We love an inventive dish and are super excited to share a cool twist on classic cupcakes. Succulent cupcakes are a combination of two of our favorite things, pretty plants, and delicious dessert. This recipe calls for boxed cake mix for the cupcakes, and a simple homemade buttercream frosting to craft our succulents. Read on for our easy tutorial to step up your sweets game!

numerous succulent cupcakes on wooden background

What You'll Need

  • cupcake tin
  • cupcake liners
  • piping tips 1,2,3
  • piping bags (for frosting)
  • rotating cake stand
  • stand mixer with whisk attachment
  • measuring cups
  • spatula
  • bowls


  • boxed cake mix
  • pinch of salt
  • food coloring (green, yellow, pink, brown)
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk or water
green succulent cupcakes on metal stand


Step #1: It's All About That Base

Bake cupcakes according to box instructions. Be sure to line cupcake tin with individual liners for each cupcake. We prefer a neutral white or clear liner for this project. Let cool completely.

Step #2: Better Buttercream

Place butter in bowl of mixer, then beat with whisk attachment on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla paste.

Step #3: Frost Yourselves

Update mixer speed to low, then add pinch of salt, water, and sugar gradually. Using spatula, scrape sides of bowl and refold into the middle. Whip for 5 minutes on medium-high. If too thick, add more water slowly until it reaches your preferred consistency.

closeup of two succulent cupcakes

Step #4: Creative Colors

Separate frosting into small bowls, three for varying shades of green, one plain white, one for brown, one for pink/mauve, and one for yellow. Add food coloring as instructions dictate.

Spiky Succulent

Now that our base cupcake and frostings are ready, it's time to hone in on the type of succulent we want to create, in this case, a spiked variety.

  • Add two shades of green to one frosting bag with tip 2 attached; put one shade on one half and the other shade on the other half so they don't mix together. Using two shades will give your faux succulent dimension and look more natural.
  • Begin by piping out a small mound of frosting in the center of your cupcake, about the size of a quarter.
  • Starting at that base of the frosting, squeeze a row of star shapes around the whole cupcake. Once you have one row of spikes, repeat in layers moving upward, each layer getting smaller than the last until you end with one spike on top.

Repeat this process with green and pink frosting, green and brown, etc for more color variations on additional cupcakes.

cactus and succulent cupcakes in ramekins

Desert Rose Cupcake

After completing the first four steps listed above, it's time to tackle another type of plant, the desert rose.

  • Using tip 1, fill a bag with light green and pink frosting, or two color varieties of your choosing.
  • At center of cupcake, create a small mound of frosting, about the size of a silver dollar.
  • Next, hold your tip at the base of the mound and apply pressure, moving over the top of the frosting dollop. Rotate 1/4 of the way around, and repeat until it resembles the inner petals of a rose.
  • After that, change the angle of frosting and pipe upwards for outer petals. Repeat with the overlapping petals around until the cupcake is almost filled.

Pro tip: Leave a small sliver of cupcake untouched so it's still easy to pick up. Repeat this rose with other shades of green, pink, and yellow for more fun options.

cactus cupcake

Barrel Cactus

For our final type of plant cupcake, follow the steps above for the base, before we build our barrel cactus.

  • Then, affix tip 3 to a piping bag and fill with the darkest green frosting and begin by piping a tall tower of icing on center of cupcake.
  • Hold the tip flat against the frosting, then starting at the bottom, apply pressure until top, then quickly release once apex is reached. Repeat until the central icing tower is covered, creating a ribbed look.
  • Optionally add small white dots of frosting on barrel, and a pink or yellow flower on top of cactus.

Change it up with some other color variations for even more succulent surprises! You can even make mini cupcakes with succulent toppers for an extra cute dessert.

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