th of March 2011

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.

Nienke at Revel

Thursday 17th of February 2011

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

Saturday 20th of April 2013

Hi, 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! Katie