Chocolate Christmas Tree Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and pretzel/candy melt toppers

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.

Christmas tree cupcake toppers with rainbow sprinkles on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet

We’ve got an all-star lineup on this one, folks: Moist chocolate cupcakes slathered with tangy cream cheese frosting that’s dusted with shredded coconut (read: snow) and topped with an edible Christmas tree.

A hand holding a Christmas Tree Cupcake with cream cheese frosting, coconut flakes, and a candy melt and pretzel cupcake topper

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.

Cupcake toppers made with green candy melts and pretzel rods

Craving more winter wonderland-inspired sweets? Don’t miss Christmas Tree Shortbread Cookies, Reindeer Marshmallow Pops, Homemade Holiday Lollipops and more festive favorites.

A "forest" of Chocolate Christmas Tree Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and pretzel/candy melt toppers

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Chocolate Christmas Tree Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Make it a holiday to remember with these Chocolate Christmas Tree Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting! Moist chocolate cupcakes, tangy cream cheese frosting and pretzel/candy melt toppers. 
5 from 6 votes
Chocolate Christmas Tree Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and pretzel/candy melt toppers
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 22 mins
Total Time 1 hr 7 mins
Servings 24 cupcakes


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.

Kelly's Notes:

  • 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.
  • ★ Did you make this recipe? Don't forget to give it a star rating below!


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Cupcake recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens.

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Calories: 304kcal, Carbohydrates: 45g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Cholesterol: 45mg, Sodium: 173mg, Potassium: 121mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 32g, Vitamin A: 330IU, Calcium: 32mg, Iron: 1.2mg

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      1. Hi Helen! Candy Melts are a colored, flavored confectionery ingredient made from sugar and oil that are melted and used as a candy coating for all kinds of treats. If you can’t find candy melts, you can go the colored chocolate route. Just be sure to use gel-based (rather than water-based) food coloring. Chocolate and water are not buddies, and mixing the two will cause your chocolate to seize and crumble. Gel-based food coloring (this is my fave brand) can be mixed seamlessly into melted white chocolate and comes in every color of the rainbow.

  1. I’ve a question.

    what about those people who can’t eat chocolate for various reasons?

    could it be made with a Blondi batter, or even a ginger bread

  2. The “melting chips” I purchased were white, so after melting them I added green food color for the Christmas tree topper. To my surprise, the melted chips seized up. What now, I said to myself. Well, thank goodness for Google, I found a remedy, add a little boiling water. Yes! But what it doesn’t tell you is after adding the water, the smooth consistency returned, but the chocolate does not harden. Well. It was a learning experience for me. I will try it again, sometime. . . .happy holidays.

    1. Hi Hilda – The instructions for the cupcake toppers are above. While the cupcakes cool, make the cupcake toppers…

  3. Has anyone had any success using toothpicks instead of pretzels for the Christmas tees? I was thinking that it might be a good idea and would mean I could make a batch of trees in advance. What do you think?

    Kind regards

    1. Hi Tracey! Toothpicks would work but they (of course!) aren’t edible. You can actually make the trees up to a day in advance!

  4. 5 stars
    I always make home made ginger bread houses. I think the trees would be cute sitting out in the frosting / snow. I might have to do something different to replace the pretzel stick. Very cute.

  5. 5 stars
    Thanks Kelly – these were a huge success – everyone loved the flavour and apart from an incident where we lost a tree to our cockapoo Alice everything went smoothly on this bake!

    1. Hi Ann! The pretzel trees can be made and stored in an airtight container for a day but I wouldn’t push it much past that.

  6. 5 stars
    Hi Please could you advise the volume of the cups used in this recipe – I am in the UK and will be using this great idea in a ‘Bake off’ charity event at work later this week. Many Thanks!

    1. Hi there! Our recipes are written in the Imperial format, so feel free to use an online conversion program for metric.

  7. Hi Kelly! I’m going to try this recipe for a xmas party, and I have 2 questions.

    1. I’m not a big fan of cocunut. Is there anything else that I can sprinkle on top of the icing, that will make it look like snowflakes?

    2. After you put the melted candy tree in the fridge, is there a certain time you need to keep it in there so it comes off easily and in tact? I saw your video and it came up perfectly! Would you recommend freezing for a short period of time?

    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Nic! You could use sanding sugar or shaved white chocolate in place of the coconut. As for the trees, allow them to fully harden in the fridge, about 10 minutes, before carefully releasing them from the wax paper. Hope that helps!

  8. 5 stars
    I made these last year twice! I had no problems and they were the hit of the party. I have already been asked to make them again this year!!

    Any new ideas this year!


    1. Hi Emma – I’ve never tried freezing these cupcakes so I can’t say for certain what the resulting taste/texture would be. That being said, this is what I would do: Freeze the cupcakes unfrosted (once completely cooled, wrap securely in plastic wrap and place in a freezer-safe sealable bag). The frosting could be made the day before and stored in the fridge and the pretzel trees can be made and stored in an airtight container for a day. Either assemble the day before your lunch or the day of. Hope this helps!

  9. Are the trees one sided? Do you turn them over when dry and frost again on other side so you can’t see the pretzel stick.

  10. I tried the make these. The cupcakes were wonderful but my trees didn’t work. They looked great but then as I tried to peel them off the wax all the lower branches broke off and some did on the top too. I was devastated. What did I do wrong?

    1. Hi Candace! Pretzel trees can be made and stored in an airtight container for a day, but I wouldn’t push it much past that. Hope that helps!

