I am a bit of a snob when it comes to baking. I hate using boxed mixes and canned frosting. I just prefer the taste of homemade versus pre-packaged. I'm also able to alter ingredients as needed that way. I think they taste better too. I think that there's a part of me that feels like they're appreciated more when they are made "from scratch." For these cupcakes, I made homemade vanilla cupcakes and vanilla buttercream for the Cookie Monster and Elmo cupcakes. I did a sugar-free version when I made Big Bird, since the little guy's Grandfather is diabetic. I used food coloring for all of the characters' colors.
I started with Cookie Monster, as he was the favorite character of the little guy I made these cupcakes for. I wanted to be sure I had some Cookie cupcakes. He was pretty basic, and I did pretty much what everyone else did for decorating. I cut out sugar sheets for the mouth and eyes, and used a food marker to draw on the pupil of the eyes. I bought a package of mini cookies and put them in various states of being, on Cookie's mouth.
Elmo was done in a similar way. I made his eyes and mouth from sugar sheets and used the food marker for the pupil of the eye. Instead of using a jelly bean for his nose, as I saw on many of the cupcakes, I used orange Reese's Pieces (easier to get more orange pieces that way!).
Big Bird was done a little differently. Although the cake and frosting were sugar-free, the decorations were not. I informed the Grandpa of this so that he could avoid eating them. I explained that they were used to help create Big Bird, which he understood. Big Bird's eyes were also made from sugar sheets, and colored with food markers. His beak was done a bit differently than others I'd see. Some used fondant. Some used frosting. Some used jelly beans. I used Starbursts. I cut the candies and pieced them together with some of the frosting I made for the big, yellow guy.
Easy. As long as you take your time, crafting these guys is a pretty simple process. I saw some not-so-pretty versions but I think that's because people (most likely) rushed when decorating. As with all things, you can generally tell when someone has rushed through something. I think that my version turned out to be pretty cute!