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 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

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 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

101 Comments

  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!

    1. I REALLY like the ateco 808 too– so pretty!

  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!

    1. yes, the middle would be the 2nd layer– did the video help? 🙂

  3. Sofia Mastrangelo-Binns says:

    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!

  4. Patricia @Sweet and Strong says:

    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 =)

  5. 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!

  6. 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 😉

  7. Kayla @ Sweet Me in St. Louie says:

    Sally, such a helpful, handy tutorial! Piping intimidation, no more!

  8. Andrea @ Cooking with a Wallflower says:

    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!

  9. Sharon K (The Farm Chick Bakes) says:

    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!

  10. Sarah Florer says:

    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! 🙂

  11. 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 🙂

    1. Perfect! And I used the Wilton 1M (tall swirl method) for the white wedding cupcakes 🙂

  12. 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!

  13. 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 🙂

  14. 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. 😉

  15. Thanks for this! I’m still a novice when it comes to decorating, but I want to get better at it.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. Molly Nichols says:

    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/

  19. 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!

  20. Anita Emde says:

    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.

  21. 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!

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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

    1. I’m so happy this has been helpful for you!!

  25. 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!

  26. Sonia Lightsey says:

    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!!

  27. LaVonne Hegland says:

    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!

    1. Hi LaVonne! I love these liners 🙂 Happy baking and congratulations to your son!

  28. 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. Hi Tiffany! If you temporarily pause any ad blockers, the video will show right up. 🙂

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

    1. Great idea, Mary! I haven’t gotten my feet wet in Russian piping tip decorating yet, but hope to soon!

  30. 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. 🙂

    1. Hi Hannah! Here’s the video on YouTube! Hope this helps 🙂

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