Adorn mini cupcakes with sugar paste holly leaves before gathering them to create a giant edible wreath. A few sprinkles and sugar pearls give this easy dessert a bit of extra flair. Guests may resist snagging a cupcake for fear they may mess up the design, but this hesitation will only last a second — they’re too delicious not to enjoy!
If you don’t have a holly leaf cutter, you may cut the fondant by hand, make icing leaves using a piping bag and leaf tip, or tint the buttercream green and decorate as desired. Arrange the cupcakes on your serving area before you frost and decorate to help create a more cohesive design. Pipe the buttercream so they almost touch, and arrange the leaves so they overlap and join the cupcakes together. Enjoy!
Looking for more festive treats? Try Ina Garten’s Festive Holiday Desserts.
Vanilla Spice Cupcakes
Vanilla Buttercream Icing
Setting/cooling time: 4 hours.
For the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a mini muffin tin with cupcake papers and set aside.
Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.
Using an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Add in the vanilla and mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
With the mixer on low, gradually add in half of the dry ingredients. Slowly stream in the milk and mix until combined. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Mix on medium for no more than about 30 seconds or until completely combined.
Evenly distribute the batter into the liners using a spoon, filling ⅔ of the way full.
Bake the cupcakes in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes. When done, they should be slightly golden on top and toothpick inserted into the centre should come out clean.
Cool cupcakes on a wire rack before frosting.
For the vanilla buttercream icing: In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the egg whites and sugar. Whisk briefly by hand until combined.
Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler. Stirring intermittently, heat the egg mixture until it reaches 150°F to 160°F on a candy thermometer.
Once hot, carefully return the mixer bowl to the stand mixer. Fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg white mixture on high until stiff peaks, about 8 minutes. When done, the outside of the mixer bowl should return to room temperature.
Stop the mixer and swap the whisk for the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add in the vanilla, cinnamon, and butter, a couple Tbsp at a time. Once all of the butter has been added, turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix until smooth.
If the mixture looks curdled, just keep mixing until it is smooth (this could take up to about 5 minutes). If it appears soupy, place the mixer bowl in the fridge for about 15 minutes, then mix until smooth.
For the holly leaves: Crumple then flatten a piece of foil or a brown paper bag (cut to lay flat) and set aside.
Working with only a portion of the fondant at a time, roll it out to ¼ to ⅛ of an inch thick. Use the holly leaf cutter to cut out the leaves. Using the back of a paring knife, score the leaves down the centre and diagonally on each side to create leaf impressions. Pinch the bottom of each leaf then let dry on the foil or paper bag for at least 4 hours or overnight. Repeat with the remaining fondant. You will need about 60 to 80 leaves to complete the design. The crumbled foil/paper bag will give the leaves a natural shape as they dry.
For assembly: Arrange the cooled cupcakes into the shape of a wreath on a large serving dish or platter. Fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip with the buttercream. Pipe the frosting onto the tops of the cupcakes and sprinkle with sugar pearls, jimmies, or dragées, if desired.
Arrange the dried holly leaves on top of the cupcakes to form a wreath. Top with the red candies or fondant balls and bow to complete the design.
It’s easier to pipe the cupcakes and arrange the holly leaves after the cupcakes have already been placed in the wreath shape. If transporting, pipe and decorate each cupcake individually, then arrange into the wreath shape before serving.