How to Decorate Cupcakes – Easy Buttercream Swirls

by Zena-Marie on 18 April 2012

Post image for How to Decorate Cupcakes – Easy Buttercream Swirls

Here is a quick, easy picture tutorial on how to decorate your cupcakes with cute buttercream swirls. It will make even the most basic of cupcakes look fabulous.

You will need:

Your butter cream of choice. You can add flavouring and colourings.

If you are adding colour you may want to consider using gel colours. These give a more vibrant colour than liquid food colourings that you get in supermarkets. You can find gel colouring at cake shops or they are available in our online shop.


You should only need about this much but play around with it until you feel comfortable.


Mix it all together.

Once you butter cream is prepared you will need:

A piping bag

A piping nozzle (I used a large star shaped nozzle)

A pair of scissors

And a large glass

Place the nozzle inside the piping bag and snip the end of the bag off.


Make sure the bag is cut far enough back that the end of the nozzle is clear of the piping bag.


Twist the end of the piping bag. This will prevent any of the buttercream coming out until you are ready.



Place the piping bag into the glass and fold the top of the bag over the edge of the glass.

Fill the piping bag with the buttercream you prepared earlier.

Using the glass will allow you to fill the piping bag without needing two pairs of hands.

I like to use an elastic band on the end of the bag just to make it easier. It stops all the buttercream coming out of the top of the bag.

You are now ready to start piping.


For this demonstration I am using cheap cupcakes I picked up at the supermarket. They came with little blobs of icing on top which I removed before starting to pipe the butter cream.


Starting at the outer edge gently squeeze the piping bag allowing the buttercream to gently fall onto the cupcake. Keep the nozzle raised slightly above the cake to prevent dragging the surface of the cake.


Keep going round keeping the tip of the nozzle raised slightly above the cake.


Make the circles smaller as you work your way into the centre of the cake.

Keep going until you get to the middle.

When you’re finished you should have something that looks like this.


You can further decorate your cupcake with sprinkles and a ribbon.

There you have fabulous boutique style cupcakes. For more cupcake decorating idea’s check out my pintrest board.


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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate April 20, 2012 at 19:11

Hello Super-Dooper Fabulous Mom :)
Any advice on icing biscuits? PLEASE can you blog about this as I’m sure this is the kind of thing you do one handed on a Sunday while doing the ironing while I am interested but terrified too! I have the biscuiteers book which is amazing but way beyond my reach as I’ve never even made biscuits. They recommend flooding to ice, is this going to cause me a nervous breakdown and 3 days of my life to do??
kate x


Zena-Marie April 20, 2012 at 21:13

LOL. Hi Kate, As it happens I was planning on making some biscuits with the kids so will be happy to do a post on decorating them. I also have a great recipe for shaped biscuits that I’ll post as well. Flood icing does look great but to honest if your new to icing biscuits it can be a bit of a head ache. You need to have a steady hand and it takes forever to dry (up to 24 hours depending on humidity). I would suggest using sugar paste.(see my shop for idea’s) It comes pre coloured and ready to roll. Roll it out and use the same cookie cutter you used for your biscuits to cut it to shape. Stick the cut sugar paste to the biscuit with some icing paste (royal icing and water) Then you can add extra decoration with piped icing. A No. 2 nozzle in your piping bag should work well. Hope this helps. I’ll do a full picture tutorial soon. xx


amummysview April 21, 2012 at 22:14

fab post thank you! I am useless in the kitchen but have recently started baking and enjoy making cupcakes. I bought a piping set with a plunger end but the nozzle fell off and all the buttercream landed on top of the cake! ha ha! After reading this I think I will stick with piping bags! xxx


Zena-Marie April 21, 2012 at 23:32

LOL. I’ve never used the plungers, don’t think I ever will now. Thanks for the comment, it’s nice to know the post is helpful. I like to used the disposable icing bags. They are easy to rinse out and despite the name seem to last forever. I find the cotton bags make my hand sticky. Check back in soon a great tutorial on easy iced biscuits and good luck with the baking.


Chloe April 25, 2012 at 10:46

Can I ask you question please. I have made lots of cupcakes and iced them thanks to your help but every time the cake case pulls away from the cake after a little while. What am I doing wrong?


Zena-Marie April 25, 2012 at 12:06

Hi Chloe, Thanks for raising this point. It is a very common and frustrating problem. There are a few things you can do to try and stop it happening. First of all make sure you drop your pan onto a hard surface a few times to settle the mixture before you bake the cupcakes. Also try to cut the amount of oil in the mix by reducing the amount of butter in the recipe and finally increase the baking time by about 3-5mins. The type of cases used can also have an effect. Lakeland do some really good cases that don’t seem to pull away Hopefully this should help. If anyone else has any thoughts on this subject please feel free to contribute. Good luck with the baking and I’m really pleased that you have found the decorating posts useful :)


cup cake kate May 4, 2012 at 00:35

Wow, I really loved this post. Those pictures are making my mouth water. :^) I’m a big fan of piping bags, and with the right touch (as you did) can produce some amazing results. Like amummysview, I’ve never had much luck with the plunger thingies. They seem to make more of a mess than they’re worth, but I thought that was just me. haha.


Zena-Marie May 4, 2012 at 16:24

lol. Thank you so much for commenting. The plungers just seem like a really complicated way to do something that a simple bag and nozzle could do. I did have one once but the mere fact it came with instructions put me off. I gave it to the kids to make play dough cakes! They love it :)


Piping Bags July 18, 2012 at 12:56

I’m also a big fan of disposable piping bags, they make decorating cakes SO much easier! Love the cake pictures :-)


Zena-Marie August 9, 2012 at 11:32

Love disposable bags. They last for ages. Thanks for the comment :)


Sue March 12, 2013 at 01:43

This is the best “how to” decorating explanation I have seen!!
Thank you sooo much – simple-easy yet very up scale.


Zena-Marie March 13, 2013 at 14:04

Thank you so much :)


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