If you’ve read a couple of my articles you might remember that I started out baking cupcakes in my teens. Back then, baking supplies were nearly impossible to get and were almost always overpriced.
But cupcakes don’t frost themselves. I had to, one way or another, learn to improvise. Through tons of trials and errors, eventually, I’ve mastered the art of making aesthetically pleasing cupcakes with or without all the necessary tools.
I’m Angie, I’m a self-taught baker baking as a side hustle. In this article, I will share with you five shockingly easy ways you can frost cupcakes without a piping tip.
A quick disclaimer before I start: You might never want to get piping tips again after reading this.
Let’s get started!
Method 1: DIY Tip
I bet Wilton does not want you to know this.
We all know just how pretty those beautifully piped cupcakes can look, but did you know that you can easily recreate similar if not the same piped patterns by making your own piping tips?
Don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds. All you need is a pair of scissors or a very sharp knife and your piping bag.
First, fill your bag up with frosting. I like to do it in a glass. Make sure to push all of your frosting close to the opening to get rid of any pockets of air trapped inside.
For a flat nozzle, simply fold your piping bag in half and cut straight across the tip. You can cut as much or as little as you want depending on how thick you want your lines to be. This is great if you are piping out words too.
For a rounded tip, do the same as before except when you’re cutting, try to make a rounded cut rather than a straight one. This will create round dots, chubby lines, and patterns. Cut the opening bigger and you can swirl it on the top of your cupcakes giving them that classic poop emoji look.
If you don’t have piping bags, you can also do the exact same thing and even more with a Ziploc bag, preferably a freezer-safe one.
For this variation, you need a pair of scissors/a sharp knife, your Ziploc bag, and also some tape. First, tape around one corner of your Ziploc bag. Doing so will give the opening corner more hold and support and prevent it from ripping when squeezed.
On top of the already mentioned tips above, you can also cut your Ziploc bag into a star tip. For this, you’ll need to make two incisions on the opening corner. Think a “V” shape.
A tip to remember when making a DIY piping tip is to start small and slowly expand. This is because as the frosting reaches the opening corner, the corner will get pushed outward causing it to expand.
For a more detailed video guide on how to make your own piping tips with a Ziploc bag, check out Jill’s video below!
Method 2: Dip and Dunk
This method is super easy and you can combine it with other listed methods as well! For this method, you can use a ganache or candy melts. A thin frosting or glaze can also work though it may not be as easy to control how well it will set.
Whatever you choose to use, make sure it is at a smooth, liquid consistency. Hold your cupcake by its bottom, flip it over and dip it into your choice of dip. Once the surface is completely covered, lift it and let the excess drip back into the bowl before flipping it back around.
You can also put frosting on your cupcake first before dipping it. Doing so gives your cupcake more texture and it will look taller than if you were to glaze it straight away.
Super effortless so far right? Well, you can be done here, but you can also jazz your dipped cupcake up even more by dipping it in a dry topping after the wet topping.
I like to dip mine in rainbow sprinkles, Fruity Pebbles, chopped nuts, or shredded coconut for a healthier option. Not only does this make your cupcake look fuller and more colorful, but it also adds complexity to your cupcakes’ texture.
Method 3: Spatula / Palette Knife
Cupcakes don’t always have to be intricately piped to look professional. Magnolia Bakery is the perfect example of this. This NYC bakery, best known for its banana puddings, is also well known for its cupcakes with its signature swirl.
Good news – you can achieve that same swirl or create your signature frosting look using a spatula or a palette knife.
To do the magnolia bakery swirl, grab a dollop of frosting and dab it on your cupcake. Pad the frosting until it’s smooth on the edges. Twirl your palette knife towards you while twirling your cupcake in the opposite direction to create the swirl.
You can learn to frost a cupcake with the signature magnolia bakery-style swirl by following this video!
If making a swirl is too technical for you, you can also make a flat top by evenly spreading your buttercream on the cupcake and smoothening the top with a clean spatula or palette knife. Flat tops are perfect if you want a stable foundation for your cake toppers.
If you don’t have a spatula or a palette knife, surely you have a spoon somewhere in the kitchen? You might not be able to make a magnolia swirl with a spoon but you can still give it a rustic homemade look.
Using your spoon, take a big dollop of frosting and place it on your cupcake. Spread out the frosting by gently dabbing the frosting with the back of your spoon. This will create some “peaks and valleys” on your cupcake.
Regardless of whether I have a piping tip or not, I like to use this method for my meringue frosted cupcakes. Once torched, the “peaks and valleys” created will brown at a different pace, giving it a textured look.
Method 4: Ice Cream Scoop
Last but not least we have the ice cream scoop. This one is a no-brainer. All you need is an ice cream scoop and you’re all set.
Take a big scoop of frosting, scrape the excess off either with a spatula or on the edge of a bowl, release your scoop of frosting on the top of your cupcake, and lift it up.
This method tops your cupcakes with a generous amount of frosting and it always ends up looking like an actual scoop of ice cream. Pretty fun huh!
To add texture to your frosting, you can repeat the process of method #2, dipping your ice cream frosting into a sprinkle or any other dry topping for a fuller look and some extra crunch.
Did you know that ice cream scoops are also perfect for distributing cake batter evenly? I highly recommend you investing in one of these handy tools to help you multitask.
Here I’ll answer some commonly asked questions regarding frosting cupcakes.
How do you frost cupcakes with a knife?
Frosting cupcakes with a knife is similar to frosting with a spatula or palette knife! Simply follow the instructions on method #3 or watch this video below for a step-by-step video guide.
What is the easiest way to frost cupcakes?
For me, method #4 might be the easiest way to frost a cupcake. It really requires no skill and it is a super quick way as well.
Can I frost cupcakes a day before?
You can frost cupcakes a day before. Just remember to keep them in an airtight container especially if you are putting them in the fridge or the freezer.
As I said, tools can be super handy and they create stunning patterns, but not everyone has them. It doesn’t mean you can’t keep baking, it just means you gotta be creative.
I hope you’ve found at least one of the methods here useful. If you have any other questions regarding how to frost a cupcake without a tip, feel free to comment and let me know! Or if you have some even better tips for all of us, please let us all know!About Angie