A cupcake is the epitome of American desserts. With the fluffy cake base and the smooth, luscious piped frosting, the cupcake is truly a versatile and delicious dessert.
When you see a cupcake at the store or in a bakery, one tends to admire the sheer perfection of the frosting on top. Whether it be a round dome of frosting, a piped frosting displaying ridges, or anything in between, this is the part of the cupcake that you want to look good.
As you know, many bakeries and stores that produce cupcakes use a variety of fancy piping tips to get that smooth look. Piping tips are sometimes hard to get (although Amazon now makes it easy to find a nice, affordable set), and oftentimes inconvenient to use.
Baking cupcakes, but don’t have a piping tip? No problem.
To get that nice frosting on the cupcake without a tip, you can use one of four methods:
- Use a Ziplock bag
- Use a knife
- Dip the cupcake
- Use a cookie dough scooper
Before we take a look at these four methods in more detail, let’s take a quick look at the benefits and drawbacks of using a piping tip.
Benefits of Using a Piping Tip
- You get a smooth and sharp finish to the frosting
- It eliminates the mess and allows for easy manipulation and control of the piping
- There are many different ways in which you could frost your cupcake- piping tips come in various shapes and designs
- It doesn’t take that long to pipe frosting onto the cupcake
Check out this quick video that shows a few different tips and the results you can achieve with them:
Drawbacks of Using a Piping Tip
- Hard to clean
- Not much control of how much frosting is put on the cupcake if you only have one size of tip
- Frosting is wasted in the tip
- It requires pastry bags which you much purchase at a store along with the tips, most of which can’t be reused
Ways to Frost Cupcakes Without a Piping Tip
1 – Use a Plastic Ziploc Bag
Using a Ziploc bag as a piping tip is fast and easy. You don’t need to purchase another bag or another tip, it’s all in one.
The benefits of using a Ziploc bag are that it’s easy to use, fast, cheap, and readily available. The drawbacks are that it can get messy, and it’s hard to get that perfect circle.
This video gives a nice demonstration of piping with a Ziploc bag:
How to use it:
- To get the Ziploc bag ready to frost your cupcakes, start with the bag open and, using a spatula, transfer the frosting into the Ziploc bag.
- Push the frosting towards one corner of the bag. Using scissors, cut the corner of the bag to the size of the “tip” you want it to be. Keep in mind the corner of the Ziploc bag will expand into a circle once you cut the corner, so don’t cut it too far up unless you want a huge tip.
- Point the corner of the Ziploc bag with the frosting down towards the cupcake and squeeze the frosting out in a circle, or, if looking for a smoother dome, press the corner of the bag gently against the middle of the cupcake and squeeze, while simultaneously holding the bag down so the frosting forms around the “tip” and creates a nice circle on top of the cupcake.
2 – Go Old School With a Knife
One of the easiest ways to frost a cupcake is with a knife. A knife is easy to use, available, and doesn’t take that much time.
The knife, though, requires time and patience if you want to use it to create a sharp and perfect look.
How to use it:
- Using a knife or a silicone spatula, scoop desired amount of frosting onto cupcake (it doesn’t matter what the frosting looks like at this point, it’s okay if it just looks like a huge glob on the cupcake, you’ll smooth it out later).
- Take the knife and smooth out the frosting to form an even layer on top of the cupcake, moving the frosting until it reaches the edge of the cupcake. If this looks good enough to you, great. You can even form a little swirl on top of the frosting using your knife for a better effect.
- For a more bakery-style cupcake, at this point take your knife and tilt it so it’s almost vertical, but at a slight angle away from you at the edge of the cupcake. Move the knife around the cupcake to form a flat edge of frosting around the edge of the cupcake.
3 – Dipping the Cupcake
This method of frosting cupcakes is probably the easiest, and the least time-consuming. Especially if you’re using a ganache frosting, or a thin liquid frosting, this way is definitely the easiest.
There isn’t too much mess, it doesn’t require any extra equipment, and it looks good. The only drawbacks to this method is that it won’t work as well with a thicker buttercream mixture.
Check out this video around the 9:20 mark for an example:
How to do it:
- Line your cupcakes up on a baking rack with a sheet pan underneath (to catch the dripping frosting). Set your frosting in a big bowl next to your cupcakes.
- One by one, take your cupcakes by the bottom, holding them firmly in your hand, and dip them into your frosting mixture cake side down. Make sure the entire dome of the cupcake is covered.
- Swirl around to coat the cupcake, and remove the cupcake from the frosting, letting it drip. In one smooth motion, turn the cupcake right side up and put it back on the baking rack.
4 – Cookie Dough Scooper
This method of piping is simple and fun. The benefits of using a cookie dough scooper are that it’s fast and easy.
The drawbacks to using a cookie dough scooper are that it’s messy and requires multiple tools- a scooper, and a knife to smooth out the frosting.
How to use it:
- Using the cookie dough scooper, scoop out the frosting. Release the scoop of frosting onto the middle of the cupcake.
- Use a knife to smooth out the frosting in whichever way you like, similar to the ways in which you would frost a cupcake using the knife method.
Sometimes using a piping tip isn’t convenient. Ready to frost those darn cupcakes without one?
Give these methods a try. You’ll be sure to make beautiful looking, bakery-worthy cupcakes in no time.
Looking for more cupcake hacks? Let me show you several unique ways to fill your cupcakes without a tool and some simple ways to make frosting without the main ingredients!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.