Tasty Trends: How to Make Buttercream Succulents

Make jaws drop with this on-trend piped buttercream succulent cake! Succulents are a fun group of plants to start with if you've never attempted buttercream flowers before. They come in a ton of shapes and colors and require far less precision than most formal buttercream flowers.

Finished buttercream succulent cake | Erin Gardner | CraftsyButtercream Succulents | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Plus, although floral buttercream cakes are all the rage, they're decidedly feminine in style. Use the same floral piping tips and tools to create an edible succulent design that would be welcomed at any event, whoever the guest of honor may be.

How to make a stunning buttercream succulent cake

Supplies:

Step 1: Prep the cake

Tint enough buttercream to ice your crumb-coated cake gray. It's OK if you err on the side of tinting more than enough buttercream, because you can use the gray as a base for your other succulent colors. I'm using a 6" round cake. All of the techniques here can be done on any size cake you like.

Ice your crumb-coated cake with gray buttercream. Drag a small icing spatula around the sides of the cake to create the textured lines. Set the cake aside (at room temperature) while you work on your flowers.

Creating the textured buttercream surface | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Step 2: Prepare buttercream for piping

Tinted buttercreams and piping tips | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Tint small amounts of buttercream in various succulent shades — gray, blue, green, purple, rust, etc. Succulents come in so many different varieties, you can just about use whatever color you like! I used Americolor gel food colorings. Here is a general breakdown of the gel color combinations I used to tint my buttercreams (from top to bottom):

  • Forest green: leaf green, super black and chocolate brown
  • Lime green: sky blue and lemon yellow
  • Sage green: leaf green and chocolate brown
  • Rust: orange, chocolate brown and super black
  • Purple: super black, violet and fuchsia

Cut the tips off of the ends of your piping bags and fit them with couplers. I used four piping bags when making my succulents. Fill the bags with the various shades of buttercream as you go. 

Step 3: Prepare other materials for piping

Prepare the flower nail before piping any of your succulent variations. Using a dab of buttercream, stick one of the parchment squares to the surface of the nail. Turn the nail upside down and press it against your tabletop to flatten the paper out.

Pipe a dab of buttercream | Erin Gardner | CraftsyPlace on a parchment square | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Repeat this process before you pipe each flower. Adding a parchment square will allow you to safely move finished flowers to a cookie sheet to set up and quickly move on to the next flower.

Step 4: Pipe the large succulents

Rose tip succulents

Succulent Variation 1

Buttercream Flower for Succulent Cake

In the center of the floral nail, pipe a small mound of sage green buttercream. Hold the piping bag so the skinny end of the rose tip is touching the parchment paper and the side of the tip is touching the piped mound.

Piping a mound to start | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Apply a small amount of pressure while lifting the tip up along the side of the mound of buttercream. Quickly bring the tip back down again, releasing pressure as the tip returns to the surface of the flower nail. It should look like you've piped a tiny rainbow, or a lowercase n, up and over approximately 1/3 of the mound of buttercream. Repeat until petals have been piped all around the mounded center.

Piping the first petal| Erin Gardner | CraftsyAdding more petals | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Continue piping layers of petals, making the petals a little longer with each layer. Offset petals when you begin a new layer, starting in the center of a petal from the row before. The peak of the rainbow or top of the n should intersect where two petals overlapped in the row before.

Adding more layers of petals | Erin Gardner | CraftsyOffsetting layers of petals | Erin Gardner | CraftsyFinished succulent | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Succulent Variation 2

Green Buttercream Succulent

This succulent is very similar to the first, with a slight change to the center. In your non-dominant hand, hold the flower nail between your thumb pointer finger. With the same sage green, start with the fat end of your tip sitting vertically against surface in the center of the flower nail.

Slowly spin the nail while simultaneously applying pressure to the piping bag to create a coiled center. Release pressure and pull away once the coil begins to overlap itself.

Piped coil center | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Add layers of petals using the same method you used with the first succulent. Keep the n's short and squat with this succulent, to create a more compact effect. 

Adding petals | Erin Gardner | CraftsyFinished coiled center succulent | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Succulent Variation 3

Brown and Green Buttercream Succulent

To created a variegated petal effect, add stripes of buttercream to your piping bag before filling. For this succulent, I smeared a thin line of the rust buttercream up the center of the bag before filling the rest of the bag with the sage green. I placed the rose tip onto the coupler so that the thin end of the tip was lined up with the stripe. 

