How to pipe buttercream on cupcakes

Learn how to pipe buttercream designs onto a cupcake using a technique Britt Box loves. There are a few elements to practise, but the results are beautiful! Britt breaks down the steps for you, so you can create buttercream swirls, dots and roses!

Brought to you by Britt Box from She Who Bakes

How to pipe buttercream... As with everything in cake decorating, it starts with a good base. The three most important elements you need for this are:

  • a reliable, flat-topped cupcake recipe (see recipe below)
  • strong buttercream (see recipe below)
  • good quality piping nozzles

My cupcake recipe is one that's never failed me and has always produced perfectly flat-topped cupcakes, ideal for piping buttercream onto. It uses my ‘low and slow’ method of baking at a lower temperature for a longer time to produce a more even bake.

When you come to the piping, there are quite a few designs that can be made with an open star nozzle. My three favourites are:

  • a classic ‘Mr Whippy-esque’ large swirl 
  • a slightly smaller cupcake swirl for those who don’t want too much buttercream
  • small piped stars

If you don't own nozzles already you can buy them from Amazon:

Content continues after advertisements

  *This article contains affiliate links.

You will need

Cupcake recipe

  • 200g (7oz) self-raising flour
  • 200g (7oz) Stork/unsalted butter
  • 200g (7oz) caster sugar
  • 50g (1¾oz) plain flour
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Buttercream recipe

  • 250g (9oz) unsalted butter
  • 500g (1lb 2oz) icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract



Cream together the butter and sugar.
Add in the eggs and mix.
Add in the flours and mix.
Add in the vanilla and mix.
Use an ice cream scoop to fill cupcake cases with mixture and bake at 140°C/Gas Mark 1 for 35-40 minutes.


Cream the butter on its own first, then add in the icing sugar and mix. When this is blended, add in the vanilla. Try not to add milk, water, etc., as this will make the buttercream too soft to pipe with.
Drop your chosen nozzle into a disposable piping bag, then push it back up the bag about 1cm (½in) to give you room to cut the end off.
Push the nozzle back down, so only the detail is sticking out of the end. Too much showing can lead to the nozzle popping out of the bag while piping. To easily fill the bag, fold over the top. It's easier to hold and there's less chance of getting buttercream everywhere.
Spoon your buttercream into your bag, being careful not to over fill it. It’s easier to add buttercream when you need it than to try to pipe with a bag that’s too full. Squeeze the air out and then push the buttercream down to the end, I use a rolling pin for this.
Stop just as you get to the top of the nozzle.
Twist the top of the bag, as this keeps it nice and controlled and limits the chance of getting covered in buttercream.

Technique focus – open star nozzle

For a large swirl, start directly above the cupcake, not to the side, leaving a little room for the buttercream to come out and sit nicely, rather than be squished. Pipe a small ‘iced gem’ shape into the middle of the cupcake by holding the nozzle slightly above the surface.
Starting on the outside edge, pipe continuously around the cupcake, and then on top of the iced gem shape you have made. Keep going around until you reach the centre. At this point, stop piping completely and then pull away. If you pull away when you are still putting pressure on the piping bag, you won’t get a nice point at the top.
For a smaller swirl, do as above but leave out the first shape on the cupcake. Start on the outer edge and pipe continuously into the middle. Again, stop squeezing and then pull away once you get to the middle.
To pipe small stars, start on the outer edge of the cupcake and squeeze out a small star of buttercream. You need to be close to the cupcake, but not pushing onto it – this allows room for the star to be formed. Squeeze gently, then stop squeezing and pull away. Continue these stars around the outside of the cupcake and then towards the middle, finishing with one in the centre. The key to piping small stars is putting enough pressure onto the cupcake that the star sticks to the cake, but not being so close that it ends up as just a blob.

Technique focus – round nozzle

For a round swirl, pipe a blob of buttercream into the centre of the cupcake (as for the large swirl with the 1M) and, starting from the outside, pipe continuously around into the centre. When you get to the middle, stop squeezing and pull away.
For dots, which are cute on cupcakes and big cakes too, start from the outside. Squeeze out a small dot of buttercream, being close enough to the cupcake for it to stick down, then stop squeezing and pull away. Continue around the outside and into the middle.

Technique focus – rose swirl nozzle

Start directly above the centre by squeezing and go around the cupcake using gentle and even pressure. I go anti-clockwise as I find it easier. Continue around until you reach the case, then stop squeezing and pull away. If the buttercream has lifted up slightly at the end, use a damp paintbrush to push it down into place. If decorating with sprinkles, do so straight after piping. If pushing in modelling paste, etc, leave to set for 30 minutes.

More in Buttercream Basics

More in Decorating with Buttercream

Click here to sign in or register!

Click here to sign in or register!