Hello everyone! Today I’m doing something a little different; I am going to be doing a mini tutorial of how to decorate succulent cupcakes. I made these for my sister’s baby shower a couple weeks ago and got a lot of inquiries about how I did it. So, I’ve decided a “How To Decorate Succulent Cupcakes” post was warranted. I also included a very basic vegan chocolate cupcake recipe and vegan buttercream recipe in this post for the frosting. Yum!
I also made a “How To Decorate Succulent Cupcakes” video tutorial, if you’re more of a visual learner. I did not show how to make the cupcakes and frosting in the video; it is mostly a tutorial of the frosting process.
I can also make cupcake and frosting videos, if that’s something people would be interested in.
Now, onto these cupcakes. The first time I made them, I used Oh She Glow’s No-Fail Chocolate Cupcakes because it was the first recipe that came up when I googled “easy vegan chocolate cupcakes” on my phone. I added chocolate chips to them and cut the sugar a little and they worked great. Feel free to use literally whatever cupcake recipe you want. I would suggest chocolate for the “dirt” color affect, but truly, any flavor will do. I am including a vegan chocolate cupcake recipe from my ebook below if you want another option.
And next up, the frosting. I would suggest making 2 cups of vegan buttercream per 12 cupcakes. This will give you a little wiggle room with extra frosting, which is nice when you’re decorating cupcakes in case you mess up or use more than you intend to. I have included a very basic vegan buttercream recipe below, but again, feel free to use your favorite buttercream recipe.
I would strongly suggest using baking stick-style vegan butter if making dairy-free buttercream. Spreadable vegan butter in the tub will not hold its shape as effectively. I used Earth Balance Baking Sticks the first time and Earth Balance in the tub the second time, and there was noticeable difference between the batches. #notspon, but definitely try to get the baking sticks if they are available to you!
Okay, and finally, let’s get to the how to decorate the succulent cupcakes. You will need a couple special tools: namely, you will need 2-3 piping bags, and 2-3 frosting tips, listed below. I listed Wilton numbers, because they are widely available, but feel free to find similar tips of any brand that match these shapes. I used this inexpensive kit to decorate these cupcakes, and it worked just fine.
Food Supplies (For 12 cupcakes, easily doubled):
- 12 vegan chocolate cupcakes (recipe below, or use your favorite)
- 2 cups vegan buttercream (recipe below, or use your favorite)
- 10 chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreos, Joe Joe’s, or other sandwich cookies) if you wish to make “dirt”
- Green food dye (I used Whole Foods 365 brand); you can also use spinach or matcha powder. Feel free to do different depths of green with different cupcakes by adding more or less dye. This creates variety and is simple and fun.
- Red or pink food dye; you can also used pulverized free-dried strawberries, approximately 3 tablespoons per 1/4 colored frosting cup needed (this is what I did)
- 2-3 piping bags.
- You will need an open star tip with a wide opening. Wilton #199 or #32 or a similar tip will work great. If you don’t know what an open star tip looks like, please watch the video, and/or google it.
- You will also need a medium-sized-opening (not sure that’s the best way to explain that?) star tip. Wilton #18, #22, or #17 (or similar) should all work.
- You will also need a round decorating tip with a very small opening. Wilton tip #2 or #3 will both work (or similar shaped tips) will work.
- If desired, you can also use a slightly smaller medium-opened start tip. This is not required, but if you want to make your life easier and put the frosting for the pink flowers in a different piping bag and not clean it after the green frosting, select a tip slightly smaller than the #18, 22, or 17.
Okay, now for the recipes. If you just want to select your own and are only here to learn how to decorate succulent cupcakes, more power to you. But, I am including these recipes at the bottom because in the past if I ever link to other recipes I used as part of something I have gotten backlash. So here we are.
How to Decorate The Vegan Succulent Cupcakes:
1. Begin by making “dirt” crumbs. Pulse sandwich cookies in a food processor or blender until crumbs form. You may also smash them in a sealed plastic bag with a rolling pin or large spoon, if desired.
