Woodland Creature Cupcakes

woodlandcupcakesI’m a year-round hiker, taking to the woods in all seasons. This past week Mike, Tucker, and I logged more than 10 miles on the trails at our local park. Today’s baking was inspired by the woodland creatures I love, but have never come upon while out on the trails. Granted, meeting a fox or hedgehog would be quite different than meeting a bear, but it’s still something I hope to experience someday.

Flavor-wise, these cupcakes are an orange-cinnamon combination based on my honey cupcake recipe, which originally calls for lemon zest instead of orange. I wanted a bright flavor profile for these treats, and that’s exactly what I got – a nice kick of citrus against the warmth of cinnamon, all in an adorable little cupcake.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 medium orange
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup milk

For the frosting and decoration

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Brown and orange food coloring
  • Mini and regular-sized chocolate chips
  • Candy eyes

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; my batch yielded 16 cupcakes when cups were filled about half to three-quarters full.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla extract, orange zest, and beat until well combined, then add honey and beat until well combined.

With the mixer running on its lowest speed, gradually add flour until the mixture is just combined, then add milk and mix until just combined. Scrape sides of the bowl frequently to fully incorporate all ingredients.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into cupcake pans, filling about half to three-quarters full. Bake for at least 17 minutes, then check cupcakes for doneness; if cupcakes are not done, continue baking for 1-2 minutes and checking after each interval to be sure they don’t burn. My cupcakes baked for about 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool for just a moment in the pans, then cool completely on wire racks.

When cupcakes are cool, prepare the frosting: beat butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 1 minute, then add all the powdered sugar and beat on low until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla extract and cinnamon and beat to combine.

Divide your frosting into three portions: leave one natural, then tint the other two brown and orange. To make my fox color, I combined some of the brown frosting with orange food coloring for an earthier tone.

Frost half of your cupcakes with a thin layer of the natural-colored frosting; these will be your hedgehogs and foxes.

To make hedgehogs, fit a piping bag with a Wilton 233 tip (the grass/fur tip) and pipe fur, leaving a heart-shaped area of the cupcake plain. Add two mini chocolate chips for eyes and one for the nose.

To make foxes, fit a piping bag with a small star tip (I used Wilton 13) and pipe fur, leaving two patches of the cupcake plain for the fox’s cheeks. Switch to a leaf tip (I used Wilton 352) and pipe on ears. Add two mini chocolate chips for eyes and one for the nose.

To make bears, take a small portion of the natural frosting and combine it with the brown frosting to make a lighter brown shade. Place it in a small piping bag and snip the end; reserve for the bear’s muzzles. Cover the entire cupcake with brown frosting, then pipe on the muzzle; add candy eyes, a chocolate chip for the nose, and chocolate chips for the bear’s ears. Use a sharp knife, pulling upward, to create the bear’s fur.

Frost the remaining cupcakes however you like, or just use the remaining natural frosting and leave them plain (which is what I did). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 16.

Lamb Cupcakes

lambcupcakeWhile searching for spring cupcake ideas, I came across these adorable lambs on Eats Amazing, a food blog out of England with incredibly creative treat ideas. The original recipe called for a chocolate/coconut combination, using shredded coconut to make the fleece, but I decided to just go with frosting. They’re probably the most adorable cupcakes I’ve ever made.

My frosting is a basic vanilla almond buttercream, but you could experiment with other flavors if you like to complement the chocolate – using chocolate frosting would make adorable brown sheep, so I might do that next time. You could also just frost these cupcakes by hand and make little swirls with your spatula for a wooly look instead of piping, but I really like how these turned out with the star tip.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

For the frosting

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; my batch made 15.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well-blended, then make three wells for the wet ingredients.

Place vinegar, vanilla and almond extracts, and vegetable oil into the separate wells; add water and mix until the batter is smooth. The mixture will bubble up slightly when you add the water, so just keep mixing until you get a smooth consistency in the batter, which will be fairly thin.

Using a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup, fill cupcake wells with batter – you want them to be about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from the pan immediately, cooling completely on a wire rack before frosting.

For frosting, in a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Add vanilla extract and almond extract, beating well to combine.

