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Spider Cupcakes

I seem to have a fascination with spiders. I can't say I like them. In fact as a girl I was terrified of them. I would lie awake at night worrying that one would crawl up the side of my bed in the darkness, slip under my sheet and bite me while I slept.

As an adult I could no longer afford to be squeamish. It did me no good to stand on a chair and scream when I saw a spider as I found that was a reaction that came naturally to others in my household too. Now it was my turn to get a paper towel or broom and dispose of the offending creature.

Over time we have come to a sort of truce, spiders and me. Outdoor spiders I work around and leave alone to do their own thing. Indoor spiders still have to go but I toss them outside if I can, depending on a few factors like size, resemblance to poisonous spiders I have just seen pictures of on the Internet and whether or not anyone is standing on a chair and screaming.

These days I might even say I find spiders intriguing. I am amazed by their webs, so perfectly intricate and defined by glistening jewels of dew in the morning light. The garden spiders that spin them are often bold and beautiful while other smaller outdoor spiders are pale and delicate, almost fragile, crawling among the flowers. I have done several portraits of both kinds of spiders for Pixel Pearls. I enjoy capturing and working with the image of spiders I find in the garden.

These days I decorate with spiders for Halloween. I have one that hangs from the front door and drops when the door is opened only to climb back to the top of his web with eyes flashing. This year I even made spiders the theme of my Halloween cake. These cupcakes make a fun addition to a Halloween party and they aren't too complicated, especially if you enjoy working with chocolate.

Spider Cupcakes
These are made in three relatively easy steps: 
  1. bake the cupcakes 
  2. make the legs 
  3. frost and assemble the spiders
1. Cupcakes

Bake cupcakes using your favorite recipe. (I used muffins I had baked for another use. That was not the best idea since the muffins were dense and it was difficult to push the pretzel legs into them. I recommend a cake with a finer and moister consistency like Midnight Chocolate Cake or a boxed cake mix.)

When the cupcakes are ready make the legs.

2. Spider Legs
(enough for 3 cupcakes)

48 matchstick pretzels
24 chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips because they are a little wider and flatter than some other brands.)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Arrange the matchstick pretzels on a parchment lined baking sheet in groups with two pretzels forming a V and one chocolate chip balanced on top where they join.

Carefully place baking sheet in preheated 350 degree oven for 5 minutes or until chips begin to melt over the joint. Remove from oven and adjust chocolate that has not covered the joining of the pretzels with a butter knife (not your finger. Ouch!)

Melt the 1/2 cup of chocolate in the microwave or a double boiler and scrape it into a decorating bag with a writing tip attached, or into a ziplock bag with ¼ inch of the lower corner clipped off, or just drizzle the chocolate over the pretzels in a random design, being careful to get most of the chocolate on the pretzels.

Place the baking sheet with the spider legs on it in the refrigerator until ready to use.

3. Frosting

While the legs are setting make the frosting. I used my favorite Modified Mexican Hot Chocolate Frosting because I had some left over from another project. I rewhipped the leftover frosting and added more cocoa powder and a little powdered black food coloring to get a deep brown color.

I like this frosting but the cream cheese can make it tricky to work with so if you are new to cake decorating it might be easier to use a standard Buttercream Icing recipe like this one from Wilton. If you make white buttercream icing you can set some aside for fangs or to make into other decorator colors. If you want to make fangs like I did, using white candy melts or white chocolate (See the note at the bottom), then go ahead and make Chocolate Buttercream Icing to begin with. These Wilton recipes are optimal for cake decorating.

Once the frosting is ready fill a pastry bag fitted with a #233 ( used for grass or hair) decorating tip, or use a Ziploc freezer bag with the lower corner snipped off and fit with a coupler and the decorating tip. I recommend using a gallon sized Ziploc bag as it is easier to work with than the smaller one I used here.

Set a cupcake on a serving plate or foil covered cardboard circle that is at least 8 inches in diameter. Begin frosting the cupcake using the #233 decorating tip at the base and work your way up the side. When the sides are covered in frosting set the decorating bag aside.

