How to decorate a cactus cake

Create the cactus cake of Instagrammers’ dreams when you top luscious buttercream and vanilla sponge with this exotic arrangement of plant icing decorations

Iced cake with cactus icing decorations

We've combined two of the nation's favourite things – cake and cacti – to produce an edible landscape masterpiece complete with green desert foliage and biscuity 'sand'. This fun and stylish cactus-themed bake makes an impressive celebration cake or cupcake design and the green icing sugar plants are an Instagrammer’s dream. They are far from spiky and will go down a treat with green-fingered kids. 

Although this cake looks intricate, the decorating technique is easy to master if you break it down. So if you are a fan of all things desert and dessert then start creating your verdant paradise using our easy tips....

Cactus cake recipe

Sponge

To make the cake base, we used a plain vanilla sponge recipe. However, you could swap this for another sponge mixture such as our easy chocolate cake and the decorations also works well with cupcakes.   

Ice your cake with the following vanilla buttercream mixture: 


Buttercream

MAKES enough for 1 x 20cm cake or 12 cupcakes

PREP 15 mins  

  • Put 250g softened butter in a large bowl.
  • Add 500g icing sugar and 2-3 tsp milk, then combine everything roughly with a wooden spoon.
  • Using a freestand mixer or electric beaters, beat the mixture until smooth and pale.
  • Add some food colouring, if you like.

To decorate, start by creating a sandy biscuit base, then load up your cake or cupcakes with as many plants as you like. Mix up the sizes and shades of green for maximum impact.


Sand

Crush up a shortbread biscuit using a pestle and mortar. Sprinkle it over the surface of your iced cake in clumps to create a sand effect.
 

Cactus

Cupcake topped with cactus icing decoration

To make cacti, roll out a ball of green ready-to-roll icing. Dust with icing sugar and flatten it with your fingertips, then wrap the icing around a round chocolate truffle. Roll the whole thing in your hands to smooth the edges and seal it up. Mix a little water with some royal icing sugar to make a stiff paste, then pipe tiny dots all over the surface in curved lines to create spikes.


Aloe

Cupcake topped with aloe

Make the leaves by moulding lots of pieces of green ready-to-roll icing into long teardrop shapes (make the tips as pointy as you can). Press the rounded ends of the leaves together, one at a time, bunching them from the centre. Make progressively larger leaves as you work outwards. Make a few of the leaves hang forward and others back for a natural feel. You can also add a light brushing of dark red food colouring to leaf tips to make them look even more realistic.


Sempervivum

Cupcake topped with sempervivum plant

Fix a leaf nozzle to your piping bag – we used Wilton 67. Fill your piping bag with pale green buttercream. Holding the nozzle at a 45-degree angle, gently squeeze the piping bag and pull up sharply at the same time. This will form a small ivy-like leaf shape. Pipe a ring of these leaves, slightly overlapping, with the points facing up and outwards.

Start a new ring of leaves within the first one. Repeat until you reach the middle of the circle then pipe a few tiny spikes of buttercream to finish, holding the piping bag straight.


Sedum

Cupcake topped with sedum icing decoration

Take any star nozzle you like (or use a few types) and fix it to a piping bag. Fill the bag with pale green, dark green or greenish red buttercream and pipe dots or spikes in clumps. This is great for filling in the spaces between your other designs.


Step back to admire your final result...

This cake may look too gorgeous to eat, but you'll regret it if you don't take a slice!

Bird's eye view of cake topped with buttercream and cacti icing decorations

Discover more showstopping cake recipes...

Challenging cake recipes
Our most creative cake ideas
How to decorate a cake - piping
Cake decorating
How to make an anti-gravity cake
How to decorate a Christmas cake: 3 ways
Easiest-ever wedding cake 

Have you made our cactus cake? Leave a comment below...

Comments, questions and tips

Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.
Be the first to comment...We'd love to hear how you got on with this recipe. Did you like it? Would you recommend others give it a try?
Be the first to ask a question about this recipe...Unsure about the cooking time or want to swap an ingredient? Ask us your questions and we’ll try and help you as soon as possible. Or if you want to offer a solution to another user’s question, feel free to get involved...
Be the first to suggest a tip for this recipe...Got your own twist on this recipe? Or do you have suggestions for possible swaps and additions? We’d love to hear your ideas.