Swirl top cupcakes can look really beautiful, even when done by a person with little or no cake decorating experience. And they are fast which is nice. Children love to see them with sprinkles on top, just be sure to put the sprinkles on soon after you've added your frosting swirl so that they will stick...if you wait to long, the sprinkles will just bounce right off.
As long as you have the right tip, a decorating bag and a good decorating frosting recipe, you're set. I learned how to make these in a Wilton cake decorating course, so I thought I'd do a google search and see if they had instructions online. And they do! I will post that here with my own tidbits of advice in italics, that I've found helpful. And just remember, the first one may not look perfect, or the second one, so plan on practicing on a few. The nice thing about frosting cupcakes is that if you hate the way it turns out, you can easily scrap off the frosting and try again. So even if it takes you ten tries to get this down, you can always redo your cupcakes. Here are the instructions (and I've included my butter cream recipe as well):
Buttercream icing (light to medium consistency)
My butter cream recipe:
1 c vegetable shortening(not the kinds with added butter flavors)
4 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp clear vanilla flavor
1/4 tsp almond flavor
1/4 tsp butter flavor(you can buy this at a craft store in the cake decorating section...our Walmart also carries this with their birthday/cake decorations)
1lb or 4 c powdered sugar
1 Tbsp Meringue Powder(also find this at craft store; this is a very important ingredient in decorators frosting b/c it really helps with the consistency and allows the frosting to keep it's shape...it stiffens just slightly though the frosting is still super soft and yummy, but this also allows you to stack frosted sugar cookies on top of each other without having them stick together, as long as you've let the frosting set for about 20 minutes)
Tip: 1M (this tip is bigger in size than most which means you won't use a coupler with this tip, but just stick it straight in the decorating bag; you can buy this at a craft store in the cake decorating section...our Walmart also carries this with their birthday/cake decorations)
Decorating Bag (I personally like the white kind you reuse, but the disposable, clear ones work just as well)
Hold Open Star Decorating Tip 1M approximately 1/4" above cupcake top at a 90° angle to cupcake surface. Pipe a spiral of icing, beginning at the outer edge and working inward.
Stop pressure; pull tip away. (note: you stop pressure once you've filled out the outer edge and done your swirl in the middle; basically once the entire cupcakes is covered; and I skip the last step and once the cupcake is completely covered and your tip is in the middle of the cupcake, I stop pressure and pull the tip up and then around in a circular movement so the middle doesn't stick straight up )
Pipe a second spiral, smaller (not as wide) on top. End spiral at center. Stop pressure; pull tip straight up and away.