wikiHow to Decorate Cupcakes

Four Methods:Your MaterialsAssembling Your Piping BagWith a Piping BagWithout a Piping Bag

The top of a cupcake is like a mini-canvas, ready for the artist in you to come play. Make some buttercream frosting, chill it a bit, and let's start decorating! Not into buttercream? That's alright -- royal icing, fondant, and ganache will work, too. Any way you want it, here's how.

Method 1
Your Materials

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    Invest in some nice decorating tips. If you want professional looking cupcakes, there's really no way around this. The four most common shapes (openings) are the large round tip, Open star (Wilton 1M), Closed star (Wilton 2D), and the French tip. Rose petal tips (Wilton 123) are useful, too.
    • You may also want a coupler to hold your tips in place, but it's not necessary. They'll stay in the bag if you do it right. However, having one lets you interchange several decorating tips without changing the bag.
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    Choose your piping bags. There are several varieties and all will get the job done. If you're thinking about seriously getting into cupcake decorating, go for the sturdy, reusable ones. If not, the disposable kind work just as well.[1]
    • Featherweight bags are reusable, made of flexible, coated polyester. They are strong, lightweight and dishwasher safe, in sizes from 8 in. to 18 in.
    • Disposable bags are made to use and toss—no fuss, no muss. Made of strong, flexible plastic, they're easy to handle. Available in 12, 24, 50 and 100 count boxes.
    • Parchment Triangles are also disposable, but you have to fold them into shape. They're made of vegetable parchment paper (grease resistant, too!) and they come in 12" and 15" sizes.
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    Stock your cupcake tool drawer. While piping bags and tips are enough, sometimes you want a little more variety. If you want to work with fondant or ganache, you'll need a few more materials.
    • A palette knife is handy for spreading and evening out pretty much any type of icing or frosting.
    • A spatula is especially useful for working with fondant.
    • A cooking grid almost goes without saying!

Method 2
Assembling Your Piping Bag

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    Place the nozzle inside the piping bag and snip the end of the bag off. Make sure the bag is cut far enough back that the end of the nozzle is clear of the piping bag. It needs to fit in the end, nice and snug and going nowhere.
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    Twist the end of the piping bag. The part near the tip, that is. This will prevent any of the frosting coming out until you are ready. Place the piping bag into a glass and fold the top of the bag over the edge of the glass.
    • Don't question it. Just do. This will make everything much, much easier.
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    Fill the piping bag with the frosting you prepared earlier. Using the glass will allow you to fill the piping bag without needing two pairs of hands. If you don't, frosting will inevitably get everywhere (a delicious problem, but a problem nonetheless).
    • Note: Don't overfill the bag! About halfway is sufficient. If you do, extra frosting may start coming out the wrong end.
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    Tie an elastic band on the end of the bag. This is just to make it easier --it stops all the frosting coming out of the top of the bag. You are now ready to start piping!
    • "Burp" the bag before you begin. That is, squeeze out some icing from the tip into a bowl -- you'll also get out the extra air that gets trapped in the end. If you don't, your first puff of icing will burst out like Ricky Martin in March of 2010.[2]

