Special equipment: Small paintbrush
For the antennae: Unroll the licorice and cut into twelve 1 1/4-inch-long pieces. Separate the two strands from each other, leaving them attached at one end. Roll 2 small (1/4-inch) balls of yellow fondant for each pair of antennae and attach to the separated ends of the licorice. Enclose the remaining fondant in plastic wrap so it does not dry out. Repeat with the remaining pairs of antennae. Set aside to dry.
For the legs: Cut more licorice into 2 1/2-inch segments. Separate the strands from each other to make 72 legs. Roll 72 small (1/4-inch) balls of yellow fondant to make a foot for each leg. Attach a foot to the end of each leg. Set all the legs aside to dry.
For the bodies: Shape about 2 teaspoons of red fondant into a ladybug body the size of a small walnut. Make a line in the back of the body with a small knife. Roll a small ball of black fondant about 3/4 inch in diameter for the head. Attach a pair of antennae by sticking the licorice into the head. Using a small brush with a little water, moisten the front of the head and attach 2 yellow sprinkles for eyes.
Roll enough 1/4-inch balls of black fondant for spots and flatten them slightly. Moisten the backs of the ladybugs and attach the black spots. Attach 3 legs to each side of the body by pressing them in. (Use a skewer to make holes to help guide, if needed.)
To assemble: Attach each head to a body by brushing the surface of the body with a little water and gently pressing the head on to adhere. Add pupils to the eyes by dipping a skewer into the melted chocolate and making small dots on the yellow sprinkles.
Frost each cupcake with about 2 tablespoons buttercream. Place the ladybug in the middle and press gently into the frosting. Repeat with the remaining elements.
Recipe courtesy of Food Network Kitchen