christmas | coconut | cupcakes | decorations | icing | icing flowers | seasonal | vanilla

Poinsettia (& Nigella) cupcakes.

December 22, 2009

I have no idea what possessed me to make these. I really don’t. I had Christmas cupcakes planned already, and they weren’t these. These were sort of an accident. Or a surprise I guess, that sounds nicer.

I just randomly decided I wanted to make cupcakes, and I wanted to make a new recipe. However, I was being purely selfish and I wanted a vanilla-type cake. So I searched and found Nigella Lawson‘s cupcake recipe and just picked it (I think it was because she called the muffin tin a ‘bun muffin pan’.. so cute). When I realized she used royal icing on it, I just had an idea to make poinsettia’s on top using some of the icing. Why? No idea.

Now, let me just state for the record that I have never made icing flowers before. I have an entire Wilton tip set (actually I have this kit which includes more than just tips, but you get the idea), and most of them have gathered dust for the past 2 years. I’ve used every single other thing in the kit, but most of the tips have gone unused. So tonight I dusted ’em off (proverbially) and set everything up to make some flowers. Then I realized I misplaced the book that came with the kit that detailed how to create flowers and what tips to use. DOH! So I just had to wing it. And wing it I did!

So when looking at these, keep in mind these are my first EVER attempt at icing flowers. Icing poinsettias, to be exact.  So be kind. Yeah, my flowers can use some work. But for a first time? I don’t think they’re half bad. The tips I used and more instructions on making them are after the recipe, so scroll on down.



  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon soft butter
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons milk


  1. Special equipment: 12 bun muffin pan, lined with muffin papers.
  2. Take everything you need out of the fridge in time to get to room temperature – and this makes a huge difference to the lightness of the cupcakes later – and preheat the oven to 400° degrees F.
  3. Put all of the ingredients for the cupcakes except for the milk into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Pulse while adding the milk down the funnel, to make a smooth dropping consistency.
  4. Divide the mixture between a 12-bun muffin tin lined with muffin papers, and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. They should have risen and be golden on top. Let them cool a little in their tins on a rack, and then take them carefully out of the tin to cool in their papers, still on the wire rack.
  5. Ice with Royal Icing.



  • 2 large egg whites (or substitute powdered egg whites)
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice


  1. Combine the egg whites and confectioners’ sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on medium speed until opaque and shiny, about 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk in the lemon juice, this will thin out the icing. Beat for another couple of minutes until you reach the right spreading consistency for the cupcakes.

I did not use a food processor for these, I just put all the ingredients in my stand mixer and mixed ’em till they were combined, then added the milk while it was on low. But on the Food Network website tons of reviews say they’re awesome when made in the food processor, so by all means, go for it.

The liners are Wilton too… this entry is just a big ol’ Wilton ad, isn’t it?

My icing was a bit thicker than Nigella’s I think, I didn’t really measure out the confectioner’s sugar. I may have put more in, but it doesn’t matter because it was the perfect consistency for the flowers.

I added some coconut extract to my royal icing, because I didn’t really think the taste of it was that great otherwise.  I put the white icing on with an offset spatula in big poofy piles, then smoothed it out.  You can also use regular buttercream for the main frosting part, and halve the royal icing recipe just for use on the poinsettias, especially if you don’t like how royal icing hardens. But for the flowers, I’d say that this is your absolute best bet.  Royal icing doesn’t wilt or “sweat” like buttercream, and hardens very nicely to make a sugar flower kind of effect. You could also make the flowers on parchment paper beforehand, and then place them on cupcakes (or a cake) later on.

The tips I used  for the poinsettias are as follows: the flower itself was Wilton tip 67, the leaves were Wilton tip 352 and for the center I used Wilton tip 1 (and squiggled it). Creating them was easier than I thought. I did the flowers first, squeezing four smallish petals in a “cross” shape (one coming down from the middle ‘south’, one going up ‘north’, etc), then doing four larger petals out from them on top. Then I did the leaves, holding the tip on it’s “side” and twisting it slightly to form a point. The center is the easiest: just squiggle it out in a pile of yellow! Whew. I’m sure the Wilton book had a much better way of explaining that, but oh well.

I don’t think this will be my last experiment with flowers. I really like how they came out, and this icing recipe was the perfect for this. But I definitely suggest using disposable bags for this, if you don’t already use them. It makes the cleanup much easier. And I will find that book…

I’ll be back in a day or two with another Christmas-y cupcake recipe. Until then, get to practicing your icing flowers! Now!

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  1. consider me a Nigella Kool-Aid drinker, but I caught her show this weekend and I LOVE the intimate environment of it. she seems every bit as FABULOUS as her exquisite name!

  2. She is fabulous. Do you get the Food Network magazine? In this month’s issue they spotlight her kitchen… and I’m sort of in love with it. I think I need to make more of her recipes ASAP.

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