Dessert meets tabletop decoration in a festive and easy recipe for Chocolate Christmas Tree Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and edible Christmas trees made with pretzel sticks and candy melts.
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My love of Christmas tree-shaped confections continues in this latest installment of recipes doing double duty as dessert and tabletop décor. If the original Christmas tree cupcakes didn’t have you hooked, consider this quick and easy alternative starring edible cupcake toppers made with pretzels, candy melts and your choice of sprinkles.
How to Make Christmas Tree Cupcakes
We’ve got an all-star lineup on this one: Moist chocolate cupcakes slathered with tangy cream cheese frosting that’s dusted with shredded coconut (a.k.a. snow!) and topped with edible Christmas trees.
Just look at how festive those handheld cakes are! Best of all the tree toppers can be made in advance and stored in the fridge until you’re ready to decorate your seasonal sweet.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F and prepare a muffin pan by lining it with baking cups.
- Mix together the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set the mixture aside.
- Cream together the butter and sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, which should take about 2 minutes.
- Incorporate eggs and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract.
- Alternate wet and dry ingredients. Gradually add the flour mixture and the milk to the butter-sugar mixture. Begin and end with the flour mixture, beating well after each addition.
- Fill baking cups and bake. Scoop the cupcake batter into the prepared baking cups and bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. When done, remove the cupcakes from the oven and transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
How to Make Christmas Tree Cupcake Toppers
The real star of the show here is the adorable trees nestled atop the cupcakes. Would you believe me if I told you they take less than 5 minutes to make?
All you need to make the cupcake toppers is:
- Pretzel sticks
- Green candy melts
- Vegetable oil (it helps make the candy melts extra smooth!)
- Festive sprinkles
To make the cupcake toppers, start by melting the candy melts. Once melted, transfer the mixture to a piping bag and place pretzel sticks on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, spacing them 2-3 inches apart.
Pipe the candy melts in the shape of a tree over the pretzel sticks and immediately add sprinkles on top. Refrigerate the baking sheet for 10 minutes to allow the trees to harden.
Make Ahead Tip: The pretzel trees can be made and stored in an airtight container for up to a day in advance.
Gather a dozen or so of these beauties for a fun touch to your holiday table or nestle your gingerbread house inside an edible forest.
Super-Sized Toppers with Pretzel Rods
For a fun and festive twist on your holiday cake, consider using pretzel rods to create super-sized cake toppers. Just follow the same directions for the cupcake toppers but grab a bag of pretzel rods instead of sticks. Check out how cute they are atop this Christmas cake!
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Kelly’s Note: Since the candy melts get piped on a bit thicker, they will take longer to harden. I like to speed up the process by putting them in the fridge.
For the cupcakes:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup green candy melts
- 1 cup pretzel sticks
- Assorted sprinkles
- 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut flakes
For the frosting:
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups powdered sugar
Make the cupcakes:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with baking cups.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set the mixture aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until combined and scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla then alternately beat in the flour mixture and the milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
- Scoop the batter into the baking cups then bake for 18 to 22 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- While the cupcakes cool, make the cupcake toppers by melting the candy melts according to package directions. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag. Place the pretzel sticks on a wax paper-lined baking sheet, spacing them 2 to 3 inches apart. Pipe the candy melts over the pretzel sticks in the shape of a tree then immediately top the trees with the sprinkles. Transfer the baking sheet to the fridge for 10 minutes until the trees have fully hardened.
Make the frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and cream cheese until well blended. Add the vanilla extract and powdered sugar, beating just until combined.
Assemble the cupcakes:
- Spread a small portion of the frosting atop the cooled cupcakes and immediately sprinkle it with the coconut flakes. (See Kelly’s Notes.)
- Using an offset spatula, carefully release the trees from the baking sheet. Push the bottoms of the pretzel trees into the tops of the cupcakes. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container at room temperature or in the fridge until ready to serve.
- The cream cheese frosting will set slightly over time, so it’s important to frost the cupcakes and then immediately sprinkle them with the coconut.
- The Christmas tree toppers can also be used to decorate a cake.
- The cupcake toppers can be made and stored in an airtight container for up to a day in advance.
- One fun variation would be to do white chocolate for a snowy effect (with crushed peppermints!).
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Cupcake recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens.