Hi friends! Today I'm doing something a little different. I'm going to show you a few of my favorite piping techniques for cupcakes. I even made a fun video tutorial, and if you're an email subscriber then you'll need to click here to view it. If you're visiting the blog, then you can just scroll down to the embedded video.
These techniques are perfect for beginners because they are so forgiving. How forgiving? Well, in the video my frosting begins to soften considerably under the studio lighting, but even then things turn out beautifully! If you're a seasoned decorator you'll probably already know these techniques, so be aware this video is geared more toward novice decorators.
Beginners will need a few supplies to get started. First, good thick buttercream frosting. You'll find my two favorite frosting recipes at the end of this post. You'll also need the decorator piping tips featured in the video so I've linked them below. Piping bags are a must! Reusable or disposable - your choice, because either will work.
In the video you may notice that I don't use couplers, and instead I just drop the piping tips into the bags, score the end of the bag and get straight to piping. I honestly feel the couplers are not necessary when using larger tips, but I do use them for smaller tips and when I need to quickly switch out a plain tip for a star tip.
My favorite decorator piping tips!
Ateco Pastry Tube Star Size 8 - This is the first tip demonstrated in the video. It may be my very favorite piping tip of all because you can make the perfect soft serve ice cream swirl on top of a cupcake. If you've never ventured into piping, then this is a good one to consider buying first. I also demonstrate a single swirl with this tip, and you may remember it from these lucky vanilla cupcakes.
Wilton Petal Decorating Tip 125 - This is the second tip demonstrated in the video. It's a petal tip, which certainly makes pretty individual petals, but I love using it for piping a simple rose in one continuous icing spiral. This technique takes a little dexterity, so it's a good idea to set aside one or two practice cupcakes.
Wilton Decorating Petal Icing Tip #104 - or, ruffle tip. This is the third tip demonstrated in the video, and you can see that it's just a little smaller than the previous petal tip. In my opinion, it's the best size petal tip for ruffling cupcakes. When I first tried this technique I felt like I was making a real mess of things - starting and stopping rows, accidentally smearing a few ruffles with the piping tip - but when I finished, the cupcake looked picture-perfect. So remember, if you get halfway through ruffling and things are feeling a bit chaotic, keep at it and judge the end result. This petal tip can also make daisies, like the ones on these cupcakes I made for the Etsy blog last year.
Ateco Pastry Tube Plain 808 - Icing mounds are the easiest of the easy-to-make. Honestly, you don't really even have to use a piping tip to achieve the effect. You could just use a zip-top bag with the corner snipped. That said, I really like this size piping tip to make a nice fat, even heap of frosting on top of cupcakes. It's the tip I use for these champagne cupcakes, too.
Ateco Closed Star Pastry Tube 847 and 843 - I love to use these two piping tips together, as you can see demonstrated on the last cupcake in the video. The smaller one is used to make little stars around the edge of the cupcake and the larger tip makes a nice big swirl in the middle. It looks best when contrasting colors are used, like these bonbon cupcakes I made for Valentine's day.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
[click for printable version]
Source: adapted from the SprinkleBakes book
Small batch (will generously frost 12-15 cupcakes)
6 egg whites
1 cup/200g sugar
Pinch of salt
1 pound unsalted butter, cubed, softened (room temperature works too, but takes longer to come together)
3 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
Large batch (will generously frost 24-30 cupcakes)
12 egg whites
2 1/2 cups/500g sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 lbs. unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp clear vanilla extract
- Set a saucepan filled one-third full of water over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer.
- Whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and salt in a large heatproof bowl ( I suggest a stainless bowl). Set over the simmering water and whisk until the mixture is hot to the touch and the sugar has dissolved (120-140 degrees on a candy thermometer, to be sure).
- Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Beat on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase to medium-high until stiff peaks are formed.
- Continue beating at medium-high speed until the mixture is fluffy and has cooled (the mixing bowl should feel cool to the touch).
- Turn the mixer off and switch from the whisk attachment to the paddle. Turn the mixer on medium-low and add the butter, a few cubes at a time, beating until well incorporated before the next addition.
- Add the vanilla extract. Divide batter and tint with food coloring, if desired.
- Beat until the frosting is thick and completely smooth.
- Store in an airtight container until ready for use.
American Buttercream Frosting
Source: SprinkleBakes book
Yield: about 3 cups, enough to generously frost 12-15 cupcakes
1 cup/226g unsalted butter, softened
2 ½-3 cups/320 to 384g confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Milk or heavy cream, optional
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the butter and confectioners sugar. Begin on low speed until crumbly, and then increase to high and beat for 3 minutes.
- Add vanilla extract and beat again for another minute. If you find the buttercream is too stiff, you may add milk or heavy cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is spreading consistency.