Piping Tips 101 + Video

Learn how to use piping tips with this easy-to-understand Piping Tips 101 guide and decorating tutorial. I break down all the complicated information so you can learn how to decorate cakes and cupcakes like a professional. These are my 5 go-to EASY piping tips.

a plate of cupcakes decorated with vanilla buttercream using various piping tips

Learn How to Use Piping Tips

Here’s a quick and very honest backstory. I’ve never felt super talented at cake and cupcake decorating because it’s extremely intimidating. Do you feel the same way? Bored with my usual swirl and knife-swiped frosting looks, I began playing around with different piping tips. As I started using new tips, my confidence shot up. And, as it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised with how EASY it was/is to create beautifully decorated confections.

A couple years ago, I would have laughed if someone asked me to create a plate of cupcakes like this:

cupcakes decorated with vanilla buttercream using various piping tips

But I just threw myself into it and had a lot of fun in the process. And so can you!

Piping Tips 101 Video Tutorial

5 Basic & Beautiful Piping Tips

Piping tips might seem intimidating, so let’s break everything down in this simple piping tips 101 course. It takes a little practice, some visual guidance, and a really dependable frosting recipe like my sturdy creamy vanilla buttercream. I gravitate towards the following 5 piping tips. Each create a completely different look, so that’s why it’s a wonderful starter collection. (And these tips won’t break the bank– they’re each pretty inexpensive.)

  1. Wilton 1M
  2. Wilton 8B
  3. Ateco 849
  4. Wilton 12 small round
  5. Ateco 808 large round

5 piping bags fitted with various piping tips and filled with vanilla buttercream

One note: I create TWO looks with the Wilton 1M. That’s the tip I use and recommend for two-toned frosting roses, but it’s also the tip I use to create soft-serve looking swirls as shown in the video tutorial above.


1. Wilton 1M – Rose

Wilton 1M is a classic piping tip and the buttercream rose is a staple decoration. Start in the center and pipe a flat swirl. You can see this lovely rose decoration on this 6 inch birthday cake. You can also create two-toned frosting roses. They’re gorgeous and it’s a lot of fun to play around with different colors. And to prove Wilton 1M’s versatility even more, you can use it to make hydrangea cupcakes too!

  • Similar piping tips: Ateco 849 and Wilton 2D can produce the same look. In fact, any piping tip labeled “star tip” can produce a buttercream rose. Some tips are wider to create larger roses and some tips are more narrow to create smaller roses. Does that make sense?

vanilla frosting piped with wilton 1m piping tip


2. Wilton 1M – Tall Swirl

Wilton 1M can also produce a decoration that resembles soft serve ice cream. Start in the center and move slowly around, building a tall swirl on top of itself. Ateco 849 piping tip (also listed below) is a little wider, but produces a similar look. I used Wilton 1M to pipe tall swirls on these chocolate cupcakes.

vanilla frosting piped with wilton 1m piping tip


3. Wilton 8B

Wilton 8B is one of my all-time favorites. It’s very easy to use, but creates a beautiful decoration. You can see I used it on these white chocolate strawberry cupcakes and these chai latte cupcakes. Start in the center and swirl upward.

vanilla frosting piped with wilton 8b piping tip


4. Ateco 849

Ateco 849 is a wide piping tip. You can make a rose or a soft-serve swirl, just like the Wilton 1M above. (Since this tip is wider, the rose and swirl would be wider/larger. You can see a wider tall swirl using Ateco 849 on these yellow cupcakes and these peanut butter cupcakes.) Or you can create a super easy ruffled look as shown in the next picture. You can see the ruffled look on my funfetti cupcakes and pistachio cupcakes, too! Just press the tip in the center and lift up while pushing frosting out.

