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Chrysanthemum Cupcakes

Martha Stewart Living, March 2004

Rather than poke up through the soil, icing flowers emerge, petal by petal, from the shiny tip of a pastry bag. Still, each little bud, smelling of sweet butter, seems as miraculous as one of nature's own.

With a pastry bag and a set of tips, you can fashion cakes as charming as fresh-picked bouquets. First, get comfortable with the equipment: Choose a pastry bag that isn't too large, 10 or 12 inches, and fill it with no more than one cup of frosting. Twist the top of the bag, and use your writing hand to keep it closed as you apply pressure to pipe the shapes; with your other hand, you can steady the tip or rotate the cake. Don't worry if those first attempts aren't flawless -- they'll still be delicious.

The Equipment

Our 10-cup buttercream recipe is best made using an electric mixer with at least a five-quart bowl. You can also make it with a handheld electric mixer in a large heatproof bowl, but the mixing times will likely be longer than those listed here.

Disposable pastry bags are quite helpful: They are inexpensive enough to buy in quantity, and having many makes it possible to use one for each shade of frosting, so you can switch from color to color. There's no need to buy an entire set of pastry tips; at a dollar or less per tip at cookware stores, you can buy just the ones you need. Fitting the bags with couplers allows you to change pastry tips without emptying the bag.

The Buttercream

Having plenty of frosting on hand allows you to practice mixing colors and piping flowers before you begin decorating. To blend colors, first tint a small amount of buttercream by adding gel-paste food coloring a dab at a time. Blend after each addition, until the color is darker than you would like. (You can use a single shade of food coloring or experiment by mixing two or more.) Gradually mix the tinted frosting into more buttercream until you get the right shade. Pipe flowers onto parchment or waxed paper until you're comfortable enough to try them on the actual cake.

Get our Butter Cake and Meringue Buttercream recipes.

Cupcakes make excellent canvases for beginners, since they're easy to maneuver. A coupler, a plastic ring that screws onto the end of a pastry bag, allows you to change tips easily. As you pipe, wipe off the tip frequently for neat results. We piped the chrysanthemums directly onto the cupcakes.

Making a Chrysanthemum

Make the leaves first: With the No. 68 leaf tip and green frosting, hold the bag at a 45 degree angle to the cake with the tip's flat side up. Squeeze bag, and pull out from the base of the leaf, releasing pressure and lifting to form the end.

With the coupler alone (or the No. 12 round tip) and frosting in the flower color, make a raised one-half-inch-wide dot to anchor the petals. Change to the No. 80 fluted tip; hold bag at a 45-degree angle against the edge of the dot, the tip forming a U.

Gently squeeze the bag while pulling out in a quick stroke. Repeat all around the dot; form two or more petal layers over the first, making petals shorter and pulling bag upward with each layer.

With the No. 3 tip and green frosting, pipe three dots in the center.

Comments (12)

  • Kimberly D 17 Mar, 2014

    Tip #81 should work

  • June68 18 Jan, 2014

    The Wilton #80 tip is discontinued and I can't find it anywhere. Does anyone know of an alternative?

  • Brandon6 12 Jul, 2011

    @kaeci27 you can actually make these flowers on wax/parchment paper and freeze them, up to three or four days in advance. When you go to decorate your cupcakes, carefully set the frozen flowers on top!
    @StarGaiz you can use store-bought frosting, but the results might not be identical to the picture shown. Frostings vary in firmness, creating a varying end product. I advise making this frosting first, and then finding a store-bought frosting which is closest to its consistency.

  • kaeci27 23 Apr, 2011

    Can i store the buttercream flowers a day before or do i have to do them the day of?

  • StarGaiz 24 Jul, 2010

    Is it possible to use any store-bought frosting for piping like this, if I buy some little tubs of it, color them, and put it in a piping bag? If that will work, can anyone give me specific suggestions on what brand or kind of frosting might work best?

    Thank you...I have to make these tomorrow night for a bridal shower, and won't have time to make my icing.

  • kelw 12 Jul, 2010

    my frosting seems too soft and fluffy, what am I doing wrong?

  • Nicole Lynn 29 Apr, 2015

    Did you get your meringue really stiff, firm? You will know when you're close because it'll get whiter in color, shiny & smooth...THAT'S ONLY THE BEGINNING --KEEP BEATING THEM--WATCHING CLOSELY-- When you notice they're very glossy, and firm stop Remove the whisk from your bowl. The peaks should be stiff & pointy. Test on finger, shake vigorously if it stays firm and holds basic shape; then they're good. Bowl must be cool to touch before adding your butter. Butter: soft & cooler than rm temp.

  • Nicole Lynn 29 Apr, 2015

    I hope my reply was understandable enough to follow. I had to change it several times and find ways to use less space. I wanted to add that when your meringue is ready it will be uniform in color and consistency. You may notice that it starts to clump up into the whisk when it's ready and moves very little. If you're ever unsure just continue beating watching the texture & color closely. Stop immediately if you notice less shine. 2 FAR If u get dull & speckled; its dry n will break- won't work

  • thecupcakegoddess 27 Mar, 2009

    I'm so excited to try these as its my birthday this coming week! What perfect treat! And a beautiful treat too!

  • mrhottody 7 Dec, 2008

    Now, let's learn how to make poinsettias!! :o)

  • sliceofisaaclife 8 Oct, 2008

    It took a little practice to master the technique, but after one practice batch, I perfected my mums! I made a batch for my friend's baby shower, and they were a huge hit! The mum to be couldn't stop complimenting them! (I used a boxed cake mix though!)

  • Lynneimer 17 Aug, 2008

    Wow This Is Beautiful