Step by Step : Frosting cupcakes – the perfect swirl!

It seems a little silly, but even though I’ve been baking cupcakes for years, (even as far back as they were called fairy cakes!), I’ve only just started using piping bags and proper nozzles when frosting cupcakes,  in order to achieve that perfect bakery-style cupcake swirl.

Frosting cupcakes tutorial at kerrycooks.com

The perfect swirl!

When I first started out, I was a little unsure what nozzle was the best to achieve the perfect swirl and also what effects the various other nozzles on the market produced.

So I got a pack of 7 nozzles from Lakeland and set about experimenting. I also recently bought the Wilton 1M tip that I’ve heard so much about (its supposed to be THE classic nozzle to achieve the perfect swirl) in a set along with the Wilton 2D tip.

Frosting cupcakes tutorial at kerrycooks.com

All my nozzles – Wilton 1M and 2D bottom left and right

The Wilton 2D tip is the one that gives the rose swirl effect cupcake, like this – I think these look amazing and I’m excited to try it on a real cupcake!

The first nozzle I tested was the Wilton 1M

Frosting cupcakes tutorial at kerrycooks.comFrosting cupcakes tutorial at kerrycooks.comAs you can see it has a wide star tip – the tip you buy doesn’t necessarily have to be a Wilton tip – one of my Lakeland ones gives a similar, if not even better swirl, but it needs to look similar.

Frosting cupcakes tutorial at kerrycooks.comHere’s the first swirl with the Wilton 1M nozzle (on top of a jar of pasta sauce!) – as you can see its *pretty* much the perfect cupcake swirl. Any lack of perfection is down to my technique and not the nozzle. If you don’t already have any nozzles and you’re interested in making cupcakes, this is definitely a great nozzle to get. I got mine on ebay in a set with the 2d for £8 for both, including postage. You can get it here.

You can also see a great tutorial on how to pipe the perfect swirl with the Wilton 1M here on the Wilton website.

Frosting cupcakes tutorial at kerrycooks.comOnto the Wilton 2D!

Ever since I’ve (only fairly recently, in the past couple of months) been seeing amazing pictures (and getting amazing birthday cupcakes from Star Bakery!) of lovely rose swirl cupcakes, I’ve been dying to know how you get this amazing effect. I was very surprised to learn that its (apparently) as simple as a certain kind of nozzle! Of course the technique counts as well – check out my effort below

Mine is fairly awful compared to a really good rose swirl, but this is my first attempt! You can see a really great tutorial on how to do a better rose swirl here at Bella Cupcakes site!

Next up is the first nozzle from my Lakeland set which looks like a spoke at the top. To my surprise, this shape gave a really really great swirl! Maybe even better than the Wilton 1M swirl? What do you think?

Its so swirly whirly, I’m mesmerised!

Next up is the second nozzle from Lakeland which is just a wide hole. I was quite dismayed to see my nemesis (after fondant) – the poo cupcake

Just wrong

I’ve always been mystified in the past when I’ve been into or seen pictures on blogs / of fancy cupcake bakeries where they’ve decorated their cupcakes with this nozzle. There’s only one possible outcome – no matter what fantastic colour your frosting is, it will always look like poo.

  Seriously – does anyone know what you would use this nozzle for – other than an occasion when you’d WANT cupcakes that look like poo, of course!

Anyone?

Phew! Lets get back on track with Lakeland nozzle#3 which looks like a central star tip.

At this point both my hands, clothes, hair and camera are coated in a layer of frosting, as you can see.

Just for you.

You’re welcome!

And here’s the swirl!

Its okay, but I think you’ll agree that the Wilton 1M and the Lakeland#1 tips both give much better swirls.

Next up is Lakeland nozzle#4 which looks quite similar to the Wilton 1M – It also gives a good cupcake swirl!

Good swirl definition

Okay, next is Lakeland nozzle#5 which looks pretty much like Lakeland nozzle#1 except that the spoke is thicker.

If you understand me.

My hands are now completely covered in frosting.

Next up is Lakeland nozzle #6

Its another circle one :-(

You know what that means!

Moving on…

Finally, we have Lakeland nozzle#7!

