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.
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:
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, or this not so sweet whipped frosting. 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.)
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! It’s a piping tip I always recommend as a gift for a baker and we included it on my Best Gifts for Bakers page. 🙂
- 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 carrot cake cupcakes and these cookie dough cupcakes. Start in the center and swirl upward.
Other Tools Required
If you’re piping frosting, you also need piping bags. Here are my preferences:
- 16-Inch Disposable Piping Bags (I also like this 120 pack, too)
- 16-Inch Reusable Piping Bag
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 roses video.
Now that you’re totally equipped with this piping tips 101 guide, go pipe some frosting LIKE A BOSS! (Ateco 849 used below!) ♥ ♥
These piping tips work perfectly for other frostings like Swiss meringue buttercream, chocolate buttercream, not-so-sweet whipped frosting, and even my sturdy whipped cream recipe.Print
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 2.5 cups
- Category: Frosting
- Method: Mixing
- 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
- 4 – 5 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
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand Mixer)
- Quantity: This recipe is enough to frost 12-16 cupcakes or a thin layer on a 9×13 inch quarter sheet cake. Follow the ratios written in this white cake for a two layer cake, or for a three layer cake use the ratios in this confetti cake.
- Confectioners’ Sugar: If your confectioners’ sugar is particularly lumpy, I recommend sifting it 1-2x before measuring and using.
- 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.
Keywords: Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Reader Comments & Reviews
Thanks so much for this! As someone who was looking for basics on supplies and how-to pipe cupcakes a few times a year, this was precisely and exactly what I was looking for. 🙂 I did my trial run on some mini-cupcakes for end of soccer season; my frosting-hating 10 year old thought the buttercream was amazing, and my 8 year old told me – direct quote – “I’m so proud of you, mom.”
So happy to read this! Thank you for letting us know how it went for you 🙂
Hi! This is urgent but not really, so take your time (what I mean by urgent is that it would be great to have a reply asap, but you don’t have to rush). I was wondering if you could send me the link for your reusable piping bags and piping tips? Is there some sort of set? I bought a mini set with plastic tips and plastic non-reusable bags, and I have run out. Didn’t like those anyway because:
a) they were bad quality and the bag exploded with frosting/buttercream often.
b) the piping bags had to be constantly fixed because the nozzle kept falling out.
c) the piping nozzles (forgive me if sometimes I say tips instead of nozzle) were less than half a centimetre long and wide. I had to make tiny pipings.
d) It only came with 3 non-reusable bags.
I sent you this because I know that you have a trustworthy brand and product to use as you (very often) bake and must use them a lot.
Please send a reply to the email that I am posting this comment with or reply to this comment. (There used to be a button that says ‘notify me when I get a response’. Where did that go?).
Thank you so much for this tutorial and thank you to you and your team for all your support and help.
Hi Leah, see the blog post section titled “Other Tools Required.” There, we link to both reusable and disposable piping bags. We don’t have a set of tips, but rather purchase them individually (all the tips from this post are linked throughout the post as well). Hope this is helpful.
Sally, I just happened to come across your videos yesterday and I don’t know how I just found you!! You do some really beautiful stuff and I think I have printed most of your cake, cupcake, and frosting recipes. I was raised by a mother who did beautiful wedding cakes IN our little home while I was growing up to help out financially. I am 65 now and she is gone, but I recently got out all of her tips and stuff to try a bit of piping! I am having SO much fun! I do want to say to others, though, that they need to accept and understand that this takes PRACTICE!! This is one thing where practice DOES make perfect! LOTS of practice. And each time things look better we gain the courage and confidence to do it again. YOU have inspired me to do a cupcake bouquet! I just gotta wait for someone around to have a birthday! Anyway…just wanted to say thanks for the recipes and for sharing your knowledge. Also, you are a great cheerleader for us beginners!
Thank you so much for this kind and thoughtful comment, Deb! I really appreciate it. I consider piping frosting a sport! Takes practice to improve your game. 😉
Do you not need couplers for the bags?
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!
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?
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.
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 ?
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.
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!
I never liked buttercream frosting until I tried this recipe. It was the first time the consistency was perfect for piping
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?
Hi Laura, we love Americolor gel food coloring for frosting – you only need a small amount to get beautiful colors. Happy baking!
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?
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!
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!
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!
Try making frosting with half butter and half shortening. It holds up alot better and doesnt “melt” like pure butter frostings.
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!
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!
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!
I often make cupcakes, but never make buttercream like this. So I am very curious to make it and decorate it beautifully like your post.
btw, thank you for inspiring me so much 🙂
Hi Sally! Thank you for all that you teach us! 🙂 don’t mind rude comments above!
