If you love Disney • Pixar’s movie, Coco, you are going to love making these Day of the Dead Cupcakes. The brightly colored cupcakes are topped with multi-colored fondant, a pink fondant Minnie bow, and sugar skulls are drawn on the fondant Mickey ears using edible markers. Make them with the kiddos to learn more about Dia de los Muertos celebrated on November 2nd.
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Day of the Dead Cupcakes
The full ingredients list and instructions are found in the printable recipe card at the end of this post. I highly recommend reading the blog post all the way through so that you don’t miss any tips or substitution suggestions and ensure that you have all the ingredients and equipment required and understand the steps and timings involved.
The Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated in Mexico and elsewhere associated with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, and is held on November 1 and 2. The multi-day holiday involves family and friends gathering to pray for and to remember friends and family members who have died. It is commonly portrayed as a day of celebration rather than mourning.Wikipedia
The Disney•Pixar movie Coco, which has inspired these Day of the Dead cupcakes is a great movie to teach children about this holiday. In fact, it taught me a lot too and is one of my personal favorite animated movies.
The movie and its celebration of life after death is bright and colorful, much like the Día de los Muertos cupcakes, which are marbled with several colors; the frosting is multi-colored too.
The final flourish is the sugar skull Mickey ears, which are drawn onto fondant using edible markers.
You could make these cupcakes with your kids as a fun way to learn about Día de los Muertos – make some spare fondant ears for them to decorate too. Or, cut out circles of paper for them to draw their own sugar skulls.
There is always this Day of the Dead Sugar Skull Candle Holder craft to try too.
A calavera [plural: calaveras] is a representation of a human skull. The term is most often applied to edible or decorative skulls made from either sugar or clay that are used in the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead and the Roman Catholic holiday All Souls’ Day.Wikipedia
The decorations are made using fondant, which might look tricky, but it’s not as difficult as you might think.
If you’re an experienced cake maker you can probably jump straight to the recipe at the end of this post and get baking!
But if not, please read through the steps as I’ve got lots of tips and suggestions along the way!
Ingredients & Equipment Used In This Recipe
For your convenience, any specialized or notable ingredients and equipment needed to make these cupcakes have been listed below and linked to Amazon or other stores if available online. Standard ingredients such as flour or sugar are not listed, as you are likely to have those in your kitchen. The full list with measurements is found in the recipe card.
Cupcakes & Frosting Ingredients
- Box of French Vanilla Cake Mix – the usual additional ingredients are changed to butter, milk, and eggs to enrich the cake mix. If you can’t find French Vanilla, regular vanilla will be fine.
- Powdered Sugar – also known as Icing Sugar and Confectioner’s Sugar.
- Pure Vanilla Extract – always buy good vanilla as it really does make a flavor difference.
- Food Coloring Gel – in the colors Sky Blue, Red, Neon Green, and Pink.
- Wilton Fondant – these come in 4.4oz packages and just the right size for these cupcakes, but you can use any brand you like.
- Edible Food Markers – including black
Cupcake Decorating Equipment
- Round Cookie Cutter – to cut out Minnie’s Ears you will need a 2″/5cm cutter.
- Fondant Rolling Pin – these have a smooth surface and won’t leave a texture on your fondant when rolling out.
- Wilton Fondant Bow Mold – this one from Wilton is the one used to make the bow you see in the photos in this post. However, for some reason, it’s not available on Amazon, which is super annoying as I use Amazon for everything! Ultimately, use whichever bow mold you can to make a 2″/5cm bow.
- Large Piping Bag – you can use disposable or reuseable, your choice.
- Large Star Tip – for example, Wilton 1M
Recipes on The Purple Pumpkin Blog use both cup measurements and/or weighted measurements. American cups and kitchen food scales are handy pieces of equipment to have in your kitchen as it means you’ll be able to make all of the different recipes on my blog! I try to give American, imperial, and metric measurements in my recipes. You can mix cup measurements with weighted measurements, but never imperial (pounds, ounces, pints, etc.,) with metric (kilograms, grams, litres, etc.,).
Day of the Dead Cupcakes Recipe Tips
The Mickey Ears and Minnie’s Hairbow to decorate these cupcakes are made with fondant (also known as sugarpaste).
Fondant needs time to dry before using as cake decorations, so allow up to 24 hours to get the pieces made before making and decorating your cupcakes.
If you have never worked with fondant before, don’t panic – it is really easy to use, follow my tips and you’ll be just fine!
- Line a cookie sheet(s) or tray(s)with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat to place the fondant pieces on to dry.
- Dust your work surface with powdered sugar (icing sugar/confectioner’s sugar) or cornstarch (cornflour) so that the fondant doesn’t stick. Think of it like the way you use flour when rolling dough.
- Rub a little powdered sugar/cornstarch into your hands and knead a handful of the fondant to make it more pliable before rolling, rather than using straight from the package.
