How to Make Succulent Cupcakes

cactus frosting tutorial recipe by pop shop america_square

These vanilla cupcakes are frosted into cool cactus and succulent landscapes! They are so much fun and easier to make than you think!



For the Succulent Frosting:

  • 3 sticks salted butter- softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Wilton Moss Green gel food color
  • Wilton Peach gel food color

For the Vanilla Cupcakes:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup butter- softened
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • 1 ½ baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 cupcake liners


  • 4 piping bags
  • Piping tips #199 (small cacti)
  • #352 (leaf tip)
  • #1 (“spikes” on cacti)
  • #4B (Large cacti)
  • #102 (flowers)
  • #16 (flower on top of cactus)
  • Decorating Coupler Set (optional but useful and not expensive)
  • Cake flower nail (optional)
  • Parchment or wax paper – cut into small squares about 2 in. x 2 in.


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter and cream on high speed for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. Reduce speed and add powdered sugar one cup at a time until fully incorporated. Add vanilla extract and mix on high speed for an additional 3-4 minutes. 
  2. Distribute the frosting evenly between 4 bowls. Make a darker green by adding about 1 tsp of the moss green food color and mix until evenly colored. Add about ½ tsp of green to another bowl and mix well. Add about 1 tsp of the peach food color to the third bowl and mix well. Leave the last bowl white. 
  3. Prepare 4 piping bags by cutting off the tip of the bag and adding in the baking coupling if using and fill each bag with one color of frosting. 
  4. Prepare your succulents by taking a piece of parchment paper and “gluing” it to your flower nail with a little bit of frosting. 
  5. To make the first succulent, place the #199 tip on the dark green frosting. Squeeze bag and pull up releasing pressure. Make 3 small cacti on each piece of parchment. Take the white frosting and create the “spikes” and set on the baking sheet. Continue until you have 12 cacti. 
  6. For the second succulent, attach the 4B tip to the light green frosting. With the piping bag completely vertical, squeeze the bag while pulling upwards and releasing pressure. Continue 3-4 times until you get the desired height of the cactus. Attach the #1 tip to the white frosting and pipe small dots all along the cactus for the “spikes” and lastly, attach the #16 tip to the peach frosting and pipe a small swirl on top of the cactus for the flower. Continue until you have 12 cacti. Place each one on a baking sheet. 
  7. For the last succulent, attach the #102 tip to the peach frosting. Starting in the middle of the parchment, place the tip with the large opening touching the nail. Squeeze an even amount of pressure while turning the nail with your other hand creating a circle. Create 3 “leaves” around the center circle by making a rainbow pattern with the buttercream all the way around. Create 5 leaves on the 2nd layer and so on until you have your desired size. Remember not to make them too big so they will fit on the cupcake. 
  8. Place the succulents in the refrigerator for 1 hour to set. 
  9. Prepare your cupcakes by adding the granulated sugar and butter into the bowl of stand mixer with a paddle attachment and cream together until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and mix until just combined. 
  10. Add the sour cream and mix until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl. 
  11. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and the milk and vanilla in a small bowl. 
  12. Alternate adding half of the dry mixture and then half of the wet mixture while the mixer is on low speed. Add the remaining dry ingredients then the remaining milk last. Mix until just combined. 
  13. Fill each cupcake liner about halfway full of batter (I used a 3 tbsp scoop) and bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown on top.
  14. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. 
  15. Remove the succulents from the refrigerator. Add a small dollop of frosting on top of each cupcake and use a spatula to smooth. Add one of each succulent to each cupcake by taking a butter knife or flat spatula and run underneath the succulent and placing gently on the cupcake.  Feel free to fill in free space with the #352 tip making leaves around the succulents. 
  16.  Store in an airtight container and Enjoy! 

Keywords: cactus cupcakes, succulent cupcakes, frosted cupcakes, cactus frosting, frosting sculpture ideas, vanilla cupcakes

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