Whether you’re celebrating a birthday or delivering holiday treats, at some point, you’ll need to know how to decorate cupcakes. Luckily, the only rule is to make them look appetizing. Decorating is all about having fun, so you can get as creative as you want. Below, you’ll find helpful tips along with creative cupcake decorating ideas for special occasions and major holidays. Go crazy, then dig in!
To decorate cupcakes, you’ll need:
- A flat metal spatula (not the kind used to flip eggs!)
- A sharp knife (optional)
- A piping bag or a ziptop bag (optional)
- Candies and toppings (suggestions below include gumdrops, licorice, gummy worms, cookie crumbs, jelly beans, mini peanut butter cups, pretzels, spearmints, marshmallow peeps, toasted coconut, red hots, M&Ms, candy corn, sugar cones, licorice, and “Fruit-by-the-Foot”)
- To decorate cupcakes, start with frosting. Wait until your cupcakes are completely cool to frost them. Prepare homemade frosting when you’re ready to decorate your cupcakes, or use store-bought frosting at room temperature. To frost a cupcake, scoop a generous dollop of frosting onto your spatula. Aim for the center of the cupcake and plop the frosting on. Very gently pat the frosting, allowing it to spread itself toward the edges. Do not spread the frosting with your spatula! For a flourish, raise the spatula in a quick motion to create a slight peak.
- After the cupcakes are frosted, decorate them any way you want. You can stick almost anything edible into the frosting, from candy to sprinkles, or you can “dip” your cupcakes into topping like crushed cookies or toasted coconut..
- If you’re serving cupcakes at a special event, here are two ways to decorate cupcakes with flair. To create a cupcake butterfly, use a sharp knife to slice off the top of the cupcake. Use white frosting to cover the newly exposed top, and use a vibrant shade to frost the removed top. Cut the removed top in half and create “wings” by arranging the curved sides so they touch in the middle of the cupcake. Create a head and antennae using a gumdrop and two pieces of shoestring licorice. To decorate “worms in dirt” cupcakes, dip frosted cupcakes into chocolate cookie crumbs until the surface is brown. Then, wedge cut gummy worms into the frosting.
- To decorate cupcakes for Christmas, frost them in red, green or white frosting. Break off the rounded parts of pretzels and stick each piece through a mini peanut butter cup to resemble ornament hooks. Affix one to each cupcake, and use candy to decorate your bulbs. Alternately, decorate your cupcakes to say “HO” using shoestring licorice to create an “H” and a round spearmint candy to form the “O.” If you’re feeling confident, use a piping bag or a zip-top bag with the corner cut off to squirt frosting into the shape of simple snowflakes.
- At Halloween, decorate cupcakes with black or orange frosting, and stick a candy corn pumpkin on top of each. For a more creative option, make a witch by frosting your cupcake in white and using an inverted sugar cone to create a hat. Use small pieces of black shoestring licorice for hair, and make two eyes with M&Ms. To make little monsters, dip white frosted cupcakes into toasted coconut. Then, create silly faces using pieces of licorice, candy corn, and gumdrops.
- For Valentine’s Day, go all out and decorate your cupcakes to look like roses using precut “Fruit-by-the-Foot” fruit leather. Choose strawberry or cherry flavored leather, and pull it in half along the wavy line in the middle. Tightly roll 5 inches of one half and stick it to the middle of the cupcake, wavy side up, to create the flower's center. Loosely wrap the rest of the leather around this center at a slight angle to complete your rose.
- To decorate cupcakes for Easter, frost them in vibrant colors. Add jelly beans or other candies to create Easter eggs, or add a licorice “handle” to make Easter baskets. You can also create a bunny by mounding frosting on your cupcake, using ears from marshmallow peeps, forming eyes with M&Ms, and using a red hot for the nose.