Celebrate a special occasion by crafting a cupcake garden! With a little bit of fondant you can transform an ordinary cupcake into a blooming rose or charming bouquet. Use your imagination and the tips in this gallery to help bring the garden to the dessert table.
To create your cupcake garden the first thing you need is cupcakes! Any flavor or kind will work, choose your favorite. When your cupcakes are cool you'll need to give them all a base coat of green, buttercream icing. We suggest starting with a white or pale yellow icing and adding a little bit of food coloring to get the perfect shade of green.
Once your cupcakes are iced you'll need some fondant to create the toppings. You can buy ready-made fondant or use your favorite recipe. Start with white fondant and add a few drops of food coloring to get your desired color. You can create as many or as few colors as you want, we used pink, green, white, red, orange, yellow and grey for ours. Knead the fondant until the color is spread throughout. If you find that the fondant gets too sticky at any point just knead in a bit of powdered sugar. If you need to save some fondant for a day or 2, wrap it with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.
Create these simple petal shapes by rolling out a sheet of fondant, about an eighth of an inch thick. Use a cookie cutter or sharp kitchen knife to cut a series of narrow petal shapes. The number of petals you'll need will depend on the size of your cupcake and how full your want your flower to be.
Laying on Petals
We used 10 pale pink petals, 9 dark pink petals and 7 red petals for this flower. Simply lay them down layer by layer, pressing them into the icing at the center. Finish by placing a few little balls of fondant in the center or use a dollop of icing covered in dragee sprinkles (the large round ones).
Adding a Ladybug
You can use the same simple petal technique in a whole new way by turning your petals into leaves and adding a ladybug. To create a lady bug, roll a piece of red fondant into an oval shape. Create a smaller grey oval for the head and little dots of grey for your ladybug's spots.
Ladybug and Leaves
Cut your petal shapes out of green fondant instead of pink and layer up the leaves. Put all your lady bug pieces together and place the ladybug in the center. If your fondant gets too dry and doesn't want to stick, brush a tiny bit of water on or use icing to keep the pieces together.
Rolling fondant into spirals is another simple way to create edible flowers. Roll out a sheet of fondant and cut or tear long strips out of it. Roll the strips up to create tight spiral roses. You can also try rolling the strips more loosely to create the effect of ruffled petals. Try marbling two different colors together in a strip to create a variegated effect in your flowers. Simply knead to colors together, stopping before they mix completely.
Arranging Rolled Roses
Arrange the flowers by placing a ring around the outside edge of the cupcake, with the top of the flower facing out. Try mixing different shades and colors together.
Once you have the base ring, stack more flowers on top until you have covered the entire top of the cupcake. Form little leaf shapes with your fingers and place them in any gaps between the flowers. Use a tiny bit of water or icing if necessary to help things stick.
Large Rose Petals
You can create a large rose by tearing larger strips from a sheet of fondant and using them to form petals rather than a whole flower. Don't worry if your strips are uneven, it will make the petals look more natural when you put them together.
Placing the Rose
Begin by creating a small rolled rose for the center. Build up the flower by wrapping more strips of fondant around the center. Let the fondant tear or fold if it wants to; your flower will look more organic if it's not totally perfect.
Continue adding petals until the entire top of the cupcake is covered. If it looks too flat, give the petals more body by adding a fold or ripple as your wrap them around.
You can also create smaller flowers using the same technique you use for the big rose, but with small flowers you can leave room for a bee! Start with the same shapes you would use for the ladybug, a yellow oval for the body and smaller grey oval for the head. Cut stripes from a sheet of grey fondant and small wings from a sheet of marbleized blue and white.
Bee in the Roses
Top a cupcake with a series of smaller roses and place the bee among them. You can combine techniques for roses with multiple petals and rolled roses to create full flowers and buds. Add a few leaves to fill in the surrounding area.
You can create beautiful and very round flowers simply by folding a few pieces of fondant. Roll out a sheet of fondant in your desired color and cut circles out of it. You can use a cookie cutter to get perfect circles, but we cut imperfect circles freehand. Cutting circles that aren't quite perfect will give your petals more variety and make the final flower more organic. Immediately fold your circles into loose quarters. If the fondant gets too dry before folding it will crack.
Arranging the Petals
Place your loosely folded petals in a ring around your cupcake with the folded corners pointing inward. Add another layer of petals on top of these, all the way around. Now you can decide if you want to finish out the flower or add a butterfly.
To complete the flower simply continue adding layers of petals until the center is full and the cupcake is covered. We used a gradation of colors for ours, starting with peach petals on the bottom and moving to light pink in the center. This is one of the quickest ways to build fondant flowers.
Instead of finishing the whole flower with petals, you can top your cupcake with a beautiful butterfly. To create our monarch butterfly we cut wing shapes from a sheet of orange fondant. (If you're worried about getting the shape right, try tracing a photo.) We also used a fat grey log shape for the body and lots of little ropes for stripes. A few white circles are perfect highlights.
Finishing the Butterfly
Putting all the butterfly pieces together can be tricky, but lots of fun! If you're going for a specific butterfly be sure to look at a photo for a little guidance. Trace the outside of the butterfly's wings in black and fill the inside by creating loops with the thin grey rope. Add white spots to the ends of the wings and grey stripes to the body for a perfect finishing touch! You can create any kind of butterfly this way, just vary the color and wing shape.
Now you can arrange and serve your beautiful cupcakes. Although these cupcakes aren't too difficult to create, they do take a lot of time. If you're going to make a bunch be sure to do a couple of tests ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.