Lemon Sunflower Cupcakes

I LOVE planning out desserts to make for a special occasion, especially when it involves cupcakes.  Some people have asked me what my favorite part about baking is, and often times it’s the creative process that goes on before I even turn on the mixer. My best friend Sara threw a bridal shower for her sister-in-law-to-be last weekend and wanted a sunflower theme.  Lucky for Sara, she happens to have a best friend with a knack for baking who can’t say no to a cupcake challenge.  I spent the week before the shower dreaming up what I wanted the cupcakes to look like, searching for cupcake recipes, and then of course spending a few evenings putting everything together.  I was so excited to see how the sunflowers would turn out, I even skipped happy hour with friends because I was so anxious to make them!  I was beyond thrilled with the result and proudly showed up to the shower with a beautiful bouquet of 30 sunflowers for the guests.

There are many ways to do sunflower cupcakes, and thanks to the authors of “Hello, Cupcake!“, you’ll find variations of these all over the web.  I wanted something neat and pretty that still looked edible, so I opted to make my sunflowers out of royal icing.  I also chose to use mini Oreos for the centers so the flowers didn’t take over the entire cupcake.  These lemon cupcakes were topped with cream cheese buttercream so I wanted to make sure I could fit plenty of frosting and a flower!  The best part of making the sunflowers from royal icing instead of buttercream is that you can make them as far in advance as you need to (even up to weeks before) and just keep them in an airtight container until your cupcakes are ready to be topped.  The flowers end up drying hard so they’re not as easy to eat as a part of the cupcake, but they can just be enjoyed as a little piece of candy to be eaten on the side.  And don’t be intimidated by piping these flowers, if you have a ziploc bag and a pair of scissors, you can make them too!

For the cupcakes I found a lemon cupcake recipe from allrecipes.com that had a lot of great reviews.  When I made the batter I was definitely concerned with how thick it was (more like muffin batter than cupcake batter) but was pleasantly surprised when they baked up soft and moist.  Just make sure you don’t overbake them!  The lemon flavor is subtle but refreshing and light, and definitely works well with the luscious cream cheese frosting that I love so much.  With warmer weather just around the corner, these bright and sunny cupcakes are perfect for many occasions – bridal showers, pool parties, birthdays, or even just because!

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Lemon Sunflower Cupcakes

Cupcake recipe adapted from allrecipes.com


for the lemon cupcakes:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
3 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sour cream

for the cream cheese frosting:
12 oz cream cheese, cold
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar

for the sunflower toppers:
4 cups powdered sugar
5 tbsp meringue powder
1/2 cup water
Few drops vanilla extract
15 package mini Oreos
Yellow and green food coloring


for the lemon cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 30 muffin tins with cupcake liners.
- In the bowl of an electri mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Add the lemon zest and vanilla and mix well.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- With the mixer on low speed, alternatively add the dry ingredients and the sour cream to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. The batter will be thick, but don't panic!
- Fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.
- Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

for the cream cheese frosting:

- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and beat well.
- Slowly add the powdered sugar until well combined. Continue to beat until smooth for about 2 minutes.
- Load frosting into a piping bag fit with a large closed star tip and frost cupcakes as desired.

for the sunflower toppers:
- Whisk together the powdered sugar and meringue powder in the bowl of an electric mixer.
- Add the water and vanilla and beat until smooth, about 5 minutes. If icing is too thick, add more water in 1 tsp increments. For desired consistency, you'll want a peak of icing to droop back down into the bowl completely in about 30 seconds.
- Put aside 1/2 cup of the icing in a small bowl, mix in a few drops of green food coloring, cover with a wet cloth or paper towel and set aside.
- For the rest of the icing, add yellow food coloring (I also added some orange for a warmer yellow) and transfer to a piping bag fit with a leaf tip or a large ziploc bag with a small "V" cut into the corner to look like this. When you're not using the icing bag, place it tip down in a glass with a damp paper towel on the bottom so the icing in the tip doesn't dry out.
- Lay down a sheet of wax or parchment paper on the counter, and space out 30 mini Oreo halves. With the "V" shapes oriented to either side, pipe 1 row of yellow petals all around the Oreo, starting with your tip on the edge of the Oreo and pulling outward. (This tutorial gives some nice pictures for how to hold your icing bag to make petals/leaves) Finish the first layers for all 30 Oreos, then go back and add another layer of petals on top once the first layer has set after about 15-20 minutes.
- Transfer the green icing to another bag with a leaf tip and add 2 green leaves to each sunflower if you desire.
- Let the flowers dry at least overnight before attempting to separate them from the wax paper. When they're set, top them on the cupcakes and enjoy!


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35 Responses to “Lemon Sunflower Cupcakes”

  1. #
    Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie — April 26, 2012 @ 8:18 pm

    Those are beautiful

  2. #
    Mal — April 26, 2012 @ 8:49 pm

    These are so adorable!