I still have no idea what shape this was supposed to make even AFTER I tried it.

I mean it was a hot day and the buttercream was definitely getting melty but really…

Anyone?

So there you have it – IN CONCLUSION, the best nozzles for the perfectest, most professional looking cupcake swirl is the Wilton  1M. You can also achieve a similar (or even better?) effect with any nozzle which looks like it has a spoke shape at the end like Lakeland nozzle#1, so I’d definitely recommend getting the Professional Piping Set from Lakeland if you’re starting out, as it’s great value for a lot of nozzles.

Once you have your nozzles, watch and read tutorials, practice practice practice and before you know it, you will be creating cupcakes with the perfect swirl!

I hope this tutorial helps you to achieve a more professional look when frosting cupcakes! Let me know any questions in the comments!

x Kerry

83 Comments

  1. I never thought a post about icing a cake (I mean, pasta sauce jar lid) would be quite this entertaining. I can’t believe your stamina at using all these nozzles. Love it! My favourite is the Wilton 1M and 2D x

    Reply
    • Lol, glad you found it entertaining! It took agggeeeess! Completely agree on the wilton ones, think I’ll stick with those and the lakeland #1 from now on. I’m sure the other nozzles must have some use but I’m not sure what it is!

      Reply
  2. Fab blog post. I wanna go ice things now!

    Love your breakdown of the different nozzles – had no idea what all mine did!

    Reply
    • Thanks Emma! I think the lesson is you only really need the wilton 1 (or similar)!
      I really don’t want to see any frosting for a while now though!

      Reply
  3. Brilliant post kerry! I’ve been hunting down the cheapest wilton 1M I can find on ebay recently! Problem being a student is, that if it goes over £2 I don’t want to buy it haha! Though now I’ve seen just how fab it is I guess £8 is definitely value for money!!!

    I think (though I may be wrong) that Lakeland #7 is used to do those nice decorative ribbons around cakes.

    A bit like the edges of this one (http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?q=iced+celebration+cake&um=1&hl=en&sa=N&biw=1114&bih=702&tbm=isch&tbnid=1WIt2SRlMyzu8M:&imgrefurl=http://www.thecakestation.co.uk/&docid=qIBt3jOUH7LoeM&w=400&h=300&ei=ADA1TonLDIqwhQf-hu2UCw&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=120&page=3&tbnh=164&tbnw=217&start=33&ndsp=12&ved=1t:429,r:2,s:33&tx=156&ty=127)

    Once again thanks for a great post!

    Reply
    • Hey! You’re welcome – glad you liked it!

      I did look for the cheapest possible Wilton 1M too… I don’t think £4 inc postage is TOO bad though, especially considering it will last for years I’m sure!

      Reply
    • Oh – and feel free to borrow mine if you need to!

      Reply
  4. The small round one is probably for piping out letters and words on a big flat cake. The big round one probably gives a nice smooth basic tube of icing around the borders of a cake or to fill in a seam between layers or something.

    On a cupcake they probably are always going to look like poo if you mound them up.

    Reply
  5. I use the big fat round one for piping my macaroons. Also think churros and funnel cake. Think outside the cupcake box! If you have a looser buttercream mix the effect is much better on cupcakes as it settles slightly, look at Georgetown Cupcakes- they don’t use any fancy swirls just the basic swirl. Don’t forget to use your nozzles for posh mashed potatoes (who really pipes potatoes? SMH

    Reply
    • Ha I can’t even mash potatoes let alone pipe them! Thanks for the tips!

      Reply
  6. Thanks for the tips!!! I always bake cupcakes, but they often end up looking quite sad. Bookmarking this page and putting it to good use!

    Reply
    • Thanks Emily! How come – too small? I always fill the cases two thirds full, and I have good results with the hummingbird bakery recipe for vanilla cupcakes :-)

      Reply
  7. Lakeland 7 nozzle looks like a shell nozzle for decorating around the sides of cakes no idea how to use it on cupcakes

    Reply
  8. Great post! love your comments about the ‘poo cupcake’ nozzle!! I’d been thinking the exact same thing when I tested out my Lakeland nozzles, but I think they might actually have a use…
    I’ve been reading a lovely book called Miette (San Francisco bakery), and they use plain-ish nozzles to pipe buttercream filling in between sandwich cake layers, so they get an even distribution around the visible edge.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Jenny!! I always feel bad when I see people with ‘poo cupcakes’ as they obviously think they look good!!
      I’ve read about Miette on Bakerella’s blog – their stuff looks amazing!

