Take the Cake: Bite-sized Inspiration for the Savvy Baker

Here at Red Velvet, spring has sprung!

Yes, it may seem a bit early, but yesterday was the first official day of spring, and 65 and sunny means it’s close enough to propel us into the next season. As the sun comes out, you can find us frolicking around New York City, enjoying the beautiful weather and celebrating the first crocuses. Of course, what better way to do this than with cupcakes, pretty pastels, more sweet treats, and pretty pink wine.

A few nights ago we hosted a cupcake frosting and decorating class with Levo League, where we showed a fabulous group of ladies how to make Springtime or Easter cupcakes with just a few simple steps and materials. The result: sophisticated flowery cupcakes. We encourage you to embark on your very own cupcake decorating at home, and why not make it a party?   Invite a few friends over, pour a few glasses of wine, and let the festivities begin.  After all, who wants to decorate cupcakes solo!?

To ensure your friends come away pleased with their creations, here are a few simple decorating techniques to take your buttercream to the next level.

We encourage you to embark on your very own cupcake decorating at home, and why not make it a party?

First, the basics:

  • If you don’t have a piping bag, use a ziploc bag. Place your buttercream into the bag, push it to one corner, release any excess air, and twist the top to ensure the frosting is packed tight. When you’re ready, use scissors to cut the tip off the corner of the bag. Depending on the size of piping you need or want, you’ll have to adjust how much you snip off.
  • Holding a pastry bag can be daunting, but you just need to remember 2 rules:

1. Use your dominant hand to hold the bag near the top (where it’s twisted closed), and to apply continuous pressure to the frosting. You can adjust the bag and your hand placement each time you finish a cupcake to ensure you’ve always got a piping bag that’s well packed.

2. Use your non-dominant hand to guide the piping bag. You may need to use that hand to hold a cupcake in its place, but this hand is meant to help you with precision.

  • You can buy frosting tips (like stars, petals, or grass holes) at a local bakeware supply store. They’re usually about $1 a piece. If you don’t have access or time, you can separate your frosting into different bags so you can use them in different ways (by dying them different colors or cutting different sized piping holes). If you do use a tip, remember to place it in the corner of the piping bag before you scoop the frosting in. You’ll then cut around the tip, just above the point where any frosting would come out.

star tip

  • Use a box of food dye to color any batches of frosting. Personally, we like making mint green for grass, and pastel pink for flowers. Go slow when adding dye to create the color – just a few drops will give your frosting a beautiful pastel hue.  
  • At this time of year, you can find Cadbury Easter egg candy at any convenience store. We highly recommend using these to top your cakes.
  • For any other supplies you might want to use to decorate your cupcakes, like edible glitter, non-pareils, or gold sugar pearls, we recommend using Wilton brand products. We think they make durable, affordable products.  You can buy any of these items on Amazon, or at your local bakeware supply store.

Credit: Renee Althouse, Demand Media Pink frosting


Next, the techniques!

Green grass and Easter egg cupcakes:

Making grass is a lot easier than you might think! Cut a tiny hole into the end of your piping (or ziploc) bag. What comes out should resemble a fine blade of miniature grass. You’ll want to use the “push and release” method with your green frosting, where you “push” to create a blade of grass about ½ inch long, and “release” to end that blade, and start the next. Start on the outside of the cupcake and work your way inwards. Your grass can look organic and messy, or you can have trimmed hedges. Don’t stop until you feel like there’s enough greenery on your grassy knoll. There’s nothing like an egg nestled on that knoll to represent Easter, so definitely top these cakes with 3 pastel candy eggs.


Hydrangea flower cupcakes with sprinkles:

To create a large flower with round petals, cut a hole about 1cm wide in the end of your piping bag. You can use any color here, but pink, blue or white buttercream look lovely. Starting on the outside of the cupcake, use the “push and drag” method. You’ll be layering this cupcake frosting, so start by “pushing” out a dollop on the outer edge and dragging it towards the center. Make another dollop shape directly next to it, and repeat the technique until you’ve covered the entire surface of the cupcake. Add another layer atop the first by placing dollops on the smaller ring, and continue. Depending on how much space you have, continue by making one more inner ring, or finish your flower off with dollop on the top in the center. Tuck sugar pearls or sprinkles between each petal to create a uniform look. Or just sprinkle the top to create a gilded flower.


Flower petal or rose petal cupcakes with edible glitter:

You’ll need a star tip for this. We recommend any Wilton tips that are at least 1 cm wide. This will create a nice swirl. You can once again use any color here, but your cupcakes will look pretty in pink if you go for a rose colored rose. This technique is a bit tricky so go slow. Start in the center of the cupcake (not on the edge like the others), and use one hand to pipe, and the other to rotate the cupcake (look ma, 2 hands!). You’ll want to hold the piping bag horizontally, so that the swirl you create starts to look more like delicate rose petals than a traditional star swirl (which you would get if you held the bag upright). Start in the center and continue swirling until you’ve reached the outmost edge. What we love about using a star tip is that if you feel like you’ve “messed up” your design (which is unlikely) you can go over it with the star tip. Simply drag the tip over the frosting again, as if you were using the tip like a rake. Top this beauty with sugar pearls, edible glitter, or eggs!

flower petals

Now it’s definitely time to pop a bottle and toast to some gorgeous cupcakes!

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