Cupcakes/ Dessert/ Recipes

How To Frost Cupcakes Like a Pastry Queen

After I posted the initial recipe for brown sugar buttercream, I’ve had a ton of emails asking if I could do some sort of frosting “how-to” tutorial on the blog. I promise, friends, it’s really not as hard as it looks to pipe out professional fluffy clouds of frosting yourself.

All you need for this little project is a large plastic bag, a pastry tip (you can get this at Michaels for about two dollars), a large rubber spatula and a bowlful of frosting. Mmmmmm frosting.

So gather your utensils and meet me back here stat. I’ll show you how to do this:

And this!

And, in my classroom, licking the spoon (or whisk attachment) is completely okay and, actually, totally mandatory for success.

Did you gather your supplies?

Large plastic baggie:

Pastry tip (I like to use a large star tip for most cupcakes because it’s fun):

Rubber spatula:

Bowl o’ frosting:

I found another simple recipe for buttercream (if you don’t feel like going the sugar syrup route) here. You could also tweak that to do half shortening and half butter if that more floats your boat. Shortening is great because it’s way more stable than butter, making it ideal to frost wedding cakes and other lovely confections with. For you vegans out there, I’ve also tried to use the Earth Balance “buttery sticks” and it’s worked out very nicely as well.

So, now it’s go time. Snip off the very tip of your plastic bag and stick the pastry tip in, like so:

The tip should just be able to fit…you don’t want it loose or else the frosting will squeeze out! Now, fill the bag half full with frosting, squeeze out the extra air and seal shut.

Get your cupcake ready! Or cake, or cookie or….arm.

Hold the bag with both hands about an inch above the cupcake. The hand you use to write with should be on the bottom and you should have a pretty good grip on the bag. Squeeze a little bit with your bottom hand so that you have a dollop of frosting down. Now, as you continue to squeeze, move your hand in a circular motion around the top of the cupcake.

It might take a few cupcakes until you get it down, but once you do, you’ll be a frosting queen (or king?) forever. Use these cupcakes to impress boyfriends, husbands, bosses, parents, friends and apartment leasing agents.

Happy Tuesday!

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  • Reply
    Jessica @ How Sweet
    September 28, 2010 at 6:39 am

    I love frosting cupcakes with a pastry bag! I usually don’t use the star, but it is really fun and pretty. I usually just used the biggest hole opening and put a big glob of frosting on!

  • Reply
    Rachel (Two Healthy Plates)
    September 28, 2010 at 6:40 am

    I love when homemade cupcakes look professional – thanks for sharing your tips!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 6:41 am

    Lovely! and I totally didn’t know Michael’s sold piping tips – runnnning there.

  • Reply
    Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman
    September 28, 2010 at 6:52 am

    So easy. Thanks for the tutorial. They look so much cuter than when I spread the frosting.

  • Reply
    megan @ whatmegansmaking
    September 28, 2010 at 6:54 am

    I have been waiting for this post! Thank you Jenna! My cupcakes don’t always turn out looking the best. I think it’s the tip I use though. I want to get a large star tip like you mentioned. And I love the plastic bag tip…cleaning out a pastry bag is not high on my list of things I love to do.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 6:57 am

    I need to get a pastry tip. Today. Frosting like that just looks so much better. So professional and pretty and just plain lovely. I’m trying to think who has a birthday coming up, but on second thoughts, I think my arm will frost nicely…

  • Reply
    Allie (Live Laugh Eat)
    September 28, 2010 at 6:57 am

    Thank you for this tutorial! Your cupcakes are beauties!

  • Reply
    Natalia - a side of simple
    September 28, 2010 at 6:58 am

    This post makes me want to pull out my old Candyland board game and pretend I’m Queen Frostine!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 7:00 am

    I love frosting cupcakes. I use the plastic cuplings with the tip. I didn’t realize you could just stick the tip in the bag without creating a mess. Great post!