Method 3
With a Piping Bag

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    Make swirl top cupcakes. Place a 1M icing tip in a decorator's bag. Fill the bag with your desired icing. Holding the bag at a 90-degree angle to the top of the cupcake, pipe a swirl around the outside edge. Lift the tip and begin piping a second swirl inside the first swirl, lifting up in the center.
    • Be careful not to drag on the surface! When you hit the end of the line, lift up and quickly cease pressure on the bag. This will create a peak in the center. If you desire, add a dash of sprinkles to the top as a finishing touch.
    • The Wilton 2D will give you almost the same look but with a few more ridges and a little more jazz.
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    Use the same tip but go in reverse. And this time, go a bit slower. If you start in the center and slowly move in a spiral toward the outside, you'll create a rose shape.
    • Make sure not to move the angle of the tip; to get the rose shape, the lines need to stay uniform.
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    Make rosettes. There's one more method you can try with the 1M tip. Make little rosettes by making tiny swirls all over the cupcake. Start on the side and work your way to the center.
    • Draw a teeny circle with your tip very quickly. With the tip you're using, this should create a fancy rose-like shape. A normal-sized cupcake will have around 12 rosettes on the outside rim, to give you an idea.
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    Try out the round and French tips. Using the same method as described in the first step, start on the outside and work your way in, holding the bag at a 90-degree angle. Lift up a bit as you go -- this will give your cupcake volume and keep you from dragging on the surface.
    • The large round tip will a cute, classic, basic swirl. Especially adorable with sprinkles.
    • The French tip looks like a firework and the result is similar -- like a firework frozen in stop-motion.
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    Make a giant rose. If you have a Wilton 123, this'll be easy. First, make a bud in the center. Basically, put on a small glob of frosting. What you're going to do is make small arches all the way around this center -- like petals. The thin line of the 123 makes this simple. They should overlap a little bit and get bigger as you go out. This takes a bit of skill, so set aside a few cupcakes for trial and error that will wind up not so pretty.
    • Once you've covered the rose in petals, take your Wilton 123 and squeeze out a line of frosting all the way around. This covers the odds and ends of each petal, making the rose come to life.

Method 4
Without a Piping Bag

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    Ice cupcakes the traditional way. Place a spoonful of icing on the center of the cupcake. Use an icing spatula (or palette knife) to spread the icing around the top of the cupcake, out to the edges. Smooth the top with the spatula as desired.
    • For a smooth look, run the spatula edge across the top. For a fluffier look, lightly touch the iced surface with the spatula blade and lift up.
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    Pour ganache or candy melts over cupcakes. For a twist to your ordinary frosted cupcake, pour ganache, melted chocolate, or icing over the tops of your cupcakes. To do this, let the cupcakes cool completely. Begin pouring over the center of the cupcake. You can totally cover the cupcake or cover just the top and let the topping drip over the sides.
    • Set them on a cooling rack positioned over top a cookie sheet. The cookie sheet will catch any drippings. Let the cupcakes cool to allow the topping to set.
    • The same method can be used with warmed icing.
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    Create a smooth canvas with fondant. The bottom sides of cupcakes are easiest to cover with fondant. Use a spatula to spread a thin layer of buttercream frosting over the surface. Roll out the fondant to the desired size to cover the cupcake, keeping the thickness to about 18 inch (0.3 cm). Lay the fondant over the cupcake and smooth it out.
    • Cut off any excess frosting at the bottom. It's easiest to trim with a spatula. Use your hands to continue to smooth the surface of the fondant.
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    Invest in some cupcake add-ons. Now that cupcake baking is such a trend, you can find just about anything. You can find any image in the form of buttercream, fondant, gum paste, royal icing, or candy. Any. Just go online and take a look! (Grab your credit card.)[3][4]
    • Want to put a teeny sugary baby on top of your cupcake? No problem. How about a television? Can do. A harvest of cornstalks? Yep. Seriously. The cupcake world has accepted every challenge and delivered.


  • Royal icing takes color well and is effective for lettering or decorating from a decorator's bag. Stiff, medium, and thin consistencies of the icing are used for various decorations.
  • Buttercream offers a creamy taste and works well to be spread over a cupcake or squeezed on from a decorator's bag.
  • You can use the frosting or candies to create figures or decorations that are the finishing touch to your cupcakes.
  • Whipped icing, fluffy boiled icing, and stabilized whipped cream are great choices for stand-alone toppings for cupcakes.
  • Fondant can be used for smooth covering of surfaces and is formed like play-dough into figures and decorations.

Things You'll Need

  • Cupcakes
  • Icing
  • Decorator's bag
  • Icing tips
  • Sprinkles, decorations, other finishings
  • Spatula
  • Cookie sheet
  • Cooling grid
  • Fondant roller

Article Info

Categories: Cupcakes | Cake Decorating