      Reply
  9. The round nozzles are not intended to make poo cakes! They are used for piping choux for profiteroles or buns, and the smaller one for filling said cakes!

    Reply
    • Thanks Sarah! I knew there had to be a practical use for them!

      Reply
  10. Kerry – I have only just read this and I had to contain myself from laughing like a lunatic at work when I saw your ‘poo cupcake’ comment! Hahaha!

    I am still trying to master icing cupcakes – it’s just soo hard! *throws hands in the air*

    Reply
    • Haha! Glad I made you laugh :-) Icing cupcakes is hard, the picture you have in your head is difficult to translate to reality. If you practice and get a Wilton 1M from eBay though you’ll get a lot better! x

      Reply
  11. So many different choices!! I liked the one that looked like poo.
    Did you EAT all that icing? LOL!

    Reply
    • I ate a good amount of it… I felt pretty sick that afternoon!

      Reply
  12. I was thinking the mystery #7 nozzle might be for piping a border on a flat surface, if you put the mushed in side down. The bottom side is flat, and it has ridges on the top of it.

    Reply
  13. Great post! I have a few mystery tips myself. I haven’t been brave enough to try them though. I always end up with ol’ faithful, Wilton 1M or the poop tip.

    Reply
  14. hi Kerry,

    having tried lots and made plenty of boo boos along the way here are my two bits on your try out. The orsting you are using seems a little too runny for these large tips. hence the slump in the ‘poo’ and the curls of the swirls. In some cases i can see a cracks on the ridge of the swirls (the pointed edges) which also could be due to the consistency.
    The round nozzles are good to make dots and even petals for flowers using the shell border technique.
    The lakeland nozzle 7 can be used for shell borders and is similar to Wilton nozzle 98

    Reply
  15. I’ve just bought the Lakeland nozzles and was thinking I was going to have to test them all out before deciding the best one for the cakes I was icing, then I came across your blog which was really, really helpful and I could quickly see the style of each. A great big thank you to you,you saved me time and my Easter cakes look great! ( totally agree that the Lakeland #1 is excellent!)

    Reply
    • Aw thanks Jo, what a lovely comment!

      Reply
  16. Thanks so much for this post! Getting the swirl right on a cupcake is something that I have always struggled with… I’m bookmarking this for sure!

    Reply
  17. i make cupcakes and have been looking for a decent rose effect nozzle. my dad has just brought these at the wkend for me…and thanks to you..i now know what im doing..!! Thanks so much for this wonderful information….
    lisa :) xx

    Reply
    • Thank you Lisa, what a lovely comment!

      Reply
  18. HI I JUST WANTED TO SAY THAT MY GRANDFATHER AND I (HE IS 83 AND 12 ) HE IS THE BEST HE USED TO OWN BEACON SWEETS AND MADE ALMOST ALL THE SWEETS TODAY THAT WE EAT HE HAS BEEN OFFERED A JOB IN JHB BUT HE SAID NO BECAUSE HE WANTS TO START A CUPCAKE BUSINESS WITH HIS GRAND DAUGHTERS MY IS 21 AND IS OPENING A WEDDING PLANING SHOP CALLED SWEET PEA AND WE ARE USING MOST OF YOUR ICING TIPS AND WE ARE IN SA

    Reply
  19. Great blog post. The plain nozzle is amazing when used on high hat cupcakes. Try it sometime, you’ll change your mind about the poo thing.

    Reply
    • Thanks Lorynne! I just love the swirly cupcakes too much!

      Reply
  20. Preety cakes !! Lovely :) nozzles best user

    Reply
  21. Beautiful cupcakes! Just about to ice mine and I’m trying to figure out what tips to use! Thank you now I know!!

    Reply
    • No problem, thanks for reading!

