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How to Make Sunflower Cupcakes

I got some gorgeous flowers from Pike Place market this week. The bouquet was full of sunflowers and dahlias, and they were so stunning they made me want to bake something just as pretty! Cue this post on how to make sunflower cupcakes!!

While they might look difficult to make, they’re easier than you’d think.

They key to make these sunflower cupcakes is a leaf frosting tip. It’s the type that looks like it has a v cut out of the middle of it, and lots of different brands make this type of tip. I like to use a Wilton 352, but any brand of leaf frosting tip will work.

image of sunflower cupcakes

How to Make these Adorable Sunflower Cupcakes

Let’s walk through each step that goes into decorating these adorable sunflower cupcakes! I’ve also included a video tutorial below.

Step 1: Make the Chocolate Cupcakes

The first step is to bake these delicious chocolate cupcakes. They need cool completely to room temperature before you can frost them, so I like the to make them first.

Step 2: Make the Yellow Vanilla and Chocolate Buttercream

As I wait for my cupcakes to cool I usually make by buttercream.

We use my American buttercream as a base, and split it up to make both a vanilla buttercream that’s colored a golden yellow shade and chocolate buttercream.

Be sure to use gel food coloring to get a vibrant shade of yellow! Liquid food coloring doesn’t give it quite as bright of a shade, and if you add too much it can throw off the consistency of the frosting.

Step #3: Pipe the Center of the Sunflower

Use the chocolate buttercream to pipe a 1-inch dollop on top of each cupcake.

Gently dunk the the cupcakes into the finely chopped chocolate until the frosting is covered with little bits of chocolate.

Step 4: Pipe on the Sunflower Petals

Pipe two rings of yellow buttercream petals around the chocolate center. Try to make each petal similar in length and width for a consistent look.

If you don’t feel super comfortable piping, I recommend piping a few practice petals on a plate or piece of parchment paper. A little practice goes a long way! It will also help you get the orientation of the piping tip right. Make sure that the v of the piping tip is facing the side like in the photos below. You shouldn’t be able to see it from an overhead angle.

Repeat with remaining cupcakes then enjoy! These cupcakes taste best fresh, but frosted cupcakes can sit out at room temperature overnight in an airtight container or be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Substitutions and Swaps in these Sunflower Cupcakes

While I love this recipe just the way it is, I know some of you might not have all of these ingredients on hand!

Below are some swaps and substitutions that can be made in this recipe:

  • Instant Espresso or Coffee – You can omit the instant espresso if you dislike the taste of coffee, but it really just enhances the chocolate flavor in this these cupcakes. You can also use strong coffee in place of the hot water and instant espresso.
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – Dutch processed or dark cocoa powder will work in this recipe too.
  • Melted Chocolate – Any type of chocolate will work to make the cupcake batter and frosting. You can use milk, semi-sweet, or dark. You can also use chopped up chocolate, or chocolate chips.
  • All Purpose Flour – This recipe turns out best with AP flour, but you can use a gluten free flour blend or cake flour if that’s all you have on hand.
  • Vegetable Oil – You can use any flavorless oil in this recipe. Canola or sunflower oil would work great!
  • Vinegar – This recipe needs a bit of vinegar because it uses baking soda as a leavening agent. The vinegar activates the baking soda and helps the cupcakes rise. You can use white or apple cider vinegar.
  • Unsalted Butter – You can use salted butter in place of the unsalted butter in this recipe if needed. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
  • Heavy Cream – Whole milk or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat) will work in this frosting if that’s what you have on hand.
image of adorable and easy sunflower cupcakes made with buttercream frosting

Tips for Making the Best Sunflower Cupcakes:

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better. Set the cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure and then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Mix your cupcake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure your cupcakes are tender and fluffy.
  • Use a cookie scoop to easily fill your cupcake liners. It also makes sure your cupcakes end up being the same height.
  • Bang your cupcake pan on the counter before putting it in the oven. This brings any air bubbles that are trapped in the batter to the surface.
  • Seal off the top of each of your piping bags with a rubber band to prevent any frosting from seeping out the top of the bag and make the piping bags easier to use.
  • This recipe makes an American buttercream frosting, so it will crust as it sits out and is exposed to air! Be sure to either cover the frosting with plastic wrap if it’s made in advance, or immediately place it into your piping bags.
  • If you don’t feel super comfortable piping, I recommend piping a few practice petals on a plate or piece of parchment paper. A little practice goes a long way!
image of adorable and easy sunflower cupcakes made with buttercream frosting

Making these Sunflower Cupcakes in Advance & Storage Tips:

Make your cupcakes in advance! If stored unfrosted in an airtight container, they can last for 2 days at room temp, up to a week in the fridge, or up to 3 months in the freezer.

Make your frosting ahead of time too or save any leftover frosting! Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month or the freezer for 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

Frosted cupcakes can sit at room temperature overnight or in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container. However, I find frosting them right before serving is best.

image of sunflower cupcakes

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you make these sunflower cupcakes, I’d love to hear what think! Please leave a rating below.

Also tag me @chelsweets and use the #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations on social media!

