Saturday, 10 November 2012

Basic Buttercream and Cupcake Piping

There are many ways to sandwich your cakes together or ice cupcakes. Some people use whipped double cream and jam to sandwich, but one of the most common ways to ice cupcakes is to use buttercream. Buttercream can have an assortment of colours and flavours added to enhance the appearance and taste, and can also be used for sandwiching and crumbcoating cakes.

For now, we'll look at basic vanilla buttercream and cupcake piping. I'll go over adding other flavours along with sandwiching and covering cakes later.

To make a basic buttercream, you'll need the following:

Butter (proper butter is best here; rather than margarine/baking spread)
Icing (Confectioners) Sugar
Vanilla extract
Water or Milk

I've found that it usually takes around 200g of butter, and 500g of icing sugar (1 small box of icing sugar - saves weighing it out!) to ice 12 cupcakes. This amount will sandwich and cover a 7" cake easily too.
If you need more or less buttercream, you can adjust the weights to suit. The ratio I use (as per the ingredients above) is 1 butter:2.5 icing sugar. So, 100g of butter needs 250g of icing sugar, 200g of butter needs 500g of icing sugar, 300g of butter needs 750g and so on.
  • Start by weighing your butter and icing sugar to the ratio above.
  • Put the butter into a mixing bowl and beat until pale and fluffy. (Again, a non slip mat and a hand or stand mixer saves arm ache!) 
If you have a not-so-sweet tooth, you can use salted or slightly-salted butter to take the edge off the sweetness of the finished buttercream. I've always had a sweet tooth, so I just get whatever butter is available locally.  
  • Sift in the icing sugar a little at a time and beat until incorporated.  

Icing sugar is very messy and likes to leave a white dusty layer all over your kitchen! It's so fine that it gets everywhere...
If you have a stand mixer, you can cover it with a tea towel to stop the icing sugar flying around as much.
If you're using a hand mixer, look out for a mixing bowl cover with a section for your beaters to go through. Saves loads of mess!

  • The buttercream might start to get a bit thick before you've got all of the icing sugar in. If you've used the 200-500g recipe, add 1 Tsp. of Vanilla extract and 1 Tbsp. of water or milk and beat (Add more if you've got more buttercream).
  •  If it's still a little thick when all of the sugar is in, you can add a little more water or milk to soften it up. You're looking for it to be soft enough to spread or pipe, as it does set and firm up in the fridge. That said, if it's too soft, it won't hold it's shape when piped. If you've gone too far, you can always add a little more icing sugar.
Why water or milk? This depends on preference really: Milk makes it taste a little nicer, but if you use milk, the buttercream will only keep for a couple of days. Water gives a very slightly less creamy taste, but the buttercream will keep for much longer in an airtight container in the fridge. It will need a good beat back to consistency when you want to you use it though!
  • To ice cupcakes, drop a star or rosette nozzle into a piping bag.
Large star and rosette nozzles give the best finish if you're looking for large swirls, but you can start out with small ones too. For the picture on the Welcome post, I used a small star nozzle, and the ones above and below were done using an extra-large rosette nozzle. Most icing bag packs or disposable bags come with basic plastic nozzles which are great to learn to pipe with!
  • Fill the piping bag approximately 1/2 - 2/3 full; and squeeze out any air gaps if you can. This stops breaks in the icing while piping. Twist the filling end to stop any overflow!
  •  Holding the bag in your good hand, and at 90° to the cupcake, pipe from the outside edge and work your way to the middle. Use your free hand to turn the cupcake if you can, but if you're a little wobbly, support the bag with your free hand and put the cupcake on a non slip mat. Piping takes a little getting used to!
  •  When you get to the middle, pipe a little more, then press down and pull the nozzle up and away. You should now have a basic rosette.
  • Repeat for the rest of your cupcakes, pop them in the fridge to firm for half an hour and you're done!
I'll be adding some basic equipment soon, along with the flavoured buttercream and cake icing I mentioned earlier.



  1. Love the butterflies! And I've never seen the bowl cover before! Need to get one of those.


    1. Thanks Laura, the butterflies are flowerpaste painted with edible paint. I'm so pleased with the bowl cover, it saves so much cleaning up afterwards! Wish I'd bought one ages ago!


  2. Thank you soo much for the detailed description in how you have done this. I love baking but I am very new to it and I sometimes find some instructions hard to follow but yours were very simple! I will be trying this out tomorrow!

    Thanks again


    1. Hi Louise,

      I'm glad you found my post useful!

      I'd love to know how you got on :)


  3. Hello thanks for all the info :) What if I want to add cocoa powder to make it chocolate butter cream, how much would I add and do I take any thing away from the other ingredients?? Thankyou!

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      I'm glad you've found this post useful! I did a chocolate buttercream for my Easter Egg Cupcakes - you can find the recipe I used here Chocolate Easter Egg Cupcakes

      I hope this helps!

      Kate x

  4. I like this site very much, Its a really nice situation to read and get info .
    cupcake decorating


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