      Reply
  22. Thank you for such clear images to guide one when icing :)

    Reply
  23. Have been scouring the net for pics of icing patterns along with nozzles used and now I’ve found it!! Thank you very much, I’ll bookmark and refer back to often! X

    Reply
    • Thanks Emma – glad you found it useful!

      Reply
  24. I’ve been looking everywhere for a breakdown on which nozzles are best for cupcake swirls! Thank you so much for writing this, – very helpful! Thanks :D

    Reply
    • Thank you for reading Sarah! :)

      Reply
  25. Thanks so much for this, its gonna be a great help. And also Lakeland no 7 nozzle gives the shell effect that we see on birthday cakes!

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading Ashling!

      Reply
  26. Hey Kerry :) Lovely blog! The big ‘poo’ nozzle, I don’t use it for icing. I use it to make chocolate eclair & profiteroles instead.

    Reply
    • Thanks Yasmin! I know some people do that, and at the Peggy Porschen boutique they use it to pipe the cupcake batter into the cases too!

      Reply
  27. Thanks for the info on this blog – like someone else I also have a set of the Lakeland nozzles but haven’t gotten around to ‘testing’ them, so this saves me the job. I’m going to make some cupcakes tonight, and I’m going to go for No. 1! Fingers Xed.

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading! Hope they went well :)

      Reply
  28. I love this! Thanks for the info! I was told by a cake decorator that the plain or ‘poo’ tip is for when you use an icing that isn’t smooth, ie with crushed cookies or fruit in it, however I always do these ones the traditional way by hand because I too think they look like a poo on a cake!!

    Reply
    • Haha, thanks for the info! The only time I can see it would come in handy is macaroons or just piping filling in a cookie/ cake :-)

      Reply
  29. The “poo tip” could make a really cute bee hive!!! :)

    Reply
  30. You may me lol, I think exactly the same about the poo cake nozzle…why…just…why?! That chocolate one is extra hysterical ;D

    Reply
    • Heehee, at last, someone who thinks just like me!!

      Reply
  31. hi kerrycooks, i think the final nozzle is for borders rather than swirls. i may be wrong however, im doing a lot of research at the moment as i got about 100 different nozzles for christmas and no idea what any of them do lol. i do have this lakeland set though and have invested in a wilton 2d also. if you ever find a better use for the ‘poo’ nozzle i would love to hear it lol

    thanks for the effort :)

    Reply
    • Wow, 100 nozzles, that’s amazing! The mind boggles! The only thing I can think of with the poo nozzle is filling layer cakes with an even amount of frosting…. or making joke cupcakes!

      Reply
      • It’s good for piping out choux pastry for eclairs, or soft biscuit dough, or meringue etc. Not designed for icing.

        Reply
  32. This is sooo useful – thank you so much for going to all that effort so I don’t have to! I have the exact same Lakelands nozzles and to be honest I only really use nozzle #4 as I find it pretty foolproof. I did use the poo nozzle once as I was following one of Peggy Porschen’s recipes and wasn’t that impressed with the results! (http://babblingaboutbaking.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/lemon-cupcakes/) Love the rose effect, I am buying those nozzles!!

    Reply
    • You’re very welcome! The lemon cupcakes look delightful anyway, but I do think rose or classic swirly swirls give the best effect personally. Thanks for stopping by! x

      Reply
  33. Great post. Totally agree about the ‘poo’ effect – just don’t get why? I’ve tried it a few times and just wonder why you’d bother when you can get a much prettier swirl! I love my Wilton 1M and 2D tips – the Hobbycraft by me sells them for £1.99 each. :)

    Reply
    • Great value – even cheaper than eBay!

      Reply
  34. Thank you , this is such a useful post. I have still to master using an icing bag, never mind the decoration, but when I do I will know which nozzle to use :)

    Reply
    • Very glad to hear it helped ! :)

      Reply
  35. Lovely and informative post Kerry. Thanks for visiting Clifton Kitchen and for liking the most recent post.

    Reply
  36. Just spotted this and thought I’d mention that if you starting piping your ‘poop’ ones from the centre, move outwards in a clock-wise or anti-clockwise direction whichever you find easiest and then when you reach the start, move in and change direction – finishing at the centre – do the stop pushing, tinsy push down and pull up – you will end up with a nice ‘button’ type of swirl without the poop effect – great for when you are topping with say … a decorative fondant disc

    Reply
  37. I think the poo one is great for bannana split cupcakes and icecream with a flake in??
    Snow men at xmas or just snow!!