Other Posts You Might Like:

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Sunflower Cupcakes

image of sunflower cupcakes

These sunflower cupcakes are decorated with chocolate and vanilla buttercream to look just like freshly picked sunflowers! They're just as cute as they are tasty!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 3 minutes

Ingredients

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup water, hot (180g)
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso or coffee (3g)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips, melted (57g)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder (32g)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (98g)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (150g)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (3g)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (2g)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature (114g)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (73g)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar (4g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)

Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup (or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (226g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (2g)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar (375g)
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream (30g)
  • yellow and orange gel food coloring
  • 2 Tbsp of melted milk or dark chocolate, cooled (23g)
  • 2 Tbsp cup unsweetened baking cocoa, sifted (12g)

Additional Tools / Equipment

Instructions

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 350°F / 175°F. Place cupcake liners in baking pans.
  2. Add 3/4 cup of very hot water and 1 1/2 tsp of coffee or espresso powder into a large bowl. Stir until dissolved.
  3. Add in 1/3 cup melted chocolate chips and 1/3 cup cocoa powder and whisk until smooth.
  4. Sift the dry ingredients (3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt) into chocolate espresso mixture and stir until just combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a spatula.
  5. Mix in 2 eggs, one at a time.
  6. Add 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp vinegar, and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix until the batter is smooth - it will be thin!
  7. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  8. Allow cupcakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to finish cooling. If you're in a rush (or impatient like me), you can place them in the freezer for 15 minutes to accelerate the cooling process.

Buttercream Frosting

  1. Beat 1 cup of room temperature butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a hand mixer or stand mixer until smooth.
  2. Add in 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 tsp salt. Mix on a medium-low speed until combined.
  3. Slowly mix in 3 cups of powdered sugar on a low speed. Half way through add in 2 Tbsp of heavy cream to make the frosting easier to mix.
  4. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the desired consistency is reached.
  5. If the frosting is too thick, add an extra Tbsp of heavy cream. If it's too thin, add in another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.
  6. Stir by hand with a rubber spatula to get the frosting SUPER smooth, then place 2/3 of the vanilla buttercream a medium-sized bowl. Color it a golden shade of yellow using gel food coloring. Use either egg yellow gel food coloring, or a combination of yellow and orange gel food coloring. Place this into a small piping bag fit with a leaf tip piping tip (like a Wilton 352) and set aside.
  7. Mix 2 Tbsp sifted cocoa and 2 Tbsp of cooled, melted chocolate into the remaining frosting. Stir until smooth then place in a small piping bag fit with large round piping tip (like an Ateco 805) and set aside.

Decorating these Sunflower Cupcakes

  1. Use the chocolate buttercream to pipe a 1 inch dollop on top of each fully-cooled cupcake.
  2. Gently dunk the the cupcakes into the finely chopped chocolate until the frosting is covered with little bits of chocolate.
  3. Pipe two rings of yellow buttercream petals around the chocolate center. Try to make each petal the same length and width for a consistent look. If you don't feel super comfortable piping, I recommend piping a few practice petals on a plate or piece of parchment paper. A little practice goes a long way! It will also help you get the orientation of the piping tip right. Make sure that the v of the piping tip is facing the side. You shouldn't be able to see it from an overhead angle.
  4. Repeat with remaining cupcakes then enjoy! These cupcakes taste best fresh, but frosted cupcakes can sit out at room temperature overnight in an airtight container or be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Notes

Making Mini Sunflower Cupcakes

If you want to make mini sunflower cupcakes, this recipe can be baked in mini muffin tins! It makes about 40 mini cupcakes, and they only need to bake for 9-10 minutes at 350 F / 175 C.

Tips for Making The Best Sunflower Cupcakes

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better. Be sure you set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure and then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Mix your cupcake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure your cupcakes are tender and fluffy.
  • Use a large cookie scoop to easily fill your cupcake liners. It also makes sure your cupcakes end up being the same height.
  • Bang your cupcake pan on the counter before putting it in the oven. This brings any air bubbles that are trapped in the batter to the surface.
  • Seal off the top of your piping bags with a rubber band to prevent any frosting from seeping out the top of the bag and make the piping bags easier to use.
  • This recipe makes an American buttercream frosting, so it will crust as it sits out and is exposed to air! Be sure to either cover the frosting with plastic wrap if it's made in advance, or immediately place it into your piping bags.
  • If you don't feel super comfortable piping, I recommend piping a few practice petals on a plate or piece of parchment paper. A little practice goes a long way!

Sunflower Cupcake Variations:

  • To make eggless, dairy-free, or vegan sunflower cupcakes, use an egg replacer like this and dairy-free dark chocolate.
  • To make gluten free sunflower cupcakes, swap in your favorite gluten free flour blend for the AP flour this recipe calls for, and be sure to over-mix your batter and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before baking for best results.

Making these Sunflower Cupcakes In Advance & Storage Tips:

Make your cupcakes in advance! If stored unfrosted in an airtight container, they can last for 2 days at room temp, up to a week in the fridge, or up to 3 months in the freezer

Make your frosting ahead of time too or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

Frosted cupcakes can sit out at room temperature overnight or be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container, but I find frosting them right before serving is best.

Nutrition Information

Yield

12

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 344Total Fat 13gSaturated Fat 4gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 39mgSodium 228mgCarbohydrates 55gFiber 1gSugar 46gProtein 3g

everybodylovespretty

Saturday 26th of April 2014

Beautiful!

saucygander

Friday 25th of April 2014

Wow, that's some seriously skilled piping! :-)

Chelsweets

Friday 25th of April 2014

Thanks!! It's really not as difficult as you'd think ;)

Ada ~ More Food, Please

Thursday 24th of April 2014

These cupcakes look beautiful!

Chelsweets

Friday 25th of April 2014

Thanks :D

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