How to pipe buttercream swirls

Ever wondered how cupcake and bakery businesses finish their bakes off so beautifully with perfect swirls of buttercream? Sophie Turhnam from Sophie Victoria Cupcakes shows you how to create four iconic looks...    

Brought to you by Sophie Victoria Cupcakes

Something I always get asked is how to create the classic cupcake swirl. So I thought I’d do a blog about the different swirls you can create by using different nozzles. Although there are different techniques used to create different swirls (which are explained below), I've also come up with some top tips for piping buttercream which will help you with any swirls you do.

Top tips for piping buttercream swirls

  • Make sure there's a twist at the top of your piping bag (or put a freezer clip slightly above where the buttercream finishes in the bag). This will create pressure so you only have to squeeze gently. Remember as you pipe you can move the clip down the piping bag to keep the same amount of pressure.
  • Use your right hand (if you're right handed) to squeeze and your left hand to guide. It's important to use two hands to ensure you get a neat swirl.
  • Hold your piping bag at a 90 degree angle to the cupcake. It may be easier to ice standing up depending on height/what work surface you are working on.
  • Make sure the buttercream is the right consistency. The swirls will not hold their shape if your buttercream is too runny but you won’t get a smooth swirl if your buttercream is too thick

For the vanilla cupcakes (makes 12)

  • 110g butter, softened
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 110g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
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For the vanilla frosting

  • 280g icing sugar
  • 140g butter, softened
  • 1–2 tbsp whole milk


  • Large closed star
  • Large round
  • Small closed star
  • Small open star  


Cupcake 1

The classic swirl, using the large closed star nozzle. Starting from the outside of the cupcake, pipe inwards, slightly overlapping each time you go round the cupcake. To finish the swirl stop squeezing then gently lift up your bag. You can also use the closed star tip to get a tighter, smaller swirl.  

Cupcake 2

The round nozzle. This uses the same technique as the classic cupcake swirl, but the round nozzle gives a much smoother finish.  

Cupcake 3

The rose swirl, using the small closed star nozzle. This is my favourite swirl as it's simple but so effective. For the rose swirl you start in the centre of your cupcake. Gently squeeze out a little bit then slowly start to go round your cupcake, working your way out to the edge, slightly overlapping as you go. When you have no more cupcake to cover, stop squeezing and lift up. You can do the rose swirl in two toned buttercream to create a beautiful rose cupcake.  

Cupcake 4

The small open star nozzle. Again this is a twist on the classic cupcake swirl, but the small open star nozzle creates a much thinner swirl.  

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