How to decorate a cake – piping

Find out how to master simple cake decorating techniques such as swirls, dots and lines using a piping bag with the help of the BBC Good Food cookery team.

Points to remember

  • Make sure to get the correct consistency of icing for piping, not too thick or runny.
  • Place required nozzle in piping bag. Fill with icing, twist and hold the end with one hand (usually your writing hand) and rest the tip of the bag in your other hand. Squeeze the icing from the top of the bag to make it flow through evenly.
  • To make dots: hold the bag vertically with the nozzle close to the surface, squeeze a little icing out to make a dot the desired size. To finish, stop squeezing, push down and then draw up sharply.
  • To write lines: hold the bag at a 45 degree angle, a little away from the surface, squeeze the icing out with a constant pressure, and let the line of icing fall naturally into place as you guide it. Try not to pull the piping bag before the icing has met the surface, as you’ll get an uneven thickness.
  • To pipe swirls on cupcakes: use a large star or plain nozzle, hold the bag vertically and pipe a ring of icing around the edge of the cupcake. Pipe a smaller ring overlapping the first. stop pressure when the bag is in the centre of the swirl, then push the bag down and draw up sharply to finish.
  • For a flower design: using a star nozzle and dot the icing on top of the cake.

Get more cake decorating tips by watching our video on how to ice a cake with buttercream.


Don’t overfill your piping bag or icing will begin to ooze from the top. Squeeze from the top not the middle of the bag.


Make sure your icing isn’t too thick (it will need a lot of force to pipe), or too thin (it will run out of the bag and won’t hold its shape).