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Make Miniature Succulents for a Desert-Themed Dessert

Delectably edible treats you can create at home.

By Madeline Johnson| Photography by Scott Yates

For many of us, our love affair with the cupcake began when we were young children. Luckily, the delicacy has come a long way since its days of a smear of frosting atop a humble single-serving cake. Today’s confections are an art form unto themselves, and many may seem too picture-perfect to take that first heavenly bite. (In our own experience, resistance has proven to be futile). The newest sweet sensation to capture the attention of foodies, bloggers and influencers alike, based on the plethora of photos and posts found on social media, is cactus-themed cupcakes. Andrea Carusetta, owner of Sedona Cake Couture—and cupcake connoisseur— shares her tips on re-creating flora from your own backyard into delectable desertscape desserts.


12 cupcakes, chocolate or vanilla

3 cups chocolate or vanilla buttercream frosting

4 cups white buttercream frosting

1 cup toasted coconut shavings

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Piping tips: 4 large star tips,
4 small star tips, 1 small round tip

10 disposable frosting bags

Assorted colors of gel food coloring

Photos of succulents for inspiration

Bake cupcakes and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Once chilled, spread chocolate or vanilla buttercream frosting on the surface of each cupcake.

To create the “soil” for your frosting landscape, invert vanilla cupcakes frosting-side down into a bowl of the shaved coconut. For chocolate cupcakes, use cocoa powder mixed with coconut. Chill the frosted cupcakes for at least 2 hours to ensure a stable decorating foundation.

Place equal amounts of white frosting into three or four separate bowls, setting aside some frosting for later use. Add green food coloring to each, creating assorted shades for a variety of cacti.

Cut the tips from the plastic frosting bags and place the large star piping tips on the ends. Fill each bag with a different shade of green frosting.

To create cacti and succulents, squeeze the frosting bag to create a base. Continue squeezing while steadily raising the bag to add height. Experiment with this technique to achieve the shapes you like the most.

Incorporate more than one green hue on each cupcake, resulting in three or four succulents per “garden.”

Divide leftover frosting in multiple small bowls, setting aside a small amount that will remain white. Mix in food coloring shades, such as red and yellow, to create bright shades for flowers. Fill frosting bags, and use small star piping tips to form shapes.

Fill frosting bag with remaining white frosting. Using the small round piping tip, place tiny dots along the cactus ribs to simulate spines.


Play with the colors. In her Sedona-based bakery, Carusetta is constantly concocting new frosting hues. “Use creativity and the color wheel for fun ideas,” she says. “For example, green and yellow mix to make lime, while green and blue make turquoise.”

Authenticity is the key to the most stunning cactus treats, which is why Carusetta references photos of live succulents while she works. “It’s all about reproducing the real deal in sugar.”

Don’t be discouraged if your first tries don’t look exactly like an actual cactus garden. You may go through a dozen cupcakes before perfecting your technique. “It was a lot of trial and error for us,” Carusetta remembers. “The most challenging part is figuring out how to make the right shapes and choosing the most appropriate piping tips to create them.”


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