  • Reply
    marisa @ vinyasa mama
    September 28, 2010 at 7:02 am

    I was just thinking about this yesterday. What great timing – thanks for posting!

  • Reply
    Lea @ Healthy Coconut
    September 28, 2010 at 7:07 am

    I did the same thing this weekend too, but I don’t have any pastry tips so the frosting was coming straight from the ziplock hole.

    In order to cover the “not so pretty frosting” I used thinly sliced strawberries to top the frosting. It looked pretty.

    I made the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars winning cupcake, the Vegan Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake cupcake πŸ™‚ Very delicious!!!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 7:12 am

    “Get your cupcake ready! Or cake, or cookie or….arm.” Yes, I typically choose to use my arm when dealing with buttercream, I am happy to hear that this is a completely socially acceptable practice!

  • Reply
    Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete
    September 28, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Wow. Thank you so much! I need all the help that I can get! Is there any chance you can come up with a great recipe for gluten free cupcakes?

  • Reply
    Heather (Heather's Dish)
    September 28, 2010 at 7:22 am

    i love frosting cupcakes…probably the best part about them except for the eating part πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 7:24 am

    I love this tutorial- it is very useful!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 7:24 am

    You make that look much easier than I expect it to be!! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 7:27 am

    awesome! thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    Bethany (One Girl's Taste on Life)
    September 28, 2010 at 7:28 am

    Love this post though I totally think it is video worthy. Just to see you frost your arm… Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 7:30 am

    This little tutorial made my morning.
    And now I really want some frosting.
    Have a fabulous day!

  • Reply
    grocery goddess jen
    September 28, 2010 at 7:32 am

    Oh my gosh, you made that look so easy. I should really just suck it up and buy the frosting tip thing, shouldn’t I?

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 7:33 am


    And I wonder sometimes if you have a third arm just for taking pictures.

  • Reply
    Marisa @ Loser for Life
    September 28, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Thank you for this tutorial, Jenna! I really needed it! If you could’ve seen the cupcakes I frosted last weekend for the husband’s birthday…. let’s just say that chocolate buttercream piped with the wrong tip in a swirly fashion looks like dog doo-doo. For real.

    That’s one way to get me to not eat a cupcake πŸ˜‰

  • Reply
    Amber K
    September 28, 2010 at 7:34 am

    That is so neat! I had no clue it could be so easy.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 7:35 am

    There’s nothing prettier than a nicely frosted cupcake! Thanks!

  • Reply
    Clare @ Fitting It All In
    September 28, 2010 at 7:40 am

    They look amazing! I definitely need to try your buttercream recipe.
    Also – LOVE the way you boxed them up with that ribbon! Adorable!

  • Reply
    Laura @ Backstage Pass to Health & Happiness
    September 28, 2010 at 7:46 am

    I had been hoping you’d show us your frosting technique! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Jasmine @ Eat Move Write
    September 28, 2010 at 7:46 am

    I cannot believe how incredibly professional those look. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. You worked in a bakery and studied in France after all. Very cool, though.

  • Reply
    Callie @ Callieflower Kitchen
    September 28, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Thanks for the tutorial, this is awesome timing! I was actually just scouring the internet this morning for frosting tips πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Thanks for the info, we are doing a cupcake fundraiser this weekend and I am going to send this link to all of our helpers!!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 7:48 am

    Thanks for that, Jenna! And I do think the next time I make buttercream I’ll try the shortening route, I tend to only use butter and it doesn’t seem to come out as nicely!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Thanks for posting these tips! I was definitely one of the people wondering in awe how to make cupcakes look that beautiful. I may just have to make cupcakes soon to practice that skill! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Estela @ Weekly Bite
    September 28, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Love this post! I’m so bad at making frosting look pretty πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    cathy b. @
    September 28, 2010 at 8:17 am

    this was great….i think pumpkin cupcakes might be in my future! πŸ™‚
    love ya,
    cathy b.