    Reply
    • Definitely banana split! And I will also be using it when I make an upcoming cake to pipe a frosting border inside the cake around some lemon curd

      Reply
  38. The large round is for things like piping meringues, the small round is for writing, and the last – nozzle#7 – is for piping shells.

    Reply
  39. Awesome blog – have lots of nozzles and have never really perfected the perfect swirl and now I know why. Will def be investing in the Wilton 1M nozzle straight away.

    Thanks for the info.

    Happy baking!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much! You definitely can’t underestimate the power of a good nozzle! I absolutely love 1M and 1D, they’re really the two basic ones :)

      Reply
  40. firstly thank you for trying out different tips and sharing your experiences with them…. secondly….THANK YOU for being honest… lol iv always thought that nozzle made icing look like a big neat poo…. and all these bakers and cooking shows think it looks great…how do they not see what we see? anyways enjoyed it! :o)

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading Michelle!! X

      Reply
  41. I have not laughed so hard at a tutorial EVER. Good job!

    Engaging, able to laugh at yourself … the Poof Swirl got me. I had to keep reading :)

    I haven’t put my cupcake recipes up yet … have some that friends are ambushing me for … but I make have a commercial space so am reticent/selfish to share in case it happens. I just MAY though ;)

    Keep it up Kerry … will be adding you onto my blogroll. I have been a bit busy to update my site. I’m bad. Will be doing so shortly and definitely be doing so August onwards.

    You made my day. Pooh Swirl. Still chuckling!

    Judie

    Reply
    • Aw! Thanks so much Judie!!

      Your comment made my day too!:D

      Reply
  42. Abs loved yr breakdown of the tips! Finally someone thowt to break down and explain (with pics) wat these nozzles look like.
    Wat a relief, very funny commentary :)
    Laughed so much reading the poo result comments. Brilliant! :)

    Reply
  43. Thanks Kerry! Reading this has been really helpful. I have a set of 3 nozzles I bought from Sainsbury’s although having looked for my favourite one, I am panicking I have lost that, but it is similar to Lakeland nozzle 1. Will definitely not be experimenting with the nozzle for poo type frosting. I think I might put a good set of piping nozzles etc on my Birthday list!!!!
    I will enjoy keeping practising my technique to achieve the perfect swirl!

    Reply
    • Thanks Kate, so glad you found it useful!

      Lakeland have a great set (the £11.99 one) which I would recommend, or else you can’t go wrong investing in a Wilton 1D and star tip nozzle.

      Reply
  44. You definitely need to invest in a coupler :)

    Reply
    • I do! I tend to stick to my two favourite swirls, rose and star, so its not normally a problem.

      Reply
  45. This is a great post. I think #7 can also be used for piping leaves for decoration. I am working on trying to make nice a nice rose top as well.

    Reply
    • Thanks Charlotte! I heart the url of your blog! x

      Reply
  46. Hi! Thanks for this interesting post!
    As a newbie in cupcake baking I am finding relative articles for the perfect cupcake. As much as possible I want it to be detailed since it’ll be my first time and I want something irresistible, something my mother in law and other relatives wouldn’t spit out after eating- be it so perfect and flawless no one could ever say anything to it and also don’t want to throw money on trashy cupcakes. This article of yours help me what tip to use to achieve the frosting I wanted or I was wanting to create. Again, thank you for this info.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the tip!

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Loving right now « kerrycooks - [...] been thinking about cupcakes a lot lately…. this post which I did last summer is still the most popular …
  2. Icing Bag Nozzles | Cabs Cupcakes - [...] me down some what. I wanted to see what other bakers were using. That’s when I discovered Kerry’s article …
  3. It’s All About the Nozzle | Blog of a Beginner Baker - [...] used this amazing blog post to look at some of the effects I could achieve with the icing – I …
  4. Cupcake making and decorating - [...] 24/03/13- I was interested in how you are supposed to achieve a ‘perfect’ icing swirl, therefore i did some …

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: