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Snowmageddon: 2010. Cupcake Decorating Tutorial!

February 6, 2010

Nom nom.

What do you do when feet and feet of snow make it impossible to leave the house? Uh…make cupcakes, clearly.

So yesterday/overnight, this happened:

Feet of snow.

so the roommate and I were stuck at home, watching the snow fall (er…watching it BLOW – blizzards don’t lend themselves to gently fluttering flakes). Luckily (for your eyes, and my tummy), I had recently bought that new 1M tip for frosting and I desperately needed to practice my icing skills…

I bought a tub of Duncan Hines whipped milk chocolate frosting, because I didn’t want to waste my time making a cream cheese one from scratch and pitching it, but then I realized I couldn’t let that chocolatey goodness go to waste for purely eyes to see and no mouths to eat…so I had to make birthday cupcakes.

I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen (who, by the way, if she’s not in my blogroll already I will be adding momentarily because her blog’s awesome) for a plain yellow cake, because that’s the best for pairing with chocolatey Duncan Hines goodness.

The recipe yielded 22 cupcakes, but knowing we weren’t going to be leaving the apartment for some time, I didn’t want my roommate and I consuming 22 between the two of us (which is entirely possible, naturally), so I cut the recipe down to 1/4 the size and it yielded 6 VERY fluffy cupcakes. I say VERY fluffy because, if you’ll notice, 22/4 is not 6. It’s 5 1/2. So naturally one would assume that 5 1/2 cupcakes would be closer to 5 than 6, so one would not be too concerned with overfilling the cupcake liners if one is using 6 cups.

Turns out?

I was dead wrong.

The cupcakes overfloweth-ed the pan, but luckily it was my silicone muffin tray, so they peeled up no trouble. But, note to self, that baking powder is POWERFUL STUFF. Expect some overflow if you only make 6, or leave 1 cupcake worth of batter in the bowl (or use a 12-cup pan and only fill 7 cups).

Back to the frosting, though: once the cupcakes were cooled, I filled a ziploc with the frosting (after stirring it up really well with a knife, so it was malleable) and then…realized I’d forgotten to put the tip in the bag. Dangit!

So I manhandled the frosting to one side, snipped a corner of the bag (always under-estimate the size of the snip – you don’t want your tip to come shooting out) and then wrangled the tip through the hole, all the while spreading frosting all over my hands, counter, face, and ear. Yay chocolate frosting.

Tip in place, ziploc zipped AND twisted, I decided to try a few different techniques. I had thought, once upon a time, that swoopy, curvy icing, with ridges, was a very difficult thing to achieve. Turns out, I just had the wrong tip! It was painfully easy to generate these bizarro (and cute) designs, so now I shall tell you how.

The Frosting Chronicles: Decorating.

The trick to any of these (except the Crazy Hair) is not allowing the stream of frosting to stop until you’re completely finished with the whole approach. Otherwise you get weird peaks and lifts – you don’t want these. So unless I specifically mention it, each of these frosting decorations were generated from one continuous motion, constant pressure on the icing bag.

For all approaches, you’ll need a sturdy zip-top bag (I like quart sized, because you can put a manageable amount of frosting in it), a decorator tip (I prefer the Wilton 1M star tip), and some frosting. Lick the Bowl Good has a great tutorial for getting your supplies ready here. I did just use a ziploc, and I did just use a tip (no coupler) so don’t feel like you have to go out and buy bizarre kitchenware that you don’t already have. For all these designs, you’ll need a 1M star tip.

Wilton 1M Star Tip

Anyways, once you’ve got your icing bags ready, the next step is holding the bag. Now, I’m a big fan of practice – get yourself a piece of parchment, or a few handy cupcakes, and just go to town til you find what works for you. But if you need some advice on where to start, here’s what I do:

I rest the tip side of the bag (the fat part, not right behind the tip, but where the majority of the frosting is located) in the palm of my left (non-dominant) hand, and twist/squeeze the butt end of the bag with my right (dominant) hand. I use the left hand to direct the flow of the frosting, while my right hand gives me control of the speed of the flow (the phrase “flow of the frosting” makes me think of a river, flowing with frosting…Mmmm…).

But find whatever works for you. Once you’ve got that down, it’s on to the decorating!

