17 Cupcake Decorating Ideas You Can Do

There are many cupcake decorating ideas available which will help you create beautiful and fun cupcakes. Even the most basic looking cupcakes can be made more tempting with some simple decorating techniques.

All that you will need is some basic cake decorating tools, food colorings and edible decorations and a little practice in learning some basic piping techniques.

Even if you cannot master the basic piping techniques at first you can easily apply frosting to the top of a cupcake with a palette knife and still achieve excellent results.

The ideas below are only a few of many more cupcake decorating ideas that are available, just use your imagination and the theme of the occasion to guide you in making your own unique cupcake decorations.

1. Simple Cupcake Decorating Ideas

Food Colorings - Cupcake Decorating Ideas

Cupcakes with blue frosting and yellow smiley face edible confetti.
Blue food coloring has been used to accent the tops of these cupcakes.

Food colorings play an essential part in any cake decorating, whether it is to add a soft tint to a frosting or add a festive feel to a cake.

There is a wide variety of food colorings available from specialty cake decorating stores.

Food colorings come in the form of pastes, powders and liquids and each of these has its own use for coloring and tinting, painting and brushing on color or stenciling.

Food colorings are very concentrated so you need to add them in small quantities, use the tip of a cocktail stick to tint the frosting gradually adding more until you get the depth of color required.

2. Chocolate - Cupcake Decorating Ideas

Cupcakes with chocolate leaf decoration.
Chocolate leaves have been used to decotate these fall theme cupcakes.

Use chocolate as part of your cupcake decorating ideas, it is very versatile and can used in many ways here are a few.

Ganache

Ganache is a rich mixture of chocolate and cream which can be used as a frosting or filling.

It is made using approximately equal portions of cream and chocolate. The ganache can be flavored for example with vanilla, coffee or liqueurs.

There are two way to use a ganache or melted chocolate on cupcakes one is just simply spread it over the top of the cupcake and then decorate with edible decorations of your choice.

Another way is to remove the cupcake wrapper and turn the cupcake bottom side up on to a wire rack placed over a tray, and then pour the ganache or melted chocolate over the cakes so that it complete covers the inverted cupcake.

Bride Idea
Just remember anything that you coat with chocolate should be at room temperature, or the chocolate will set before you can get a smooth coating.

Chocolate Leaves

Chocolate leaves can be made and used with glaced fruit, chocolate dipped fruit, candies flowers or just own their own.

Cupcake with chocolate mould decoration.
Cupcake decorated with chocolate shape that has been created using a chocolate mould.

Chocolate Shapes

Piped chocolate shapes will allow you to make almost any shape from delicate lace to animal shapes.

  1. Draw a series of simple patterns on greaseproof paper. Turn it over and place onto a baking tray.
  2. Spoon cooled melted chocolate into a paper piping bag no more than half full. Seal the bag and snip off a small piece of the tip.
  3. Pipe the chocolate evenly on to the paper, using the lines of your patterns as a guide.
  4. Allow the chocolate to set and then carefully remove the shapes from the paper by gently lifting them off with a knife.

Quick Chocolate Curls and Chunk Curls

Quick chocolate curls and chunk curls are simple cupcake decorating ideas, that can be made in advance and stored for several weeks in an airtight container.

You can make these curls very quickly by using a vegetable peeler.

To Make Quick Curls

Cupcakes decorated with chocolate curls and a dusting of icing sugar.
Chocolate curls are used as decorations.
  1. Bring a thick piece or bar of chocolate to room temperature. (If your chocolate is too cold you will end up with grated chocolate and if it is to warm you will slice it).
  2. Pull the blade of a vegetable peeler along the edge of the chocolate and allow the curls to fall on a plate or a piece or non stick baking in a single layer.
  3. To use these fine curls place on the dessert using a skewer or toothpick as your fingers will melt the curls.

To Make Chunky Curls

The chunky curls are best made with dark chocolate which is melted with vegetable oil about 5g (1 teaspoon) per 30g (1 oz). The oil keeps the chocolate from hardening.

  1. Melt 170g (6 oz) of dark chocolate with 30g (2 tablespoons) vegetable oil stir until smooth.
  2. Pour the mixture into a small rectangular or square tin lined with foil or non stick baking paper to give you a block that measures about 2.5cm (1 inch thick).
  3. Allow the block to come to room temperature, remove from the tin.
  4. Then use a vegetable peeler to create short chunky curls.

3. Chocolate Cut Outs

Chocolate cut outs are a quick and easy way to make abstract shapes, circles, squares and diamonds by cutting them out freehand with a sharp knife or using cutters in various shapes and sizes.

These shapes look great placed around the sides of a cake evenly spaced or overlapping.

Steps to Making Cut Outs from Chocolate

  1. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper and secure the corners with some tape.
  2. Melt about 115g (4 oz) chocolate and pour over the parchment paper.
  3. Spread the chocolate evenly with a palette knife.
  4. Allow the chocolate to stand until the surface is firm enough to cut but not so hard that it will break. The chocolate should not be sticky when touched with your finger.

Using Cutters - Press the cutter shapes firmly through the chocolate and lift off the paper with a palette knife.

Abstract shapes can be made freehand by using a sharp knife. If you want straight edges use a ruler as a guide.

4. Chocolate Covered Fruits

Chocolate covered fruits such as strawberries, cherries, apples and orange segments can easily be made and do look sensational on cupcakes.