Fit a large piping bag with a large open star tip; I used the Wilton 6B. Pipe frosting on the top of each cupcake to make fleece. Place one chocolate wafer, flat side up, on each cupcake. Using a smaller piping bag fitted with a plain tip (or just snipped to allow for a small amount of frosting to come out), pipe dots on each wafer to hold the candy eyes, then add candy eyes. Cut remaining chocolate wafers into quarters and place two quarters on each cupcake for the lamb ears.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 16.

Spring Flower Cupcakes

springflowercupcakesI had big cupcake decorating plans today. And then, facing down my batch, I just couldn’t do it. No flower nail, no multiple shades, no practicing blossoms with my flower tip. I took the easy road instead, using both my Wilton M1 and 4B tips to create something that might, very vaguely, look like flowers. Truth be told, the cupcake pictured here is the best-looking one of the bunch. The others, well…not so much.

Granted, I’m a much tougher judge of my own baking then others are, but I fear that taking these in to work might cause me to lose some of my baking cred, at least in the decoration department. There are yellow rose-like cupcakes too, along with moderately mum-type ones that have way too many leaves and probably look like a four-year-old piped them. Still, if it’s taste that counts, these do have great flavor…so I’ve got that going for me.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

For the frosting

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Yellow, pink, and green gel food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; my batch made 15.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well-blended, then make three wells for the wet ingredients.

Place vinegar, vanilla, and vegetable oil into the wells; add water and mix until the batter is smooth. The mixture will bubble up slightly when you add the water, so just keep mixing until you get a smooth consistency in the batter, which will be fairly thin.

Using a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup, fill cupcake wells with batter – you want them to be about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from the pan immediately, cooling completely on a wire rack before frosting.

For frosting, in a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Add vanilla extract and almond extract, beating well to combine.

Reserve a small portion of frosting for your leaves; tint the rest to your desired shade. I used yellow for about half the cupcakes, then mixed in some pale pink to create a light peach color for the rest. Fit a piping bag with your desired tip and pipe your desired shapes. Tint remaining frosting green and pipe on leaves using a small piping bag and leaf tip. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

chocolatestrawberrycupcakePeople can go all out on Valentine’s Day, buying expensive chocolates, sparkling jewelry, and dozens of roses. But some of my favorite Valentine gifts have been hand-drawn or fashioned from construction paper by my nieces and nephews, requiring only creativity and some art supplies.

I’m also a fan of home-baked gifts for any occasion, and these chocolate strawberry cupcakes are an easy option for a Valentine’s Day treat. You just need cocoa powder for the cupcakes and could substitute strawberry jam for the fresh strawberry puree if that’s what you have on hand. 

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 1/3 cup strawberry puree 

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners; my batch made 13 cupcakes. 

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir together, then add water, oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk until the batter is smooth; it will be thin.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling wells about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from cupcake tin and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

To make frosting, combine butter and powdered sugar in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla and strawberry puree to taste, beating to combine. Fit a piping bag with a large star tip (like the Wilton M1) and pipe generous swirls onto each cupcake. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days. Makes 12 or 13, depending on how full your cupcake wells are filled. 

Snow Queen Cupcakes

snow queen cupcakesWinter gets a bad rap, but I love it. I think snow is beautiful, appreciate seeing the branches of the trees, and actually prefer cold weather to warm. If I had my choice between Florida and Maine, I’d choose Maine every time. So here at midwinter, I’ve whipped up some cupcakes worthy of a snow queen, a simple vanilla cupcake recipe topped with vanilla buttercream and blue sugar and pearl sprinkles.

Pearl sprinkles can be a bit unwieldy, so I recommend placing the cupcakes in a bowl or other container to catch any runaways during sprinkling and gently pressing the pearls into the frosting using the tip of a knife.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sour milk (1/2 tablespoon vinegar mixed with enough milk to yield 1/2 cup – stir and let stand for 5 minutes before using)

For the frosting

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • Blue sugar sprinkles
  • Pearl sprinkles

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tines with paper liners; this recipe yields 17 cupcakes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat for another 30 seconds. Add vanilla and canola oil and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Add flour mixture and sour milk alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Batter will be very thin.

