Yes, you can put lofty swirls on your homemade cupcakes just like a bakeshop pro. Create understated but glamorous swirls using only common kitchen implements, or pipe single-color or two-color peaks using a frosting tip and pastry bag. There’s no reason to serve bare-naked cupcakes when you know some simple tricks.

Things You'll Need

Turning Twirly Swirls

Spread a generous layer of buttercream frosting on top of a cupcake with a spreading knife, making it about 1/2-inch thick.

Hold a frosted cupcake in one hand and a regular table fork in the other. With the fork over the cupcake and the tines pointing down, insert the tines into the icing layer only, with the tines radiating toward the edge of the cupcake — similar to the hand on a round clock face. Don’t press the fork into the cake.

Twirl the cupcake so the tines create rows in the frosting, beginning at the outer edge of the cupcake. Continue making twirls, lifting the fork and inserting it again if necessary, moving the fork toward the center of the cupcake. Finish by lifting up and twisting the fork from the center of the frosting to create a curly swirl. You can also finish by simply rotating the tines to outline a button of concentric circles in the center.

Pile It High

Place a large star decorating tip in a pastry bag. Fill the bag with frosting, pressing and squeezing slightly from the back as you fill it to remove air bubbles.

Make unbroken, concentric circles of frosting over the top of the cupcake. Begin at the center and pipe the first layer — one circle just outside another — until reaching the edge.

Pipe the next layer of frosting without breaking the flow, beginning about 3/4 inch from the edge. Work toward the center.

Give a final gentle squeeze at the center, then release the pressure to end the flow of frosting. Lift and twist the tip from the center to create a peaked swirl.


  • Create two-color swirls by placing one color of frosting in the bag. With a wooden skewer, hollow out a cone-shaped center cavity all the way to the tip, and fill it with another color of frosting. Squeeze the frosting onto the cupcakes as usual.

  • Twist the pastry bag slightly as you rotate the cupcake so the star-tip ridges as well as the frosting rounds create swirls.