 

vanilla frosting piped with ateco 849 piping tip


5. Wilton 12

Wilton 12 is a small round tip. Since it doesn’t have any detailed edges, I love using this tip for silky/thin/creamy frostings such as salted caramel frosting and cream cheese frosting. You can see an example of it on my lemon cupcakes with blackberry cream cheese frosting. Just press the tip in the center and lift up while pushing frosting out.

vanilla frosting piped with wilton 12 round piping tip


6. Ateco 808

Ateco 808 is also a round tip, but it’s much larger than Wilton 12. Its decoration looks like a big fluffy cloud! You can see an example of it on these cookie dough cupcakes. Start in the center and swirl upward.

vanilla frosting piped with ateco 808 piping tip


Other Tools Required

If you’re piping frosting, you also need piping bags. Here are my preferences:

Pick up reusable or disposable, whichever you prefer. The reusable piping bags are very easy to clean. Whichever you use, I recommend the 16 inch size. It’s a great size whether you’re adding a lot of piped decoration or even a little.


How to Fill Piping Bags

It can be pretty difficult to fill a piping bag with creamy frosting without making a mess! My trick is to use a big cup. Fit the piping bag with a piping tip, then place it in a large cup, folding the top of the piping bag around the rim of the cup. Watch me do this in my Two-Toned Frosting Rose video.

Now that you’re totally equipped with this piping tips 101 guide, go pipe some frosting LIKE A BOSS! (Ateco 849 used below!) ♥ ♥

Vanilla buttercream on cupcakes

These piping tips work perfectly for other frostings like Swiss meringue buttercream, chocolate buttercream, and even my sturdy whipped cream recipe.

Print
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cupcakes on a plate topped with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles with pink polka dot cupcake wrappers

Favorite Vanilla Buttercream

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 2.5 cups
  • Category: Frosting
  • Method: No Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This is my favorite vanilla buttercream. It’s the perfect vanilla frosting that’s simple, creamy and smooth and tastes unbelievable on vanilla cupcakes!


Ingredients

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 45 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar (see note)
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream, half-and-half, or whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to medium-high speed and beat for 2 full minutes. Taste. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. I always add 1/8 teaspoon.
  2. Adjust if needed: You can control the consistency at this point– add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or more heavy cream if frosting is too thick (add only 1 Tablespoon at a time, beat together, then taste and add more if desired).
  3. Use immediately or cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. After thawing or refrigerating, beating in a splash of heavy cream or milk will help thin the frosting out again, if needed.

Notes

  1. Quantity: This recipe is enough to frost 12-16 cupcakes or a thin layer on a 9×13 inch quarter sheet cake. Follow these ratios for a 2 layer cake and these ratios for a 3 layer cake.
  2. Confectioners’ Sugar: If your confectioners’ sugar is particularly lumpy, I recommend sifting it 1-2x before measuring and using.
  3. Heavy Cream: I love using heavy cream for the creamiest consistency. You can use half-and-half or whole milk instead if needed. The lower the fat, the less creamy your buttercream will be. Whichever you use, make sure it’s at room temperature. Otherwise your frosting could separate or appear grainy.
How to decorate cakes and cupcakes with some of the prettiest (and easiest!) piping tips! Recipe and video tutorial on sallysbakingaddiction.com

126 Comments

  1. Hello Sally,
    Loved all the piping tips. One question: could you make a blog post about how to pipe frosting? I don’t have any piping tips OR pastry bags and could I just use a ziplog bag with a hole cut instead?
    Thank you so much!
    Mary

  2. Hi Sally!
    My piping tip and piping bags just arrived today and I’m excited to use them! I tried your vanilla cupcakes recipe and piped the frosting onto the first cupcake. However, it look really messy. I didn’t want to go on because I was afraid I could mess up the looks of all the other cupcakes–the cakes looked so well-shaped! Could you tell me how to pipe frosting?
    Thank you SO much!
    Reese

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Reese, All of our tips and tricks are in the above post and videos! Practice a lot until you are comfortable – you can pipe back into your frosting bowl, on parchment paper, etc. to practice if you don’t want to pipe on the actual cupcakes yet and then you can reuse that frosting. You can always scrape off the frosting on a cupcake that you don’t like too, so don’t be afraid ro make a mistake. Have fun!

