Bakery-decorated cupcakes offer a consistent appearance through expertly piped frosting. To achieve professional-looking cupcakes at home, employ a bit of practice and a high-quality pastry tip. Use the same basic techniques with different pastry tips to discover which look you prefer the most. For a two-toned look, fill each side of your pastry bag with a different color of buttercream.
A Dollop of Delight
Fit a pastry bag with a large round tip. Fill the bag with the frosting of your choice. Cream cheese and American buttercreams work particularly well for the dollop method.
Hold the pastry tip directly above the center of the cupcake. The tip should be straight up and down and about 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the cupcake, depending on how much frosting you prefer.
Squeeze the pastry bag and allow the frosting to pool on the top of the cupcake. Maintain an even pressure throughout. Pull up slightly to allow for a larger dollop without flattening the pile of frosting.
Release pressure on the pastry bag. Swirl the tip slightly as you pull the bag away from the frosting to create a clean top.
Fit a pastry bag with a large closed star tip. Alternatively, use a French pastry tip for additional ridges.
Fill the bag with the frosting of your choice. Italian buttercream works particularly well with the swirl method.
Hold the pastry tip above the outside of the top of the cupcake at a slight angle. The tip should be about 1/4 inch above the cake.
Squeeze the pastry bag and pull the tip around the outer edge of the cupcake. Maintain even pressure on the bag at all times.
Continue the swirl toward the center of the cupcake, overlapping the outer swirl. Pull the tip up as you move toward the center.
Release pressure on the pastry bag when you reach the center of the cupcake. Pull the bag and tip straight up to finish the swirl.
Rolled and Beautiful
Follow the directions in Sectioin 1 to create a dollop of frosting on the top of the cupcake. The dollop should be roughly centered on the cake, but does not need to be perfectly shaped.
Fill a medium-sized bowl with the topping of your choice, such as shredded coconut, chocolate shavings or flakes, or sprinkles. Create a small well in the center of the topping.
Hold a frosted cupcake firmly by the base. Invert the cupcake quickly into the bowl. Do not hesitate when inverting the cupcake; getting the frosting into the topping helps push the frosting into the cake and keeps it from sliding off.
Roll the frosting around in the topping with a circular, slightly tilting motion. Apply slight pressure as you roll the cupcake.
Flip the cupcake right-side up once the frosting is covered with the topping and is nicely domed. Mold the edges of the frosting lightly with your fingers if it is misshapen.
Trace cupcake-sized circles onto parchment paper. Tape the parchment paper to your counter. Practice the dollop and swirl frosting techniques by piping frosting onto the mock cupcake tops. When you finish the sheet, simply scrape the frosting off of the parchment and back into a pastry bag or your bowl of frosting.