Cap off your Justice League night out this weekend with a heroic array of 24 decorated cookie-topped cupcakes inspired by the movie. Read on for step-by-step instructions on how to make buttercream frosted chocolate cupcakes topped with royal icing decorated chocolate cookies in your favorite superhero logo shapes.
1. Gather supplies, roll out chocolate cookie dough, make stencils.
Craft store supplies needed:
- 24 cupcake liners (preferably silver or gold)
- 24 lollipop sticks
- #1 and #2 piping tips and couplers for piping royal icing (quantity depends on the number of designs you would like to make)
- Round piping tip to frost cupcakes
- Piping bags (clear plastic disposable ones are great so icing colors are easily visible)
- Food coloring (red, blue, yellow, brown and black)
- Small squeeze bottles (optional, for flooding cookies)
- 2” square cookie cutter (or ruler and paring knife to cut 2” cookie squares)
- 1 ½” circle cutter
- X-Acto knife
- Parchment paper
- The basics: whisk, bowls, measuring spoons, rubber spatula, liquid and dry ingredient measuring cups, plastic wrap
- Standing or hand mixer
- Small saucepan
- 2 oz. portion scoop (optional, for scooping out cupcake batter)
- Rolling pin (with optional measuring rings, available at craft stores)
- 2-4 baking sheets
- Cooling racks
- Cupcake/muffin tin(s) for 24 cupcakes
- Plastic cups for mixing icings (up to 18 if all the colors are made; inexpensive clear plastic cups are great)
- Spoons or a small stainless steel frosting spatula for mixing icings
- Toothpicks or a bamboo skewer (for eliminating air holes in the royal icing and testing cupcakes for doneness)
- Light cardboard to make stencils (cereal boxes work well)
- Cutting board
Super Chocolate Roll-out Cookies
Yield: 2 sheets of dough
- 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted, room temperature butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
- ¼ t baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
Cut or tear 4 baking sheet pan sized pieces of parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt, breaking up any cocoa lumps. (You may choose to sift the mix if the cocoa is particularly lumpy.) Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, or using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until thoroughly combined and a bit fluffy. Add the egg and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Next, add the milk and vanilla and beat until the liquid has been worked into the mix.
Finally, add the flour mixture to the wet mixture in batches, just until the dough comes together. It should appear dark, not dry. Be sure not to overmix or the dough will be tough.
Clear a surface to roll out the dough. Place a piece of parchment on the surface and scoop out half the dough. Cover it with another piece of parchment and roll the dough to about a ¼” thickness, turning the parchment as needed to ensure an even roll. Place on a baking sheet and put in the freezer to rest. Repeat with the remaining half. Allow the dough to chill for at least an hour.
While the dough chills, make the stencils for the superhero logo cookies.
Use this image to create your stencils. Cut out the logos for Aquaman, Flash, Superman (just the shield) and Wonder Woman. (The 1 ½” circle cutter is used for the logos for Batman and Cyborg.) Do not cut out the bat or the “S”; later, you will be tracing these in royal icing onto parchment paper. Trace around the cut paper stencils onto a piece of thin but sturdy cardboard, such as a cereal box. (Draw on the blank inside, so the outlines are more visible.) Cut out and set aside.
2. Cut and bake cookies, prepare icings, decorate.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place two baking sheet pans nearby. Remove one sheet of dough from your freezer. Peel both layers of parchment from the dough sheet, keeping one underneath the dough and placing the other on the sheet pan. Using your 2-inch square cutter, cut out 24 squares. These are the backgrounds for your logos. (Here, we are making four each of our six heroes’ logos, or 24 total cookies.)
Place 12 squares on each pan, allowing room for the lollipop sticks. Each stick should be about 2 inches long. (You can break 4 ½ inch sticks in half.) Press the stick down firmly on top of each cookie, about halfway up, so that half is on the cookie and half is protruding from the bottom. Bake the squares for 8-10 minutes, turning the baking sheet midway to ensure an even bake. The cookies should have a little give when touched and crisp up as they cool. If the sticks are popping up a bit on the cookie, gently press them down while the cookies are still warm. Place on racks to cool.