  3. Love your tips. I have a problem I’m hoping you can address. My hands are very warm, and when I decorate with buttercream frostings the frosting in the decorating bag begins to melt before I’ve finished a full ring of piping around an 8″ cake. I’ve tried different buttercream recipes, parchment paper bags, reusable cloth bags, and disposable plastic bags. Holding my hands in cold water and wearing gloves doesn’t seem to help. I can’t pipe ‘stable’ whipped cream frostings at all without them becoming soupy. I haven’t tried meringue-based frostings…would these hold up better for me?

    1. I have the same question-I’ve tried to use buttercream a few times and it just gets messy and the designs aren’t precise. Help! Also, it smears all over the cake board, so should you not touch the frosting touching the board, if that makes sense. Thank you, so so much!

      1. P.S. Sally, Your recipes are genius, and I have so much more respect for the “science” of baking. I think you’re the first site that has really stressed the importance of room temp ingredients! I made some absolutely heavenly vanilla cakes in quarantine this year, after never making a cake from scratch. I made an absolute killer German Chocolate Cake too with your upgraded recipe, probably one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever had, ever! I have so much more confidence! Unfortunately the sourdough bread attempts have failed miserably, but hey, I’ll take what I can get. My son’s first birthday is in a month and I’m going to try your hummingbird cake. I have a decoration turntable and all the piping supplies, but so far it’s been unsuccessful, see question above. Thanks so much for opening my horizons; learning skills like baking from scratch has been one of the ways I’ve made lemonade out of lemons this year!

      2. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Jessica, thanks so much for your kind note! To your questions about buttercream and piping — it sounds like your butter may be a bit too soft. Here is a helpful post about What Room Temperature Butter Really Means. If you find the buttercream is becoming too soft while decorating, always feel free to stick the piping bag filled with buttercream into the fridge for a few minutes. Same goes for the cake, too! Especially for bigger cakes that take longer to decorate, you may find it helpful to periodically stick it in the fridge to prevent everything from getting too soft. Adding a small amount of additional confectioners’ sugar will also help to thicken up the buttercream, too. Hopefully this is helpful, and let us know how the Hummingbird Cake turns out!

    2. Try making frosting with half butter and half shortening. It holds up alot better and doesnt “melt” like pure butter frostings.

  4. Hi Sally! I’m trying to get into cake decorating, but I’m wanting to color my frostings. Do you have a specific type/brand of food coloring you’d recommend?
    Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Laura, we love Americolor gel food coloring for frosting – you only need a small amount to get beautiful colors. Happy baking!

      1. Great! Thank you!

  5. I never liked buttercream frosting until I tried this recipe. It was the first time the consistency was perfect for piping

  6. I am making your strawberry cake with strawberry cream cheese frosting for a birthday this weekend and really wanted to pipe roses on the top. Will cream cheese frosting do ok with piping? I don’t want to decorate it and it flop by the party. If not, do you have any other beautiful decorating tips for that cake? Thank you!

  7. Hi Sally
    Can I use a crisco w confectioners sugar combo icing as a cheaper way to practice decorating over several days? Also, can I use that icing later for decorating a cake ?
    Thank you

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, that’s a great way to make a practice frosting! But it’s not very good to actually eat, so if you are decorating a cake to eat I would use the real thing.

  8. Kelli Amaral says:

    I also have made this buttercream and love it. My issue with piping is that the frosting always squeezes out of the top of the piping bag making a giant mess. Any tips on how to deal with the bags so they work like they should?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kelli! It sounds like your piping bag may simply be too full. Try adding a little less buttercream next time, or, we often like to tie off the top of our bag with a rubber band, clip, or twist tie to help keep the top sealed.

  9. Do you not need couplers for the bags?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Andi, you can still use the plastic couplers. They are great for when you want to change tips on the same bag of frosting! If you don’t need to change the tips out you can simply cut the end off of a disposable bag as pictured. As long as you don’t cut too much off the bags are strong enough to withstand the pressure and not break!

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