Bug Cupcakes

bug cupcake
30 cupcakes

Clever slicing and colored icing transform simple cupcakes into real delights. Gumdrop heads and licorice antennae may be the first thing picked off and popped into happy mouths. Finally, something from the insect world you don't have to grab out of children's curious hands. You can use either the Swiss Meringue Buttercream or Simple Sugar Icing to frost these cupcakes -- both work equally well.


One-Bowl Chocolate Cake

  • 1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups sugar

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda

  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk

  • ¾ cup vegetable oil

  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1 ½ cups sugar

  • 6 egg whites

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Simple Sugar Icing

  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted

  • ½ cup milk

  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • Food coloring

  • Gumdrops

  • Licorice strings


  1. One-Bowl Chocolate Cake:

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with cupcake liners.

  2. Into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, stir in eggs, 1 1/2 cups warm water, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla until smooth, about 3 minutes.

  3. Put scant 1/3 cup batter in each cupcake liner. Bake, rotating once, until tester inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

  4. Cool cupcakes in pans on rack 20 minutes. Cupcakes can be made in advance and stored up to 1 day in refrigerator. They can be stored 1 week in the freezer.

  5. Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

    Beat butter with electric mixer until fluffy and pale. Transfer to small bowl.

  6. In double boiler over simmering water, whisk sugar and egg whites until warm and sugar is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to clean bowl of electric mixer; beat on high with whisk attachment until fluffy and cooled, about 10 minutes.

  7. Reduce mixer to medium-low; add butter a scant 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.

  8. Switch to paddle attachment; beat on lowest speed 3 to 5 minutes. Leave at room temperature if using same day. Or store airtight in refrigerator up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature; beat until smooth.

  9. Simple Sugar Icing:

    Beat butter with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in confectioners' sugar, 1 cup at a time, until smooth. Add milk, vanilla, salt, and lemon juice; beat until smooth. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

  10. Divide frosting in to 5 small bowls, and tint each bowlful a different color with food coloring. Use serrated knife to evenly cut the domed tops off of each cooled cupcake. Cut each top in half.

  11. Use a small offset spatula to evenly spread 1 1/2 tablespoons colored frosting over each flat cupcake top. Then position halved cupcake tops on top of frosted cupcakes, pressing gently to adhere wings to soft frosting. To make bugs, attach tops with the domed side up and points meeting just inside the edge of cupcake and extending off the opposite side. To create butterflies, attach pieces, cut side up, with rounded edges in center of cupcake (domed shape will create angled wings). Refrigerate until frosting is firm and wings are secure, about 30 minutes.

  12. Prepare gumdrop and licorice heads: Snip licorice strings on a diagonal into 1 1/2-inch lengths. Use a toothpick to make 2 holes in the top of each gumdrop on opposite sides. Insert the pointed end of one licorice strip into each hole to create antennae. Using extra frosting as glue, attach gumdrop head to cupcake.

  13. Decorate wings as desired with assorted colored frostings: Place frosting in pastry bags filled with couplers and round tips, and pipe over surface of wings. Alternatively, gently spread frosting with a small offset spatula over the surface of the wings as desired. For lots of frosting, spread each wing with a base coat of frosting first and pipe out decorations in a different color. For just a touch of frosting, pipe simple decorations onto the bare black wings.

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