  • Reply
    Katherine @ Left Coast Contessa
    September 28, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Love this post! Frosting cupcakes have always been an epic fail so thank you for this post.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Wow, these look gorgeous, and those are some serious mounds of frosting! I’ve tried frosting cupcakes with a plastic bag + pastry tip before but had some issues, I’m thinking maybe my frosting was the wrong consistency. I’ll try out your recipe sometime though and hopefully I’ll get better results.

  • Reply
    Brooke (Baking with Basil)
    September 28, 2010 at 8:23 am

    I love the star tip too! It makes the cupcakes so pretty!! Great tutorial!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 8:33 am

    This is such a great tutorial. I love all your how to’s and I’m falling in love with your ‘new blog’. I totally realized that I’ve been holding my frosting back backwards. I always have my right hand on top and my left at the nozzle rather than the correct right handed way. Maybe thats why my frosting always looks… strange.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 8:33 am

    I love using a plastic bag too. I bought a icing gun and I feel that it is very difficult to use. Those cupcakes look so yummy. I kept intending to use that buttercream recipe and end up just making my usual chocolate fudge frosting. But, I promise I will try it out very soon!

    Thanks for the tips.

  • Reply
    Mary (What's Cookin' with Mary)
    September 28, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Why Jenna… You cupcakes are quite… IMPRESSIVE! BWAHAHAH ;P

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 8:41 am

    frosting is my favorite!! i love licking the bag clean when i’m done…hahah j/king…sort of.

    πŸ™‚ great tips!

  • Reply
    The Wife of a Dairyman
    September 28, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Thanks for the tips! When you snip the tip of the plastic bag and put pressure on it with the frosting and frosting tip, does the hole become larger (rip open?) Have you ever encountered this problem?

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 8:57 am

    You make it look soooooo easy then I go and try and trust this they do NOT look like yours! haha I’ll keep working!

  • Reply
    Laughter-Loving Stacy
    September 28, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Fun! I’ll give it another go, I always seem to mess it up, ha, ha!!

  • Reply
    chelsey @ clean eating chelsey
    September 28, 2010 at 9:28 am

    I love frosting cupcakes! It is super easy as long as you have a tip!! Thanks for the how-to – it makes me remember just how much I love frosting!!! I always make red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting at christmastime – I cannot wait to bust those bad boys out!

  • Reply
    Lauren at KeepItSweet
    September 28, 2010 at 9:41 am

    great tutorial!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 10:24 am

    How funny, just the other day I was asking someone how to frost cupcakes because mine always looks messy. I will try this technique tomorrow for the cupcakes that I am making for my Children’s literature class. Thank you for sharing what you know with us.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Is it wrong to hate icing? Yeah I am the one who asks for plain cupcakes, the center peice of cake and the cookie cakes that have nothing on them. Weird, I know.

  • Reply
    MyThy as in "Mighty"
    September 28, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Jenna, thanks for the tutorial. I’m always intimidated w/ frosting/baking/breadmaking esp w/o a standup mixer (hello bday present?)

    Can I just ask, how come you didn’t join the Project Food Blog hosted by FoodBuzz?

    You would totally have my (plus many other’s!) votes!!! πŸ˜‰

  • Reply
    Food & Other Things
    September 28, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Your cupcakes are so pretty…thanks for the tutorial! I feel like this something I could do!

  • Reply
    Rachel @ The Avid Appetite
    September 28, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I am always a fail at using this method and have considered the following:
    – cutting too big of a hole in the bag
    – my pastry tip isn’t up to par
    -….I don’t know why else? I use the plastic bag method and inevitably the entire thing squeezes out! You’ve inspired me to give it one more go, however, with your great tutorial!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Fantastic post and perfect timing! I’m going to make cupcakes this weekend I think.

  • Reply
    Jessica @ The Process of Healing
    September 28, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Beautiful.. you make it sound so easy!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Your title sucked me in! Awesome post! thanks. πŸ™‚ I might possibly just retire and frost cupcakes all day, works for me!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    My roommate and I are trying to perfect this art!