Using a quarter-cup measuring cup, scoop batter into prepared regular-sized cupcake liners, filling half full. Use a teaspoon measuring spoon to fill miniature cupcake liners.

Bake for 13 – 16 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1 minute, then add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is incorporated. Add vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes on medium speed. Fit a piping bag with a large star tip (I use the Wilton M1) and pipe swirls onto each cupcake. Top with blue sugar crystals and pearl sprinkles. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Hot Cocoa Cupcakes

hotcocoacupcakes

I swear by recipes that come on the back of a package, because you know they’re tried and true. This recipe, while not from a package, was featured on the Dixie Crystals sugar website, submitted by a member of their baking community. And you a product maker isn’t going to just slap any old recipe on their website and have it associated with their sugar, so I figured this one would be good – and I was right.

Quantity-wise, the original recipe said it would yield 24 cupcakes, so I cut it in half intending to make just a dozen. My halved recipe still made 24, but amazingly the frosting yielded exactly enough for my total two dozen cupcakes. I altered the frosting recipe to include more vanilla and a teaspoon of milk, because it seemed a bit thick to me. You can top these cupcakes however you like, but I went with mini marshmallows and peppermint sticks, even though there’s no peppermint in the batter.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup hot cocoa mix
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

For the frosting

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme (aka fluff)
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla 
  • 1 teaspoon milk 
  • Miniature marshmallows
  • Peppermint sticks

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two 12-cup cupcake tins with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa mix. Add egg, milk, and vegetable oil and stir to combine; slowly add boiling water and stir until the mixture is smooth.

Fill cupcake wells half full and bake for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from tins; cool completely on a wire rack.

For the frosting, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add marshmallow creme and beat to combine, then add powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla; beat on medium speed to combine. Add 2 additional teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon milk to thin the frosting slightly.

Fit a piping bag with a Wilton M1 tip and pipe swirls of frosting onto each cupcake. Add miniature marshmallows and peppermint sticks to the tops if desired. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days.

Makes 24.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

gingerbread cupcakesGingerbread is one of my favorite things about Christmas, and I’ve baked some decent gingerbread treats in previous years. This time I wanted to make a gingerbread cupcake, so I turned to a gingerbread cake recipe I had from several Christmases ago and it turned out really well.

The cinnamon vanilla buttercream I paired with these treats is delicious, but it almost overshadows the gingerbread flavor for me. Next time, I might not frost these at all, but instead dust them with powdered sugar, or just do a drizzle icing with powdered sugar and water to glaze the cupcake tops. 

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup water

For the cinnamon buttercream 

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon milk 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake tins with paper liners; my recipe yielded 17 cupcakes. 

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside. In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl well. Add molasses and egg and beat well to combine. Add flour mixture and water alternatively in three batches, starting and ending with the flour and mixing to combine between each.

Fill cupcake wells about half-full with batter and bake for 16 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean – just be careful not to over-bake these cupcakes, and gingerbread mixtures can burn easily. Remove from oven and immediately remove cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely.

For frosting, beat butter and powdered sugar on low speed until the sugar completely incorporates into the butter. Add vanilla, cinnamon, and milk and beat to combine completely.

Fit a large piping bag with a Wilton M1 tip and pipe swirls of frosting onto each cupcake; I had literally just enough for my 17 cupcakes, which was amazing. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. 

Caramel Pumpkin Cupcakes

caramel pumpkin cupcakesAmy Bakes in the ‘Burgh finally has a new kitchen! After about seven weeks of renovations, our new kitchen is complete. We have basically the same footprint, just with upgraded cabinets, countertops, and appliances, in a neutral color palette that makes me incredibly happy. And for the first time in 13 years, we have a dishwasher. I didn’t realize how much I missed having one until I got one back – it’s such a time saver.