Remove the chocolate pretzel spider legs from the refrigerator. Using a skewer make eight holes around the edge of the cupcake, angling in toward the center, just above the frosting line. Carefully lift eight of the spider legs from the parchment paper and insert them into the cupcake where it was pierced with the skewer. Position the legs so that the chocolate coating faces the front on both sides.

Now finish frosting the top of the cupcake with the decorating tip. The cupcake should look fuzzy. (Don't be too particular since fanged spiders are bound to have bad hair issues.)

Position two Mini M&Ms, Reese's Pieces, other candies, dots of colored frosting, or these great edible googly eyes on the spider's face for eyes.

Put a bit of reserved white frosting (if you have it) in a small Ziploc bag and snip off a small piece of a lower corner. Using the bag, pipe fangs into position on the spider.

Share with family and friends. Enjoy!

Note: If you have no white frosting you can make fangs by melting a small amount of candy melts or white chocolate in the microwave or a double boiler. When smooth, place the white candy in a Ziploc bag and trim a small bit from a lower corner. Pipe fangs onto a small piece of parchment paper or wax paper. Place in the refrigerator for a few minutes. When firm, peel the fangs from the paper and position them on the spider. If this part sounds like a lot of bother, skip the fangs. The spider will look good anyway.


noble pig said...

OMG, omg, I have to make these!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Cutting Edge of Ordinary said...

ADORABLE!!!! I love spiders

the southern hostess said...

Such a fun idea! They look great!

Cathy said...

Great post, Lisa. These spiders are fantastic. Can't wait to make some for my grandchildren. Thanks.

Cindy said...

love the spiders! your idea of using a ziplock bag is great. I'll be adding this creative craft to my Halloween party list. thanks!

grace said...

spiders and i haven't quite reached an accord. well, real spiders, that is. i'd get along with spiders in cupcake form quite well--very clever and crafty creation, lisa!

Anonymous said...

These are adorable! Can't wait to make them!

Ivy said...

How super cool! They are so fancy and unique! Did it take you a long time to put them all together? You are amazing!

(Not such a fan of the ziplock piping bag though, I don't know why, they just don't work for me.)

Debbie said...

I have always hated spiders, my brother's use to tease me with real ones and rubber ones, they liked to make me scream and cry. I still don't like spiders, so my husband is the one who get rid of them in our house. These spider are the only ones I could get close enough to touch. They would be fun to get rid of.(eat that is).

theUngourmet said...

These are really cute! My kids would love 'em.

I have a spider living on my kitchen window (on the outside). I like to take a peek in the morning or anytime throughout the day to see what it's up to. Sometimes it's having a snack or moving around on it's web. Pretty interesting stuff.

I love your spider art. I'm going to go check out more of your work. :)

Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets said...

Great job on these. Super cool and creepy.

Anonymous said...

oh my goodness! these are wonderful and so fun!

Unknown said...


Lisa said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone! These were really fun to make.

Cindy and Ivy - The Ziplock bag works for a decorating bag but I agree that it is not ideal for complicated piping. Using the hair tip is easy and these spiders look great despite messy piping so it works here. For anything fancier using a decorating tip I would prefer to use a more angled bag. They are easier to hold.

Ivy - These did not take too long to make. The piping goes fast. The legs weren't hard but you have to be careful to set the pretzels and the chocolate chips carefully in position, without rolling, all the way into the oven. If they stay in place this works great. Chilling the legs until they firm up doesn't take long. Then just set them in place and all you need is to add the eyes and fangs.

Debbie - Sorry you had mean brothers. It's good that you have someone who is wiling to take care of spiders for you these days.

I've also heard that, in a pinch, a vacuum cleaner will dispose of spiders nicely. :-)

Ungourmet - Thanks for checking out my spider art! The spider at The Stranded Cow was just as you describe, nestled in the window on the outside. He was very interesting but not entirely appetizing. :-)

Gonnawantseconds, Xiaolu and Epicurean's Market - Welcome! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you'll come back soon!

Kerrin - :-)

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