Blog on King Arthur Flour shows step-by-step pictures!


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  • Prep Time


  • Total Time


  • Servings



  • Vanilla Frosting:

  • 6

    tablespoons unsalted butter

  • cup vegetable shortening

  • teaspoon salt

  • 4 to 5

    cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

  • 2

    teaspoons vanilla extract

  • ¼ to ⅓

    cup milk or cream

  • Tips from our bakers

  • If you want some frosting left over to use in decorating, increase the ingredient amounts to: ½ cup butter, ½ cup vegetable shortening, approximately 6 cups confectioners' sugar, and up to ½ cup milk or cream


First, whip up a batch of your favorite vanilla frosting. You’ll need about 3 cups total, divided into 3 equal portions Tint each portion one of the three primary colors (red, yellow, blue). You can make them bright or pastel, depending on your mood. I like the look of the pastels, and used about 8 to 10 drops of gel paste food color per cup of icing. Place each color in a separate zip-top bag and trim off one corner. This temporary piping bag will make spreading your colors easier Lay out a piece of plastic wrap on the counter. Try for about 14″ to 16″ long; you’ll need some extra length for rolling. In the center of the strip use your zip-top bags to pipe out fat strips of icing. You’ll use about half a cup of icing for each strip, about half of each bag. Pipe the icing strips side by side, with the blue in the center. Think back to your color wheel; red plus blue make purple; yellow and blue make green, and yellow and red will make peach/orange. Now, here’s the only place where you’ll need some specialty equipment. Luckily, you can find large (16″ or larger) piping bags and tips locally fairly easily. Try the cake decorating section of your local craft store or party store. Open star tips and closed star tips make the best cupcake swirls, but you can use round tips as well. Place the plastic twist of colored icing into the bag, open section down. Twist the bag closed and press the icing towards the tip. As you squeeze, all three colors will come out, both separately and blended together where they meet Roll the plastic up jelly-roll style, and twist one end closed. Keep the other end open for the icing to flow out of. Repeat with the remaining icing to make a second roll, setting it aside for now To pipe those bakery style swirls, think of your cupcake as a clock. Begin at 4, and pipe clockwise around to 3. As you get to 3, lift the tip and move it slightly towards the center. The bands of icing will overlap and build upward, creating the spiral Now that’s a rainbow! A cloud of frosty goodness, a prism of sweetened sunshine From plain cupcakes to out of this world creations, in about 20 minutes. Seriously. Once you have the rolls of colors made up it’s a breeze to pipe one cake after the other. Simply by rotating where you hold the bag, you can change which colors show up where on the cakes, making each one unique A cacophony of color, a flight of fantasy. Beautiful for birthdays, gorgeous for graduation. Make your friends ecstatic at Easter, flabbergasted on the 4th of July. Just think, you can change up your color combinations, too. Try red, white, and blue for summer parties; red, green, and white for the holidays


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