How to make chocolate dipped fruit you will need

  • 450g (1 lb) of berries or fruit that are in season
  • 150g (5 oz) of tempered chocolate

Wash the fruit and pat dry and place on a tray, do this several hours before to ensure that the fruit is completely dry. Holding each piece of fruit by the stalk (or a toothpick inserted into the top of the fruit), dip it into the melted chocolate.

Allow the excess chocolate drip off. If you wanted to coat the fruit in finely chopped nuts, coconut, contrasting chocolate sprinkles or other fine topping gently dip the fruit into it before the chocolate sets.

Place on a lined tray and allow to set for about 5 - 10 minutes.

5. Frosting - Cupcake Decorating Ideas

Frosting made from buttercream can be spread over the top of the cupcakes with a knife or piped, you can then add further decorations such as edible sprinkles, piped chocolate shapes or store bought decorations.

Piped Swirl

Piped swirl to make a piped swirl; half fill a piping bag fitted with a star tube or plain nozzle.

Twist the top of the bag so that if forces the frosting to the end of the tube.

  1. Starting at the outside edge, place the icing tube on the surface of the cake and squeeze out some frosting while working your way around the cake.
  2. When you get to the start of the icing, guide the tube towards the center of the cake and go around the cake working your way to the centre.
  3. Once the cake is completely covered stop squeezing the frosting through the tube and sharply pull away creating a peak.
  4. Add your desired decorations to the frosting.

6. Sugar Paste and Marzipan - Cupcake Decorating Ideas

For cute and versatile cupcake decorating ideas make cupcake toppers from sugar paste and marzipan.

Sugar paste and marzipan are pliable pastes that can be cut out, molded, frilled and made into shapes such as flowers and animals.

Cupcakes with handmade gumpaste flowers.
Tropical flowers have been modeled using gumpaste.

7. Sugar Frosted Fruits and Flowers - Cupcake Decorating Ideas

Fresh flowers and fruit can be dipped in egg white and sugar. Once completely dry the flowers should last for several weeks.

When making sugar flowers select fresh simple small flowers with fairly flat petals, such as violets, primroses, freesia and firm herbs or fruit leaves. These are best picked just before you intend to frost them and also make sure that they are young blooms.

For frosted fruit select fruits that a fresh and unblemished and in peak condition. You frost cherries, strawberries, lychees, gooseberries, kumquats and other berries.

To frost the flowers and fruit you must make sure that they are completely dry, use a paper towel if necessary.

For the flowers

Using a fine paintbrush, paint both sides of the flower with lightly beaten egg white.

Spoon caster sugar (super fine sugar) over the flower coating both sides. Gently shake of the excess, allow the flowers to dry on a wire rack covered with a paper towel.

Store in a warm dry place until dry.

For the flowers

Using a fine paintbrush, paint each piece of fruit evenly with lightly beaten egg white.

Spoon caster sugar (super fine sugar) over the fruit to cover evenly. Gently shake of the excess, allow the fruit to dry on a wire rack covered with a paper towel.

8. Instant Decorations - Cupcake Decorating Ideas

These are simply everyday ingredients which can be found in any supermarket, such as icing sugar, cocoa and coffee, citrus fruit zest, candied and glace fruits and nuts. Not to mention the endless variety of commercial decorations such as sugar flowers, lollies, marzipan shapes and colored dragees.

9. Quick and Easy

Simply dust the tops of the cupcakes with icing sugar or create a decorative effect by placing a patterned doily or arranging strips of paper to create a lattice pattern on top of the cakes, then dust heavily with icing sugar. Carefully remove the doily or paper strips to reveal the pattern. This looks great on dark cupcakes such as coffee and chocolate.

10. Cocoa or Coffee

This can be used in a similar way to icing sugar on light colored cakes.

11. Fresh Fruits

Oranges, lemons and limes are great edible decorations whether they are used sliced, in wedges or segments with or without the rind these look great on top of a frosted cake.

Other fruits such a kiwi fruit, cherries, grapes and berries can also be used. Give a glossy finish to the fruit by covering with apricot glaze.

Fresh citrus zest when made into long shreds look nice on top of a piped cupcake.

Cupcakes decorated with fresh glazed fruit.
Small pieces of fresh fruit covered with apricot glaze.

12. Candied or Glace Fruits

These are a traditional decoration and are a quick and easy stand by and can give a colorful finish to your cupcakes.

These can be use whole, sliced in half or sliced thinly and arranged into flower shapes on top of frosted cupcakes.

13. Candied Peel

Candied lemon peel and candied orange peel can be used to decorate the top of cupcakes. You can candy just about any type of citrus peel but the most common are orange, lemon and grapefruit.

14. Nuts

Nuts are a quick decoration, use whole or chopped they can be quickly arranged on top of a frosted cupcake. They can also be dipped in caramel or melted chocolate.

15. Lollies/Novelty Sweets

You can never go wrong with these especially for when placed on cupcakes for kids.

16. Commercial Decorations

Pruple frosted cupcake with commerical decorations.
Cupcake decorated with readymade decorations

Commercial decorations are a wonderful source for cupcake decorating ideas.

There are many different varieties available in edible and non edible decorations these are instant and are always worth having as a standby use them on their own or mix with other decorations.

17. Whipped Cream - Cupcake Decorating Ideas

Whip the cream (with a little sugar to taste) until soft peaks form and hold their shape. Use a piping bag or palette knife to spread the cream over the tops of the cakes, decorate with sprinkles or other decorations if liked.

For wedding cupcake display ideas you might like to read our cupcake wedding cake guide page or the cupcake stands and cupcake tower page for ideas on making your own wedding cupcake stands.