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. Ohmygod, my cupcake obession (and I) would loooove this!

  2. I love your site… Thanks for the cupcake video

    Also I posted this on my blog ..

  3. Your Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcakes have been the most well-loved and the most frequently reproduced cupcakes I’ve ever made! You know, not to suck up or anything…

  4. loves it! my best friend and i are trying to build our own cupcake business at home. just a little side thing and just a great time to bond since she has 2 kids and hardly ever has time so when we meet its just like the middle school all over again. i love the icing kit, it’ll be a perfect activity for us to learn! :)

  5. Your cupcakes are beautiful!

  6. Ooh. What a sweet giveaway – I hope I win. :o) Me and my hubs love us some cupcakes, and I have been craving them my whole pregnancy.

  7. I’ve already baked cupcakes 3 times in the last four days… I think an intervention is in the works :/

  8. Would love to have a cupcake decor set like this to make cupcakes for upcoming bridal showers I am hosting!! So cute and of course delicious.

  9. I have been making special cupcakes for about a year now. My son is a college football player and on cupcake baking days a bunch of the players come over to judge the new batch. So far the favorite is a Cinnamon Toast cupcake followed ever so close by a Reese’s cupcake that has an actual Reese cup baked into the cc. I use a piping bag for frosting but I love your tips.

  10. I think i need this!!! :)

  11. I love your cupcake ideas! Makes me wish I could have some for every meal of the day! (but who says I can’t….?) :]

  12. Great post! Please enter me in the giveaway- I love making vegan cupcakes!

  13. Thanks for the advice. The tip I was using had too small an opening and I love that site

  14. Thanks for the tips! :)

  15. When in doubt, make “The Go-To Chocolate Cupcake”. Thanks for this give-a-way!

  16. Count me in! Great giveaway!

  17. Twittered the give a way…

  18. Thanks for the tips and the video. I love making cuppys and frosting.

  19. I stumbled across your blog after trying to figure out why my frosting was melting off of my cupcakes. (Turns out frosting doesn’t like it when you use olive oil instead of vegetable oil.) I’m so stoked to try out some of these yummy recipes (especially the chocolate chip cookie dough truffles that I’m making for our Super Bowl party!!)

    Love your site!

  20. Mmmm, cupcakes!

  21. Ready to take my cupcakes to the next level! Thanks for the fun giveaway!

  22. I’ve been thinking I should invest in some cupcake tools for Valentine’s Day, as cupcakes are definitely on that menu. This post was a fab resource! And what great response to the contest, eh? :) I never win anything, so I don’t expect to win this one, but….A girl can dream. And eat cupcakes. And lick her fingers, happily.

  23. I want to be able to make pretty cupcakes! yours always look fantastic!

  24. hi! I just made my version of your lovely black pearl cupcakes and it’s a keeper!

  25. I love making cupcakes and I have always wanted to master the art of icing them! This would be a great way for me to do that!

  26. Dang, these would put my grocery store cheap-o set to shame! Thanks for offering the giveaway!

  27. cool tips :]
    the kit would really come in handy..

  28. so yummmmmmm! about the cupcakes! about the giveaway! love it all and would love to have those tools for my cupcakes endeavors!!

  29. What a fun post! Though not much of a cupcake baker myself, I loved reading about your techniques and have a good friend that is also a cupcake-baker extraordinaire who I can’t wait to share this with! Thanks again!

  30. Beautiful post and I love cupcakes! and really who doesn’t?!

  31. I tweeted “Have ya’ll entered the @BakeItPretty giveaway over at @loveandoliveoil ? SUPER CUTE CUPCAKE KITS!” [itsbunny]

  32. I love this site and cupcakes are my favorite thing to bake! I’ve made a few of your recipes..they are great!!

  33. Love reading your blog and have tried out many of your recipes. This is the greatest giveaway ever! I would absolutely love to win this cupcake set!

  34. I’d LOVE to have this set!! My 9 year old daughter is obsessed with cupcakes!!
    Oh the fun we could have!!

  35. Just found your blog & can already tell I’m going to love it! I love cupcakes & particularly this giveaway as I love BakeItPretty! Hope to win!

  36. I want I want! i love bake it pretty!!!

  37. Pick me, Pick me!

  38. I just posted about getting a new cupcake cookbook on my blog! I need the tools!

  39. Oh I’d love to win that set! I’m in need of some serious frosting guidance!!

    Tweeted too!

  40. Oh I’d love to win that set! I’m in need of some serious frosting guidance!!

  41. I love your site, and was referring back here for a recipe when I saw this right away. I am so excited about it because I am making cupcakes for my brothers wedding next weekend, and the posted swirl is exactly what I’ve been asked to do. Thank you for reading my mind! :)

  42. I’d have to say that cupcakes are really my favorite. Although I love a great cookie now and then and have in the past been obsessed with finding the PERFECT choco chip cookie recipe, cupcakes are a winner every single time. The taste, plus the perfect frosting=heaven. :)

  43. oh my gosh I have a friend who would love this for her birthday. even if I don’t win it is definitely going on my “presents to get” list.

  44. I found your wonderful site by searching for a chai latte recipe!! Everything looks wonderful. I would LOVE to win this. I have quite a few tips but no stores near me (small rural town!) carry any jumbo tips!! And to get four at once?! That would be amazing!! Great giveaway and I hope to win!!

  45. Yummy! I could watch that video for HOURS!

  46. I love making cupcakes and the tips you posted are very helpful, thank you for the great giveaway!

  47. Love your site!

  48. Your cupcakes look sooooooo yummy!!!!!! I love decorating cakes and cupcakes but don’t have the tools and just end up spreading icing or attemping the zip lock bag as an icing bag, so this give a way is a great idea and would be perfect! And it would be used all the time!!!

  49. Oh I hope I hope I hope you pick me! I’m doing a wedding this summer and I need a good bag and tips so desperately!

    Thanks for all that you do! I love your creativity and inspiration! Keep sharing your passion.

  50. Hi, I also tweeted


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