Sunflower Cupcakes

Intensive Cake Unit
by Intensive Cake Unit
24 cupcakes
43 min

I had a batch of cupcakes to decorate, and was bored with my standard all-cupcakes-decorated-with-icing-swirls and looking for something different to decorate with this time around. Given the thousand or so sunflowers in full bloom in the 20-ish minutes surrounding my house, sunflower cupcakes seemed like a super fun idea! You only need a leaf-tip or teardrop piping tip for the sunflower petals, and a small star for the centers!

One thing I didn’t realize though – piping that many petals takes approximately an eternity and can cramp the heck out of your hand. :/ I made it through maaaybe half the batch and decided to toss in the towel and swirl-pipe the rest! ;) The combo of decorations made for some fun pictures and I definitely recommend mixing up the decorating if your hand is cramping. ;)

Recipes / instructions below!

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Recipe details
  • 24  cupcakes
  • Prep time: 20 Minutes Cook time: 23 Minutes Total time: 43 min
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  • (Note - I 'cheated' and doctored up a French Vanilla cake mix for these cupcakes to save some time since some extra time goes into decorating! ;) ) My favorite scratch cupcake recipe is included in the post at
  • 1 boxed vanilla cupcake mix (I used Duncan Hines French Vanilla)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • Cupcake pan(s)
  • 24 cupcake liners (or baker’s floured cooking spray)
Frosting / Decorations
  • 8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
  • 16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
  • 6-7 c powdered sugar
  • 2-4 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 T clear vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. salt (if using unsalted butter) 
  • 5 large drops yellow gel food coloring (I prefer Americolor)
  • (Save and add later!) ¼ cup black cocoa powder (for the cupcake centers – you can also use black gel food color but I think the cocoa powder works better – and tastes better!)
  • - Small piping bag & small leaf (Ateco 352) or teardrop tip and a small star tip – this set contains both the teardrop and star tip types and reusable bags and has been my favorite for 3+ years now!
  • - Optional – large piping bag/tip + sprinkles of your choice (I used a black/gold mix from Fancy Sprinkles
Preheat oven to 350 and combine cake mix with ½ cup melted butter, eggs, and 1 cup of buttermilk. 
Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 of the way (using a large cookie scoop to transfer the batter into the cupcake liners makes this a quick and easy process otherwise you can use two tablespoons). 
Bake for 20-25 min or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow them to cool completely on a wire cooling rack before frosting.
The hang time while your cupcakes are cooling is a great time to make your frosting!
Frosting / Decorations
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. I recommend making it fairly thick for this recipe, so that the frosting petals will hold their shape. Add vanilla and salt if needed and beat until well combined. Mix in food coloring until frosting is a deep sunflower yellow.
I recommend watching my video for reference here; some piping techniques are easier to watch than read! (YouTube's 'shorts' won't link to this page, but searching 'IntensiveCakeUnit Sunflower' will pull it up.)
Transfer yellow frosting to a piping bag fitted with a leaf or teardrop tip, and pipe petals around the outermost cupcake edges. Repeat until about halfway into the cupcake center; 2-3 rows. Pipe dark frosting in small stars to make the sunflower centers; about a quarter-sized circle. I picked up my yellow frosting again at this point and added one more circle of petals to rim the center – optional, but I thought they looked a little more realistic with a few more petals near the center.
Uncramp your hand if needed, and repeat!
I also grabbed my large piping bag & large star tip and piped about half the cupcakes when I was repeatedly cramping and running out of decorating time. I thought adding some swirls and sprinkles made a fun way to break up the cupcake designs!
And you’re done! :) Step back and admire your gorgeous cupcakes! ;)
  • Make this recipe? Let me know how it went – or make my day and find me on Pinterest or on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!
Intensive Cake Unit
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