DIY Fall Tree Cupcakes

One of the joys of fall is seeing the changing of the leaves as they turn from green to yellow to red. This annual rite of nature is the inspiration for these autumn tree cupcakes. Each cupcake is topped with a tree whose trunk is actually a chocolate-covered pretzel stick. And the fall leaf sprinkles scattered on the chocolate branches add another edible surprise to these clever treats. As with a real pile of leaves, you'll want to dive right in.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Things You'll Need

  • Cupcakes

  • Buttercream frosting

  • Green icing coloring

  • Pastry piping bags

  • Fall leaf sprinkles

  • Chocolate candy melts

  • Pretzel sticks

  • Parchment paper

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Step 1: Bake Cupcakes

Bake a batch of cupcakes either from scratch or with a box mix. Any flavor will be fine, as the cupcake will be covered by frosting. For the convenience, I made yellow cupcakes from a box mix.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Step 2: Prepare the Frosting

You can use store-bought frosting, but I actually prefer to make my own buttercream frosting for this project. Homemade frosting is stiffer and holds its shape, so it's useful in helping keep the pretzel stick tree trunk in place.

Mix a half pound of butter and a half pound of vegetable shortening, and then add three cups of confectioner's sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. After mixing well, add a tablespoon of water at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Add a few drops of green icing coloring into the frosting and stir. Continue adding coloring until the frosting is a bright green color.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Step 3: Frost the Cupcakes

Spoon the frosting into a piping bag or a ziplock bag. Cut the tip off leaving about a quarter-inch opening, or use a piping tip with a quarter-inch circle opening. It is not necessary to use a piping bag; you can just spread the frosting directly on the cupcake with a spatula. However, I like the control that the piping bag provides.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Distribute the frosting evenly over the cupcake.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Smooth out the frosting with a spatula.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Step 4: Add Leaf Sprinkles

The frosting (the grass) needs some fallen leaves on it. Place a few leaf sprinkles on top of the green frosting. To make sure they stay in place, gently press them down with your fingertips. If you don't have leaf sprinkles, look for round sprinkles or jimmies.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Step 5: Melt the Chocolate

Place chocolate candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 30-second intervals. Stir the melted chocolate until it is smooth without any lumps remaining.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Spoon the melted chocolate into a piping bag or ziplock bag. Cut the tip of the piping bag so there is an opening of about a quarter inch.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Step 6: Cover the Pretzel Sticks

To give the chocolate trees a rigid structure, we're using pretzel sticks as the tree trunks. Place the pretzel sticks on a piece of parchment paper on a tray.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Squeeze the chocolate from the piping bag on top of the pretzel sticks to cover them in chocolate. When you get to the top tip, continue squeezing chocolate into twisting branch shapes.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Add some leaf sprinkles onto the branches. Place the chocolate trees in the refrigerator to allow the chocolate to harden for about 15 minutes.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

When the trees are hardened, flip them over. Then cover the other side of the pretzel stick with more melted chocolate.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Because the pretzel sticks are cold, the melted chocolate will harden soon after touching them. Use a toothpick to help spread the chocolate over the pretzel. Stick the trees back in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to let them set.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Step 7: Insert Trees Into Cupcakes

Position each tree over the center of a cupcake and insert the trunk about three-quarters of the way down so it holds steady.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

Step 8: Reinforce Tree

To keep the tree from being wobbly, add a little frosting at the base of the tree. Here is where the piping bag comes in handy by directing the flow of frosting. When the frosting hardens, it will lock the tree trunk in place.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

The chocolate covered pretzel trees, with their mixture of sweet and salty, take this autumn-themed treat over the top.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)

If a chocolate tree falls in a forest of cupcakes, does it make a sound? Yes, the sound is me munching on that tree.

(Image: Jonathan Fong)