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. Love this post, Sally! I actually think it looks cool with all the different cupcakes! xD My favorite might be the Wilton 1M or the Ateco 808! I have trouble decorating cakes too, but I wanna give it a shot again!

  2. Sally, for some of the cupcakes, you say to start in the center and work up. Obviously, the frosting closest to the edge of the cupcakes is also the lowest. So is the middle a second layer? I’m very new to this too!

  3. I only have a B8 at home, but I love it! 

    May I say that I love your photography in this post? So pretty! I mean, you take beautiful pictures in general, but these are just wow!

  4. I really struggle with icing, I have all the tools but dont know what to do with them so this has really helped thank you!

  5. I love the Wilton 1M but should start trying to use other tips.  Frosting is so fun for me and your vanilla buttercream is the BEST recipe for piping and taste =)

  6. Last summer I began playing around with icing tips and cake/cupcake decorating and kind of got hooked! It’s alot of fun and people are usually amazed when they realize it’s not as hard as it looks! This was a fun post!

  7. Thanks for sharing this. One of the issues I’ve encountered when piping frosting (which I do very occasionally) is that I often feel it’s too thin to really maintain its shape. Which frosting recipe do you recommend for foolproof piping that holds its shape?  Thanks for all that you do.

  8. This is a fun post and the overhead shot reminds me of ice cream cones. This just serves to make me hungry for cupcakes. Want.one.now. ~smile~

  9. 3 & 6 are my favourite! I’ve always been so bad at frosting cupcakes with my piping bags; I usually try using it for 2 or 3 cupcakes, then give up and use a knife to spread the frosting on (which still tastes good, of course, but doesn’t look nearly as pretty!) Can’t wait to bake up a batch of cupcakes soon & try these tips out. The video demonstration, for me, is the most helpful part. I’m a visual learner 😉

  10. Thank you so much for this, Sally! I seriously need all the help I can get with my piping technique. This is soo helpful. Have a great weekend!

  11. Hi Sally
    I’m making tomorrow for the first time your Piñata cake. Which tip should I use to make the cute edging on the top layer?  I’m new to piping. Thank you for all your “tips”. 

  12. Hi Sally, thanks for this demo! I do have one question (sorry if this seem like an elementary question but I’m VERY much a beginner at piping! )..it’s actually on the technique you’re using. I typically use the ‘screw on’ white plastic ends when piping. I noticed you literally put the tip ‘inside of’ the bag. How does the tip not fall out of the bag when squeezing the bag to release the icing? I’d love to see a demo on how you ‘put it all together’…..bag/icing/tip.

    1. Hi Sharon, 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!

  13. This is so helpful! The problem I come across is that it seems like my frosting starts melting a bit and looses it’s shape. How do you maintain the icing temp so that it comes out looking perfect and not melted? Thanks! 🙂

  14. Thank you for this post and what perfect timing! I made your white wedding cupcakes the other weekend for Mother’s Day and was not very satisfied with my icing decorating skills. I made a note to look up icing decorating tips/videos, and then *voila*, you have a post about it 🙂

  15. This is awesome, thanks Sally! Can you also show us how you frost with just an icing knife like in your Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes? I can never get them to look as cute as yours with just an icing knife. Please share your magic technique! Thank you!

  16. I love this post! Thank you for all the info!

    Question: Do you use the Wilton clips at the top of the bags? It doesn’t look like it from the video. The last time I made cupcakes (your amazing vanilla cupcakes with strawberry icing!!! So, so yummy) I had icing coming out the top. Maybe I filled the bag too much, but it made me consider buying the clips. Thoughts?

    1. Sometimes I use them– but if you use a large enough bag (I like at least 16 inch) I don’t find them necessary. UNLESS you are storing frosting in the piping bags overnight or something 🙂

  17. Awesome video! I love the videos you post; they’re well-made and enjoyable to watch. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I have no idea what a video is worth – but either way, I quite enjoy yours. 🙂 It is coincidental that this post was posted today when I had planned to bake some of your sunshine lemon cupcakes from your cookbook… which are delicious, by the way. 😉

    1. Thank you so much for the compliment on the videos! What a learning curve they are! I owe it all to my husband and we really appreciate it!

  18. Thanks so much for this post! I haven’t tried using the Wilton 12 this way, but I will definitely try it next time I bake, I really like the way it looks. I love your blog, and I really appreciate you posting things like this.

  19. Can I use the Wilton 1m for cream cheese frosting? I’d like to decorate your carrot cake with white roses for my sons baptism. Or would it be better to frost with cream cheese then make roses out of buttercream. I’m a novice baker / decorator.0
     Congrats on the baby!!!

    1. Cream cheese frosting doesn’t hold its shape as well as buttercream, but if it’s super chilled– it does! So you can chill it a little before piping if you’re using the 1M.

  20. Hi, this video and shopping tips/links is so helpful to a beginner like myself – so much fun to watch! I bought some disposable piping bags, but they’re too small and I’m big on recycling. Could you please let me know what reusable piping bag you’d recommend and what size? Thank you!

    1. Hey Molly! I like a 16 or 18 inch reusable bag, like this one https://www.amazon.com/Ateco-Plastic-Coated-Decorating-18-Inch/dp/B0000DDVK5/

  21. I was looking at this earlier for a little help for my son’s 3rd birthday party. He says he wants cupcakes because they’re his “faaavorite.” He walked by and said “oooh… those cupcakes look verrry good!” And just sat down and stared at them, transfixed. It was pretty stinking cute! This is extremely helpful and I can’t wait to make a test batch this weekend!

  22. Sally, how much pressure do you use to squeeze the bag? I tried piping once, and this was the difficult part for me as the frosting came out uneven.

  23. Thanks for the tips and video. I piped frosting on cupcakes today for the first time. My rookie mistake was in not piping enough frosting onto the cupcakes. I was so worried about getting my swirls right that I neglected to squeeze out a good amount of frosting. The cupcakes still looked pretty and tasty, but I had a lot of frosting left over. But now I’m inspired to practice some more!

    1. Ganache is never going to be the light fluffy consistence of buttercream. If you want a chocolate frosting you can pipe I recommend this one: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2017/05/21/favorite-chocolate-buttercream/

  24. You make it look so easy! But, I bet you’ve frosted more cupcakes than I have! I find that the consistency of the icing is the key. It always seems to be either too soft or too hard. If too soft, I put it in the refrig for a while; if too hard, I let it sit at room temp for a while.

  25. Hi Sally, I love your website. Unfortunately every time I bake the chocolate cupcakes, it falls in at the center a few minutes after removing it from the oven. I know that I don’t over fill the holder. It’s still very delicious, but it doesn’t present as nice as I would have liked. Please assist me in making the perfect chocolate cupcakes. Your assistant in this matter will be highly appreciated. Thank you

    1. Hi Nicole! It depends on the recipe, but sinking usually means the cupcake liners were filled too high. Whenever I make chocolate cupcakes, I suggest only filling halfway. Here is my favorite recipe: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2017/06/22/super-moist-chocolate-cupcakes/

  26. Great job, Sally! It’s obvious you had fun using decorating those cupcakes.

    My mom gifted me a Chefast piping bag and coupler set, which she bought on Amazon. I have no complaints about the quality of the reusable piping bags, bag ties, and couplers. It just didn’t come with icing tips.

    I didn’t have a clue about what icing tips to buy. (I’m new to decorating pastries.) Good thing I came across your article. It’s so helpful! Thank you for posting this! I’m excited to start decorating my cupcakes and cakes soon—after I buy the tips you suggested.

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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