2. Separate and dye frosting: per 2 cups frosting, leave approximately 1/2 cup white. Dye ~ 1 1/4 cups frosting green using dye of choice. Dye remaining frosting (~1/4 cup) frosting pink using red food dye or pulverized freeze-dried strawberries.
3. Take a chocolate cupcake and spread a thin layer of white frosting on top to cover the cake surface. Repeat with half of the cupcakes.
4. Spoon cookie crumbs over frosted cupcakes (over the bowl of cookie crumbs to catch falling crumbs), and press gently into frosting surface to ensure adherence using a spoon.
5. Place green frosting into a piping bag with the widest open star tip (Wilton #199 or #32 or a similar tip).
6. Place tip directly to the cupcake surface approximately halfway between the center and the edge of the cupcake, and squeeze piping bag with even, steady pressure. Move tip up very slowly, allowing frosting to spread on cupcake surface. When frosting (which should now resemble a cacti) is approximately 1/2 inch tall, stop exerting pressure, and gently and swiftly lift the piping bag away from the cupcake. Repeat directly next to the first cacti to create a second, adjoining cacti. Repeat with a third cacti to form a cacti triangle. You can even make 5 cacti on some cupcakes, if desired, to add variety. Repeat with all cupcakes that have cookie crumbs on them (so half of your total cupcakes).
7. Fill a pastry bag with white frosting using the round decorating tip with a very small opening (Wilton #2 or #3 or similar).
8. Pipe very small white dots onto the trunks of the cacti by pressing tip gently to cacti surface, squeezing for only a second or two, then swiftly lifting the piping bag away from the cacti to form “spikes.” Repeat until all cacti have “spikes,” and set white piping bag aside. If desired, leave some without spikes and flowers.
9. Fill a pastry bag with pink frosting and medium star tip (Wilton #18, #22, or #17, or similar).
10. Make pink “flowers” to sit atop each cacti by gently pressing pink frosting-filled piping bag tip to the top of each cacti, pressing gently for a few seconds, then swiftly lifting the piping bag away. Repeat until all cacti have flowers. You should now have half of your cupcakes fully decorated.
11. Place medium star tip (Wilton #18, #22, or #17, or similar) on a bag with green frosting. Create small star patterns (simply place tip to the cupcake surface, press gently for a second, and swiftly lift piping bag away to create a frosting star) and fully cover the surface of each remaining cupcake to create bloom cupcakes. Adding more dye to the frosting halfway through helps create variety.
12. Use remaining pink frosting and/or white frosting to accent bloom cupcakes between green stars.
Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 20-25minutes
Yield: ~12 cupcakes
- 1/3 cup neutral oil (canola, avocado, etc)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated or raw sugar
- 1 1/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (such as Trader Joe’s or Enjoy Life)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a small bowl, combine non-dairy milk and vinegar and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine oil and sugars and whisk until well-combined.
4. Fold in half of dry ingredients, add half of non-dairy milk, then repeat with remaining ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips, if using.
5. Pour ~1/3 cup batter into lined cupcake pan and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until cupcakes have risen and spring back to the touch, and/or a toothpick inserted in their center comes out clean upon insertion and removal.
6. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Simple Vegan Buttercream
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Yield: ~2 cups frosting
- 1/2 cup softened non-dairy butter-style baking sticks*
- 4-5 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon almond extract (or sub with more vanilla)
- 2-4 tablespoons non-dairy milk of choice
*If you cannot find baking sticks and must use a spread from a tub, add 1 tablespoon cornstarch to your frosting
1. In a large bowl, beat baking sticks using an electric hand or stand mixer until light and fluffy, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add in vanilla and almond extracts and continue to mix.
2. Add 1 cup powdered sugar at a time, beating after each addition until well-incorporated, continuing to occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. If the frosting is too thick, add non-dairy milk, one tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition.
4. If frosting is too runny, add additionally powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and if the frosting is too thick, add 1 tablespoon non-dairy milk at at time, beating after each addition until desired consistency is reached.