These Basketball Cupcakes are perfect for all basketball fans! The cupcakes are a deep and rich chocolate cupcake topped with a nice dome of Swiss meringue buttercream, orange sprinkles for that textured basketball look, and then black licorice laces placed in the perfect basketball design. Serve these for a sports themed birthday party, for March Madness watch parties or any other game day event — they are a delicious slam dunk!
This recipe includes a homemade chocolate cupcake, but you can use the basketball cupcake decoration on top of whatever cupcake flavor you’d like. Use my Oreo Cupcakes, Cookie Dough Cupcakes, Black Velvet Cupcakes or even Red Velvet Cupcakes!
Why This Recipe Works
- Best basketball cupcakes. These cupcakes look just like basketballs! The orange sprinkles gives the textured orange look and the black licorice laces are perfect! They are perfect March Madness cupcakes to enjoy after filling our your bracket.
- Fun game day basketball dessert. These basketball cupcakes are perfect to serve for an end-of-season party for your kids’ basketball team, to serve at game day parties to celebrate your favorite team during basketball season, or you can serve these at birthday parties and they are always a huge hit!
- Best chocolate cupcake recipe. You are going to love the chocolate cupcake base for this basketball cupcake recipe. The chocolate flavor is rich and the cupcakes are super moist and delicious!
- Flour: Use regular, all-purpose flour.
- Dutch Process Cocoa Powder: This has a richer and deeper flavor than unsweetened cocoa powder, as well as a deeper color.
- Buttermilk: Use room temperature buttermilk for best results.
- Hot Water: The hot water helps to bloom the cocoa powder, giving a richer and deeper chocolate flavor.
- Vegetable Oil: The vegetable oil will give us a nice and moist chocolate cupcake.
- Orange Sprinkles: The orange sprinkles will give us that cool textured look like you get on real basketballs! (Use orange nonpareil sprinkles for that same look).
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream: You can use whatever frosting you’d like. I love this Swiss meringue buttercream frosting recipe though!
- Black Licorice Laces: This will give us the black lines on the basketball themed cupcakes. If you can’t find black, then buy red and follow my instructions on how to dye them black in my Recipe Tips section.
- Make the cupcake batter. To a large bowl add 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup dutch process cocoa powder, 1 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Whisk to combine. To a large liquid measuring cup, add 1 large egg, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup hot water, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Whisk to combine. Combine the wet ingredients with the flour mixture. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the flour mixture. Mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Pour into cupcake liners. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners and fill each with the chocolate cupcake batter only 1/2 full.
- Bake. Bake the cupcakes at 350ºF for 13-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center cupcake comes out with a few moist crumbs but no wet batter. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Make the Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. This recipe will use 1/2 batch of my Swiss meringue buttercream recipe.
- Frost tops of cupcakes. Pipe the frosting onto each cupcake. Using a knife or offset spatula, frost each of the cooled cupcakes into a nice round shape on top of each cupcake. Complete until all the cupcakes are frosted.
- Top with the orange sprinkles. Place the orange sprinkles into a small bowl. Take a cupcake and tip the top into the sprinkles, rolling it in a circular motion so the entire dome of frosting is covered fully in sprinkles. Continue until all the cupcakes are covered in orange sprinkles.
- Using licorice, create the basketball design. Using black licorice laces (see my Recipe Tips section on how to dye red licorice laces black), cut 2-inch strands. Place 3 strands parallel to each other, with the outer strands curving towards the edge. Place a fourth licorice strand over the top, perpendicular to the 3 laces, so it looks like the lines on a basketball. Gently press the licorice into the top of the cupcake so they stay on. Repeat with the rest of the cupcakes.
- Serve! Serve these fun basketball cupcakes for any game day parties, March Madness watch parties, or for a kid’s birthday party! Enjoy.
Place the orange sprinkles in a small bowl rather than on a plate.
Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes then use a knife or offset spatula to round off the frosting so that it’s smooth and has a slight dome look to it. Piping the frosting on ensured even amounts of frosting used on each dessert.
You’re welcome to use a different cupcake recipe if you’d like. You can use whatever flavor you’d like! Since these cupcakes are covered in orange sprinkles, no one will really see what flavor from the outside.
DIY Black Basketball Candy Laces
I couldn’t find any black licorice laces so I made my own. All I did was take regular red licorice laces and dye them black. If you can find black licorice laces, great, it will save you time from having to dye the red licorice black!
- Place 1/2 teaspoon of water and 1-2 drops of black GEL food coloring (yes it needs to be the gel type) in a plastic cup or bowl. Mix the gel into the water.
- Next, place your hand in a small ziplock bag or use a food safety glove. This is an important step because it prevents your hands from being completely covered in food coloring.
- Place 5-6 licorice laces in the cup (or bowl) and use your hand covered in a plastic bag to coat the laces in the food coloring.
- Place the colored laces on a large piece of wax paper and let dry before using on the cupcakes.
Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing
You can definitely dye the licorice black ahead of time.
I wouldn’t make the cupcake batter ahead of time. You don’t want the batter to sit for too long before baking it.
Store the cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. To freeze, flash freeze until firm, then transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 2 months. Remove and let thaw.
I actually use black licorice to pipe the basketball lines on the cupcakes! You can use black icing to draw stripes on if you’d prefer. Just pipe on 3 lines with the outer lines bending away from the center line, then a 4th line going across the 3 lines in the center of the cupcake. Use the pictures in my recipe above to help you out!
I used orange sprinkles and black licorice laces. You frost the tops of the cupcakes in to a domed shape, dip the cupcake tops in orange sprinkles, then place the black licorice laces onto the cupcake in a basketball design. Gently press the licorice into the tops so they stay in place.
Yep. The cupcake recipe in this basketball cupcakes recipe is a chocolate cupcake made with dutch process cocoa powder — they are ultra yummy cupcakes!!!
More Cupcake Recipes
- 1/2 batch Swiss meringue buttercream recipe
- orange sprinkles
- black licorice laces - see notes for instructions on dying red licorice laces black.
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg - at room temperature
- 1/2 cup buttermilk - at room temperature
- 1/2 cup hot water - or hot coffee
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pan with liners and set aside. In bowl of an electric mixer whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large liquid measuring cup whisk the egg, buttermilk, hot water (or coffee), oil and vanilla.
- Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and mix for another 30 seconds.
- Scoop (pour) the batter into the cupcake liners, the batter is very very thin, filling only halfway full, or up to 2/3 full but no more!
- Bake for 13-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs.
- Remove from the oven and allow cupcakes to cool in pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
- Pipe an even amount of frosting onto each cupcake. Using a knife or offset spatula, spread the frosting into a nice roundish dome. .
- Place the orange sprinkles in a small bowl.
- Dip the frosting covered cupcakes in the sprinkles, rolling the top of the cupcake around to get full sprinkle coverage.
- Cut 3 inch strands of black licorice laces. Place 3 parallel to one another, with the outer two laces curved towards the edge. Place a fourth and final lace over the top of the cupcakes, lengthwise or perpendicular to the 3 laces. Gently press the laces into the frosting and sprinkles to adhere.
- Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days.