  11. any suggestions on what to use instead of the coconut? Our family is not a coconut fan but these are so cute. I know we could just leave the coconut off but you wouldn’t get the same “snow” effect.

    Thanks !

  12. I love this idea and the cupcakes were yummy, but do not put the trees until just before serving. I made mine a couple of days beforehand and the pretzels absorbed the moisture from the icing, causing the chocolate to fall off in chunks. Was very disappointed at serving time at my brother’s for Christmas.

  13. Same problem here. After reading all the comments I made sure to only fill the tins 2/3 of the way full thinking that would take care of the overflow problem. It did not. They all overflowed and sunk in. Tossed the whole batch. I’m still going to make the trees, but just use a different cupcake recipe.

  14. This is so neat! I am going to make these for christmas, but I couldn’t find candy melts, will white chocolate with food coloring work just as well?

    1. Hi Elise! If you try using chocolate and food coloring, it’s really important the food coloring is gel-based and doesn’t contain any water. Water + chocolate = a crumbly mess!

  15. I made these last week for the kids Christmas parties. I used ground white chocolate on top of chocolate icing to to look like a dusting of snow instead of coconut since some kids were allergic. It was a hit!

  16. These cupcakes turned out great and the decorations drew a lot of compliments during our party! It was my first time using candy melt and I found it easy to work with. It’s important to be really fast in applying the little sprinkles though because the candy melt hardens quickly and the sprinkles won’t stick then. The batter made way more cupcakes than the recipe indicates. On the first go round, I was aiming for the 12-14 so I overfilled the pans (I should have known better!). The cupcakes tops ended up all touching. I had to make a double batch anyway and on the second go round, I filled much less and got 20 cupcakes, I think. They had a much nicer shape the second time around. The cupcakes tasted very good and so did the icing. This is a definite keeper. Thanks!

    1. So glad you enjoyed the recipe! I’ve updated the yield to about 24, as I’ve made larger cupcakes in a standard size pan.

  17. I spoke out of baker’s angry failure… First batch I filled too full, I think. Filled less the second batch and got prettier, flat cupcakes. I got 30 cupcakes filling them about 2/3 of the way full with this one recipe, though!

  18. I experienced this exact same thing. There is no way this batter only makes 14 cupcakes. Got exactly 23 and they all overflowed the pan. Very annoying…

  19. I’m planning on making these for my Christmas Eve party. Do you have to use the green candy or could I melt my own white chocolate and add green dye to it?!

  20. Love the way these look. I made the cupcake recipe as directed, got 23 cupcakes and they went way over the top of the cake liner and were a mess so I had to throw the whole batch out.. I followed the recipe exactly. Has anyone else had this issue? I will try to make the cake toppers but doubt I will use the cake recipe again.

    1. Hi Jan – How full did you fill them? If you fill the cupcake wrappers 3/4 full with batter, they won’t spill.

  21. I absolutely love this idea for Christmas themed cupcakes! I plan to make these for a pot luck at work! I was wondering if you have any suggestions for a substitute for the coconut flakes that would still give the snowy effect?

  22. I liked the little Christmas trees, i gotta try that to impress my lady friends and take some to residents at the local nursing home.

    1. They’ll be fine at room temp for a few hours, but anything beyond that and they should be stashed in the fridge.

  23. My husband watched as I did these trees. That’s never going to work, he said. It was really easy and everyone was impressed with how it came out. Great idea.

  24. I don’t know what I did wrong, but these didn’t work well for me. The cupcakes overflowed the liners and were sunken in the center. The candy for the trees wouldn’t stick to the pretzels. Bummer.

    1. Hi Nicole – If the cupcakes overflowed, then you likely put too much batter in the cupcake cups. And when piping on candy melts, they will be warm and should adhere instantly to the trees. Did you melt the candy melts per the package instructions?

  25. Hey these look to make it even less work and still wonderful, just use Costcos brownie bites for the cake part. They are fantastic !!!

    1. Hi Sandra! You can purchase candy melts (small rounds of candy coating) online or at some grocery stores and at craft stores (i.e. Michael’s).

  26. I tried the frosting with your short bread recipe and I can’t stop eating it!!! I can’t wait to try out these cupcakes. The xmas tree toppers are going to be a hit!

  27. For the trees, did you start drizzling from the top down or the bottom up? Is there any trick to melting & piping the trees? Do you use wax paper or parchment paper? Do either work? Thanks. :)

    1. Hi Adrienne! I piped from the bottom to the top :) And parchment paper or wax paper will both work, you’ll just want to refrigerate the trees after piping them, as it helps to quickly harden them. Enjoy!

  28. Hi,
    Your recipe looks amazing.
    My only problem is that I don’t live in the US and we don’t have the green sugar candy in Belgium… Could it be possible to replace it with something else?
    Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi Raya – If you can’t find green candy melts, you could just use melted chocolate drizzled atop the pretzels and then top the chocolate with green sprinkles. Hope this helps!

  29. The Christmas Tree toppings look so impressive yet, looking through the recipe, so easy to make! Thanks for sharing this :)

  30. Super cute! Where did you get the polka dot cupcake cups? And, did the cups retain that nice color after baking, or did you slip the cupcakes into the pretty wrappers as a second layer after baking?

  31. These are the cutest cupcakes I’ve seen for Christmas!! The Christmas trees are super adorable!! I love the creative idea and you made these perfectly…. <3

  32. Last year I fell in love with the way you decorated your Christmas tree shortbread cookies and this year I’m in love with your very clever Christmas tree cupcake toppers. Thanks for the inspiration.