Adding a buttercream stripe | Erin Gardner | CraftsyFill the rest of the bag with green | Erin Gardner | CraftsyLining up the thin end of the tip with the stripe | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Pipe a mound of buttercream in the center of the nail. Hold the bag so that the tip is almost horizontal with the surface of the flower nail, with the fat end of the tip touching the mound of buttercream. You will be piping a similar rainbow or n motion, but this time you'll move horizontally around the center of the mound. Repeat upward with more layers until the mound is covered with petals.

Adding the first petal | Erin Gardner | CraftsyPiping a horizontal "n" | Erin Gardner | CraftsyAdding a second petal | Erin Gardner | CraftsyFinished succulent | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Leaf tip succulents

Fill a piping bag fitted with a leaf tip with forest green buttercream. Pipe a mound of buttercream in the center of a flower nail. Hold the tip vertically against the surface of the flower nail, so that the opening almost looks like a little mouth about to gobble up the piped mound of buttercream in the center. The pointed ends of the leaf tip should just almost be touching the center mound.

Piping a mound | Erin Gardner | CraftsyHow to hold the tip | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Apply steady pressure to the piping bag while pulling the tip out and away from the center mound. Release pressure and pull the tip away.

Piping a leaf petal | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Repeat with more petals all the way around the base of the center mound. Add more layers of petals until the entire mound is covered. Make the petals shorter as you reach the top.

Adding more petals | Erin Gardner | CraftsyFinished first layer | Erin Gardner | CraftsyAdding more layers | Erin Gardner | CraftsyFinished Succulent | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Color variation

In a piping bag fitted with a leaf tip, smear two lines of lime green buttercream opposite each other. Fill the rest of the bag with purple buttercream. Line the leaf tip up so that the green stripes are on either side of the opening.

Color variation | Erin Gardner | CraftsyLining up the tip | Erin Gardner | CraftsyGreen and Purple Spiky Buttercream SucculentRound tip succulentsSpiky Green Piped Buttercream Succulent

Fill a piping bag fitted with a medium-sized round tip with lime green buttercream. Pipe a tall, skinny mound of buttercream onto the floral nail. Hold the opening of the tip at the base of the mound against the surface of the buttercream.

Tall skinny mound of buttercream | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Pipe a line of green frosting, pulling the tip away from the mound and releasing pressure as you go. Repeat until the entire mound is covered. Make the lines shorter as you reach the top.

Piping a line | Erin Gardner | CraftsyFinished succulent | Erin Gardner |Craftsy

Place the tray with all of your finished succulents into the fridge for at least 10 minutes or until they are chilled all the way through. This makes them easier to handle and arrange on the top of the cake.

Step 5: Arrange the larger succulents

Arranging the succulents | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Gently peel the parchment paper off of one of your chilled succulents.

Peeling off the paper | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Place the succulent on top of your iced cake. Secure the succulent with a dab of buttercream if the icing on the cake has crusted. Use a small icing spatula to slide succulents into place.

Using an icing spatula | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Create a layered effect by first piping a mound of buttercream before adding a succulent. 

Creating a mounded effect | Erin Gardner | CraftsyCreating a mounded effect | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Step 6: Pipe the smaller filler succulents

Add even more realism to your buttercream succulent cake by filling in the gaps and edges of your arrangement with smaller succulents piped directly onto the cake. 

Fill a piping bag fitted with a small round tip with the remaining dibs and dabs of green buttercream. Pipe a line over the edge of your cake. Go back over the line a few times to thicken it. Pipe small dots up and down the entire line, leaving spaces in-between. Repeat with more lines and dots.

Piping dots on the line | Erin Gardner | CraftsyFinished succulent ropes | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Pipe clusters of tiny dots to fill in some of the gaps between larger succulents.

Piping clusters of small dots | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Complete your arrangement by adding in extra petals where needed. Allow some to drape over the sides of the cake.

Adding extra petals | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Step 6: Pat Yourself on the Back

Stand back and take in your beautiful buttercream masterpiece!

Finished buttercream succulent cake | Erin Gardner | CraftsyButtercream succulents | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

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3 Comments

Michelle

Hi Erin! Firstly, thank you so much for this tutorial. The succulents are really indeed beautiful! May I know why you use American buttercream for these? Would the meringue based bc like Swiss work too to pipe the succulents?

Thanks

Reply
Erin Gardner

Hi! Thanks so much. 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed the tutorial! I used AMBC because I find it easy to pipe with and it holds deep color well. These techniques would definitely work with SMBC or IMBC. Meringue based buttercreams can be a little trickier because you have to get the temperature just right – soft enough to pipe while firm enough to hold the shape. AMBC is a little less temperamental in that regard. Hope this helps!

Reply
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This is the perfect website for anybody who wishes to
understand this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost hard to argue
with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa).
You definitely put a new spin on a topic that has been discussed for decades.
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