How To Frost Cupcakes

It’s easy to add icing to your little cakes.

Frosting can be spread, piped, swirled, and spiked to suit your fancy.

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1. You can use purchased frosting to ice your cupcakes, or you can make your own.

  • Plan to use two to three tablespoons of frosting per cupcake (about 1.25 ounces/42 grams) if you’re spreading the frosting.
  • You’ll need twice that amount if you’re using a piping bag (2.5 ounces/70 grams per cupcake).

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2. We made a tangy cream cheese frosting to go with our banana cupcakes (see How To Make Cupcakes and How To Make Frosting). To spread the frosting, a small offset palette knife is our favorite decorating tool–but a butter knife will work fine, too. Scoop up a generous dab of frosting and plop it in the center of the cupcake.

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3. Hold the cupcake in one hand and the knife in the other. That will let you get a good view of the cupcake so you can spread the frosting evenly over the entire surface.

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4. Practice different frosting effects: you can make one big swirl pattern, a bunch of little wavy swirls, or spikes.

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5. If you like the look of piped icing, you’ll need a pastry bag with a large star tip.

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6.To fill the pastry bag without getting frosting all over the bag and your hands:

  • Put the pastry tip in the bottom of the pastry bag. Set the bag over a tall glass or measuring cup and fold a three- or four-inch cuff over the edge.
  • Use a rubber spatula to scoop frosting from the bowl into the bag. Fill it no more than two-thirds full; you can always reload the pastry bag with more frosting, but if it’s too full you’re likely to squeeze frosting out of both ends of the bag.

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7. Lift the bag out of the glass and twist the top to close. You can use a twist-tie to keep it closed, or you can hold the bag closed by keeping the twisted end under the palm of your hand while you pipe.

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8. To pipe frosting, you want the cupcake on a flat surface rather than in your hand.

  • Hold the main body of the pastry bag in your right hand (if you’re right-handed), keeping the twisted end folded under your hand.
  • Rest the piping end of the bag on your left index finger for better control. You’ll use your right hand to squeeze out the frosting, and your left hand to guide the pastry bag.
  • Start by piping a circle around the outer edge of the cupcake.

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9. Continue the coiling motion until you reach the center of the cupcake.

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10. Stop squeezing the pastry bag; pull the tip up while twisting your wrist to get a nice finished swirl.

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