- Dust your rolling pin too, and roll fondant to about ¼” thick. Some fondant rolling pins have guides you can use. You don’t want it too thick as it will take ages to dry, and you don’t want it too thin as it will become more tricky to work with.
- Cutting the Ears: Pour a little pile of powdered sugar onto your surface and dip the cookie cutter into it before cutting the ears – again, this is to prevent sticking.
- Using a Silicone Mold: Dust with powdered sugar before pressing some fondant into the cavity and leveling off, before gently popping out and leaving to dry.
- If there is excess powdered sugar on the pieces, you can gently brush away with a pastry brush, or an unused, clean paintbrush.
- Alternatively, you can use a vodka spray. Pour some vodka into a mini spray bottle and gently mist the fondant wings. Vodka dries quicker than water which is why it is usually used when handling fondant.
- Always make extra pieces – that way if some break or you have another mishap, you have got backups that you can use.
- Leave the cut fondant pieces to harden in a cool, dry place – do not place in the fridge.
- The fondant pieces should be solid enough to handle and insert into the cupcakes after 3 – 6 hours. I personally like to leave fondant pieces to dry for around 24 hours. How long this takes, however, is based on the size and thickness of the fondant, and how humid your house is, so you will need to judge if they will hold up as they need to in the cupcakes.
- If you need to paint or draw onto fondant, make sure the pieces have had time to dry first so that the edible ink or paint doesn’t bleed. Unless that is the look you are going for or the recipe says otherwise.
- When making cakes or cupcakes that use fondant decorations I like to make them a few days ahead of time which allows for drying without stress. Fondant that isn’t dry enough can mean disappointing end results.
- After using fondant the surface will be super sticky (it always is in my experience!) so you will probably have to wipe away the sugar first, then give it a soapy hot wash over, and then another clean over! You can always buy a fondant rolling mat for easier cleanup.
- Always keep fondant covered when making decorations to prevent it from drying out. And when you’ve finished, wrap up any remaining fondant very well – I double wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in an airtight container. This keeps it fresh and you are able to use it for future cake making.
Cupcake Making Tips
- These cupcakes are made using a box of cake mix – the flavor is enriched by using butter, milk, and eggs, instead of the usual oil, water, and eggs.
- Use your choice of cupcake liners – themed to the cupcakes, plain white or black, or a complimentary color.
- Use an ice cream scoop to equally divide the cupcake mixture between the cupcake liners. Fill them about three-quarters full.
- The cupcakes should be ready in about 20 minutes – test their doneness by inserting a toothpick into the cakes. It should come out clean when the cupcakes are cooked all the way through. Bake for an extra 2 minutes and check again.
- Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
Cupcake Frosting Tips
- When making the frosting you want the end result to be creamy, smooth, and to hold a stiff peak. You may have to adjust the amount of powdered sugar and cream slightly to achieve the consistency you need.
- The frosting is then divided and colored using food coloring. Remember that you can always add more color, but not take it away. Add a little to start with and add more to get the shade required.
- FOOD COLORING! Food coloring is available in various forms. You’re most likely to find liquid coloring in your grocery store, and other types of coloring like gels, pastes, and powders in more specialised cake decorating shops. The cheapest option is liquids, but they can alter the consistency of your frosting and cake batter, so I prefer to use pastes or gels which don’t. A little goes a long way with food coloring gels and you can usually get a much deeper shade than you would with liquids.
- There are two ways you can do multi-color frosting:
- Scoop half the side of the piping bag with white frosting and the other half with orange, then squeeze some frosting out until the two colors combine.
- Or, use the multi-piping bag method by putting a piping bag of each color into another piping bag fitted with the tip and frosting as usual. Wilton has a great demonstration video on YouTube that I highly recommend. It shows how to do two colors, but you can adapt to for more.
- If you feel like you are going to be making a lot of cakes and cupcakes in your future, I think it is worth investing in a set of piping tips so that you know you always have the right ones on hand for a recipe.
- Do not overfill the piping bag with frosting, and make sure you squeeze the frosting down the bag to expel any air bubbles.
- If you are not confident with your piping skills you can practice on some parchment paper first and scoop the frosting back into the bag to use on the cupcakes. Just make sure you practice with ONE color and not the two mixed together!
More Disney Cupcake Recipes
Looking for more Disney-inspired cupcakes to make? Check these recipes out next:
- Make These Disney Jungle Cruise Cupcakes For Your Next Adventure!
- How To Make Awesome Disney Ears Loki Cupcakes For Marvel Fans!
- Disney’s Fantasia-Inspired Sorcerer Mickey Ears Cupcakes!
How Do I Make Day of the Dead Cupcakes?
Just check out the recipe card below with full ingredients, and instructions. You can print the card out too (don’t worry, the pics don’t print to save your ink!).
