Piping Tips 101 + Video

Learn how to use piping tips with this easy-to-understand 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 5 simple piping tips are inexpensive and easy to use!

frosting with 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.

6 months ago, I would have laughed if someone asked me to create a plate of cupcakes like this:

How to decorate cakes and cupcakes with some of the prettiest (and easiest!) piping tips! Recipe and video tutorial on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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

5 Basic & Beautiful Piping Tips

Piping tips might seem intimidating, so let’s break it 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 to get started. I gravitate towards the following 5 piping tips. Each creates a completely different look, so that’s why it’s a great collection if you’re just starting out. And these babies 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

How to decorate cakes and cupcakes with some of the prettiest (and easiest!) piping tips! Recipe and video tutorial on sallysbakingaddiction.com

One note: I like to 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. Just like you see on my margarita cupcakes. 🙂

Watch as I use each piping tip so you know how to do it:

Not so hard, right? Some are a simple swirl and others are starting in the center and gently pulling straight up. Let’s look at a photo of each finished look. These are organized in the order that they appear in the video above.

1. Wilton 1M – Rose

Wilton 1M is a classic piping tip and the easy 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, some tips are more narrow.

How to use the Wilton 1M piping tip on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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. You can see that I piped chocolate buttercream on these yellow cupcakes using the Ateco 849.

How to use the Wilton 1M piping tip on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

How to use the Wilton 8B piping tip on sallysbakingaddiction.com

4. Ateco 849

Ateco 849 is a wide piping tip. You can make a rose, a soft-serve swirl, or 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.

How to use the Ateco 849 piping tip on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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 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.

How to use the Wilton 12 round piping tip on sallysbakingaddiction.com

6. Ateco 808

Ateco 808 is also a round tip, but it’s much larger. Its decoration looks like a big fluffy cloud! Start in the center and swirl upward.

How to use the Ateco 808 piping tip on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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 just 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 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.

Vanilla buttercream on cupcakes

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


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


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


  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. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. (I add 1/8 teaspoon salt.)
  2. 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. Adding a splash of heavy cream or milk will help thin the thawed frosting out again, if needed.


  1. Quantity: This recipe is enough to frost 12-16 cupcakes or one 9×13 quarter sheet cake. Follow these ratios for a 2 layer cake and these ratios for a 3 layer cake.
How to decorate cakes and cupcakes with some of the prettiest (and easiest!) piping tips! Recipe and video tutorial on sallysbakingaddiction.com


  1. I just piped vanilla buttercream on my Black Forest cupcakes the other day….I think I used tip #21….they came out so cute and it was so much fun! I am usually a put the icing on with an offset spatula kinda person.
    I will be piping icing more often…so, these “tips” about tips is fantastic..
    Thanks, Sally

  2. Sally, you’re my go to resource for all things baking! I have a specific problem with piping that I’ve been unable to find an answer to. Every time I try, I’ll get through a couple cupcakes or so. Then frosting will stop coming out the tip and will instead start coming out between the bag and the top of the tip. My tip seems properly fitted according to the instructions and it happens whether or not I use a coupler. I’m at a loss and very much hoping you can help! Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Gabrielle, It could be that you are cutting too much off the tip of your bag. Cut only enough off so that it doesn’t block the openings in the piping tip but it still covers most of it. Also make sure that your frosting isn’t too thick causing too much pressure to be needed to squeeze it out!

  3. Hi Sally, I am a total newbie to frosting so thank you sooooooo much for your video. What size bags go with the tips you recommended please; I would prefer a reusable piping bag; I can’t wait to try this out!!

  4. Looking forward to trying these tips out. I am looking for quality cupcake liners for the cupcakes I will be making for my son’s wedding in August. I am going to freeze them ahead of time but don’t want the cupcake liner to separate from the cupcake after I take them from the freezer, as I have had happen sometimes. Do you have any good sources for quality liners that would work well? I am going to be making 300 plus so I want them to look nice!

  5. I think the link for the Video Tutorial for Different Piping Techniques has disappeared. I see where it should be, but no link. My daughter really wants to watch it. =)

    1. Also go directly to YouTube and do a title search. I just put in Sally’s Frosting Tips and it came up. I do this for all her videos.

  6. Wondering if you have/will use Russian and Russian Ball baking tips? They are quite user friendly and something new to explore.

  7. Hi! I want to watch the piping tutorial, but I don’t see a video link. I made sure adblock was turned off. Is there some way I can watch it? Thanks! Your cupcakes look beautiful. 🙂

  8. Thank you Sally, and the pictures answer my question as to whether I should be practicing with metal or plastic tips! I didn’t like the plastic starter set I bought, so it is time for metal.. all of your tips, videos and emails are so helpful. Have a great summer!

    1. Hi Sandra! You can find the recipe here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/simply-perfect-vanilla-cupcakes/ Happy baking!

  9. Hi Sally, thank you! I too have been learning to pipe (I grew up with the metal plunger icing tool) and find that making a batch of meringue allows me to pipe shapes. For my 3 egg white recipe for meringue, I get to practice about 40 cookie size. Lots of piping practice for a low cost. When I’m ready, I will try your buttercream recipe.

    1. I know it sounds silly and repetitive, but practice really does make perfect! Let me know if you try the vanilla buttercream sometime. 🙂

  10. Love this post! Also, I have a Wilton 4B piping tip and it works wonderfully for piping swirls on cupcakes and borders on cakes. But I was wondering…do you find reusable or disposable piping bags preferable? I have a reusable one (Fat Daddio’s brand) and it works wonderfully, but it’s almost impossible to clean properly. Do you have any tips on cleaning it thoroughly? I noticed that after using it about three or four times, it begun to develop a filmy, almost greasy feel on the inside, and it got stained by chocolate frosting and food coloring and smells terrible. I try to clean it well, but nothing seems to work. Dishwasher, soaking it in lemon juice…I think I must just throw it out and buy disposable ones. That seems like an easier, less-frustrating option 🙁

    1. Hi Erin! I use a combination of both- if I’m in a rush I’ll use the disposable ones, but I do love my reusable ones (I have the Wilton brand)- I turn them inside-out and soak them in soapy water for a few minutes before scrubbing them!

  11. Hi Sally/other bakers!

    I am making your key lime pie this weekend along with a few others (jalapeños wrapped in bacon and pretzels)- So excited, I love all your recipes!

    Do you have any recommendations for piping my heavy cream onto the pie? Do or don’t? And what tip should I purchase for heavy cream?

    Thanks in advance! 🙂

    1. Sounds like it’s going to be a delicious weekend! I often use the #30 Ateco Closed Star to pipe homemade whipped cream on top. Enjoy!

  12. Si Sally! I cannot find ateco 808 anywhere here in the philippines! What is the wilton equivalent of this tip? Thank you.

  13. Hi Sally! Big fan. If I want to dip the whole top of the cupcake in sanding sugar, would I use your 808 tip method for best results? Thanks!

    1. Hi Stephanie, I’m having trouble understanding your question. Do you want to dip the frosted cupcake’s frosting in sanding sugar? You can use any tip you’d like, then top with sanding sugar.

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally