These cupcakes decorated with spiders made from licorice and gumdrops are perfect for a Halloween party! You can make them with any cupcake recipe (pumpkin cupcakes would be a great choice), but try the black licorice cupcake recipe in this post for something totally different.
I love how easy these cupcakes are to decorate. Even the littlest kids can help!
What are the Unique Ingredients in Halloween Cupcakes?
As I mentioned above, Halloween cupcakes can be any flavor, but I like to make mine flavored like black licorice to go along with the licorice in the decorations. It’s a unique cupcake flavor that will make these cupcakes extra special.
Black licorice is a love it or hate it kind of flavor. But, I’ve found that even those who don’t love black licorice enjoy these cupcakes. The flavor isn’t as poignant as it is in the candy.
To get as close as possible to the taste of black licorice, I looked up a recipe for homemade black licorice and used the same flavors that go into making licorice in the cupcakes: blackstrap molasses and anise.
Blackstrap molasses is the darkest kind of molasses. It has a very different flavor from the light molasses that you would use in molasses cookies. If you can’t find blackstrap molasses, look for a molasses labeled dark.
For the anise flavor in the these cupcakes, I use ground anise (also called aniseed). You can either buy anise already ground or purchase whole anise and grind it in a coffee or spice grinder or using a mortal and pestle.
Note: Anise is not the same as star anise, so don’t buy the latter for this recipe.
How to Make Halloween Cupcakes
Start by mixing all of the dry ingredients including the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground anise.
Mix in the sugar, molasses, and butter. Be sure to mix for a few minutes to make sure that all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Mix in the eggs, vegetable oil, and sweetened condensed milk.
Add milk to thin out the batter.
Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake at 350 F for 20 minutes. You’ll know that the cupcakes are done because a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
How to Frost The Cupcakes
Frost the cupcakes with anise buttercream. It’s my vanilla buttercream recipe, but flavored with anise instead of vanilla.
Like the cupcakes, the frosting uses ground anise. If you don’t like the look of the anise in the frosting, you can use 1 1/2 teaspoons of anise extract instead.
A pretty star-shaped swirl doesn’t matter on these cupcakes, so you can either spread the frosting on the cupcakes with a spatula or pipe it on with a round tip or no tip at all.
How to Decorate Halloween Cupcakes
To decorate Halloween cupcakes, you’ll need:
- large gumdrops for the spiders’ bodies and heads
- lace licorice for the spiders’ legs
- black sparkle decorating gel or black frosting for the spiders’ eyes
Each cupcakes uses two gumdrops. Use the first gumdrop as the spider’s body. Cut the second gumdrop in half for the spider’s head. You can easily cut gumdrops in half with knife or kitchen shears.
Tip: It’s fun to experiment with different color gumdrops. Since they usually come in multi-color bags, I say embrace all of the colors!
It’s easiest to find rope licorice in red and black. Either color will work great for your spiders. Cut the licorice into eight pieces per spider and arrange the pieces on top of the frosting so they touch the spider’s body and dangle off the edge of a cupcake.
Place two small black dots on the spider’s head for the eyes. Squeeze just enough for some of the gel to come out, then just touch the gumdrop with the tip without squeezing to make the eyes. Be very careful not to squeeze the decorating gel or it will drip.
(This design was inspired by Land O’ Lakes’s spooky spider cupcakes. I fell in love with the idea.)
Mini Halloween Cupcakes
I also love making these as minis! You can still decorate them as spiders – just cut everything much smaller – or you can place small pieces of licorice on top of the cupcakes.
When you make mini cupcakes, start checking for doneness at 15 minutes.
What to Serve with Halloween Cupcakes
- Halloween cake (This one is more cute than scary. It’s decorated like a unicorn witch.)
- Pumpkin cupcakes
- Apple cupcakes
- Caramel apples (I make mine with pumpkin spice.)
- Chocolate covered garlic (To scare off the vampires.)
- 1 3/4 cups cake flour not self-rising
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ground anise
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses use dark molasses if you can't find blackstrap
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk one can
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons ground anise
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 32 gumdrops
- 16 pieces rope licorice
- black decorator gel
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and anise.
- Add sugar, molasses, and butter and mix until fully combined.
- Mix in eggs, oil, and sweetened condensed milk.
- Add milk and mix until just combined.
- Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
- When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the tins and leave them on a cooling rack (or just on your counter if you don't own a cooling rack) to cool.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat butter on high speed with an electric mixer for three minutes until light and fluffy.
- Mix in powdered sugar a little bit at a time.
- Mix in anise and salt.
- Pipe on cooled cupcakes.
- Cut half of the gumdrops in half with a knife or scissors.
- Cut each piece of rope licorice into 8 pieces. Trim the pieces so they hang halfway off the edge of a cupcake when placed in the center of the cupcake.
- Place one gumdrop and the top half of one the gumdrop that were cut in half on each cupcake as the spider's head and body.
- Arrange 8 of the cut licorice pieces around the body of each spider.
- Dot each spider's head twice with decorating gel to make the eyes.