Frosting Cupcakes (WFMW)

When it comes to baking, one of the best compliments I receive is when I walk in with my hands full of baked goods and someone asks me what bakery I stopped at on the way.  I am always happy to tell them that I did, in fact, bake everything from scratch. I usually get a somewhat puzzled look, since it seems fewer and fewer people these days actually do their own baking.  I think that may be due partially to lack of time, but I think it is also due in part to the fact that people aren’t confident in their ability to pull off a batch of beautiful cupcakes or cookies.

So, for this week’s Works For Me Wednesday post, I thought I’d share my secret to perfect, professional-looking frosting for cupcakes. I’m always amazed how many people think that because a pastry bag is involved, it must be very difficult to get that pretty swirl of frosting on top of a cupcake.  Here’s the thing… I actually think it’s MUCH easier to ice cupcakes with a pastry bag than with a spatula or a knife.  The fact that they look like you bought them somewhere is just an added bonus!



For my cupcake frosting method, you’ll need a few simple tools…  Don’t worry, they won’t break the bank. You can find everything at a local craft store!

  • Pastry Bag – Either a cloth pastry bag or a disposable one will work.  You can typically buy a large box of disposable bags at a craft store to keep on hand (and keep your eye out for the 40% off coupons that many craft stores include in the Sunday paper for an even better deal!).
  • Star Tip – When frosting cupcakes, I typically use an Ateco 827 tip, but any star tip will do. I believe the Wilton 8B tip is a similar size, but has additional ridges on it… That one is probably easier to find at a local store.

The Method…

Once you have the necessities, frosting cupcakes is quite simple. All you need to do is fit the pastry bag with the star tip.  Then, use a rubber spatula (I find those spoon-spatula combos work quite well for scooping the icing) to fill the pastry bag with frosting.  To stabilize the pastry bag while filling it, you can try setting it inside a large plastic cup. Only fill the pastry bag about half full and then gently push the icing down into the bag and twist the top shut.

For each cupcake, simple make a swirl of frosting with the pastry bag… no sweat!

  • Keeping the tip relatively close to the top of the cupcake, begin piping out the frosting by squeezing the bag from the top while using your other hand to stabilize the bag (this is kind of like toothpaste… though, I am notorious for squeezing toothpaste from the middle). The bag should be straight up and down.
  • Draw a circle of icing around the outside of the cupcake, moving your hands in a circle while keeping the tip close to the cupcake and the bag straight up and down.
  • Once you have iced the outside of the cupcake, continue the swirl to the inside of the circle, filling in the middle of the cupake.
  • Just as you finish the swirl of icing, push down slightly on the pastry bag in the middle of the cupcake. Then, as you stop squeezing the pastry bag, gently pull the pastry bag directly upwards from the cupcake.

Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it? The more you practice, the easier it will get. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to frost a couple dozen cupcakes in just a few minutes.  Plus, all of your friends and relatives will start to wonder where you bought those beautiful cupcakes!


Need a few recipes for cupcakes and frosting to get you started? Here are a few from my archives…

26 Responses to Frosting Cupcakes (WFMW)

  1. I love this post! I always struggle with frosting cupcakes. Lately I’ve started using my pastry bag and they’ve been better but not great. I think my star tip is too small. seriously, it’s tiny. I have my mom’s old wilton pastry bag from who knows how long ago and it’s missing half the tips. Probably something I should invest in for the future :)

  2. I was wondering; is the Wilton 8B tip only available online? The biggest one I found (and bought) at the store was the 1M, and I’ve been wondering why my swirls aren’t as big as everyone else’s. :-)

  3. Megan – Yes, a bigger star tip will definitely help! You can find the tips on Amazon fairly inexpensively.

    Tracy – Honestly, I’m not sure. I know some of my local craft stores sell Wilton tips, but I don’t know the specific ones. I prefer Ateco over Wilton, so I have purchased some of those along with their pastry bags online (and sometimes they carry them at Williams-Sonoma, too).

  4. You probably already know how I feel about this! *Squee*
    So much prettier to frost a cupcake this way, than shmearing on frosting with a knife. Faster, too! Perfect!

  5. Thnak you Jen for that demonstration! I have always been scared of piping But you make it look so simple! I will have to try it! :)

  6. I am totally with you on baking – taking a bit of time to surprise and delight others with fun food makes me happy. I do it for my kids as a surprise or cook with them and have a ball – they think I can do anything…lol – Let’s see what they are thinking in a few years! I amy not want to know!
    Beautiful photos as usual!!

  7. Great tips Jen. I think people are so intimidated by baking being a science. But I think it’s actually easier than cooking once you have a little practice.

  8. I made all of my kids birthday cakes and cupcakes; no one could believe it. Amazing what a couple of frosting tips and pastry bags can do to make something go from mundane to beautiful.

    I am now glad to announce my daughter is on her way. I did help get her addicted…I mean started. She made a cake two years ago for a dessert contest for employees of Nieman Marcus; everyone accused her of buying it from Whole Foods…now that’s a time when Mom’s blog is nice…to pull up and show them the recipe AND pics!

    Nice job…made it simple to see and understand; think I’ll now give your blog address to Lauren for additional tutorials.

  9. Great tutorial! I started using this method last year and it was such a “duh” moment for me. Wow, I can have nice looking cupcakes that are easier to frost! Why didn’t I try this sooner? Although, I am notorious for over-filling my pastry bag and squeezing the frosting out of the top. Oh well, at least it’s a yummy mess!

  10. Great information! I actually was just looking for a recipe for simple buttercream frosting, but this was excellent for frosting strategies! Thanks!

  11. Awesome!

    I love making cupcakes. They are my specialty when my kids are celebrating their birthday. Thanks for the specifics on the icing tip you used. I love the size of the swirls!

    Sharing a link to this with my Facebook readers!