The Cupcake Swirl is my absolute favorite way to frost a cupcake. Ever since I learned how to do it, I have never bothered trying to use a knife or spatula again. Once you get it down pat (practice makes perfect!) it becomes second nature.
The most accessible piping tip I have been able to find is the Wilton 1M tip, which is an open star tip (Ateco 824 is nearly identical).
When piped, it will make a swirl like this:
All three of the craft stores by me carry it–Joann, Michaels, and Hobby Lobby–for about $1.50. (Note: if you have read my how to fill a cupcake post, you can purchase this kit and get your disposable piping bags and Wilton tip 230 in addition to tip 1M. Also available at the three craft stores, and sometimes in the baking section of Target).
However, there are also round opening tips to create a smooth, rope-like swirl. For this one, I’m a fan of Wilton 1A and Ateco 808. The round tip will produce a swirl like this:
Do do a cupcake swirl you will need:
Your choice of large piping tip (I will be using 1M, but these instructions will work for any kind of large piping tip)
Frosting (I am doing the chocolate buttercream variation from my Buttercream Basics post)
1. If you are using a new piping bag, push your tip as far down in the bag as it will go. Use a marker to make a line where you need to cut the opening for your tip (you don’t want to cut too far up, because may push out your piping tip when applying pressure during icing).
2. Pull out the tip, and cut your opening. Push tip back into bottom of bag.
3. Fold your bag over your hand and fill with icing about 2/3 full. Twist the bag closed. If filling piping bags is difficult for you, a nice tip is to fold the bag over a tall drinking glass and then put your icing in.
4. Hold your bag and a 90 degree angle and squeeze out some frosting onto the center of the cupcake.
5. Starting on the right hand side of the frosting star, squeeze the piping bag and move around the star in a counterclockwise motion. When you reach the beginning point, you can either stop by releasing pressure, or continue to pipe in a smaller circle on top. Don’t put the piping tip directly on top of the cupcake!
6. When you reach the center of the cupcake, release pressure and pull away.
And that is it! Again, practice makes perfect. If your frosting cracks a lot, or is hard to push through the piping bag, you may need to thin your frosting. Empty out your bag and try mixing a little milk or water into the frosting–but just a little at a time. If your frosting won’t hold shape, you may need to add a little more powdered sugar to stiffen it up.
I have a whole collection of piping tips I can’t wait to try out. It seems like every time I go online I find another pretty cupcake and I think, “Oh, I need to try to make that!”