Four approaches to decorating cupcakes:

Required utensils:

– Quantity of frosting

– Quantity of items to frost

– 1 quart sized zip-top bag

– 1M Star Tip

1. The pile-up approach.

Now, the picture doesn’t really do it justice, but this is a really cool mound effect (when it’s not off-center) and would be good for things like those Oreo cupcakes, where you want a lot of frosting in each bite. For this particular cupcake, this was a little too much frosting (heavy chocolate frosting can be overpowering), so I would be careful to use it only with a very sturdy-flavored cupcake.

To achieve this look, you’ll want to start on the outer edge of the cupcake, running around the edge, then in concentric circles til you get to the center. Without stopping, squeeze an extra dollop in the middle, then run another set of concentric circles just on top of the first set. When you think it looks high enough, just twist the bag in a quick, tight circle, and it should give you a nice point. And you’re done!

2. The single-level pile-up approach.

Like the pile-up, but only one level.

This was the roommate’s favorite approach, because it yielded enough icing for each bite, but also looked pretty.

To achieve this look, you’ll start the same way as the pile-up, on the outside edge. When you finish your inner concentric circle, however, instead of the extra dollop and round-about, you’ll just make a quick, tight circle with the frosting bag, twisting it so you get the nice point. Done!

3. The rosette.

The rosette.

And another view:

The rosette, again.

This one was my favorite – I just think it’s so pretty and feminine. If I ever make baby shower cupcakes, or cupcakes for a wedding, this is definitely the one I’ll use. It would look particularly pretty in a cream cheese frosting with a pastel tint. Dreamy.

Anyways – to achieve this look, you’re actually going to start in the center of the cupcake, and work your way out in concentric circles. When you reach the outside edge of the cupcake, you’ll just gently finish your final circle, lighten up on the pressure, and sortof swoop the last bit (very technical, I know). Try it once – you’ll figure it out.

4. The Crazy Hair.

So fun!

This one was hilarious. For this one, you absolutely need the star tip – it’s what yields the star-shaped flower-looking things. This frosting would be ideal for a kid’s cupcake, particularly using one of the multicolored-frosting ideas, like this one.

To achieve this look, start in the center of the cupcake. Touch the tip to the cupcake, squeeze the bag until it starts to look like a flower, then just release pressure, flick your wrist, and you’re done! Repeat that procedure along the sides of the star you just made six times, ensuring to make each flower big enough to touch the center flower and the edge of the cupcake. Voilà! Crazy hair!

That’s it for the cupcake decorating tutorial – I’m off to make a vat of chili. It’s really the only solution when the trees outside your apartment look like this:

Snowy trees.

Snowballs! On a treeee!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2010 3:57 pm

    Beautiful! Wish I could come over and sample your work.

  2. Valerie permalink
    February 7, 2010 4:17 pm


  3. February 25, 2010 10:05 am

    Thanks so much for posting smitten kitchen’s recipe! I used it last night for an order and it came out looking just like yours! Overflow and all. Good thing is that it was moist which I have had problems with in white cakes. Also used the 1m tip to frost vanilla buttercream.

  4. March 10, 2010 1:39 pm

    Nicely done. I love the Crazy Hair style. I’ve never been a fan of canned frosting (yes, I admit to being a frosting snob!) for decorating; it tends to be too soft, but yours look good. Well done and cute post.

    • lisam permalink
      March 10, 2010 1:51 pm

      Thanks, Vampiregran! Yeah – I don’t particularly like canned frosting either, but this was just for practice so I thought it would be OK to cheat. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  5. Victoria permalink
    June 20, 2010 8:49 pm

    wow, i’m not sure I ever even saw this post. this is beautiful stuff!

  6. Apres Ski permalink
    August 17, 2010 2:06 pm

    Photos are beautiful!

    But I’d like to see how to attach the 1M to a Ziplock bag/pastry bag. I know that sounds silly, but I’d like to see & know the basics.

    • Cupcake permalink
      August 17, 2010 2:12 pm

      Hi there! Thanks for commenting. I’ll see if I can find a picture of the tip – it doesn’t sound silly at all! In effect, the tip is not attached to the bag, it’s held in place by the force of the frosting, but I’ll take some pictures when I do some cupcakes this weekend for ya. Thanks for stopping by!

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