Gather any small dough scraps and roll between sheets of parchment. Allow to rest in the freezer for use a second time if needed.
For your logo cookies, gather your stencils, cutting board, X-acto knife and a small bowl of all-purpose flour. Remove a dough sheet from the freezer and peel both pieces of parchment from the dough. This time, however, place the dough directly onto the cutting board, place one piece of parchment on a baking sheet and set aside the extra parchment. Cut out eight circles with the 1 ½ inch circle cutter first (four for Batman, four for Cyborg) and place on the baking sheet.
Next, sprinkle a small amount of flour onto the dough to prevent the stencils from sticking. Using the X-acto, cut out four cookies per stencil (Aquaman, Flash, Superman’s shield and Wonder Woman) and place on the baking sheet. Work quickly, as the dough will warm and make cutting more difficult. If your dough becomes too soft, return it to the freezer to let it set up again. Do not place lollipop sticks in these cookies.
Bake as before, for about eight minutes, rotating the pan midway through the bake. The cookies should have a little give when they come out of the oven and crisp up as they cool. Place pans on racks to cool.
While the cookies cool, prepare your royal icing.
Make your stiff royal icing first. Stiff icing is used to outline your designs and should be smooth, glossy and pipable, but not dry. The following batch will yield all the stiff icing you need to do all six superhero logos, plus a bit more to adjust and make into flood.
Royal Icing (stiff)
- 2 pounds confectioner’s sugar
- ¾ cup pasteurized egg whites
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
Pour confectioner’s sugar and cream of tartar into the bowl of a standing mixer, or into a large bowl if using a hand mixer. While mixing, add the egg whites little by little, until thoroughly combined. Beat on medium speed until the icing is thick, pipable and glossy. Test for a good consistency by scooping out a portion with a spoon or spatula and turning it upside down. It should not drip or fall off the spatula. Portion out the stiff icing into the number of cups you’ll need, depending on the designs you intend to do, filling each cup about one-third full.
Next, make your flood icing. Flood fills in the design on the cookie. It should be a looser consistency than the stiff icing. With the mixer on, add either egg whites or water by the tablespoon to thin the stiff icing. Continue adding and mixing until the icing is a loose but not runny consistency. Test by dragging a spatula or butter knife through the mix; count to seven. If by the time you count to seven, the icing has returned to its smooth surface, with no sign of the spatula’s trail, it is a good flood consistency. If not, add more liquid little by little and continue to test.
Once you are happy with it, portion out the flood icing into the number of cups you’ll need, depending on the designs you intend to do, filling each cup about halfway.
For a smaller, additional batch of flood you may need if making all the colors for all the logos, use the following proportions:
- 1 pound confectioner’s sugar
- 9 tablespoons pasteurized egg whites
- ½ t cream of tartar
Mix and test for consistency as indicated above.
Tips for working with royal icing:
When royal icing comes into contact with grease or fat, it inhibits the icing from thoroughly setting and becoming hard. Clean your mixing bowl and beater well before making your royal, and make sure your mixing spoons, piping bags, tips and couplers are free from any grease. Consider giving them a wipe-down with a vinegar-soaked paper towel before beginning to decorate.
When coloring your icings, use very sparing amounts of food color at first, as the food color is very strong. If you go too far, start with a fresh cup of white icing and use the too dark color as a base and go from there. Also, color your frostings in batches of the same color (and consistency) family. For example, make your medium red from a dark red batch. (Don’t mix your flood and stiff icings, however, as it will change the specific consistencies you worked to get when making them.) Note, when colored royal icing dries, it dries darker, so perhaps go a shade lighter than you think you’d like.
Keep your icings covered at all times, as they dry out quickly. Cover the cups with damp paper towels or pieces of plastic wrap. If you have icing left in the mixing bowl, keep that covered as well, ideally with plastic wrap pressed to the surface of the icing to prevent a crust from forming.
If, when filling your cookies with flood icing, you notice any air bubbles, use a toothpick or bamboo stick to pop them while the icing is still wet.
Allow some drying time between applying a bold color next to a lighter one.
