Cutesy Cupcakes

We had a very enjoyable cupcake decorating class this morning for mothers and young daughters.  What could be more fun than “playing” in the kitchen with your girlies?  Swirling frosting, sprinkling sugars, and fun friends sure do make for a good time.  Hannah said she liked “Cutesy Cupcakes” so much she wished it could go on forever.

Didn’t all the girls do a good job?  Even Elisabeth practiced her skills.  Squeeze, lick, sprinkle, lick, repeat.  “Can I taste, Mom?  Can I taste?”

As cupcakes have been all the rage these last few years, there are many cupcake books to be found in bookstores and libraries.  After having exhausted the resources of various libraries, I have to confess that I found many of the books to be disappointing.

Two of my favorites, however, both filled with cute ideas, beginner how-to, and recipes, are Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack and Little Cakes from the Whimsical Bakehouse by Kaye Hansen.  These are so much fun!  As with most such books, note that both do have a few seasonal “creepy pages” you may want to clip together so your little ones don’t have to look at them.  Both books are delightful to browse and have very detailed instructions.  Your daughters will love these, especially Hello, Cupcake!

My favorite decorator icing is the Wilton Decorator “Buttercream” recipe, and for health reasons I normally substitute either butter or palm oil shortening for the Crisco.  Unfortunately, neither is well suited to beginner decorating, as the warmth of one’s hands will quickly melt the fat.  Palm oil shortening holds up better in heat than does butter, but it’s still tricky for beginners.  When using these fats, you’ll also want to refrigerate your cakes or cupcakes afterward unless room temperature is already on the cool side.

Wilton Decorator “Buttercream”

2 lb. (8 cups) confectioner’s sugar (I prefer Domino)

2 cups vegetable shortening (if I must use shortening, I’ve found Crisco to work the best)

1/2 tsp salt (I use only about 1/4 tsp.—less if my butter is salted.  The salt cuts some of the sweetness of the sugar.)

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

6-8 oz. whipping cream (you may need more or less depending on exactly what kind of cream you buy)

Cream shortening, vanilla and some of the cream.  Gradually add salt and confectioner’s sugar and mix on medium-low speed until incorporated, adding more cream as necessary.  Scrape down sides of bowl and mix until incorporated and of desired consistency.

For tinting the frosting, I use Wilton Icing Colors.

A Few Tips on Tips

I’ve accumulated a number of decorating tips over the years, and while each has its purpose, there are a few that are especially useful.  If you’re just getting started and don’t want a big investment, I’d suggest a few “must haves” for basic cake decorating.

A round tip:  Good for writing messages, drawing lines or making small dots.  Wilton #3 is a good multi-purpose size, although the 2s, 4s and 5s are also useful.

A star tip:  If I could only have one size star tip, it would be #18.  It makes good borders and other embellishments.  I like it for “grass,” rosettes and sunflowers.  #16 is a bit smaller and is good for writing fancy messages and for smaller borders and rosettes.  #21 is a bit larger and makes a fuller border; I use it frequently as well.

My 1M tip is a favorite for cupcake decorating.  It makes lovely swoopy swirls that really show off the sprinkles and transform ordinary cupcakes into something special.

To make the roses and daisies, you’ll also want a 103 or 104 tip.

And finally, couplers and disposable decorating bags make the job much easier.

All these items are available at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, JoAnn’s or specialty cake decorating stores.


Just some reminders here on how these are made, which tips to use, etc.  You can click on each picture to enlarge, if that helps.

Use the 1M Wilton tip for this one. Start at the outside, swirling inward and upward.

Wilton tip 18 "grass"

Wilton tip 18 for sunflower petals. Start about 1/2 inch from outer edge and squeeze, pulling outward and with decreasing pressure. Mini chocolate chips in the center, and M&M ladybugs (use #1 or #2 tip to draw lines and dots on M&M).


Use tip 103 or 104 for the rose. Detailed instructions on the rose and other cupcake-top flowers can be found in the "Little Cakes" book already mentioned.

No tips for this one; just frost with white icing, roll the edges in green jimmies, dip the top in red sugar sprinkles, then poke mini chocolate chips overtop.

We did not make these today, but a big bowl of "popcorn" mini cupcakes would be great fun for a potluck or reunion. White cupcakes with white frosting, and white and yellow mini marshmallows (some cut crosswise into thirds and some left whole) stuck all over the top.

Use a 103 or 104 tip for daisies. Work from the end of the petal inward, with the fat side of the tip to the outside. Squeeze with decreasing pressure as you pull toward the center. Hollow out a spot in the center and fill with yellow nonpareils.