Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lady Bug Cupcakes Tutorial

This past weekend I made the trek home to my hometown in NH to spend the weekend with my mom for her birthday.  The last few months have been rough on her so I decided some lucky ladybug cupcakes would be the perfect birthday treat to bring smiles and lots of luck to her this year.  My mom has believed the little red bugs bring good luck ever since I can remember; she even kept faith in their powers as they forged a mass invasion on my brother's bedroom!  I knew that these cute cupcakes would be the perfect birthday treat to bring a smile to her face and remind her of how lucky she is!
I started with a banana caramel muffin baked in a red scalloped cupcake wrapper.
I swirled cinnamon cream cheese frosting on each cupcake.  This was the base for my ladybug decorations!  Feel free to use whatever flavor of cupcake and frosting you desire.  I would not use chocolate frosting, I think the ladybugs stand out best against the white. (=
To make the ladybugs:  Pull out a batch of sugar cookie dough that you have had chilling for at least an hour.  Roll to between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.  I rolled mine pretty thick because I wanted the ladybugs to really stand out on the cupcake.
I used the back side of a random tip I had lying around to cut out the small round shape for the ladybug.  I gave each cut out a little press after to flatten the top out a tad.  You can use a tiny circular cookie cutter if you have one as well.  Arrange on a baking sheet and bake at 350 until the sides begin to brown slightly...these are tiny so keep an eye on them!  Set aside on a cooling rack until they are completely cooled.
I used a circular cookie cutter to create the leaf shape for the cupcake.  If you happen to have a leaf shaped cookie cutter feel free to use it.  You can also cut out a template to cut around if you prefer; however I found it was just as easy to do it this way (= 
I turned the circular into a leaf in 4 simple steps.  Step 1:  Punch out a circle with your cutter (you could use the top of a small glass as well)
Step 2: Pinch one side of the circle to create the stem of the leaf.
Step 3:  Using your thumb and fore finger press against the sides of the circle as you stretch them out slightly to create an elongated shape from the pinched edge.
Step 4: Pinch the last edge to create a pointed tip.  Feel free to play with the shape until you like the way it looks.  Don't get stressed about making them all look exactly the same...imperfections add to the charm of these cupcakes!
I wanted the leaves to have some natural shape to the so I baked them on the curve of my cookie sheet.  I baked some lying vertical and some lying horizontal along the curve to add some contrast.  I couldn't fit very many on each sheet so had to do multiple bakes, but it was worth the effort.
Bake until the edges of the leaves begin to turn a golden brown.  Remove from baking sheet and transfer to wire cooling rack until completely cooled.
Once cooled, thin some green Royal Icing to painting consistency with a small amount of water.  Using a pastry brush or paint (clean!) brush, paint the icing onto the top of the cookies in a thin and even layer.  I first just painted the tops of the leaves and then decided I wanted them to look completely covered, so I went back and painted down the sides as well.  The finished look of the leaves was cute but it made the process a little messier!  If you want to get fancier with the leaves you can pipe veins on after the base coat dries.
To make your ladybugs, fill your piping bag with black royal icing fitted with a very small round tip (I used size00).  Pipe a straight line down the center of the cooled cookie.
With the same bag, pipe a circle at one end and fill in for the head of the ladybug.  Try to use icing that is thin enough to melt back into itself slightly, but not so thin that it doesn't keep its shape on the cookie.
Fit a piping bag filled with red royal icing with the same size 00 tip.  Pipe the outline of the ladybug wings on either side of the black middle line. 
I used the same icing bag to then fill in the centers of the wings since these guys were so small. If you have more patience and want a more precise look, you can thin out some red icing and flood the wings after the outline dries instead.
After the red dries, add details such as black dots on the wings and little antennas to complete your lady bugs.  Let dry.
To decorate your cupcake, press your cookie leaf into the soft frosting of your cupcake.  Attach the ladybugs to the leaves by dipping them in a small amount of royal icing and pressing them onto the leaves.  Have fun arranging the ladybugs as you desire.
These cupcakes are sure to bring lots of smiles, good luck, and happy bellies to any celebration.  Have fun making these lucky bugs to adorn your next cupcakes and make sure to spread the luck around as much as you can!

Love you Mom <3

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