Cupcake Frosting Tips, Tools and Ideas

Have you ever looked with great envy at the wonderful array of cupcakes with frostings or icings displayed in a shop window or marvelled at the ones brought to a local fund-raising event by your friends?

The wondrous swirls, decorations and artful design or icing and frosting makes the cupcakes so attractive, that its almost a shame to eat them.

Have you ever wondered how this is done, and whether you could learn to do it.

Well, the good news is that its not so hard to do, provided you have some simple pieces of equipment that you can buy anywhere.

This article provides list of equipment and lots of great tips and ideals for adding icing and frosting to cupcakes that will be the envy of your friends.

By the way, in Australia, there is a tradition of making lamingtons (squares of cake, covered with chocolate icing and sprinkled with coconut for school fund-raising events.

Just for fun we used to cut out a piece of foam rubber the same size and color of the cake and ice it. Lots of fun!

You can learn to ice cupcakes yourself with some simple equipment and the tips offered in this article.
You can learn to ice cupcakes yourself with some simple equipment and the tips offered in this article. Source: Public Domain
Source: Public Domain
Source: Public Domain

Essential Equipment for Icing Cup Cakes

Piping bags - Choose a larger size piping bag (16 inch; 40 cm) for icing cupcakes. You can control the flow of icing better as it won't be as close to the opening of the bag. Also you won't have to top up the bag as often - but avoid overfilling the bag as it will run down the sides, making it very hard to clean. The reusable fabric bags are better than the plastic ones because they are easier to grip when piping and more environmentally friendly. It is a good idea to have two or three bags for various colors. Have one bag, which has a large opening for the jumbo tips, and another one with a small opening and smaller tips for more delicate finishing touches and decorations. It is handy to have separate bags when you are using two or more colors.

Icings and Frosting - Use your favorite butter cream soft frosting recipe or one made with cream cheese and various other options. Remember that decorating cupcakes requires a large amount of icing or frosting - especially if you add flamboyant large swirls. Mix the icing normally, but at the end mix it using the lowest speed possible for about 5-8 minutes. This helps to eliminate air bubbles that may be in the icing, producing with super smooth icing that does not have the craters caused by bubbles and ensures you have a professional finish.

Piping bag tips - Having the correct set of tips is the key to success. Don't try to use small tips as only large and jumbo tips are suitable for applying most of the icing or frosting. Use smaller tips for decorations and finishing touches. Experiment with the various shapes to see which one you like best. One good all-rounder is the Closed Star Tip, but many others are suitable.

Spatula - Choose a good quality one with a size that is suitable for loading the piping bags.

Flower veiner (moulds) - You will need these moulds if you want to make lovely petals, blossoms, flowers and buds out of gumpaste, fondant or marzipan. The modern silicone types are fabulous. For larger flowers try using a Blossom set and for smaller buds try the Five Petal Press set.

Cupcake wrappers - You can get fabulous cupcake wrappers with attractive patterns available at various bakery supplies outlets. They certainly add a touch of class to your cupcakes.

Sprinkles and Decorations - Add delightful decorations to the top of your icing swirls. There are many varieties, colors and shapes. Various other types are available such as sanding sugars, coarse sugars, quins, sugar pearls and nonpareils. You can also use tiny pieces of dried fruit.

Food coloring - This is a must for adding the colors you want. Various natural types are available if you are concerned about the artificial colors and flavours.

Cupcake scoop - These scoops may be hard to find, but they make the job of baking large numbers of cup cakes so much easier. The scoop provides the perfect size portion for each size of cupcake to fit the wrappers. You need standard sized cupcakes that fill the wrappers to a standard depth to make icing them easier.

Fondant toppers - Using fondant you can mould or cut a whole range of shapes to add to the top of the iced cup cakes.

Non-edible toppers - You can add various tiny toys and decorations that are not edible. But you need to be careful who is going to eat the cupcakes as young children may try to eat them. Try your local craft or kitchenware stores for lots of cute ideas. 

Top Tips for Icing Cup Cakes

Filling the Piping Bag

Once you fit your bag with a tip your will need to add the icing or frosting. This sounds so simple, but lots can go wrong. To fill the bag easily with no mess, roll the sides of the bag right down as far as it will go. Cup the bag in your hand or place bag with the tip facing downwards in a drinking glass with the bag gangling over the sides. Carefully spoon the frosting into the bag pressing down as you go and extending the sides. You want to pack the frosting down as you go to eliminate any air bubbles. Slowly extend the edges of the bag up you go. Only fill with what you need and don’t extend beyond two thirds full as this will make the pipping much more difficult to maintain the right pressure. Twist the top of the bag around to close it.

Choosing Tips for Icing Cupcakes

One big mistake many people make is to try to use small fancy tips. Forget this – the tips you need are large or jumbo size tips, which are generally much larger than many standard piping tips. The other mistake that people make is to try to use too many tips. You can do just about everything with just four tips

If you are going use using one color or flavour with one pipping tip you can just slip into the bag. If you want to use multiple tips you can use giant couplers, but they are messy and hard to use. Bags are cheap and you will find it much easier

Piping Technique for Large Extra Large Tips

It takes a little practice but the instructions below will give you the basic principles.

Fill the bag fitted with the tip you want. To start, position the piping tip about 1/4 inch (6 mm ) above your cupcake at an angle of about 90 degrees (horizontal) and lined up with the outer edge. Squeezing gently and consistently, start ejecting icing to form a spiral, starting at the outer edge and moving upwards and inwards to form an inverted cone shape. When you get to the top release the pressure and quickly pull the tip straight up and away. It is important to release pressure on the bag well before you lift up, otherwise you will end up with little peaks that topple over like the seven dwarf hats. If you release the pressure and then gently lift up you won’t leave a peak.

That’s all it takes and with a little practice you will be make perfect spirals.

You can alter the height of your icing spirals depending on the look you are after. You can vary the pressure to change the thickness of the icing as it protrudes and so vary the height.

French Tip Technique

Instead of swirling around to add icing, you can just hold the tip steady above the center of the cupcake and squeeze out a dollop of icing. This works well with mini-cupcakes or with jumbo tips on larger cupcakes.

Cupcake Swirls Starting from the Center

You can get a different effect if you start the swirl from the center and build the spiral moving outwards instead of the edge. You can produce various patterns depending on the angle the piping bag and tip is held. The shape also depends on the pressure applied and how fast you move. It does take a little practice to be consistent.

If you end up with uneven swirls a cherry of some other decoration and it will look like that is what you intended all along.

Practice makes Perfect!