Once you’ve decorated your cookies, allow them to dry in a cool, dry area of your kitchen. If it’s too hot, the fat from the cookies can permeate the icing, sometimes making grease spots. Likewise, humidity can also cause colors to bleed into each other.
How to Decorate the Cookies
Outlining the cookies:
Prepare a piping bag with a coupler, size 2 piping tip and ring. Fill with stiff frosting. Place the piping tip on the cookie, just inside but not right on the edge, at a logical starting point, like the corner of one of the squares, or the top point of Aquaman’s logo, etc. Squeeze and allow some frosting to affix to the cookie. While squeezing, pick up the piping bag slightly so that a string of icing begins to form. Move your hand in the direction of the next corner and place down the icing string, touching the piping tip to the cookie. Squeeze and move the piping bag again, along the edge, in the direction of the next corner, then place the tip down again. Continue to “pick up” and “put down” the icing along the edges, until the entire cookie is outlined.
Once the cookies are outlined, fill with flood icing. Prepare a piping bag with a coupler, size 2 piping tip and ring and fill with flood icing, or you can use a small plastic squeeze bottle and piping tip. Working quickly, flood the cookie inside the outlined area with icing. Check for air bubbles. You can use a toothpick or bamboo skewer to pierce them.
To create the comic book dot background for the square cookies, first outline the squares. Then fill with the matching flood icing. Working quickly, using the darker prepared icing, make alternating rows of dots in the square. The top row should be four dots, the next row should be three, with each dot placed underneath the open space in the row above. The rows should alternate four, three, four, three, etc. The dots should sink in and lie flush with the base icing. Allow the square cookies with the dot pattern to dry overnight before affixing the superhero logo.
Please note, the method for Flash’s background is slightly different. See below.
How to Create the Logo Design for the Superheroes:
Icing Colors: medium green (stiff and flood); dark green (flood); gold (stiff and flood)
Mix blue and yellow to get the various shades of green you’ll need; add a touch of brown to yellow to make gold.
Background cookie: outline the square in medium green stiff icing; fill with medium green flood icing and quickly dot with dark green flood icing.
Logo cookie (stenciled A/crown): outline the Aquaman logo in gold stiff frosting; fill with gold flood. Once a crust has formed on the flood icing, add detail to the logo in gold stiff using the pictures as a guide.
Once the background and logo cookies have dried completely, dab a small amount of green stiff icing onto each logo and affix in the center of the square cookies. Allow to dry for about an hour before placing on a cupcake.
Icing Colors: light gray (stiff and flood); medium gray (flood); black (stiff and flood); gold (stiff and flood)
Mix black stiff first to derive your light gray stiff; mix black flood next to get both your medium and light gray shades of flood; add a touch of brown to yellow to make gold.
Background cookie: outline the square in light gray stiff icing; fill with light gray flood icing and quickly dot with medium gray flood icing. Allow to dry overnight.
Logo cookie (circle): outline the four circle cookies in black stiff frosting; fill with black flood. Allow to dry overnight.
Royal Icing Logo (bat): Place the bat logo under a small piece of baking parchment. With a #1 piping tip, trace the bat pattern in gold stiff icing. Trace all the logos you need, then fill with gold flood. Allow to set overnight.
Once the background cookies and logo elements have dried completely, dab a small amount of gray stiff icing onto each circle logo and affix in the center of the background cookies. Then, dot some gold stiff on the bat logo and place on the black circle logo. Allow to dry for about an hour before placing on a cupcake.
Icing Colors: medium red (stiff and flood); dark red (flood); white (stiff and flood); gray stiff. To get dark red, add a touch of black food coloring or already-mixed black icing to the red.
Background cookie: outline the square in medium red stiff icing; fill with medium red flood icing and quickly dot with dark red flood icing.
Logo cookie (circle): using the base, or large end, of a small piping tip, dip in white flood icing and lightly mark the circle cookies in the center. Quickly outline this inner circle in white stiff frosting; then outline the outer circle. Fill the area between the circles with white flood. Allow some time for the white icing to set and crust over, then fill the inner circle with medium red flood icing. Using gray stiff icing and a #2 tip, partially outline the outer circle to create a “C”.
