Cupcake Decorating Tips Part One: The Basics

WHAT TO BUY: While it might be tempting to buy a kit, buying individual pieces keeps your supplies personalized to your individual preferences. Here’s what I bought: four 12-in reusable decorating bags, this set of garden tone colors, four decorating couplers, one flower nail, white icing, powdered sugar. As for the tips, always buy metal ones to give your cake the most professional looking decorations. You will notice the difference.

CHEAT A LITTLE: Here’s a cupcake decorating tip for real life: Don’t hesitate to buy cake mix and a container of frosting from the grocery store. It’s fast, easy, and tastes fine. By cutting a few corners on the baking, you’ll have more time to spend decorating. It’s all about balance. Once the cupcakes have cooled, dirty ice them as shown. (Dirty icing means to put a thin coat of frosting onto the cupcake. It helps cover irregularities on the cake.)

ICING TIP: Turn regular frosting from the grocery store into decorating icing by adding powdered sugar. Slowly stir in powdered sugar into the bowl of icing until peeks form (as shown). We used around ¾ cups for one 12-ounce container of frosting.

COLOR TIP: When creating your icing color, use a toothpick to place the gel into the icing. Toothpicks add just the right amount without the mess. Another tip: Use the color on top of the gel container as a guide to know when to stop adding more dye. (See picture above.)

BAG IT UP: First, screw the tip and decorating couplers onto the bottom of the icing bag. Then, fold the bag inside out to create a large opening (picture 1). Place a spoonful of icing into the opening and pull the spoon out. Make sure not to let the icing pour out the top by squeezing the top of the bag (picture 2). Continue adding frosting until the bag is half full. Press all the icing down until it starts to come out of the tip. Twist the loose end of the bag to seal shut.

This is where a lot of beginners go wrong. They either hold the bag too high or too low. For the proper placement, wrap your hand around the twist and grip the icing back firmly with your fingers

Get the right cupcake supplies to create beautiful creations for a special day.

Cupcake decorating is no longer just for the pros. Go to any craft store and you’re bound see enough supplies to open a bakery. I’ve been tempted to buy a few, but didn’t know where to start. And even if I did buy the supplies, I wouldn’t have a clue how to use them. So I dragged my expert cake-decorating sister (and her expert cupcake decorating tips!) along with me to the store and she told me exactly what I would need as a novice pastry decorator. Then we went home and she taught me the basics. Her first tip: Don’t begin by decorating cakes, instead learn on cupcakes. Cupcakes are more manageable to work with because if you mess up, you can simply wipe the service clean and start over again. Check out the slideshow to learn more about the basic tools and methods to cupcake decorating. Next week, after you’ve mastered the basics, I’ll show how to create three easy cupcake designs