I was wondering if you have a special recipe for buttercream that can withstand a hot weather? I live in Madrid and there’s no way a regular buttercream can survive the summer weather hehe so I have to work with fondant which I don’t like that much. Thanks!
Hi Patricia, Swiss meringue buttercream is stable at room temperature. Though if eating on a particularly humid day, keep your frosted confections in the refrigerator as close to serving as you can.
Sally, meant to ask, where do you get your piping bags? It looks like they are stretchy & very big – something I would need! Also, those who post negative comments should heed to the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it”. You have great blog & website & are always creating & improving your recipes & you love what you do. That all matters to your fans! 🙂
Hi Terre, Thank you for the kind feedback! We usually order supplies on Amazon if we can’t get to the stores. If you see the section above called “Other Tools Required” there are links to both the disposable and reusable bags that we use.
Sally: Thank you so much for your instruction. Thanks for the tip on using a large cup, although sometimes I wish I had a bigger pastry bag! I definitely need practice with my icing. One of my problems is getting the right consistency & I have started putting my icing in the refrig for about 1/2 hr. & then piping. You do such a beautiful job & I know it’s just practice, practice!
Sally que maravilla saber todo esto, yo tengo varias boquillas que me compré emocionada, y la verdad y creeme algunas nisiquiera las he usado, porque no sabía la maravilla de cosas que se hace con las boquillas, gracias por tus enseñanzas y tus maravillosa recetas, no las hago todas tus recetas porque me falta tiempo, pero las que hice me salieron buenas y gustó a mi familia. Besitos para tu hijito.
Sally que excelente tu explicación mis boquillas son unicas y con tu exposición tendre más modelos que seguir
Gracias por brindarnos tanta sabiduría en verdad gracias Haces que tido sea más fácil
my limited piping ability was learned, as a kid, from watching my mom, who was Wilton trained.
Hey Sally! I am a complete newbie. This was very informative post. What is your opinion about reusable piping bags?
Hi Mahima, We are glad you found this post helpful! See the section above called “Other Tools Required” to see what Sally says about reusable piping bags.
Hey Sally! I want to get more into my piping so this post was perfect! I was wondering if you had a go to piping set to buy. I would love to know! Thanks!
Hi Tiana, I really like this piping tip set, but the tips are for smaller decorations like on sugar cookies and such. https://www.amazon.com/Wilton-Decorating-Piping-Tip-Piece/dp/B00C4UH6XI
Other than that, I don’t own any sets with larger tips like this– just individual tips. So sorry this isn’t helpful at all! Maybe others have some ideas?
Thank you! No worries!
Thank you Sally. I love how descriptive/detailed your recipes and videos are. I also appreciate that you are always responding to questions or comments. This week, I have two birthdays in my family (my children). One requested your pistachio cake the other your chocolate mouse cake. I’ll be posting pictures on Instagram and tagging you. We can’t wait to try these two cakes. Hopefully, I’ll get your piping techniques down when I decorate the cakes (I’m not so good at decorating with tips). Thank you.
Thank you for the kind note, Steph – I’m so glad you enjoy my recipes and instructions. Pistachio and chocolate mousse cakes both sound like perfect ways to celebrate! I look forward to seeing your photos!
I can’t get the Ateco #849 or #808 here in the UK at a reasonable price! Are there equivalents that I could try and find instead, maybe by Wilton?
Hi Lavender, I’m glad to help. Ateco 849 is a large closed star tip so any larger closed star tip would be a great replacement. 808 is an extra large round tip (about 5/8 inch wide), so any large round tip around that size works in its place.
Can you please make a post on how to pipe a rose with Wilton tip 104, known as the rose tip? I could not find anything useful on other websites. It surprised me, as it is literally known as the rose tip. If you can not make a post on this subject, can you recommend any other tutorials on different blogs?
Hi Mallory! I actually don’t own that particular piping tip. I’ve used a leaf tip before, which is similarly shaped, for these sunflower cupcakes. Video included! Perhaps the Wilton website has a how-to video or even on their YouTube page.
Hi Sally. I live in the Caribbean and I’m wondering if there’s a butter cream orfrosting recipe that will stand up well in higher temperatures without sacrificing taste (lard – no!). My nephew’s wedding is coming up and I’m doing the wedding cake. Appreciate all the advice I can get.
Hi Katey, The only ingredient I recommend that stands up well in higher heat is shortening. You could use half butter and half shortening for the frosting that you’re making. Happy baking!
Si Sally! I cannot find ateco 808 anywhere here in the philippines! What is the wilton equivalent of this tip? Thank you.
You can use the Wilton 1A instead!
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! 🙂
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!
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 🙁
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!
Oh, that makes a lot of sense! Thanks Sally! 😀
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.
I know it sounds silly and repetitive, but practice really does make perfect! Let me know if you try the vanilla buttercream sometime. 🙂
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!