The weather is usually perfect in Southern California this time of year (besides the occasional May Gray days), so I like to entertain outdoors whenever possible. And in the spirit of dining al fresco, I had the idea to whip up a sweet treat inspired by some of my favorite potted plants: tiny cacti. You might remember the mini painted pots we decorated for my recent LaurenConrad.com relaunch luncheon and then filled with cacti and succulents. Well it’s almost uncanny how much these cupcakes look like the real thing!
My favorite baker and friend Lauren Lowstan recently showed me how to make these treats and they are truly a work of art. And if you happen to be celebrating Cinco de Mayo, I can guarantee they will go great with margaritas, chips and guac, and my homemade chicken enchiladas. Serve them at your Cinco de Mayo festivities and your guests will have their phones out taking photos before you can say “olé.” Here’s how to make them…
- a batch of your favorite cupcakes
- a batch of your favorite frosting (I used this recipe from when I made rose cupcakes)
- graham cracker crumbs
- green gel food coloring
- red gel food coloring
- large piping bags
- #352 piping tip
- open star piping tip
- small closed star piping tip
- First whip up a batch of your favorite cupcakes. Let them cool thoroughly before you begin the decorating process.
- Place the graham cracker crumbs into a small bowl.
- Take about 1/3 cup of frosting and color it red. Set aside for future use. Color the remainder of your frosting a vibrant cactus green.
- Take a small amount of buttercream and lightly frost the tops of each cupcake with an offset spatula. Then, one by one, dip the tops of each cupcake into the graham cracker crumbs. Make sure to cover the entire surface. This will act as your “dirt” for the cupcakes.
- Fill your large piping bags with the green frosting. You want to give each cupcake a base of frosting, before piping the cactus decorations on. Adding a small amount of pressure, pipe a swirl of frosting onto each cupcake, going up from the middle, about 1-2.5 inches high. You can pipe as high or low as you’d like. I liked piping them all at different heights, so there was a nice variety.
- Once all of the cupcakes have their frosting base, you can pipe your cactus shapes! You might want to practice each piping technique on a parchment paper until youve got the rhythm down. Plus you can always scrape up the frosting that you practice on, and place it back into the piping bag.
- For the leafy cupcake, use an open star tip. Starting at the base of the cupcake, start piping the leaves. You want to add a little pressure and then pull away to create the nice tip on each one. I eventually just starting piping in random spots all over the cupcake until the entire thing was covered. I think the point of this one is for it to not be perfect. You want each leaf to be a little different from the rest.
- For the ribbed cactus cupcakes, you want to use the #352 piping tip. Start by placing the tip up against the frosting swirl base. You will be piping vertical lines, from bottom to top, stopping in the top middle. Make sure as you’re piping, the tip is facing the right direction. If you were to look at it, it would look like an upside down “v” up against the cupcake.
- Add your red frosting to a piping bag, fitted with a small star tip, and pipe roses onto random cupcakes. You can use my tutorial on how to pipe roses with frosting, from this post. You will just be making them on a much smaller scale, and with a much smaller piping tip.
How much fun are these little guys? They’ve hit the #1 spot on my favorite cupcake recipes of all time. Thanks again to Lauren Lowstan for showing me this recipe!
What are you cooking up for your festivities?