Love and Olive Oil

Cupcake Tips & Tools

I often get asked how I decorate my cupcakes. So I figured a post dedicated to the ‘how’ of it all was in order. However, to be honest, I don’t think it is something that can be taught. It’s a matter of practice. Get yourself a plate or silicone mat, and a vat of buttercream, and go at it. Fill your piping bag with frosting, and create swirl after swirl on the plate. When it’s full, simply scrape off the buttercream, refill your bag, and repeat. I’m serious here. You need to figure out for yourself what is comfortable as far as holding the piping bag, and become familiar with the proper pressure and motion you need to use to create that perfect buttercream swirl.

As with many things, the right tools make all the difference. You’re not going to be able to achieve a big and beautiful swirl if your piping tip is too small. No practice can help that.

The Tools for Decorating Cupcakes

A few of my favorite and most useful tools (clockwise from left):

1. Piping bag. I have a few different piping bags, but I use this 14″ professional pastry bag more than any other. It’s just the right size for frosting a dozen cupcakes, and the poly canvas is a great texture to work with (that gets softer each and every time you use it). I have two, one with a larger opening for the jumbo tips, and one with a smaller opening for more dainty decorations. You can choose to use a coupler if you like (keep in mind the jumbo tips require jumbo couplers), though for the larger tips I find it unnecessary and just more to wash (and possibly lose).

2. Piping tips. The right tip makes all the difference. These jumbo tips are perfect for cupcakes. Play around with different shapes and find the one you like best. I personally love the Closed Star Tip, demonstrated below, which I use for just about all of my cupcakes. The large round is also a favorite, especially for mini cupcakes.

3. Spatula. If I could only have one spatula for the rest of my life, this would be it. It’s a half-sized spatula from Le Creuset. The perfect size to make loading your piping bag a breeze. Not to mention it’s turquoise, and that makes me happy.

4. Flower veiner. If you want to make perfect blossoms out of fondant, gumpaste, or marzipan (as seen here or here), these silicone molds are amazing. For larger flowers, I use this Blossom set (pictured – which includes a flower cutter as well), or for smaller buds this Five Petal Press set.

5. Cupcake wrappers. Be warned. Once you see all the adorable cupcake wrappers available at Bake it Pretty, you’ll need to dedicate and entire drawer to them. It’s an obsession I tell you.

6. Sprinkles. Because sprinkles make everything better. There are lots of sprinkles available at Bake it Pretty, including the White Pearlized Jimmies pictured above.

7. Food coloring. Want pretty buttercream? These Americolor gel food colorings will give you beautifully bold colors with just a drop or two.

8. Cupcake scoop. Maybe the best $15 you’ll ever spend. This large scoop from Pampered Chef doles out the perfect (and I mean PERFECT) portion for a standard size cupcake. No more overfilled cups. Also check out the small scoop, which, coincidentally, is the perfect size for mini cupcakes.

Jumbo Closed Star Tip for Frosting Cupcakes

The Closed Star Tip, my personal favorite for frosting cupcakes. I know a lot of the pros use the jumbo round tips, but for the life of me I can never seem to get a round tip to produce anything short of a pile of poop. Sorry, but it’s true. For that reason I stick to my star tip.

How To Frosting Buttercream Cupcake Swirls

Beyond getting ahold of the right tools, you’re on your own. As I mentioned above, practice really does make (almost) perfect. But, to get you started, I thought actually seeing a swirl or two couldn’t hurt. Keep in mind I am self-trained here. This is the technique I picked up after frosting dozens and dozens of cupcakes. You may find your swirls look better when piped differently. You’ll get different results if you start the swirl in the center (more of a rose like effect rather than a towering swirl) instead of the edge. You’ll see different patterns depending on the angle at which you hold the piping bag, the pressure you put on it, and the speed at which you move. So many variables I can’t even begin to describe. Again, it’s just a matter of practicing. It’s not like having dozens of ugly practice cupcakes sitting around is a bad thing, either. :)

My swirls are far from perfect. They are often uneven, too tall, or lopsided. I haven’t yet mastered the ‘end’ or ‘tip’ of the swirl, getting that perfect point to top it all off. As it stands, these cupcakes need a topper like a flower or cherry to disguise the rough break in the buttercream. This has a lot to do with the consistency of the buttercream—meringue buttercreams will usually give you nicer ends than American buttercream. Always a work in progress!

