Cupcakes are a wonder and a delight! Hard to find someone who doesn’t like them, right?
Plus, they’re super easy to whip up last minute and are beginner-friendly for at-home bakers everywhere. But what happens when you’d like to frost them yet don’t have a piping tip?
Despite our trusty Amazon friends offering affordable, multi-functional piping sets, you can still find yourself without one. Whatever the case, and thanks to me, you’ll find five solutions that make frosting a cupcake without a tip a breeze.
Take a quick look for yourself:
- Use a plastic Ziplock bag
- Go old school with a knife
- Dipping the cupcake
- Try a cookie dough scooper
- Use a the back of a spoon
Using Piping Tips: Pros and Cons
Before we take a look at these five methods in more detail, let’s take a quick look at the benefits and drawbacks of using a piping tip.
Why Choose a Piping Tip
Piping tips are consistently used by pro bakers everywhere—despite the alternatives. Why is that? Let’s see:
- 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 as piping tips come in various shapes and designs.
- It doesn’t take that long to pipe the frosting onto the cupcake.
Why Not Use a Piping Tip
Nothing comes without its drawbacks. What are the piping tip’s cons, you ask? They are:
- Hard to clean.
- Not much control of how much frosting is put on the cupcake if you only have one size of tip.
- Much frosting is wasted in the tip.
- It requires pastry, or piping, bags which you must 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.
Pros of using a Ziploc bag? It’s easy to use, fast, cheap, and readily available. But—it can also get messy and it’s hard to get that perfect circle.
Want to see how it’s done? This video gives a nice demonstration of piping with a Ziploc bag
How to Pipe with a Ziploc Bag
Maybe the video wasn’t clear enough. Let Sarah take care of you with this simple guide:
- 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.
Tip: 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.
Hint: 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. The utensil is easy to use, available, and doesn’t take that much time.
That said, this method requires time and patience if you want to use the knife to create a sharp and perfect look.
How to Pipe with a Knife
Take a look at how easy it is to pipe a cupcake with a knife:
- Using a knife or a silicone spatula, scoop the desired amount of frosting onto the cupcake.
Reminder: 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.
Note: 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.
Want a more aesthetically pleasing, bakery-style cupcake?
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. Volia!
3. Dipping the Cupcake
Let’s be honest; 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.
There isn’t too much mess, it doesn’t require any extra equipment, and it looks good, too. The only downside is that it won’t work as well with a thicker buttercream mixture.
How to Pipe Using the Dipping Method
Should be pretty straightforward, but still, here’s 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. 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.
Simple enough, right? Just need a stable hand and swift reflexes!
4. Try a Cookie Dough Scooper
This method of piping is both simple and fun if you ask me. Can safely say that using a cookie dough scooper is super fast and easy.
However, using a cookie dough scooper is messy and requires multiple tools—a scooper and a knife to smooth out the frosting.
How to Pipe With a Cookie Dough Scooper
- 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—just like how I taught you before in the knife method!
5. Use the Back of a Spoon
Did you know that the back of the spoon yields smooth results not just in baking? I even use this method to spread cream cheese on toast, sometimes!
Aside from being simple and quick, much like the dipping solution, using a spoon works best with certain frosting types—preferably thick ones.
But that shouldn’t limit you. Watch this baker creatively use just a spoon to decorate her cake in 3 different ways – you wouldn’t believe she only used a spoon!
How to Pipe With the Back of a Spoon
This method could not be any easier! See for yourself:
- Use the spoon to dollop a generous amount of frosting on your cupcake.
Tip: You can actually use two spoons here. One to scoop up the frosting and another to push that scoop onto the cupcake smoothly.
- Gently pick up and hold your cupcake. With the back of your spoon, spread the frosting onto your cupcake.
Hint: Don’t just spread it flat! Twirl the spoon back and forth to create a swirl effect.
At this point, you can just leave it be. If you want to play around with the shapes, you can try running the spoon’s tip from the edge to the center to create a better swirl.
Whoever said you need a piping tip to make your cupcakes look pretty? Certainly, wasn’t me!
Being a baker is all about using what’s available – that’s one of the early lessons I learned. And with these 5 nifty alternatives, you can easily frost your cupcakes without a tip.
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.