Chica and Jo
...simplifying life
Chica and Jo
...simplifying life
Chica and Jo

Colorful swirled cupcakes

by: Chica

Colorful swirled cupcakes
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With as many ways as there are to decorate cupcakes, they can be really boring if you just slap some plain icing on them. I like to make them fun and interesting, and one of my favorite ways to do that is with colorful, swirled icing.

Rather than mix food coloring into the icing, I use it to paint the decorator bag, creating a result so crazy and cool that you won’t believe you got it from such a simple technique. Let me show you how!

The first things you’ll need, of course, are cupcakes and icing! This technique works best with white decorator’s icing (see my recipe at the end of this post). You can use any white frosting you want (the whiter the better). As for equipment, you’ll need some disposable icing bags, a star-shaped icing tip (I like size 18), and optionally a coupler. You’ll also need a small, clean paint brush and some paste or gel food coloring in various colors. (It must be paste or gel. Liquid won’t work.) Finally, grab a tall drinking glass, which will help to hold the bag for you.

colorful swirled cupcakes

The best part about this technique is that you can choose any colors you want and can customize it to the occasion. You can use orange and black for Halloween, red and green for Christmas, or pink and blue for a baby shower. A rainbow of colors makes for a fun child’s party treat (like Jo’s Candyland party) and can even look tie-dyed. Using team colors will make a great addition to any sporting event, from a child’s soccer game to a tailgating party.

You’ll be painting from 4 to 6 stripes of color for your icing, but you can repeat colors, so you really only need at least 2 different colors (up to 6 max).

Okay, now for the actual technique! Attach the star tip and coupler to the disposable bag and flip the end of the bag out to form a cuff, so that you can reach the inside easier. Here’s where the glass comes in handy, as it serves as a holder for the bag. Put the tip of the bag in the bottom of the glass and let it stand upright.

colorful swirled cupcakes

Now use the paint brush to paint stripes of color on the inside of the bag, starting at the tip and going up about 3-4 inches. Each stripe of food coloring should be fairly thick and about 1/2″ wide.

colorful swirled cupcakes

If you are using 2 or 3 colors, paint two stripes of each color, alternating them. If you are using 4, 5, or 6 colors, paint one stripe of each color. Be sure to leave some space between each stripe.

colorful swirled cupcakes

For a rainbow effect, add six stripes of color — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

colorful swirled cupcakes

Now scoop a bunch of white icing into the bag with a spoon.

colorful swirled cupcakes

The stripes of color will be very easy to see now.

colorful swirled cupcakes

Twist the top of the bag to close it and squeeze icing out of the tip until it no longer flows white, but starts to show the colors you used. Pretty cool, huh?

colorful swirled cupcakes

Now for the fun part! Squeeze the icing out onto the cupcake in any design or pattern you want. Here are some example patterns to get you started.

Idea #1: Squeeze small stars all over the top of the cupcake

colorful swirled cupcakes

Idea #2: Start in the center and make a giant spiral out to the edges.

colorful swirled cupcakes

Idea #3: Cover the top with small, swirling, rosettes.

colorful swirled cupcakes

Idea #4: Start at one side and make a zig-zag back and forth.

colorful swirled cupcakes

Idea #5: Make zig-zag segments that start on the edge and work towards the center, getting smaller as they go. Keep adding segments until top is covered.

colorful swirled cupcakes

Idea #6: Cover the top with wiggly lines that resemble ruffles.

colorful swirled cupcakes

I’m always pleased and surprised by the finished cupcakes!

colorful swirled cupcakes

You can see that the color starts out bolder and fades as you do more cupcakes. Eventually you’ll run out of icing in the bag, but unfortunately you can’t just keep adding more, because your color will get all used up. You’ll need to start with a clean bag each time you need more icing (which is why I like the disposable ones) and paint fresh stripes on it. You should be able to get about a dozen cupcakes out of one bag of icing.

colorful swirled cupcakes

Chica’s decorator’s icing recipe:

  • One 2lb bag of confectioner’s sugar
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • approx 3/4 cup water

Add sugar, shortening, and vanilla to the bowl of a stand mixer (I absolutely can not live without my KitchenAid – especially for icing!). Add about 1/2 cup of water and begin mixing on slow speed. Add additional water as needed until the icing is the texture you like. Be careful not to add too much at once! (If you do, just add more sugar). Finding the right texture takes a little practice; too thin and your decorations won’t be firm, but too thick and you won’t be able to squeeze it out of the bag.

Colorful swirled cupcakes
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160 comments so far:

  • 1
    KimmyT. 03/25/2013 at 11:39 am

    I REALLY love this idea and I tried making it the other day but I did have trouble with the coloring slidding down the bag somewhat before I could get all my colors painted on.(I used 5 colors). Also I could not find just paste food coloring but was able to find a paste/jel. It didnt seem to want to adhere to the disposable bag very well. Im wondering if a cloth bag would be better?

  • 2
    Chica 03/25/2013 at 7:54 pm

    Kimmy, it sounds like the coloring you used was too thin. I’m not sure if cloth would work better or not. You might have put on too thick of a layer of gel, hard to say. I’ve only ever used Wilton food coloring myself.

  • 3
    Pernia 07/12/2013 at 10:34 pm

    Gorgeous! I’m going to try this technique. My question is, Will you be able to taste the food gel since you’re not totally mixing it in the icing?

  • 4
    Chica 07/14/2013 at 9:50 am

    Pernia, I’ve never noticed the taste of the gel.

  • 5
    Ghazal 10/24/2013 at 2:03 pm

    Hi,if you don’t mind can you please tell the amount of the ingredients for the icing in terms of tablespoon? Please! :|

  • 6
    Chica 10/27/2013 at 9:04 am

    Hi Ghazal. For the shortening, 2/3 cup = about 10.5 tbsp. For the vanilla, 1 tsp = 1/3 of a tbsp. For the water, 3/4 cup = 12 tbsp. Hope that helps!

  • 7
    caroline 01/04/2014 at 10:55 am

    Great Idea! Love it!

  • 8
    Marcela 04/25/2015 at 9:10 am

    GRacias!! thanks! beautiful idea!

  • 9
    Kathy 09/28/2015 at 9:25 am

    I super love baking and I once saw a cupcake with this type of icing…i did wonder how they made it..super glad and happy that i saw this!!now I’m super excited to try it!!!super thank you!!!!!!lot’s of ideas on my head now…!!!

  • 10
    Chica 09/28/2015 at 7:45 pm

    Kathy, you’re quite welcome!

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