    Mal @ The Chic Geek

  3. #
    Shannon — April 26, 2012 @ 10:01 pm

    Lovely! I would love to try to make these!

  4. #
    Jessica — April 27, 2012 @ 2:06 am

    Very pretty! I love the bright yellow colour, it really pops on the cupcakes!

  5. #
    Tamara G. — April 27, 2012 @ 9:42 am

    The most beautiful cupcakes that I ever seen.

  6. #
    bigFATcook — April 27, 2012 @ 11:06 am

    Very beautiful cupcakes! The sunflowers seem alive :D

  7. #
    Urban Wife — April 27, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

    Creative and delicious looking! Great job, once again.

  8. #
    Alysha@Shesontherun — April 27, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

    This cupcakes are too cute. I just finished a cake decorating class and I loved making leaves.

  9. #
    Macaroni and Cheesecake — April 27, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

    These are absolutely gorgeous!! Fabulous job!

  10. #
    Jesica @ Pencil Kitchen — April 27, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

    I JUST saw how this is done! Pretty!

  11. #
    Celina — April 27, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

    LOVE the decoration on these!

  12. #
    Dharma — April 28, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

    Fantastic. The decoration is beautiful.

  13. #
    Anonymous — April 28, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

    GREAT job!!

  14. #
    Mel (Sharky Oven Gloves) — April 29, 2012 @ 10:59 am

    These are adorable! So beautiful and summery!!

  15. #
    Jacqueline — April 30, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

    These are so cute! You are so artistic – I’d most definitely choose you as my dentist!

  16. #
    Tiffany — May 2, 2012 @ 1:29 am

    These look so adorable and the oreo cookie in the middle is brilliant!

  17. #
    lester@cupcakeideasforyou.com — May 2, 2012 @ 11:48 am

    These are so adorable sun flower cupcakes! Adding some topper on it makes it even better.

  18. #
    CulinarilyCourtney — May 5, 2012 @ 11:37 pm

    I love your idea of using a mini oreo to get that iconic black center of the sunflower (plus, I love oreos anytime, so why not?!) These are absolutely adorable.

  19. #
    Cindy deRosier — May 23, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

    I’m the Editorial Assistant for Fun Family Crafts and I wanted to let you know that we have featured your sunflower cupcake tutorial! You can see it here:


    If you would like to display a featured button on your site, you can grab one from the right side bar of your post above. Thanks for a wonderful project idea!

  20. #
    anonymous — September 23, 2014 @ 5:47 pm

    I am 13 and i am going to enter some pumpkin spice cupcakes with the sunflower decoration into the fair that we have every year, so could you tell me the number of the tips you used for the icing?
    And also would it work if I piped the icing straight onto the cupcake instead of leaving it overnight on the wax paper?

    • Erica — September 25th, 2014 @ 7:57 am

      Hi! I believe the tip I used is a Wilton 352 tip. Both for the petals and the green leaves. and yes, I think it would work just fine if you piped it straight onto the cupcake. You could even use buttercream instead of royal icing as I did. Good luck!!

  21. #
    Vanessa — September 5, 2015 @ 1:05 pm

    I have made 5 batches of these and they will NOT set. I have left them for up to a week, added more merenge, less merenge, beat them more and less and they are just soft when I try to take them off the parchment paper. What am I doing wrong?

    • Erica — September 9th, 2015 @ 9:20 am

      Do you live in a very humid environment?? Sometimes that stops the icing from setting if there’s too much moisture in the air. Did you use a lot of food coloring? If you added too much of it, especially the liquid kind, this could also happen. Make sure you didn’t overbeat it too, but it sounds like you had that covered. Sorry for the frustrationg!!

  22. #
    Gina — January 27, 2016 @ 2:29 pm

    Beautiful display! Thank you for sharing.

    I need to make 150 sunflower cupcake toppers and wanted to ask, How far in advance can these be made? You mentioned in a comment that you’ve made them with buttercream, can these be put in the freezer until day of event?

    • Erica — January 27th, 2016 @ 4:02 pm

      I don’t have any experience with freezing decorated cupcakes with buttercream. My recommendation would be to freeze the unfrosted cupcakes, store the toppers out of the freezer in an airtight container, and then frost the cupcakes a few days before the event. I believe the toppers should last a few weeks at room temperature. Good luck!

  23. #
    yummyfoodrecipesindia — May 23, 2016 @ 5:45 am

    So beautiful and eye catchy garnishing over cupcakes. Loved the way that smoothly decorated in sunflowers design. Good to find such pretty food recipe. Thanks!

  24. #
    Chloe — April 9, 2018 @ 8:09 pm

    How many cupcakes does recipe make ?

  25. #
    Laurie White — April 14, 2018 @ 12:05 pm

    May I publish the main photo and a brief description on the Facebook page for mystery author Kelle Z. Riley? https://www.facebook.com/KelleZRiley/

    I am her assistant and she is publishing cupcake photos in addition to other topics. I thought this would be a cute one for spring.

    Thanks, Laurie White


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