kids decorating halloween cupcakes

Cupcakes in Costume

It’s easy (and fun!) to dress up your homemade Halloween cupcakes—or ones you pick up from your local bakery-cafe

“My number one rule for decorating cupcakes: Everything that goes on the cupcake has to be edible,” says Tom Gumpel, head baker at Panera Bread®. This means your cupcakes will likely be not only more kid-safe but also more sanitary. According to Tom, you’re taking some risks if you top your cupcakes with plastic doodads that have come from who-knows-where and been in a box exposed to who-knows-what. Instead, make your Halloween cupcakes creepy (in a good way) by tricking them out yourself. 

“This is the time to play a little bit and be craft-minded,” says Tom. “You can do all kinds of fun things with a pastry bag and candy pieces.” Just be sure not to go overboard, he recommends: “It’s all about balance. Your cake should represent 60 to 75 percent of the total cupcake, and about 25 to 40 percent should be toppings.” You can start with your own homemade cupcakes or pick up Vanilla, Chocolate, or Red Velvet Cupcakes from your local bakery-cafe.

Monster mash-up

Use a pastry bag with a grass-type tip to pipe frosting “fur” onto each cupcake in a bright color like purple, lime green, or orange. Or start with a Panera Bread Red Velvet Cupcake, which is already topped with red crumbs. Add one, two, or three mini-marshmallow eyes, and dot each with a black-gel pupil.

Yummy mummy faces

Use a pastry bag with a wide, flat ribbon tip to layer white or cream-colored frosting wrappings across the cupcake, allowing a bit of the cake color to peek through in places. Last, nestle in two chocolate-chip or black-licorice eyes.

Delicate spiderwebs

Begin with two colors of frosting (say, black and white) to create a bull’s-eye pattern on each cupcake. Next, lightly drag the tip of a toothpick from the center of the bull’s-eye to the outside edge of the cupcake. Repeat every inch or so around the cupcake, creating a weblike design. If you’d like, top each web with a gummy spider.

Great-big, googly eyes

Use a small ice cream scoop to mound some white frosting on each cupcake. Next, pipe on red-icing veins, and top each eye with a gummy Life Savers iris. Put a dot of black icing or a chocolate chip in the center of the eye as its pupil. 

Jack- and jill-o’-lanterns

Frost your cupcakes with orange icing and then accent each with a unique black-icing face. Or make the top of each cupcake look like the top of a pumpkin: Starting with the orange base of frosting, add a 1-inch piece of green-apple licorice (for its stem) and pipe on orange ribs and green vines of icing. 

Witches and warlocks

Use an ice cream scoop to mound green icing on top of each cupcake for the face. Add a thin dark chocolate cookie for a brim, and top it with icing and an ice cream cone for the hat’s point. Use lengths of black licorice or chunks of shredded wheat cereal for hair, Red Hots for eyes, and candy corn for the nose. If desired, draw a colorful icing hatband and yellow buckle just above the brim of each hat.

Cute kitty faces

Take pre-frosted cupcakes and dip each in a shallow dish of coconut (for white cats), toasted coconut (for tan kitties), or black sprinkles (for unlucky pussycats). Add whiskers, ears, eyes, nose, and mouth using gel icing. 

Ghosts in the graveyard

For easy ghost cupcake toppers, use white meringue cookies (available at many supermarkets) or Peeps marshmallow ghosts nestled atop a bed of frosting. Sprinkle the frosting with crushed chocolate cookie for the loose-dirt look. Use black gel icing to pipe eyes and mouths onto the meringue cookie ghosts. Last, turn an oval-shaped cookie into a tombstone simply by adding the abbreviation R.I.P. in icing. 

Batty beauties

With a serrated knife, score a round dark chocolate cookie down the center and then break it in half. Use red or green gel frosting to draw one bat wing on each half-circle; then nestle these wings on either side of the cupcake, leaving room in the center for a black gumdrop head. Add red or green gel-frosting eyes and little white-frosting fangs.