Yeah sure, cupcakes may have gotten a rep for being uber trendy… but if you happen to like things that are incredibly cute and tasty (anyone?) they’re pretty impossible not to love. I’ve never been such a pro at frosting them as perfectly as the ones in the bakery shop case, so I was thrilled when Estelle (author of Under A Pink Moon) shared this easy breezy tutorial for icing them in three iconic styles. Take it away, Estelle


Not many sweets deliver in quite the same way as a cupcake. Equal parts decadent icing to moist cake make them a mini celebration in your hand, no fancy forks or plates needed. When creating these iconic cupcake styles, remember to overfill the cupcake liners with batter to achieve large, dome-top cupcakes for the Sprinkles style, and only fill the paper liners about 3/4 of the way for the more demure Magnolia and ganache-style.

Cupcakes from Sprinkles are piled high with rich and flavorful buttercream icing. The recipe I’ve included is simply flavored with a bit of vanilla extract, but you could easily add a tablespoon of fresh lemon or orange juice to get a hint of citrus, or switch out colored sprinkles for toasted coconut flakes or mini chocolate chips.
Set out a bowl of slightly chilled buttercream icing (recipe below.) Give it a good stir to check for a firm-ish consistency. Set out a bowl of your toppings. The bowl should be about twice as wide as your cupcakes and be filled with several inches worth of topping for clean dipping.
Take a butter knife or icing knife and pile roughly 2 – 3 tablespoons of icing on your cupcake. Smooth over the entire cupcake in a circular motion, creating a bit of a dome in the center. Clean your knife or use a fresh knife to smooth the icing. It does not have to be perfect as you will be covering the surface of the cupcake with your topping. Gently dip your iced cupcake into your bowl of topping and twist with your wrists to ensure every but of icing is now covered with topping.
Magnolia cupcakes are known for their sweet and old fashioned styling. The effortless swirl of buttercream looks like a delicacy from a bygone era. Occasionally, they finish off their cupcakes with a pinch of sprinkles but more often than not, they are simply topped with a generous smear of pastel-hued buttercream.
Set out a bowl of slightly chilled buttercream (a bit firmer than you would expect, as icing will be pushed out to the edges of the cupcake and you do not want it slipping down the sides).
Take a butter knife or icing knife and pile roughly 2 tablespoons of icing on your cupcake. Take the back of a tablespoon and press firmly in the center of your pile and then switch back to your knife. Start anywhere on the outer sides of your cupcake and begin spreading icing around the perimeter. It may take several passes around the entire cake to get the look relatively smooth. The idea is leave the large dent of icing in the center with a thick and slightly taller border.
Chocolate ganache is about as decadent as it gets and it takes the cupcake to a decidedly sophisticated level. But if that’s not your style you could always pipe on some white swirls and compare it to the Hostess version.
Set out a bowl of warm chocolate ganache (recipe below) directly from the stove in a bowl twice the size of your cupcake. Give it one final stir to ensure the consitancy is smooth. Take your cupcake and dip to the level of the paper liner then twist a bit with your wrist. Lift up with a final twist so the last drip of chocolate falls back on the top of the cupcake. Top with an edible violet or leave it as is.

Classic Buttercream
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened
8 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Put butter, half the sugar, milk and vanilla extract in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Slowly add the remaining cups of sugar a bit at a time until you achieve your desired consistency. You’ll want a relatively thick icing.
Chocolate Ganache
1 bag of high quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream.
Warm the cream in a double-boiler (or a bowl over simmering water). Add the chocolate chips and whisk continuously until chocolate has melted. Add more cream until desired consistency is achieved. Ice immediately.

P.S. You can even use a store bought mix for the cake. I used Arrowhead Mills Chocolate Cake mix (, which can be found at Whole Foods. The homemade icing more than makes up for any shortcuts you took with the cake.

  1. 1
    Tania | February 24, 2012 at 7:16 am


  2. 2
    Jennifer | February 24, 2012 at 7:56 am

    Great tips! I live the collage too. And now I’m hungry.

  3. 3
    Melanie | February 24, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Estelle, I would like a cupcake for breakfast please. How about you pop on a plane and bring me cupcakes? I love your photos!

  4. 4
    Melissa | February 24, 2012 at 8:53 am

    perfect way to begin my Friday morning…I’m going to have these decadent beauties on my mind all day!

  5. 5
    Jess | February 24, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Love it! You can never go wrong with a cupcake, no matter how it’s frosted!

  6. 6
    Inés | February 24, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Great idea for next Sunday tea time!
    Have a nice weekend!

  7. 7
    Laura | February 24, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Yummy! I must make cupcakes soon…

  8. 8
    Danielle (elleinadspir) | February 24, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Great tutorial….and now I want a cuppie!!!!

  9. 9
    Lindsay{LCVintage} | February 24, 2012 at 9:56 am

    That made me very hungry for a cupcake! They all look yummy!

  10. 10
    Torrie @ a place to share... | February 24, 2012 at 11:03 am

    i have plenty of super cute liners… now i’m inspired to get busy *filling & frosting them.

    (love the abundance of sprinkles on the sprinkled one!)

  11. 11
    Alison | February 24, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Who knew about the spoon action for the Magnolia style? THANK YOU!!

  12. 12
    Notorious MLE | February 24, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Love this, plus it’s a good excuse to practice my technique this weekend.

  13. 13
    mary jo | February 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Have not had a cupcake in awhile, but am craving one now. Thank you for sharing these tips!

    xo mary jo

  14. 14
    Mariana | February 26, 2012 at 4:42 am

    wow! Looks beautiful and delicious!! Mmm… 🙂

  15. 15
    cori | February 26, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    ugh – who doesn’t love a cupcake??
    these look delicious!

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