Jumbo Piping Tips for Cupcake Decorating

And now that we’ve discussed tools and techniques, it’s time for a giveaway! As you’ve probably noticed if you clicked any of the links above, I am a huge fan of Bake it Pretty. It’s a bakers paradise, with just about everything you need to make gorgeous cupcakes, candies, and more. Lucky for you folks, Amanda has generously donated one of her very popular Best Ever Cupcake Icing Kits (so popular in fact, that they sold out before I had a chance to write this post prior to Christmas – I’ve been waiting patiently since then for the kits to be restocked). Each kit includes a 14″ professional pastry bag, four jumbo piping tips perfect for buttercream swirls of all shapes and sizes, as well as a tips & instructions card to help you get started.

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  1. I <3 bake it pretty!!!

  2. I love it! I am doing ok on the taste side of baking, but I need some help “baking pretty”!!

  3. A girl can never have too many pastry bags in her arsenal.

  4. This is an amazing starter kit and or prize. The funny thing is that i was just on the phone yesterday with my mom saying that i need to buy bigger tips for my cupcakes. Good luck to all. Now i will tweet abou this. haha

  5. I don’t make cupcakes but my daughter does.
    She would love this.

  6. Cupcakes are my favorite things to bake! I’ve been too scared to try anything fancy in the decorating department but this post makes me want to give it a shot!

  7. Retweeted your original post here:

  8. Love that kit! I’ve been eying it for a while!

  9. I have an unhealthy cupcake making obsession and I would love to win this! Thanks for the chance :)

  10. yum! I love the video!

  11. Oooo pick me!!


  12. I have cupcakes on tap to bake this week! Love, love, LOVE Bake It Pretty! What a great giveaway!

  13. Great, great blog! =)

  14. Love your blog. Have used many of your recipes and tips. Stumbled across your blog when I was searching for gluton free recipes and I’m so glad I did. I love all of your cupcake ideas!!!

  15. i heart cupcakes. for real.

  16. Thanks so much for your thorough posting on decorating- I’ll have to get to practicing on my buttercream piping now!

  17. I need this so bad! I too have created numerous piles of frosting poop!

  18. I love cupcakes and have been meaning to buy some proper decorating equipment. Thanks for the recommendations!

  19. I want, I want!

  20. i used to work at a bakery during high school and whenever i got the chance to decorate cupcakes, i was raring to go. however, that didn’t get to happen often since i was more in charge of setting up and baking rolls, bread, etc. i’ve recently been getting back into decorating and such, and this would be a huge help. ziploc bags with holes cut in the corner just aren’t cutting it!



  21. How did I not know about Bake it Pretty?! I’m now completely addicted!

    Your Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes are a big hit at my house! Thanks for the giveaway!!!

  22. This would be a blessing to me, I am just starting to begin my journey into my cupcake biz and I so have a need for all these important tools. U can never know how this would help me since this bad ecomics times have hit my family as well as so many others.
    Thanks so much,

  23. I would love to win the giveaway. An icing bag & tips is something that I do not own yet.

  24. great giveaway! i’d love to improve my frosting skills

  25. I would love to win this!

    I think I will go tweet this for a second chance :)

  26. Thanks for the giveaway!

  27. Looks yummy! :D

  28. This is the first ever food blog I discovered, and visit every day. =o] I’m new to the world of baking, and cupcakes are my favorite to make!

  29. love cupcakes….. love giveaways…. love your blog!

  30. Thank you, Lindsay!

  31. I love your blog! And I love cupcakes! I make them as often as I can, and the icing kit would be the perfect addition to my toolbox.

  32. Great tips! Cupcakes are tough until you find what method works for you. I’m definitely going to order those tips.

  33. I cannot wait to make these for Valentine’s Day!

  34. I love your blog; you always make the prettiest cupcakes. :)

  35. frankly, i had no idea so many utensils were designed for cupcake decorating. i’m amazed and intrigued. :)

  36. Lovely blog! Great ideas. XO

  37. Wow thank you for the tools and tips. Must practice just like you said.

  38. Retweeted. (@1rockstarmommy)

  39. Wow, what an awesome giveaway! And a great video. I can’t resist anything cupcake.

  40. Wow… so many takers for the kit. Count me in as well. Love ur cupcakes and thanks esp. for the video.

  41. I am still a sweets novice and this would be a big help for sure!

  42. So happy to see the success that you are having and sharing it with all of us. By the way I remade your Blackberry Almond cupcakes and they didn’t sink and they were scrumptious. Thanks for your help and blog. Wow, love Bake It Pretty, thanks for sharing!

  43. I will love too win. Its a great giveaway :-) Thanks for sharing your tips about cupcakes :-)

  44. thanks for your helpful tips!

  45. Thank you so much for all of the wonderful information. I am just getting into the lovely world of cupcakes. It gives me a sense of pride to make something so adorable that is edible and fun to look at. I like to make people ooh and aww : )

    I’m rootin’ for this frosting kit! *wishing, wishing, wishing to not use ziplocks anymore*

    I mentioned this giveaway on my blog here:

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