Are these the cutest cupcakes you’ve ever seen or what?! I am so in love, in more ways than one.
I got the idea from Angie at Bakerella. Last April, she posted these adorable mini panda cupcakes, and I’ve been completely obsessed with them ever since. I’ve been dying to make them and finally seized the chance today. What’s the occasion, you ask? Well, this Thursday (October 25) marks exactly three years since Sam asked me to be his girlfriend! We’ve come a long way since then, and what better way to celebrate my Panda than with these cute panda cupcakes?
If you want to make them yourself, they’re really easy and fun. You can use any chocolate cake base and any white frosting. I chose to use my favorite chocolate cake recipe (Revell’s Food Cake) and my favorite cream cheese frosting (I used it when I made my Checkerboard Cake). I’ve copied the recipes here for easy reference, but if making cake and frosting from scratch scares you, a box mix and a tub of store-bought frosting will work just fine. You’ll be missing out on this delicious combination, though!
Revell’s Food Cake
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup strong black coffee
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Heat oven to 350°F. Set mini cupcake liners into a mini cupcake pan and spray the cups with non-stick cooking spray (preferably butter flavored).
- Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl (the bowl of your mixer works best). Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee (hot), oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (batter will be thin and slightly bubbly from the hot coffee). Fill the cups 2/3 of the way full.
- Bake 12-15 minutes. Test with a toothpick or fork poked into the center. If it comes out clean, they’re done!
- Let cool for 30 minutes. Use wire cooling racks if you have them.
NOTE: You’ll probably want to halve this recipe. It makes 96 mini cupcakes!
Cream Cheese Frosting
3-8 oz. packages of cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups of powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- Whip together the cream cheese, vanilla, and butter in a mixer until smooth.
- Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time until light and fluffy.
Pour your frosting into a pastry bag (or, if you’re cheap like me, use a gallon-sized Ziploc bag). Snip off a tiny bit of the corner with scissors and frost each cupcake with a swirl of frosting.
Then, one by one, begin decorating. First, use a spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth the frosting into a flat surface. Then, use chocolate chips pushed into the frosting upside down to create the ears and eyes. Insert a chocolate chip sideways to make the nose. I used Ghiradelli chocolate chips because the original recipe mentioned that they are bigger than normal chocolate chips. I didn’t notice much of a difference in size, but the taste of these chocolate chips is above and beyond any other chips I’ve used. I think I’ve ruined myself for the bargain off-brand chocolate chips, which is unfortunate because Ghiradelli chips are much more expensive.
I used chocolate sprinkles to make the mouth. I put a tiny dot of frosting on the eyes, and used a sprinkle dot pressed in the middle of the dot to complete the eyes. Here’s the first panda I decorated. He’s pretty cute, but for the rest I tucked the ears partway under the frosting to make them look more like ears.
Yay! A plate of pandas! I have to warn you, these are very time consuming. They would probably be easier if you were making them with friends and made some sort of assembly line. They are worth the work, though. I had so much fun making different facial expressions for them, and they’re just so darn cute I could hardly keep my eyes away.
Like I said, these take awhile. I wanted to have them done before Sam got home from work so I could surprise him, so I did the next plate with just sprinkle decorations. I think they turned out cute, too, and look like something you might find in a bakery.
They look cute together and would probably work well mixed together in a display. I think this idea could also work for other animals. Think regular bears with chocolate frosting, lions with orange frosting and butterscotch chips, tigers… So many possibilities! You could make your own cupcake zoo.
When Sam got home, he loved the cupcakes! They made him smile, even though he had a really hard day at school. The only bad thing about these cupcakes is that they’re so cute, I had trouble eating them! They are delicious, though, and after Sam enjoyed his first one I dug right in. I’m sure these plates will be empty before Thursday!