  • Reply
    Lisa @ bakebikeblog
    September 28, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    oooh what great tips! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Stacey (The Habit of Healthy)
    September 28, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Your cupcakes are so pretty and you make it look fabulously easy!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Jenna, I was just thinking that you should have a page called something like “Meals to Fall in Love Over” or somethin’ of that nature. I believe you have a roasted chicken recipe of that nature and others that I was thinking about using for a boy that I like πŸ˜‰ Food for thought!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Jenna, where do you get those cute boxes for the pastries and ribbons? I’m just saying, it looks about a thousand times better than paper plate/toothpicks/saran wrap that smush my attempts at baking goodness.

    • Reply
      September 28, 2010 at 2:46 pm

      Michaels! They have everything there!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    I’ve never had those cookies before but, thanks to you, I think I’ll be eating them for the rest of my life!


  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I love that you can use a plain plastic bag. Thank you for this tip! I can’t wait to try it out.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Pastry bags and tips are the only way to go.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    So cute. Frosting is fun!

  • Reply
    Meaghen Calder
    September 28, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Hi Jenna,

    I appreciate your tutorials for what it gives to people who are novice with baking and cooking, but you are actually incorrect in your icing technique here. You are not supposed to hold your icing bag (or Ziploc bag) with both hands. You are supposed to hold it with just one hand, usually your dominant one, but whatever is more comfortable for you.

    A quick google search will provide people with the actual technique to ice cupcakes.

    • Reply
      September 28, 2010 at 7:18 pm

      I think it’s whatever works for you—that is the way I was taught in school.

  • Reply
    September 29, 2010 at 8:15 am

    As an apartment leasing agent, I fully support this post and the use of beautifully-frosted cupcakes.

  • Reply
    Rachel Wilkerson
    September 29, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    I’m not going to lie, this terrifies me, BUT I am making really fancy cupcakes tonight and I think I need to go for it.

    Seriously, terrified.

    Also I literally LOLd at “or arm.”

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Samantha Ullrich
    December 8, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Jenna, what kind of tips do you use? I want a set for Christmas, but don’t know what the best ones are… any suggestions?

    • Reply
      December 8, 2010 at 11:46 am

      The Wilton set (from Sur la Table or William Sonoma) is great! That’s what I used at school. It has all the different sizes and kinds!

  • Reply
    Samantha Ullrich
    December 9, 2010 at 7:28 am

    Thanks! One last question…. how’d you get that awesome turquoise/blue color for the frosting in your other post?

  • Reply
    February 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    What size/number tip did you use?

  • Reply
    February 20, 2011 at 5:29 am

    I’m heading to Michaels this morning to get a tip! Birthday party at 2:00, cupcakes baked and naked — I was dreading spreading frosting on top and making them look oh-so-homemade. Now they will look oh-so-HANDMADE!

  • Reply
    May 4, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks for the great frosting tip.. trying this tonight for birthday cupcakes for the kids @ school! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
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    December 1, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Thanks Jenna, large plastic bags are so much easier to fill and handle than pastry bags!! You have solved my mystery!!!!!!

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    February 10, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    The ziploc bag got like ten tiny holes in it and made a mess..not sure what i did wrong? I used the same exact baggie as you?

    • Reply
      February 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      How did it get ten tiny holes? From the frosting exploding? Be sure to seal the bag very, very well and not push too hard. Applying too much pressure might make the frosting become too much for the bag and explode!

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    July 3, 2012 at 4:02 am

    My birthday is coming up… and I’m having a Medieval/Hunger Games Themes Party, SOOOOO trying this out!!!!!

    Thank you for the idea πŸ˜‰

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    December 14, 2013 at 3:44 am

    thank you for posting this way back in 2010 coz it came in so useful for me tdy! i had frosting tips and didn’t know how to attach them to a plastic frosting bag, so i asked google for help, and came to this. so thanks to you, i was able to frost cupcakes for the first time! πŸ™‚

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