Whether your style is simple and elegant, fun and flirty, or over-the-top, you can decorate your cupcakes to match. Buttercream frosting serves as both a beautiful decoration in and of itself and a base for further decoration. Try decorating all of your cupcakes with the same technique for a streamlined look, or use several styles for a festive mix. However you choose to decorate, make sure to start with high-quality buttercream so your cupcakes taste as good as they look.
For a simply elegant cupcake, pipe the top of the treat like a professional decorator. Though the results may make it look difficult, with the right pastry tip and a little practice, you can create neatly composed swirls and dollops of buttercream. Fit a pastry bag with an open star tip, fill with frosting, and pipe in a circle around the top of the cupcake, starting on the outside and moving toward the center. Release pressure on the bag once you reach the center, then pull the tip straight up.
To create a consistent, round dollop that looks like a pillow of frosting on top of your cake, fit a pastry bag with a large round tip. Fill the bag with buttercream and hold the pastry tip just above the center of the cupcake. Squeeze the bag, allowing the frosting to push itself out and round up. Release pressure and swirl the tip slightly as you pull away.
Adding whimsical candies or rich, miniature chocolates to the top of your buttercream-frosted cupcakes creates an extra-sweet treat. For a cupcake kids will love, stick gummy worms part way out of the buttercream and crumble chocolate cookies around them to look like dirt. Break a peanut butter cup in two and place the halves at an upward angle out of the center of the frosting. Sprinkle a crumbled chocolate toffee bar over the top of vanilla buttercream. Top a blue buttercream-frosted cupcake with red gummy fish.
Rolled and Beautiful
Rather than simply decorate a cupcake with sprinkles, try rolling the buttercream in rainbow or chocolate sprinkles, chocolate shavings or sweetened flaked coconut. Pipe a generous dollop of buttercream onto the top of your cupcake, pressing it into the cake to adhere. Fill a medium-sized bowl with the chosen topping. Holding the base of the cupcake securely, invert the cupcake into the bowl so the frosting is just touching the topping. With slight pressure, roll the cupcake until the buttercream is covered and rounded, and quickly right it. Though the technique may take some practice, the results are worth the patience. The key is not to fear flipping the cupcake.
Fun With Fondant
Fondant, though not always enjoyable to eat in large quantities, offers the chance to get creative with shapes. Knead purchased fondant with the food coloring of your choice until the color is spread consistently throughout. Use a rolling pin dusted with powdered sugar to roll out the fondant on a silicone mat or smooth countertop, also dusted with confectioner's sugar, until about 1/4 inch thick. Use small cookie cutters to cut out various shapes, or free-form cut the shapes with a small knife. Lay the cutouts on parchment paper, cover with another sheet of parchment, and allow them to dry for a few hours. Then, decorate the tops of your buttercream-frosted cupcakes with the shapes of your choosing. Alternatively, use the fondant like children's molding clay to create small figurines to sit in the buttercream.
Best Fruit Forward
Add a fresh touch to your cupcakes with fruit. Berries, peaches, grapes and citrus slices all brighten up both the appearance and flavor of a cupcake and lend a lighter note to the richness of buttercream. Slice larger fruits into bite-sized pieces, or cut into attractive shapes and arrange them on top of a layer of buttercream. Melt apricot jam in your microwave or over a double-boiler. Cool slightly and drizzle the apricot glaze over the fruit to preserve its freshness and color and prevent it drying out.
- Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft; The Culinary Institute of America
- The Professional Pastry Chef: Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry; Bo Friberg
- Photo Credit Dynamic Graphics/Creatas/Getty Images