These cute Christmas cupcakes are made with soft and fluffy vanilla cupcakes, a simple vanilla buttercream frosting, and whatever fun sprinkles or toppings you choose. Decorating instructions included below!
Usually, I kick off the holiday season by baking dozens and dozens of my favorite Christmas cookies. But this year, I randomly decided to dust off my set of piping tips and decorate a few rounds of Christmas cupcakes instead.
And it’s been surprisingly fun! ♡
I used to be really into cake decorating in my early twenties, and had forgotten how much I enjoy getting lost for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon in the world of frostings, food colorings, piping tips and sprinkles galore. It’s been a fun creative hobby to pick back up this holiday season…with some very merry and delicious cupcakes to enjoy as a result!
So for any of you who might interested, I thought I’d share a few batches of my favorite Christmas-themed cupcakes that I’ve made lately. These simple Christmas tree and Christmas wreath designs in particular are very beginner-friendly, if you’re new to the world of working with piping tips, and relatively quick and simple to make. Or if you happen to be interested in an even more basic option, I’ve also provided instructions below for how to make similar designs using just a ziplock bag and a butter knife. I’ve included my favorite vanilla cupcake and a simple vanilla buttercream recipes below, but feel free to use whatever homemade cupcake and frosting recipe sounds best to you here. (Or hey, if you want to save a step and go with a box mix, no shame here.)
Let’s bake some Christmas cupcakes!
Christmas Cupcake Decorating Supplies
Alright, before we get to the Christmas cupcake recipe below, let’s take a second to note the cupcake decorating supplies that you will need:
Small offset spatula (optional): I used a small offset spatula to spread the white frosting base shown here, but you can also just as easily use a knife to spread the frosting instead if you’d prefer.
Cupcake liners: I just used basic white liners for the cupcakes shown here, but feel free to use whatever color, material and/or pattern of cupcake liners that you prefer.
Then, of course, you will also need your favorite cupcake and frosting recipes! I used Cupcake Project’s famous vanilla cupcake recipe here (made without vanilla beans because I can never seem to keep them on hand), topped with a simple vanilla buttercream. But feel free to use whatever type of cupcakes and frosting you love best.
How To Decorate These Cupcakes
First, bake the vanilla cupcakes as instructed below and let them cool completely to room temperature. Make the buttercream, then portion out about 1/3 of it to leave white and and 2/3 of it to dye green with your preferred food coloring.
To make Christmas wreath cupcakes: Use an offset spatula (or a knife) to spread a thin base layer of white frosting on top of each cupcake. Then use the Wilton #199 star tip to pipe the green frosting into an outer ring of stars around the edge of the cupcake, followed by an inner ring of stars, to make the “wreath.” Add sprinkles to the wreath if you would like.
To make Christmas tree cupcakes: Use an offset spatula (or a knife) to spread a thin base layer of white frosting on top of each cupcake. Then — see the image at the very top of this post as an example — use Wilton #199 star tip to pipe 9 green stars to make a tree (bottom left example), or Wilton #18 star tip to swirl a tree (bottom center example), or Wilton #3 tip to zigzag a tree. Break off a small piece of a pretzel stick and place it below the green piping to serve as the tree trunk. Add sprinkles to the trees if you would like.
If you do not have piping tips, you can snip off a small corner of a ziplock bag to make a simple round tip that you can either swirl or zigzag to make a Christmas tree or Christmas wreath. (Or you can spread the green frosting on with a butter knife.)
Cupcake Decorating Tips
Here are a few basic cupcake decorating tips (<– hehe, decorating pun!) to keep in mind while decorating your Christmas cupcakes…
Let the cupcakes cool to room temperature before frosting. If you frost the cupcakes while they are still warm, the butter in the frosting will heat and cause the frosting to melt. So be sure to let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting. (If you need to speed up the process, you can carefully remove the cupcakes from the baking pan, transfer them to a wire rack, and place them in the refrigerator until cooled.)
Double-check the consistency of the buttercream before frosting. In general, I recommend that the buttercream be stiff-peak consistency for piping. (If you dip in a spoon then turn it right-side-up, the frosting should hold its shape.) But before you go ahead and fill an entire piping bag with buttercream, I recommend adding just a spoonful or two so that you can test piping it with your desired piping tip, just to ensure that the buttercream isn’t too thin or too thick.
Practice piping. I always practice piping the design once or twice on a clean plate (or piece of parchment paper) before trying it on the actual cupcake. Then you can just scoop up the practice icing and add it back to your piping bag so that it’s not wasted.
Add the sprinkles right away. If you choose to use sprinkles, be sure to add them within 30 minutes of frosting the cupcakes. Otherwise, the frosting may harden and the sprinkles will not adhere well to the frosting.
More Christmas Dessert Recipes
Looking for more fun treats to bake this holiday season? Here are a few of my faves…
Candied pecans: You can never go wrong with a batch of candied pecans, which are perfect for gifting, snacking, sprinkling on salads and more.
Apple crisp: Homemade apple crisp is always a delicious way to put the season’s fresh apples to use, especially when topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and my favorite bourbon caramel sauce.
Cinnamon rolls: It’s a tradition in our house to make my famous 1-hour cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, topped with my favorite cream cheese icing. So good!
These cute Christmas cupcakes are made with soft and fluffy vanilla cupcakes, a simple vanilla buttercream frosting, and whatever fun sprinkles or toppings you choose. See notes above for decorating instructions and supplies.
Vanilla Cupcake Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising flour)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup salted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup full-fat sour cream
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or canola oil)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
optional: sprinkles (see note below)
Vanilla Buttercream Ingredients:
1 cup salted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
To Make The Cupcakes:
Prep the oven and cupcake liners. Heat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two cupcake pans with about 16 liners total (or you can bake multiple batches with one pan).
Mix together the dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until combined.
Add the butter. Add the butter (be sure that it is room temperature) and mix on medium-low speed for 3 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed. The batter should have a fine crumb texture.
Whisk together the wet ingredients. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, oil and vanilla extract until smooth.
Add the wet ingredients. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium-speed for 30 seconds, or until just combined. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the milk until it is just combined. The batter will be liquid.
Bake. Fill the cupcake liners so that they are just over halfway full. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cupcakes cool completely to room temperature.
To Make The Buttercream:
Beat the butter. Add the butter to a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes until it is light and fluffy.
Add the remaining ingredients. Add the powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla extract and beat on low speed for 1 minute until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on medium speed for 2 more minutes until completely smooth.
Adjust consistency if needed. If the buttercream seems too thin, add in 1 to 2 cups of additional powdered sugar and beat until smooth. If the buttercream seems too thick, add in 1 tablespoon of heavy cream (or more, if needed) and beat until smooth. See notes below for storage directions.
Storage instructions: Unfrosted baked cupcakes can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Plain buttercream can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 1 week. To be safe, frosted cupcakes should be refrigerated in a sealed container where they can be stored for up to 5 days.
Prep time: The prep time listed in the recipe above approximates the amount of time that it may take to decorate the cupcakes, but does not include the additional time needed for the cupcakes to completely cool to room temperature, which can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes. I typically make the buttercream while the cupcakes are in the oven to save time.