I wanted to kick off October with a Halloween themed post and thought these Nightmare Before Christmas cupcake toppers would be great! I made these cupcakes for my boyfriend’s sister-in-law who is a HUGE fan of Halloween and Nightmare Before Christmas. They were so much fun to make and it was even more fun giving them to her! Below is a tutorial of how to create the following 3 designs: Jack Skellington, Zero, and Jack standing on the cliff. Happy cupcake decorating! :)
YOU WILL NEED…
– Cupcakes, cooled and ready to be decorated
– Frosting of your choice
– Fondant in white, black, yellow, and orange
– Food coloring in black to “paint” with
– Corn starch or vegetable shortening (or both) to flour your surface and to keep the fondant from sticking to your fingers and hands
TOOLS YOU WILL NEED…
– 2 1/4″ or 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter (these fit the top of a regular sized cupcake- the 2 1/4″ one leaves a tiny border– which is what I used in this tutorial–while the 2 1/2″ circle usually covers the entire top of the cupcake)
– Small rolling pin
– A smooth cutting board and / or silicone non-stick mat to work on (I put the mat on top of the board)
– A cookie sheet lined with parchment or a second silicone mat to place the finished pieces as you work
– Toothpicks (to get the food coloring out and to paint)
– Brushes with a small, fine tip (you can pick up an assorted pack for cheap at Michael’s or Joanns. If the tips need to be finer you can cut them with scissors to thin out the bristles or make it the shape you’d like.)
– a knife with a small sharp point or an exacto knife
If you need to color any of your fondant, do it first, starting with the lightest color to the darkest. When you are done, wash your hands well and clean your surface so you don’t get any accidental smudges on your final pieces.
Start off by making the circle base/background for each of your decorations. I was making 9 cupcakes, 3 of each design so I needed:
– 3 white circles for Jack’s head
– 3 yellow circles for the cliff background
– 3 black circles for Zero’s background
Start with the lightest color first then finishing with the dark to keep any black from getting onto the white fondant.
Lightly dust your surface with the corn starch or get your hands a little greasy from the vegetable shortening. Then roll out the fondant about 1/8″ thick. Using your cookie cutter, press down firmly on the cutter then twist from side to side to make sure the cutter makes a clean cut. Remove the excess fondant and store it in some plastic wrap for later use. Carefully transfer your circles (use a knife or spatula to help you lift it up) onto a parchment lined cookie sheet or another mat. Now that your background is ready, you can start working on the fun details!
Once you are done with the decorations, let them dry for a few hours or overnight so that it can harden and the paint can dry. It’ll be easier to place them on the cupcakes this way.
When you are ready to place the decorations on your cupcakes, frost your cupcakes and gently place each topper on top with a light push to make sure it sticks to the frosting.
There are 3 parts to Jack Skellington: his eyes, nostrils, and mouth.
Start by shaping the eyes. I looked at pictures of him online and tried to imitate the shape. They are sort of rectangles that are rounded and uneven. This version of Jack is of a 3/4 view of his face, which is why the second eye is smaller.
There are two ways to get the shape of the eyes. I used both methods.
One way is to use your fingers to shape the fondant. This works well if you are good at mimicking shapes.
The second way is to use your fingers and a knife. First create a flat rough rectangular shape with your fingers. Then using your knife, cut off pieces at the edges to achieve the uneven shape. Once you are happy with that, use your fingers to smooth out the edges by pressing down on any corners so that it blends in better.
When you are finished with the eyes, attach them to the white fondant base, Jack’s head, with a tiny bit of water brushed on the backs. Press very lightly to adhere the eyes to the base.
Next, paint in Jack’s nostrils with a fine tipped brush that has been slightly dampened with water and dipped in black food coloring.
The nostrils are too short lines with the top tips leaning in towards each other.
For Jack’s mouth, start by painting in his smile. Begin about half way down his big eye, following the edge of the circle about 1/4″ in, and continue the line until it reaches the bottom edge of the smaller eye. (Don’t worry if the line is not perfect.) Then go back and add in the stitches which point in random directions and include a criss-cross “X” somewhere between the big eye and the nostrils.
ZERO THE GHOST DOG
There are 4 parts to Zero: his face/body, ears, collar, and pumpkin nose.
We will begin with Zero’s face/body.
Start by making a white circle with the fondant, the same size as the background. (I wouldn’t recommend making it ahead of time when you are making the backgrounds because the fondant will start to crust and it won’t make a smooth cut when you try to cut out Zero’s silhouette.
Using the knife, cut out the outline of Zero’s head, neck, and shoulders (don’t worry about cutting the mouth yet). I like to start from the right side to the left. I usually freehand this but if you feel more comfortable with a stencil, you can make one by drawing / tracing the shape onto paper then using that as a template to cut around.
Once you are happy with the body, you can go back and cut a slit for the mouth. Attach Zero’s silhouette to the black background with some water, making sure the mouth is open.
Next is Zero’s ears. We are going to make a white fondant piece like the shape in the image. You can start by making a long triangle and then flattening the piece. Turn the piece on it’s side, counter clockwise, and use your fingers to do any additional flattening / shaping. It’s ok if the piece is too long. Attach the ear onto the body with some water and trim off any access part by following the edge of the round background with a knife or going over the entire piece with the round cookie cutter you used for the background.
Cut out an orange strip for Zero’s collar. Attach the collar onto the body with some water.
Next is Zero’s cute jack-o-lantern nose! Make a small circle with the orange fondant and flatten it. Because the nose is so tiny, I found that dipping a toothpick in black food coloring was the best way to paint in the jack-o-lantern. You can also use a very thin brush.
Finally add the eyes and neck detail. Again, you can use the toothpick with food coloring or use a brush.
For the eyes you can sometimes get a perfect dot with the tip of the toothpick or using the tip of the end of the brush. If the initial dot is too small, make it larger by going over the dot with a small circular motion and slowly extending outwards to increase the size (it’s ok if you press down and indent the fondant slightly).
For the crease lines at the neck, I used a brush with a very fine tip and drew the lines freehand. Test the brush first (on a napkin or scrap piece of fondant) with water and food coloring until the food coloring is the right consistency.
JACK ON THE CLIFF
There are 2 parts to Jack standing on the cliff: a painted Jack and–you guessed it–the cliff!
Start with the cliff. Roll a piece of black fondant into a long cone shape with the base being bigger and tapering off into a pointy end. Then curl the tip in and flatten the entire piece. With the same cookie cutter you used to cut the backgrounds, trim the cliff edge so that the bottom of the cliff is round and matched perfectly with the background. Add the cliffs to the yellow circles with some water.
Then paint Jack in. I used the movie poster as a guide. Using a toothpick or brush, paint this little guy in. If it seems intimidating to you, just break it down and think of it as a circle / dot and lines.
That’s all three fondant Nightmare Before Christmas cupcake toppers! I hope the tutorial was helpful and feel free to send me an email or comment if you have any questions. If you make your own cupcake toppers, send me a photo–I’d love to see your creations!