If you are comfortable using a pastry bag and have a few different types of pastry tips, there are many fanciful, yet simple, designs that can be piped onto your cupcakes. If you like, practice piping techniques and designs on
a clean plate. When you’re comfortable with the technique and ready to pipe directly onto the cupcakes, return the practice frosting to the pastry bag and reuse the frosting.
DOTS Use a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip to pipe dots of frosting. Hold the pastry bag vertically, squeeze the bag to pipe a round dot, and release pressure before pulling the tip up and away. Begin piping around the edge of the cupcake. Build the dots up, staggering them slightly and working toward the center of the cupcake. Finish at the very center of the cupcake.
STARS To decorate the cupcake with tall pointed stars, use a large open star tip. Hold the pastry bag vertically, perpendicular to the surface of the cupcake. Squeeze the bag to pipe a star, then gradually release pressure on the pastry bag as you slowly lift the tip up and away from the cupcake. Continue in the same manner, piping until the cupcake is covered with stars.
RIBBONS Folded ribbons are made with a large basketweave tip. Hold the bag at a slight angle, with the fluted side up. In one continuous movement, begin piping at the upper third of the cupcake, near the center, pulling outward to the edge, then fold the frosting on itself; continue piping to the other edge and fold the frosting on itself, flipping the tip so that the fluted side is up.
Adapted from Cupcakes, by Shelly Kaldunski (Weldon Owen, 2008)