Making your own cupcakes is fun, tasty, and a great way to get your little ones involved in the kitchen or to surprise a loving partner after a hard day in the office. With a huge range of different ways to bake, decorate and ice these tiny treats, a would-be master chef baker often doesn’t know where to start! The best place is this course on how to decorate a cake. You’ll get walked through much of the techniques, as well as get a ton of inspiration that will get your mind on track to all of the masterpieces just waiting to be created.
As you become interested in baking and you pick up a couple of cookbooks or browse through some recipes online you’ll see many cupcakes with a perfect frosting or a beautiful swirl of frosting. Unfortunately many people stop before they even try to tackle this stage, because they think they will never be able to make a cupcake as beautiful as those store bought from a boutique bakery. You shouldn’t be intimidated here, after a little bit of practice you’ll be producing the same results, and find that it can be even quicker (and easier) than running down to the store. Once you’ve got the hang of it, take this course on food photography and show off your creations to all your friends!
As you’re deciding which cupcakes to make, keep in mind that there are a range of classic flavors for cupcakes. If you need a little inspiration to get started, here’s a few different combinations that work fantastically well together:
- Yellow cupcakes with chocolate icing for a birthday surprise
- Vanilla icing atop chocolate cupcakes for a sweet taste that balances out the rich chocolate
- Red velvet cupcakes topped with an icing of cream cheese is a party favorite
- Spiced cupcakes or carrot cupcakes are paired beautifully with a cream cheese icing
How to Ice a Cupcake
Putting the icing on a cupcake is the final touch, and is the last little bit of “bling” that adds to your delicious little masterpiece. You can learn a little more about how to ice a cake in this course, and here’s what you need to do to get started:
- Cook a batch of cupcakes. It’s not that hard, and if you have very little experience you can even make them from a box mix in the supermarket.
- After they finish baking you need to let the cupcakes cool to room temperature. If you try to ice them while they’re hot the icing will melt, and run all over the place.
- Prepare your icing. We’ll cover a few delicious recipes in a later section.
- Now that the cupcakes have cooled, remove them from the tray and place them on a flat surface where you have plenty of room to ice them.
- If you want to leave the wrappers on, by all means do so, otherwise you can remove them at this step.
- If you have chosen to remove the wrappers, do it gently, and be careful that you don’t tear off large chunks of cupcake as the wrappers come off.
- Take a butter knife, a spatula or a teaspoon and load it with icing.
- Gently slide the icing over the cupcake, coating the entire top in sweet icing. You can really add as much as you like at this stage.
- As you’re spreading all the icing out, be careful that you don’t tear off crumbs of the cupcakes.
- There are different colorings you can add to your icing to make bright designs, or even write on the cupcakes, so if you’re feeling adventurous see what options you have in your local grocery store.
- The final touch is decorations, a bunch of sprinkles or some sugar decorations complete your masterpiece.
Cupcakes need to be stored in an airtight storage container, and if they’ve been iced and you don’t plan on eating them for a couple of days your best bet is to store them in the refrigerator. This will stop the icing getting too soft and starting to run – especially during summer.
How to Get That Super Cupcake Swirl
The “swirl” is the best way to level up your cupcakes icing skills beyond a bit of icing and sprinkles. To make the perfect swirl you need to ensure your frosting has enough body, which means its thick enough, to hold up on its own. You’re two biggest enemies are adding too much liquid in your recipe (remember less is more), because you can always add more later but you can’t take it out. The second is allowing your ingredients to be too warm. Using pre-made frosting is also a no-no, it’s usually not thick enough to stand up on its own.
Making a spiral is made easiest with a piping bag and a decorating tip. Use the largest one possible (usually it’s the jumbo size) and are typically available in craft stores, or online. Sometimes you’ll need a coupler as well to hold the tip in place, but large decorating tips are usually big enough to be simply put inside your piping bag and filling it with frosting.
Three ways to get a swirl on your cupcakes:
- Take a large teaspoon of frosting and “dollop” it onto the cupcake, finishing the result with a swirl of a knife to get the intended effect.
