How to Frost Cupcakes with a Bag
Back when I was in college, I took a Wilton cake decorating class at my local JoAnn Fabrics. It was the intro class, and I was the youngest person there by far. We learned the basics of decorating cakes using buttercream, decorating bags, and decorating tips. It was mostly about making different flowers, how to write on a cake, and how to plan out your cake design. I LOVED it.
After that, I was hooked on using decorating bags and tips. I use them for everything from filling ladylocks to stuffing smoked deviled eggs to frosting pumpkin cupcakes with maple buttercream. Everyone is always so impressed with how cupcakes like that look, but can I tell you a secret? After you decorate a couple batches of cupcakes using a decorating bag…you’ll never go back. It takes a little practice, but it’s so much easier and faster than icing using a knife. And that is why I’m going to walk you through how to frost cupcakes with a bag today! Buckle up, it’s going to be a long one.
First, you’ll need a bag and decorating tips. There are three types of bags: reusable, plastic disposable, and parchment disposable. All three come in different sizes – I like the 12″ bags. There are pros and cons to each:
Reusable decorating bags
Reusable bags are obviously reusable, but that means you have to wash them..which can be annoying depending on what kind of frosting you’re using. They are dishwasher safe, but I’ve found they don’t always come out of the dishwasher totally clean – especially the inside. I usually flip these inside-out no matter how I wash them.
Reusable bags are the most expensive option because, well, you can use them over and over. They do require you to use couplers to use your decorating tips, which is a small but additional purchase.
Be careful if you’re using heavily colored frostings because the bags will stain. The stains don’t tint future frostings, though.
Plastic decorating bags
Plastic decorating bags are a little more expensive than parchment, but they’re the easiest disposable bag to work with. I usually buy these in a box of 100 at JoAnn Fabrics or Michaels because I can always find a 40% off coupon. That brings the price down to around $12 ($19.99 full price), and 100 will keep me stocked for a couple years.
Parchment decorating bags
Parchment bags are the least expensive, but they come as parchment triangles. You have to fold them into a cone to form the bag. It isn’t hard, it can just get a little annoying to fold each bag you use. But, a box of 100 triangles is only $7.99, which comes out to less than $5 with that 40% off coupon.
I personally think parchment bags are best if you’re decorating using melting candies. You can melt the candy wafers right in the bag in the microwave – just don’t cut the tip of the bag off until the candy is melted and you’re ready to use it, or it can go everywhere.
Side note: you should bookmark that link about folding the triangles, because this is a great trick if you ever run out of decorating bags. Just use your regular roll of parchment paper (which I know you bought after reading this post) to cut a big triangle to fold into a bag!
When to use a coupler
If you’re using the same color of frosting with multiple tips, you’ll want to use a coupler. The inside piece of the coupler goes within the decorating bag, so the decorating tip stays outside the bag. The ring twists around to secure the tip to the coupler, which is why you’re able to switch tips so easily.
When you’re cutting a bag to use a coupler, you want the first thread on the coupler to be exposed outside of the bag. Be careful that you don’t have too many threads exposed, or the coupler won’t be secure. It’s important that at least one thread be exposed, though, so the ring can catch when you’re attaching a tip.
How to frost cupcakes with a bag
Now that you have your bags, it’s time to prep them. This is how you initially prep your reusable bag with a coupler (start watching around 45 seconds). You can use your decorating tips without a coupler if you’re using a plastic or parchment bag. Start by trimming a little bit off the bag at a time – you can always trim it more. If you’re using Wilton decorating tips, you want the opening of the bag to be right around the etched tip size.
If you like more frosting: start by piping a line down the middle of the cupcake.
Squeeze frosting around the whole outside edge of the cupcake. Make sure you get close to the edge so you have frosting in every bite!
Once you’ve gone the whole way around, keep squeezing and swirl another layer of icing filling in the gap between the middle line and the outer edge. This should start to increase the height of the frosting.
Complete the swirl and once you reach the middle of the cupcake, stop squeezing and slowly lift the bag.
If you like less frosting: start with the tip slightly off-center in the cupcake.
Swirl the frosting around from the inside of the cupcake towards the outside. This is how you create the “rose” look.
Tips (ha!) for success
- Never fill your decorating bag too much, or icing will ooze out of the top. If you’re using a Wilton bag, try to keep the frosting around or below the Wilton logo (see the decorating bag in the photos above).
- As you’re piping the frosting, keep your decorating bag perpendicular to the cupcake. This will create the cleanest lines.
- Always maintain even pressure as you’re squeezing the frosting.
- When you refill the bag with frosting, watch out for air bubbles. Sometimes I will actually squeeze out the frosting closest to the bottom until the air bubble is released so I make sure I don’t have an air bubble interrupt when I’m frosting a cupcake.
- If you do have an air bubble interrupt your decorating, just put your decorating tip right next to the frosting where it’s stopped, squeeze a little to “connect” the frosting, and keep decorating.
- After you fill the bag with frosting, squeeze it down by putting two fingers on either side of the bag and sliding them down. It’s a good idea to do this periodically as you’re decorating to keep all the frosting towards the bottom of the bag.
- If you mess up or aren’t happy with how the piping looks, you can always smooth it out with a spatula or knife.
- If you’re not totally happy with the piping but not unhappy enough to smooth it out, add sprinkles. Sprinkles can distract from almost anything.
And there you have it! I know it’s hard to understand these directions by reading, so let me know if you’re interested in watching a video series about how to frost cupcakes with a bag. I’m also thinking about offering in-person lessons to give you a hands-on instruction! Let me know if you’re interested here.