Cupcakes used to be relegated to the realm of kid's birthday parties and rarely seen in adult settings. But those days are over -- today's cupcakes are fancy enough to be served at weddings, and there are entire bakeries devoted to them. The best cupcakes are as beautiful as they are delicious, made by hands that know how to frost cupcakes as artfully as a painter knows how to paint.

But hose beautifully frosted cupcakes can break the bank, as gourmet cupcakes can cost anywhere between $4 and $8 a pop. You can save a small fortune if you learn how to make and frost cupcakes yourself. It's easier than you might think, and we're here to help.

This article will teach you how to frost cupcakes using the piping bag frosting technique, the spreading frosting technique, and and the dipping frosting technique. Let's get started!

A chocolate cupcake.

1. Spreading Cupcakes

The "spreading cupcakes" technique is the simplest way to frost cupcakes, because all you're doing is spreading the frosting across the top of the pastry. No special equipment is needed -- all you need is a butter knife or rubber spatula. It's the perfect technique for children or novice adults to learn how to frost cupcakes.

A girl spreads frosting on cupcakes.

The technique:

1. Place the cupcake in one hand and the spatula or butter knife in the other.

2. Dip the spatula into a bowl of freshly made frosting and spread it evenly over the top of the cupcake. Use as little or as much frosting as suits your fancy, but make sure the surface is completely covered. Smooth it out the way you would if you were spreading peanut butter on a piece of bread.

3. The downside of the spreading technique is that the finished cupcakes might look a little plain, but that just means you can get creative with toppings. Drizzle with syrup, sprinkles or any of your favorite toppings such as fresh fruit or candy to dress them up.

Cupcakes topped with a pretzel.

2. Dipping Cupcakes

If you prefer to frost your cupcakes with a thin layer of homemade icing or ganache, the dipping technique is ideal. It's the easiest way to get a thin, even coat over the top, and with this method you don't even have to dirty a knife or spatula -- you can apply the icing directly from the bowl.

A bowl of icing.

The technique:

1. Whip up a batch of homemade icing or ganache.

2. Hold the cupcake upside down. Gently lower the top of your cupcake into the icing.

3. Remove the cupcake with a twisting motion so the excess icing drips back into the bowl.

4. Let sit a few minutes before serving.

Four cupcakes on white wood surface

3. Use A Piping Bag For Frosting Cupcakes

Using a piping bag to frost your cupcakes results in the most dramatic finished product -- this is the stuff $8 cupcakes are made of. The technique is a little more detailed, but don't be intimidated. It's far easier than it seems. However, this method does require some special equipment.

You'll Need:

  • Piping Bag
  • Piping Bag Tips

Piping bag tips come in different sizes and shapes, which produce different patterns and textures in the icing. They're relatively inexpensive, so we suggest getting an assortment and experimenting with different tips to find which ones you like best. You'll be able to create a variety of cupcakes by switching back and forth between tips.

A piping bag with four extra tips

If this is a last minute project and you don't have a piping bag on hand, it's easy to make your own.

How To Make Your Own Piping Bag:

1. Take a gallon sized Ziploc bag.

2. Fill it with frosting.

3. Massage the frosting into the bottom of the bag. Gather the upper ends of the bag in your hand so the portion holding the frosting resembles the shape of a turnip.

3. Cut a corner of the bag. Keep the hole small for better control of your frosting. Place a tip over the opening in the bag.

4. Squeeze and apply your frosting to the cupcake.

A chocolate cupcake surrounded by strawberries.

Fill Your Piping Bag:

Whether you're making your own piping bag or buying one at the store, there's a trick to filling your bag with no mess or fuss.

1. Grab a large, sturdy glass. A pint glass would be perfect.

2. Place the open bag into the glass, with the open end facing up. Fold and smooth the edges of the bag over the sides of the glass.

3. Spoon the frosting into the bag.

4. Lift the edges of the bag from the sides of the glass and twist them together.

5. Run your fingers down the edges of the bag to guide the frosting towards the tip.

Now that your piping bag is filled with frosting, you're ready to get started. Here are some different techniques you can practice to create beautifully designed cupcakes.

Pipe Frosting In A Swirl Pattern:

1. Hold the piping bag straight upright, with the tip right above the cupcake.

2. Squeeze the frosting to form the center of the swirl.

3. While continuing to squeeze, move the tip in a circular motion around the center until it connects with the other side.

4. After the first rotation is complete, keep squeezing the bag while moving the tip higher and more toward the center.

5. Repeat this motion until you have a mound of frosting that resembles of the shape of soft serve ice cream cone.

You can pipe a swirl with tips of any size or shape, so why not experiment with them all and see what you like best?

Piping frosting onto cupcakes.

Pipe Frosting In A Rose Pattern:

1. With a plain round piping tip, squeeze the bag to form a tall dot of frosting in the middle of your cupcake. This will be the center of your rose.

2. Replace the plain tip with the rose petal piping tip.

3. Squeeze a ring of frosting around the center so it overlaps on itself.

4. Continue building out by frosting petals around the center and inner petals. Make sure each ring increases the number of petals, and move the tip up and down so you achieve a realistic effect.

5. Repeat the process until you have a fully formed rose on top of your cupcake.

Frosting in a rose pattern.

Pipe Swirled Frosting

Serving cupcakes with multi-colored frosting is a sure way to impress your guests, and it's not nearly as difficult as you might expect.

1. Fill a piping bag with two different colors of frosting. Make sure there is an equal amount of both colors and separate them on both sides of the bag.

2. Using your preferred tip, apply the frosting in a swirl pattern using the method described above.

3. When you pipe your frosting it will have the same half-and-half effect as swirled ice cream.

chocolate brown and orange cupcakes with flowers

Frosting cupcakes is not only fun, but far easier than most people think. Which method will you try first?

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