For the Fondant Ears & Bow
- Cornstarch (cornflour), for dusting
- 1 (4.4oz) package of White Fondant
- 1 (4.4oz) package of Pink Fondant
- Edible Food Markers (including black)
For the Cupcakes
- 1 box French Vanilla Cake Mix
- ½ cup of softened unsalted butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 large eggs
- Sky blue, red, neon green, and pink food coloring gel
For the Frosting
- 3 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 6 cups powdered sugar (icing sugar)
- 5-7 Tbsp heavy whipping cream (double cream)
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Sky blue, red, neon green, and pink gel food coloring
- Use cornstarch as you would flour when making dough. Dust your work surface, hands, rolling pin, and cutters. Line a cookie sheet or tray with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat.
- Knead the white fondant in your hands to make it soft and pliable and roll to ¼"/0.5cm thick.
- Using a 2"/5cm round cookie cutter, cut out 48 white circles
- Place the white circles onto the prepared cookie sheet.
- Leave the circle Disney ears to dry overnight.
- To make the bows, use a silicone bow mold and dust the mold with cornstarch each time you make a fondant bow. The bows should be about 2"/5cm wide.
- Pinch off a small piece of pink fondant and press into the bow mold cavity. Carefully remove from mold and set on the cookie sheet to dry overnight or for 24 hours if possible. Repeat to make 24 bows total.
TIP! Always make extra fondant decorations as backup!
- To decorate the ears after they have dried, use the black edible marker to draw the outline of a skull in the center of each white fondant circle. Color the outside of the skull in black. Still using the black edible marker, draw small circles inside the skull to create the eyes, draw an upside-down heart to create the nose, and a line with stitches for the mouth. Then use any colorful markers you like to draw floral designs around the eyes and skull, Use the photos as a guide. Set all the ears aside to dry.
- To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Line cupcake pans with 24 cupcake liners and set aside.
- Using an electric handheld or stand mixer, place the cake mix, butter, milk, and eggs into a large bowl and mix until combined and smooth.
- Divide the batter between four bowls and color one each sky blue, red, neon green, and pink. Remember you can always add more coloring, but not take it away! Stir in the food coloring until well combined.
- Using a spoonful of each colored cupcake batter at a time, place into each cupcake to create a marbled effect, until the cupcake liners are about 3/4 full.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.
- To make the frosting, use an electric stand or handheld mixer and add the butter, powdered sugar, cream, and vanilla to the bowl.
- Beat on medium speed until creamy and smooth and stiff peaks form.
- Scoop ¼ cup of frosting into four bowls and add color one each sky blue, red, neon green, and pink. Remember you can always add more coloring, but not take it away! Stir in the food coloring until well combined.
- Using a butterknife or pallet knife, add a stripe of each color down into a large piping bag fitted with a star tip.
- Then add the remaining white frosting into the piping bag. Pipe a swirl or two of frosting onto a plate to ensure that the blend of colors comes through, then pipe a swirl on top of each cooled cupcake.
- Place a pink fondant bow into the center of the frosting, and place a sugar skull ear on either side of the bow.
Special Equipment Needed:
- Wilton Fondant Bow Mold
- Fondant Rolling Pin
- 1 (2"/5cm) Round Fondant/Cookie Cutter
- Large Piping Bag
- 1 Open Star (#1M) Piping Tip
- 1 Medium Ice Cream Scoop
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
- Edible Markers for Cookies and Fondant
- Wilton 402-2110 1M Open Star Piping Tip
- Disposable Piping Bags -100 Pack
- Wilton White Vanilla Decorator Preferred Fondant 4.4 oz
- Round Cutter Set, 12 Graduated Circle Cookie & Pastry Cutters,
- Fondant Bow Silicone Mold
- Wilton® Fondant and Gum Paste Mold, Bows & Buttons
- Fondant Rolling Pin
Nutrition Information:Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 427Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 90mgSodium: 188mgCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 0gSugar: 33gProtein: 3g
This site uses Nutritionix to provide estimated nutrition. Nutritional information is always approximate and will depend on the quality of ingredients used and serving sizes. If you need exact calories and macros, please do your own calculations.
Make It A Meal!
You’ve made the dessert, but what about the rest of the courses?
Here are additional recipes to make a full meal for a dinner party or special occasion:
- Appetizer: Gluten-Free Baked Coconut Shrimp with Avocado-Lime Dip
- Soup: Gluten-Free Gazpacho Recipe with Chickpea “Croutons”
- Salad: Roasted Artichoke Mozzarella Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Main Dish: Italian Pasta Puttanesca Recipe (with Anchovies, Olives and Capers)
- Beverage: Apple Cider Margarita
There are 500+ Recipes on The Purple Pumpkin Blog for you to enjoy – please feel free to check them out too!