For my youngest daughter’s second birthday, we did a “TWO WILD” theme with a boho southwest vibe. I wanted succulent cupcakes and was determined to make and decorate them myself. It was quite the process but I think I nailed it!
Growing up I was in 4-H and took some Wilton Cake Decorating classes. I actually still have all of the special Wilton tips and decorating supplies but I had no idea where to begin.
My simple (delicious) buttercream recipe that I use for cakes is butter-based and tastes great but it isn’t very stable. I learned after a couple practice tries making these that icings that are completely butter-based do not hold form well. My baker friend suggested I use a mixture of butter and shortening so things would be stiffer and more stable. Surely I would have more success with the different shapes of succulents and cacti!
I saved a ton of inspiration on Pinterest and decided which shapes I liked best, found the best tips for creating them and practiced, practiced, practiced starting about 3 months before her party so I had time to get it right (and so we didn’t have 100 cupcakes to eat in a week’s time!)
Quickly I realized that my 25-year-old, dried out icing dyes were not going to cut it. I ended up ordering a box of Americolor gel color instead and LOVE it. The color palettes they offer are much more sophisticated than the primary rainbow that you typically can find out there. Before I landed on these better colors my first round of practice cupcakes included a sunshine yellow, Barney purple and a mint green. It was a hot mess. I got to a MUCH better place by the 4th and final batch.
When it comes to baking, I can follow and adapt a recipe, but I usually do not create baking recipes from my brain. I am not a culinary genius like Amanda by any means. I found a ‘doctored boxed cake mix‘ recipe that I love and I use it with both vanilla and chocolate boxed cake mix. It takes it a level up from typically boxed without having to make it from scratch with cake flour and all of the other ingredients you’d need without the boxed part.
Wilton decorating tips were used to make my succulents–and they have a tutorial here. This Wilton tutorial was also helpful. Funny story: I actually used to work for Wilton as my second job out of college. I was a product designer there for about 4 years and used to design wedding products, candy molds, bachelorette party stuff, baby products and other stuff. Hilarious that some of that stuff I designed over 12 years ago is still available at stores! Lol.
I love how these succulent cupcakes ultimately turned out and they were a huge hit with guests! My advice is research and practice, practice, practice!
Happy Baking + Decorating! XOXOXO Kristen
Professional photos (the ones that look awesome) above by Jennifer Kaye Photography.