My first bake in my new oven was actually a batch of chocolate chip cookies a few weeks ago, before everything was even finished. But these caramel pumpkin cupcakes were the first treats I baked in the fully finished kitchen, using the convection setting on my oven. Delicious and appropriate for the season, they were a huge hit at Mike’s office last week.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 – 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 3 tablespoons caramel sauce,* to taste

*I used Smucker’s caramel ice cream topping to save time. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; my recipe yielded 14 cupcakes.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In a large glass measuring cup, combine pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix well, then add all at once to the flour mixture. Stir until well-combined and smooth.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, fill cupcake wells about 2/3 full.

Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven; immediately remove from tins and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, then add 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar all at once and beat on low until all the sugar is incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla and 1 tablespoon caramel and beat, continuing to add additional caramel to taste. You may need a bit more powdered sugar if you go for three full tablespoons like I did.

Fit a piping bag with a large star tip and pipe swirls of frosting onto each cupcake. Store at a cool room temperature for 2-3 days; these cupcakes are very tender and will get a bit sticky if they’re left out much longer.

Patriotic Flower Cupcakes

patriotic floer cupcakesHappy Independence Day, Americans! I’m grateful to be an American, even though our country has astonishing problems yet to fully acknowledge, let alone solve. Today I’ve made some patriotic flower-themed cupcakes to celebrate, which will go to work with Mike on Tuesday. They’re a classic yellow cupcake with almond buttercream, a request from one of his colleagues.

One skill I acquired during quarantine was the ability to pipe buttercream flowers, and I used that skill with varying degrees of success for these cupcakes. I piped various blossoms and other shapes, but my favorites are actually the plain, sort of hydrangea-looking ones that I made with a medium closed star tip, like the red cupcake at the bottom center of the photo above.

Ingredients

For the yellow cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/3 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

For the almond buttercream

  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Red, cornflower blue, and moss green gel food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line two muffin tins with paper liners; you’ll need 15.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for one minute. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until well combined, then add egg and beat well. Add flour mixture and milk alternatively, beating until combined.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into prepared muffin cups, filling about half-full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

To make almond buttercream, in a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Add vanilla extract and almond extract, beating well to combine.

To frost, divide your frosting into portions of red, blue, green, and white and tint to your desired shades. Use whatever tips you like to create your flowers; I used a medium closed star, small open star, petal tip, plain tip, and leaf tip.

Store in an airtight container at a cool room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 15.

Hydrangea Cupcakes

hydrangea cupcakeHappy Mother’s Day, friends! Several years ago, while preparing to move to North Carolina, my sister-in-law Kristin encouraged me to take some plants from her yard. Into buckets went hostas, daffodils, and my absolute favorite, tiny shoots of an Annabelle hydrangea that had just begun to grow beneath a tree at the edge of their front lawn. 

My own mother took a pick axe to said hydrangea shoots (nearly missing my head) in order to remove them from the stubborn western Pennsylvanian soil, and we planted them in a newly created flower bed in our back yard. Today, Annabelle lives on in riotous glory; she blooms green each spring, turns white in the summer, then turns back to green again in the fall. These cupcakes were inspired by that beloved plant, and were very easy to make. Piping flower blossoms onto cupcakes is actually quite easy if you have the right equipment: all you really need are some star tips and a piping bag. And because nothing in nature is perfect, your piping skills don’t have to be, either.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon  vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • Green, yellow, and moss green food coloring 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir together, then add water, oil, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for about 2 minutes, until the batter is smooth; it will be thin.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling wells about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from cupcake tin and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

To make frosting, beat butter on low speed for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat on low until all the sugar is incorporated into the butter; this takes a few minutes. Add vanilla extract and beat another 1-2 minutes. 

Reserve a very small portion of white frosting and set aside; tint the remainder light green by combining green and yellow gel food coloring. Fit a piping bag with a Wilton M1 (large star) tip and pipe blossoms over the top of each cupcake, leaving just a bit of room at the edges for some leaves. I did a single layer of blossoms so they could fit easily into the container Mike uses to take them to work, but if you’re displaying them for a party or get-together, you could add a second row if you like.

Fit a small piping bag with a plain round tip and pipe blossom centers. Scoop out the remaining white and green frosting from your piping bags to maximize your frosting use, then add moss green coloring to reach a medium-dark green for your leaves. Fit a piping bag with a leaf tip and pipe leaves around the edges. 

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 12.