- Using a disposable piping bag, filled with icing simply start piping at the outside edge and continue around in a spiral towards the center.
- Take a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle, filled with icing and start piping around the edge of the cupcake in towards the center. As you reach the center lift up quickly and you’ll finish the swirl.
Using a Piping Bag
They’re relatively simple enough. it’s just a bag filled with icing, that has a small tip which lets you “pipe” icing onto cakes in a controlled manner. You can buy different tips for different effects, whether you want smooth, ridged or even star shaped icing on your cupcakes. You can find piping bags for sale in your local supermarket, or if not then your local baking store or online retailer will definitely have them. Generally a large tip is the best to use if you want swirls on your cupcakes, the small tips are used when you want to write on a cake with frosting, or doing detailed decorations.
Tip: You can make a DIY piping bag by simply cutting a small hole in the corner of a plastic sandwich bag. You can either pipe directly through the hole, or use an icing tip for more control.
- Take your piping bag and fill it at least halfway with icing. It’s much easier to control when the bag is this full, and a spatula or a large tablespoon is the best way to get the icing into the bag.
- Make sure you twist the bottom of the piping bag so that icing doesn’t squirt out the wrong end while you’re working!
- Learn and practice. Take a clean plate and practice using the piping bag by squirting some icing out onto the plate.
- You’ll need to hold the twisted bottom of the bag in one hand, while you use the other to guide the icing tip.
- Put pressure on the contents of the bag, and make circular motions above the plate. Icing should be flowing smoothly and in a consistent flow through the icing tip.
- Practice until you can control the amount of icing coming through the piping bag.
- If it’s not flowing smoothly, check that there is nothing blocking the tip, and that your icing isn’t too stiff.
- Keep working at it until you get the hang of it. You can keep reusing the icing if you need to.
Now onto the delicious recipes!
Stiff Butter Cream Icing
If you want to create dramatic swirls on your cupcakes, you need an icing that can hold its shape. Buying this pre-made often only gives you gooey icing that is not good at all for swirls, but you’re in luck because making your own is easy! The following recipe is perfect for making fantastic swirls on your cupcakes
- 1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened
- 4 cups of sugar (powdered, or icing sugar)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp milk
Beat all of these ingredients together in a mixing bowl with a whisk. If the final result is a little too stiff you can add a bit more milk, and even swap out the vanilla extract for another flavor if you prefer. Food coloring works great here as a substitute when you want to make bright cupcakes!
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter that has been softened
- 1/2 cup Greek yoghurt
- 3 cups of sugar (powdered, or icing sugar)
Mix the cream cheese and butter together, either buy hand with a whisk or in a standing mixer. Add the Greek yoghurt, and at this stage you could also substitute this for another flavor that has a similar texture like applesauce, or pumpkin pie mix. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, mixing as you go and stop once the desired consistency is reached. You’re ready to ice!
- 3 oz of egg whites
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2-4 drops of food coloring (if desired)
- 4 cups of sugar (powdered, or icing sugar)
Mix the egg whites with the vanilla extract and beat the mixture until it becomes frothy. If desired add the food coloring at this stage, more than 4 drops isn’t normally required but continue until you have the desired color reached. Add in the sugar (a little at a time) until the consistency of the mixture gets thicker and starts to look shiny – stop once you reach this point. Mix with a whisk by hand or using a standing mixer until the entire mixture becomes stiff, and there are small peaks forming on the icing mixture. Apply to the cupcakes immediately, or you can store it like this in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Ultimately there’s no hard and fast rules for cupcake icing. You’re going to want to try new things and different recipes all the time, so have fun with it and make them different every time you make them. If you are looking for something challenging, take this course on cake decoration and see if you can miniaturize the delicious wedding cake! Pink food coloring can make a pile of cupcakes look very appealing, and sprinklings of shredded coconut or crumbled chocolate will always please a hungry family. Who could resist?
If you’re a professional baker you can still learn a lot from this article, and get some great ideas on how to make things, a little differently. Take your business to the next step with this great course on how to market yourself in the food industry, and you’ll have clients lining up out the door – just waiting for your delicious desserts!
What are you waiting for! It’s baking time!