Introduction: Flower Pot Cupcakes

I was inspired to make these cupcakes after I made a large flower pot cake for my Mom's birthday, and had lots of fondant leftover. Waste not, want not! I think they turned out to be some of the cutest cupcakes I've ever made - and they're not too hard to make! With a  bit of practice, you'll be amazing your friends with these in no time.

You will need:

Chocolate cupcakes (recipe included)
Chocolate frosting (recipe included)
Store-bought white or ivory fondant, ~ 2 lbs
Gel food colouring in red, yellow, brown, green, purple and pink
          Note: Use terracotta gel colour if you have it. I did not.
Oreos, Oreo crumbs, or chocolate cookie crumbs
Royal icing flower centers, or small yellow candies

Now let's make some flower pot cupcakes!

Step 1: Step One - Bake Your Cupcakes

You can use any chocolate cake you like for this recipe, as long as it's somewhat firm. If you're going to use a cake mix, you might want to add a quarter cup or so of extra flour to make it a bit more dense.

You can bake these with cupcake liners, but you'll have to remove them before you start decorating. If you wish to bake without liners, be sure to grease & flour the pans thoroughly so the cupcakes don't stick.

Here is the incredibly easy recipe I used, from an old Betty Crocker cookbook: 

Black Midnight Cake

2 1/4 cups pastry flour
1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cups cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cup water
3/4 cup shortening
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Pile all ingredients into large mixer bowl. Use hand mixer on low for 30 seconds, scraping down the sides with a spatula as you go, then mix 3 minutes on high speed, scraping down the sides occasionally.

Portion equally among 2 cupcake pans, makes a total of 24 cupcakes. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

Step 2: Step Two - Frosting and Fondant

Remove your cupcakes from the pan, and peel off cupcake liner, if using. Place the cupcake upside-down on a plate and set aside.

Colour some fondant to a terracotta shade. Do this by applying small amounts of red, brown, and yellow gel food colouring bit by bit, and kneading the fondant until the colour is no longer streaky and reaches the desired shade. I used a small terracotta pot for colour reference.

Roll out your terracotta coloured fondant, to between 1/4 and 1/8 inch thickness. I used a large glass to cut out circles of fondant, and had to roll the fondant out a little more since the circles weren't big enough. It may take a little trial and error to get the amount of fondant you need for your cupcakes.

Apply a thin layer of chocolate frosting to the bottom and sides of the cupcake, and drape a fondant circle over it. Using clean, dry, not-covered-in-frosting fingers, gently smooth the fondant down over the cupcake. Use a small, sharp knife to trim away any excess fondant. The first time I did this, it took a couple of tries to get it right.

By the way, you can use any chocolate frosting you like, but here's my favorite:

Easy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup butter (use salted, it's way too sweet if you use unsalted. Seriously.)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 cups icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 + tbsp milk

With an electric mixer, combine room-temperature butter and cocoa powder until smooth. Start slow so you don't coat your kitchen in cocoa. Slowly add the 2 cups of icing sugar. Add the vanilla and milk.

From here you have to add a bit more milk, a little at a time, until you get your desired consistency. This will vary a bit depending on humidity and such, so just test it after each addition of milk until it's spreadable but not runny. Then you're good to go!

Step 3: Step Three - Add 'Topsoil' and Pot Lip

Crush Oreo cookies - sans frosting - by placing in a baggie and crushing with a rolling pin. Alternately, use a food processor. Also, you could just buy chocolate cookie crumbs, but I happened to have Oreos on hand so I worked with what I had.

Flip your cupcake upright so the non-fondant-covered top is exposed. Spread or pipe a generous amount of chocolate frosting over the top.

Place your Oreo crumbs in a shallow dish, and roll the frosted top of the cupcake in the crumbs until well coated. 

Cut a small strip of terracotta fondant and, using water as adhesive, attach it around the upper edge of the flower pot. Be sure to place it high enough so that it is surrounding the frosting and crumbs as well.

Step 4: Step Four - Make Your Fondant Flowers and Leaves

Now, you can make the contents of your flower pots as simple or as complex as you like. I went with simple, flat flowers for most of these.

To make a basic flower, first dye fondant an appropriate colour. I went with purple and pink, as these were the colours requested on the original cake.

Roll the fondant out about 1/4 inch thick, and use a small circular cutter to cut out petals. I worked my petals with my fingers to give them a more natural, not-so-perfectly-round shape, and to make them thinner. Arrange 5 petals together into a flower shape and use just a tiny bit of water to dampen the petals where they overlap - this will cement them together.

Optional step: place flowers in small dishes if you wish for them to be a bit more 3D. Be sure you sprinkle some icing sugar or cornstarch in the dish to prevent sticking.

Dye a portion of fondant green and roll it out to ~1/8-1/4 inch thick. I free-hand cut leaf shapes, but use a leaf cutter if you have it. I used the back of my paring knife to make vein impressions in the leaves.

Step 5: Step Five - Add Final Decorations

Pipe a bit of chocolate frosting onto your cupcake near the seam of the fondant pot-lip, and drape a fondant leaf over the seam.

Pipe a small dollop in the center of the cupcake and press a flower on top. Use additional drop of frosting to adhere a flower center or yellow candy.

And there you have it! Adorable little flower pot cupcakes!

But if you want to take it even further... you could make a broken flower pot cupcake! Simply trim the bottom of a cupcake at a diagonal so it sits lopsided, place the trimmed-off piece beside it, and arrange frosting, crumbs and fondant to look like... well, like you dropped the whole thing! You can be sloppy and silly and it will come out perfect. Super fun!

You could also try different kinds of flowers. By request, I made some of these with sunflower blooms. Not having appropriate cutters, I trimmed a round a piece of fondant to look like petal edges, and layered pointed petal shapes on top, leaving a large circle in the center. Fill this circle with a layer of chocolate frosting, then go back over it with a baggie of frosting with a small tip cut off one corner, piping pointed dots to resemble the center of a sunflower. Also, the leaves on sunflowers are fatter and more veined than most, so take that into account.

There are endless ways you could make these cupcakes your own. Try it out, experiment, and above all, have fun!

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