Sweet, fluffy, and topped with the just the right amount of frosting, there is nothing quite like a perfectly baked cupcake.
But if you’re a beginner, you may struggle with the basics.
Don’t worry. You can make a better batch of cupcakes with our 18 decorating ideas as well as tips and must-buy decorating essentials.
7 Tips to Make the Perfect Cupcakes
- Always follow the recipe – Baking is a science, and the recipe is constructed so that you have the perfect result every time. Skipping steps or subbing out ingredients is a recipe for disaster. Instead, follow the recipe as it’s written so that you set yourself up for success.
- Bring your ingredients to room temperature – There’s a reason for having your ingredients at room temperature. Cold ingredients can leave your cupcakes less than ideal, both in taste and texture. There are, however, a couple of tricks to get your cold ingredients to room temp fast if you don’t have time to wait. Place refrigerated eggs in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes, or take your chilled butter, cut it into chunks, then microwave for about 10 seconds at a time until it’s softened.
- Use the right liners – A high-quality cupcake liner matters. The right liner can help you avoid your cupcake sticking or feeling greasy at the bottom. For a clean cupcake every time, avoid grocery-store paper liners and use a quality liner. Check out the next section for a couple of our favorites.
- Create the perfect mix – What this means is that you don’t want to over-mix or under-mix your cupcake batter. If you under-mix, you won’t evenly incorporate all your ingredients. If you over-mix, you’ll be left with a tough, inedible cupcake. The rule of thumb is to mix your batter just until the ingredients are combined.
- Fill them up – This comes back to reading your recipe. Be sure to fill up your cupcake liners according to the recipe’s instructions. If the recipe doesn’t share how full to fill them, ⅔ full (about 3 tbsp) works quite well. You’ll avoid mushroom top cupcakes or ones that rise and then sink.
- Bake them right – Only bake one tray at a time and place them in the center of your oven for the best results. Be sure to use an oven thermometer to check that your cupcakes are baking at the correct temperature. You’ll know they’re done by gently pressing down on the center of the cupcake and watching for it to bounce back completely.
- Cool and store properly – Cool your cupcakes completely to avoid melting your frosting. Leave them in the pan on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes before removing them to cool completely. You can store your cupcakes at room temperature until you’re ready to decorate them. Once they’re frosted, be sure to store them in the refrigerator.
8 Cupcake Decorating Essentials to Invest In
- Cupcake liners – As we mentioned above, the right cupcake liners matter. Choose from parchment paper liners or silicone cup liners to keep your cupcakes grease free and easy to remove.
- Piping bags – When piping your frosting, you can choose from disposable or reusable piping bags. They will help you get the perfect swirl every time. Go for a 12 or 18-inch bag to avoid the mess of refilling your piping bag over and over. Choose disposable bags if you plan to use multiple colors of frosting to keep from washing your bag between colors.
- Pastry tips – For decorating your cupcakes, you’ll want to use a large pastry tip. This ensures you can frost your cupcake in less time with little mess. Make sure your pastry tips state they are for cupcakes, rather than cake.
- Sprinkles – The more sprinkles the better! They not only add a burst of color and flair to the tops of your cupcakes, but they can also help you cover up any frosting faux pas.
- Gel food coloring – By using gel food coloring, you’ll end up with the brightest colors for your frostings. Unlike traditional food coloring, you’ll avoid adding too much liquid to your buttercream or meringue which can make it unstable.
- Offset spatulas – Get a smooth finish every time you frost your cupcakes with an offset spatula. They even come in a variety of sizes depending on the amount of frosting you’re using.
- Apple corer – An apple corer is not just for apples! It can also help you easily remove the center of a cupcake so you can add your favorite fillings.
- Cupcake storage – Use a cupcake carrier to store and transport your cupcakes. You’ll keep them standing upright and have plenty of room on top to keep your mountain of frosting from getting squashed.
18 Cupcake Decorating Ideas for Beginners
- The Basics | Sugar and Sparrow
- Hydrangea Cupcakes | The Bearfoot Baker
- Piped Rose Cupcakes | Martha Stewart
- Sunflower Cupcakes | Country Living
- Cherry Pie Cupcakes | Your Cup of Cake
- Toasted Marshmallow Frosting | Baking Mischief
- Jam Swirl | Martha Stewart
- Flowerpot Cupcakes | Silly Girl’s Kitchen
- Spiderweb Cupcakes | Country Living
- Swirled Frosting 3 Ways | Handle the Heat
- Decorating with Chocolate | Natasha’s Kitchen
- Sheep Cupcakes | Simple Joy
- Buttercream Daisies | I Am Baker
- Lemonade Cupcakes | Brit + Co
- Watermelon Cupcakes | The First Year Blog
- Edible Flower Toppings | Country Living
- Campfire Smores | Betty Crocker
- Owl Cupcakes | Martha Stewart
Preheat your oven! It’s time to decorate some cupcakes using our list of 18 cupcake decorating ideas.
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