How to ice cupcakes

Icing cupcakes is easy once you know how...
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  • Learn how to ice cupcakes with our easy-to-follow guide. From simple buttercream flowers to professional-looking piping, these decorating techniques will beautify your baking.

    Whether you want a swirl, an ice cream-style finish, or fancy flower frosting, find out everything you need to know about icing cupcakes to perfection with our guide.

    Before you make an icing you’ll want a failsafe cupcake recipe. This will give you the perfect sponge base on which to decorate. You could also cheat and use shopbought undecorated cupcakes if you need to save time.

    Consider what type of icing you’d like to use. For example, our classic buttercream recipe is a versatile choice as it can be paired with a variety of different flavoured cakes such as chocolate cupcakes or lemon cupcakes. Or opt for something a little less sweet like cream cheese frosting, which is perfect for spreading onto cupcakes with a palette knife.

    Of course, there are plenty of other ways to decorate cupcakes too – not just with piped icing. If you love chocolate, we’d recommend a ganache glaze on your cupcakes, or how about learning how to make royal icing and top your cakes with disks of fondant instead.

    In this feature, we look at the following piping techniques as well as how to make the icing for cupcakes and what equipment is needed too:

    How to ice cupcakes with a piping bag
    How to pipe a plain swirl
    How to pipe ruffle icing
    How to pipe an ice cream swirl
    How to pipe cupcake roses
    How to pipe buttercream flowers
    How to ice cupcakes without a piping bag
    How to ice cupcakes with a knife

    How to ice cupcakes with a piping bag

    The following video shows how to pipe a plain swirl, how to pipe ruffle icing, and how to pipe an ice cream swirl. There are also step-by-step guides below for your reference.

    How to pipe a plain swirl

    1. Using a plain piping tip, twist the icing bag and grip between your thumb and index finger. Place the other hand at the bottom of the bag and use this to guide the tip.
    2. Applying gentle pressure with your hand at the top of the bag, start at the outside edge piping round the edge of the paper in a spiral towards the centre, pushing the tip into the icing as you pipe.
    3. When you reach the top, pull up quickly to finish the swirl.
    4. Decorate with sprinkles or sugar flowers.

    How to pipe ruffle icing

    1. Using a flower piping tip, twist the icing bag and grip between your thumb and index finger. Place the other hand at the bottom of the bag and use this to guide the tip.
    2. Begin piping in the center of the cupcakes. Lift upwards slowly so the ruffles fall on top of each other, then gently pull away.
    3. Decorate with sprinkles or sugar flowers.

    How to pipe an ice cream swirl

    1. Using a scalloped piping tip, twist the icing bag and grip it between your thumb and index finger. Place the other hand at the bottom of the bag and use this to guide the tip.
    2. Applying gentle pressure with your hand at the top of the bag, pipe a star shape in the center of the cupcake.
    3. Now, pipe round the star keeping an even pressure as you squeeze. Keep piping in a spiral until the star is completely covered. When you reach the end push down slightly and pull up quickly to finish.
    4. Decorate with sprinkles or sugar flowers.

    How to pipe cupcake roses

    easter cupcakes: cupcake bouquet

    1. Using a flower tip, twist the icing bag and grip it between your thumb and index finger. Place the other hand at the bottom of the bag and use this to guide the tip.
    2. Starting in the middle, let the icing fall onto the cake. After that, pipe over this icing in a spiral action, over piping what you already piped by about a millimeter or two. When you reach the end of your swirl and you have covered the cake release and gently pull.
    3. Sometimes the join is quite neat; however, if it isn’t you can use a sugar flower or leaf to cover it.

    How to pipe buttercream flowers

    Pretty as a picture, buttercream flowers can look stunning on cupcakes. It’s possible to pipe buttercream flowers in a range of flower shapes. The easiest is using a drop flower nozzle to create simple flowers.

    When piping buttercream flowers make sure you don’t overfill the bag as it makes it harder to control the nozzle. Make sure you wipe the nozzle regularly for a clean finish, and always start piping from the 12 o’clock position then moving the cake around anti-clockwise (rather than moving your hand clockwise).

    Once you’ve mastered these, there are other gorgeous flower shapes to recreate, just like our sunflowers cupcakes, which demonstrates how you can easily turn cupcakes into flowers using icing.

    How to ice cupcakes without a piping bag

    If you don’t have a piping bag and don’t want to make one you can spread icing on using a spoon or knife. Simply place a small amount in the center of the cupcakes and then use the back of the spoon to push it roughly to the edges. You could then dip this into a bowl of sprinkles.

    How to ice cupcakes with a knife

      1. Beat the icing until you have a soft spreadable consistency.
      2. Put a blob in the center of your cake and pat down to get a smooth cone shape, ensuring the icing reaches the edge of the cake.
      3. Push the pallet knife into the icing on the top and turn the cake to create a crater. Then turn the cake in the opposite direction and flick up.
      4. Decorate with sprinkles or sugar flowers.

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