One topic that I often receive questions on, is how to frost cupcakes. I’ve been wanting to post on this topic for some time, but wanted to do a nice complete post, something that would be a nice reference for you to come back to. I hope this post will be a good resource for you. I remember when I first started decorating cupcakes I too was very interested in (and intimidated by) creating a beautiful swirl on cupcakes. After doing it only a few time I found that filling a piping bag and adding a nice swirl of frosting on cupcakes is actually much easier and quicker than spreading frosting!
A few tips to get you started…
In order for the frosting to have enough body (be thick enough) to hold up, you need a good frosting to start with. Make sure not to add to much liquid, or allow your ingredients to be too warm. I would not recommend using canned (pre-made) frosting to pipe on cupcakes, it’s usually not firm enough to hold up. I have heard of people adding powdered sugar to canned frosting to thicken it… but if you are going to do that, it’s just as easy to make it yourself.
I’ve posted recipes for American Buttercream, and Cream Cheese Frosting, the two frostings I use most of the time. Swiss Meringue Buttercream (explained beautifully by Rosie of Sweetapolita) also makes a beautiful frosting for piping.
(Left to Right) Large round tip, Open star (Wilton 1M), Closed star (Wilton 2D), French tip
To frost cupcakes, you’ll want to use a large (sometimes called jumbo) decorating tip. The four most common shapes (openings) are shown above. The Wilton 1M and 2D are often available at craft stores, the others you may have to buy on-line. I like to use a coupler to hold my tips in place, for these large tips you’ll need a large coupler as well. Large tips can also be used without a coupler, by simply setting the tip inside the bag, then filling with frosting.
And for a grand finale… my first ever video! Simple and to the point, but I think it’s sometimes helpful to just see something done from start to finish. Enjoy!
P.S. No, my counters are not dirty, yes the grout is brown… that is the color of the grout. My kitchen (and counters) are original to my house, which was built in 1958. They’re old.
Have fun experimenting with different tips and frostings. Use concentrated gel coloring to color your frosting (like Americolor or Wilton). Add some sprinkles, and you’ve got a beautiful and delicious treat!
Several other posts you may find helpful as you learn to make beautiful cupcakes…
How to Bake Cupcakes (tips to help you bake beautiful and delicious cupcakes)
Cupcake Liners (answers to common questions, and my favorite liners)
Often the most beloved element of a cupcake is the frosting. A good frosting can elevate a simple cupcake to a delicious, rich dessert. Classic American buttercream is surprisingly easy to make, and can be adjusted to your personal preferences using added flavorings, and adjusting the ratio of the ingredients. American buttercream is simply a combination of butter, powdered sugar, vanilla (or other flavoring), and usually a bit of milk or cream- that’s pretty much it! The frosting I love to use the most often is my Cream Cheese Frosting, which is simply a variation on American Buttercream, with some cream cheese added. Free free to play with this recipe and adjust it to your palate. This is a very sweet, classic frosting that pairs well with most any flavor of cupcake.
American Buttercream Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (salted, or unsalted)
1/4 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (best quality available)
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream, half and half or milk.
*Optional- As mentioned above, I like a cream cheese version of this frosting best. The cream cheese adds to the creamy texture, and cuts down on the sweetness just a bit. If desired, for a very light cream cheese flavor add 1/2 block (4 oz). cream cheese, leaving the other ingredients (as listed above) the same. For a more traditional cream cheese flavor, reduce the butter to 1/2 cup, and add 1 block (8 oz.) of cream cheese. If using a full block of cream cheese, you can reduce the cream or milk to 1 tablespoon total.
Flavoring options- An almost unlimited number of flavoring options can be added in addition to, or instead of the vanilla. Orange and/or lemon zest, citrus extracts, mint extract, coconut extract or the seeds of a vanilla bean are all wonderful options. In most cases I’ll still add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, then 1/2 teaspoon of the other flavoring. For zest, add about 1 teaspoon fresh zest. For chocolate buttercream, add 1/2 cup (good quality) unsweetened cocoa powder.
* In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter (on medium speed) until completely smooth (30 seconds to a minute). (If you are adding cream cheese, add it now, then beat until smooth)
* Add salt (if needed).
* One cup at time, add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating after each addition.
* Add vanilla, or other flavorings and beat to combine.
* Add about 1 tablespoon of cream, and continue beating.
* Add the remaining 2 cups powdered sugar, one at a time.
* Add an additional 1-2 tablespoons cream until desired consistency is reached. If you want to pipe the frosting on cupcakes, the frosting should be nice and thick. Continue to beat another minute or so. The frosting should now be smooth and fluffy.
* If your frosting is not smooth, it is likely because the butter was not fully smooth before adding the other ingredients.
* If your frosting will not hold up when piped on cupcakes, your frosting has too much liquid or is too warm. Put entire bowl of frosting in the fridge for 15-20 minutes and it will stiffen up. If it is still too thin, then add 1/4 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar, beat well.
Recipe Source- American buttercream first appeared in cookbooks in the early 1900′s (here’s a little buttercream history) Countless sources since then have included very similar versions, always using some combination of butter (or shortening), powdered sugar, milk and flavoring. The recipe above is simply the proportions I like to use.
I love pretty cupcake liners! Whenever I post cupcakes in pretty colored liners like I did for my Vanilla Cupcakes or my daughter’s Ladybug Birthday I get lots of questions about where I buy my liners. Most of the questions have to do with why the liners I use keep their color so well, and yet most of the liners you may try lose their color/pattern when you bake in them. There is no “secret technique” that I’m using, just better liners. Most cute printed liners found in craft stores lose their color/pattern when they are baked in. The colored liners I (most often) use are labeled either “greaseproof” or “glassine“. Those are the terms you want to look for if you want to bake in colored liners, and have them keep (most of) their color. Vanilla cupcakes, or light colored batters will keep the liners the most vibrant, but good quality liners should keep most of their color even with chocolate batter. Another option if you want to use up colored liners you have (that are not greaseproof), is to bake the cupcakes in white liners, then set the cupcakes (with the white liners) in the colored/patterned liners before serving.
These are a few of my favorite sources for beautiful cupcake liners (again, look for “greaseproof” or “glassine” if you want them to hold their color).
Bakers Stock (great for brown or white liners in bulk)
I like to store some of my pretty liners in glass jars, for easy access and a colorful display.