Once the background and logo cookies have dried completely, dab a small amount of red stiff icing onto each circle logo and affix in the center of the background cookies. Allow to dry for about an hour before placing on a cupcake.
Icing Colors: white (stiff and flood); light gray flood; medium red flood; gold (stiff and flood)
Add a touch of brown to yellow to make gold.
Background cookie: Using the base of a large piping tip or your small circle cutter, dip in white flood icing and lightly mark a circle in the center of the square cookie. Quickly outline the circle in white stiff frosting, then outline the square; fill with area between the outer and inner outlines with white flood and dot with light gray flood icing. Allow this area to form a crust. Then fill the center circle with medium red flood.
Logo cookie (stenciled lightning bolt): outline the logo in gold stiff frosting; fill with gold flood. Once a crust has formed on the flood icing, outline the bolt in gold stiff to sharpen up the lines.
Once the background and logo cookies have dried completely, dab a small amount of red stiff icing onto each logo and affix in the center of the squares. Allow to dry for about an hour before placing on a cupcake.
Icing Colors: medium blue (stiff and flood); dark blue (flood); gold (stiff and flood); medium red (stiff and flood)
Background cookie: outline the square in medium blue stiff icing; fill with medium blue flood icing and quickly dot with dark blue flood icing.
Logo cookie (stenciled shield): outline the shield with gold stiff frosting; fill with gold flood. Once a crust has formed on the flood icing, outline the shield in red stiff frosting. Allow to dry overnight.
Royal Icing Logo (“S”): Place the “S” logo under a small piece of baking parchment. With a #1 piping tip trace the “S” pattern in red stiff icing. Trace all the logos you need, then fill with red flood. Allow to set overnight.
Once the logo elements have dried completely, dab a small amount of blue stiff icing onto each of the shield cookies and affix in the center of the square cookies. Then, dot some red stiff icing at points on the “S” logos where they will touch the red outline on the shield cookies. Allow to dry for about an hour before placing on a cupcake.
Icing Colors: medium red (stiff and flood); dark red (flood); gold (stiff and flood).
For dark red, add a touch of black coloring or already mixed black icing to the red icing. Add a touch of brown food coloring to yellow to make gold.
Background cookie: outline the square in medium red stiff icing; fill with medium red flood icing and quickly dot with dark red flood icing.
Logo cookie (stenciled “WW” logo): outline the logo in gold stiff frosting; fill with gold flood. Once a crust has formed on the flood icing, add detail to the logo in gold stiff, using the pictures as a guide.
Once the background and logo cookies have dried completely, dab a small amount of red stiff icing onto the back of each logo and affix in the center of each square cookie. Allow to dry for about an hour before placing on a cupcake.
3. Bake chocolate cupcakes, make buttercream frosting, finish!
Super Chocolate Cupcakes
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ½ t salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 cup water
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cupcake tins with 24 silver or gold cupcake liners.
Whisk together flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. In a small saucepan, warm the butter, cocoa and water, whisking together to incorporate the ingredients. Add the warm liquid to the flour mixture. Stir in the eggs, vanilla and milk and mix until incorporated.
The batter will be very loose; you may use a portion scoop to fill each of the muffin tin cups ½ – ⅔ full, or pour the batter into a liquid measuring cup and portion out that way.
Bake for 13-14 minutes, turning midway during the bake, or until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean.
While the cupcakes cool on the racks, make your buttercream.
Super Sugar Buttercream
This makes a looser, easy-to-pipe sweet buttercream, which is a nice complement to the dense chocolate cupcakes. You may adjust the consistency to your taste by adding more confectioner’s sugar, or reducing the amount of milk added.
- 2 sticks unsalted softened butter
- ½ cup light (or dark if you prefer) brown sugar
- 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ cup whole milk
- Pinch of salt, to taste
Using a mixer of your choice, cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the confectioner’s sugar gradually, on a low speed, until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla extract. Add the milk a little at a time until you are happy with the consistency.
Spoon into a piping bag fitted with your choice of piping tip. (A large round tip was used here.) You may also choose to spread on the frosting with a small spatula. Ice the cupcakes once they are cooled. Top with a decorated superhero cookie.