Learn fresh, creative ways to decorate a cupcake with our step-by-step guide.
Check out our guide to popular frostings for cupcakes. In addition to tips, we offer you recipes for each one.
Butter frosting is the go-to frosting for cupcakes and cakes. The simple mixture of butter, powdered sugar, and milk is easy to make, always delicious, and suitable for frosting and piping.
Buttercream frosting is a classic frosting made with sugar, butter, and eggs or egg whites. Less sweet than a butter frosting, buttercream has a silky smooth texture. It spreads easily and pipes beautifully.
Creamy White Frosting
Creamy white frosting is another popular option. Similar to a butter frosting but made with shortening instead of butter, this ultra-white frosting is easily tinted and takes on brilliant hues. Shortening makes the frosting fluffy and easy to spread and pipe.
Ganache is a mixture of whipping cream and melted chocolate. Cupcakes can be dipped in warm ganache for a silky smooth glaze. Or the ganache can be cooled to a spreading consistency and used as frosting.
Powdered Sugar Icing
Powdered sugar icing is a thin mixture of powdered sugar and milk or other liquid. Cupcakes can be dipped in the icing, or you can use it as a drizzle.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Cream cheese frosting is best known as the topping for carrot and red velvet cakes, but this tangy frosting is also good with spice cakes, apple cakes, and other chocolate cakes. The soft, creamy frosting spreads easily and can be swirled into graceful peaks. (Just be sure to store cupcakes topped with this frosting in the refrigerator.)
Canned frostings are an easy alternative to homemade frostings, and they're available in creamy and whipped varieties and in many flavors. Whipped frosting is fluffy and easy to spread and swirl. Creamy-style frosting can be warmed and used as a glaze or coating. Both kinds of frosting can be tinted and piped.
Butter and white frostings can be flavored to complement the cupcakes and tinted to match your party theme. There are several options for each.
If you're piping a frosting that you plan to tint, you may want to divide the frosting into two or more portions so you can leave one portion untinted and tint the remaining portions with either paste or liquid food coloring. To tint frosting, use paste, gel, or liquid food colorings.
Paste/gel food coloring: Paste and gel food colorings are very concentrated, so you need only a little bit for optimal results. To use, twirl a toothpick in the coloring and then in the frosting. Mix well and see how you like the color. Add more food coloring, a little at a time, until you obtain the desired color. These colorings are available in specialty baking stores.
Liquid food coloring: Readily available in grocery stores, liquid food colorings are more diluted than paste, so the frosting will be less vivid. Liquid coloring is easy to use: Stir in drops of coloring until you achieve the desired hue.
The baking aisle of your grocery store offers an assortment of extracts and flavorings. In addition to vanilla and almond, look for peppermint, rum, raspberry, banana, and cherry. Or add a splash of liqueur to the frosting. For citrus frostings, add finely shredded lemon, lime, or orange peel, and replace the milk with lemon, lime, or orange juice.
There are several options for frosting cupcakes, depending on the look you'd like.
Simple Frosting Unless directed otherwise, frost the cupcakes as soon as you have mixed the frosting. Frosting will set up if allowed to stand, making it difficult to spread. Canned frosting should be at room temperature and stirred before using.
For a different look, dip the tops of cupcakes in powdered sugar icing, ganache, or warmed frosting. Hold the cupcake by the paper bottom, and dip the top in the frosting. The frosting sets up into a shiny coating, and it can be tinted any color you wish.
Tip: Warm creamy-style canned frosting for 5 to 10 seconds in the microwave before dipping.
Note: Do not use a whipped frosting for dipping; it melts differently than other types of canned or creamy frostings.
Here's how to create the swirl that you commonly see on bakeshop cupcakes:
To pipe designs on cupcakes, you need a pastry bag and pastry tips. If you're just beginning and wondering which tips to buy, the following make a good starter set.
Many other tips are available that you may want to add as you become more proficient in decorating cupcakes.
Add pizzazz to your cupcakes with sprinkles, candy, or fresh fruit. Here, we offer tips on using various sprinkles and garnishes.
Small candies make bright, colorful cupcake decorations; start with these ideas.