Happy Groundhog Day, all! We might be getting six more weeks of winter, but that’s OK because I brought treats: my signature groundhog cupcakes.
I know what you’re thinking. No one celebrates Groundhog Day, idiot. Yeah, well that’s sort of the point. It’s an underrated and goofy holiday, why not give it a little love? That’s what I thought when I started making these silly things ten years ago. TEN. That is an absurdly long time for something so wonderfully stupid.
Thing is, I almost didn’t make these cupcakes this year. Well, I wasn’t planning on it until I got a super sweet text from one of my oldest friends reminiscing about their cute little faces. I can’t resist nostalgia, so I decided I had to whip up a batch (sorry you can’t enjoy them, Molly!).
Here’s the lowdown on the recipe. It’s from Cupcakes! from the Cake Doctor, a book I picked up at a church book fair back in high school. This book spurned my then-not-yet-passé interest in cupcakes. And the cute themes sparked a short-lived interest in cake decorating. Although I’ve only made probably four recipes out of this whole book, it somehow developed into some sort of totem for me. It’s my Midwest mom cupcake book, my silly high school baking cookbook, a book I used in college for my demonstrative speech in COMM 101 and a book that started my favorite absurd tradition. And it makes cupcakes super simple because every recipe starts with a cake mix (that’s what the Cake Doctor does – it’s her thing).
Here’s what you’ll need for the cake:
- 1 package German chocolate cake mix
- 1¼ cups buttermilk
- 1/3 cup oil
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
And the frosting:
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
- 3-4 tbsp. milk
And the decorations:
- Chocolate jimmies
- Shaved almonds
- Chocolate chips – mini brown M&M’s work too
- Mini chocolate chips
Making the cake is easy breezy. Just mix together all the ingredients with an electric mixer or stand mixer for about three minutes – stopping halfway to scrap down the bowl. Then fill your cupcake liners ¾-full. I like to use a disher or ice cream scoop to make portioning easy, but a spoon does just fine too. Bake at 350°F for 22-24 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the pans and let cool.
The frosting is just as easy. Simply beat your softened butter with an electric mixer until it gets nice and soft. Then add in your powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and about three tablespoons of milk. Beat this together until combined. If the frosting looks too stiff and powdery, add in more milk a little at a time until it gets that nice frosting consistency. If you find the frosting is too runny, just add in a little powder sugar at a time until it firms up.
Then comes the best part: the decorating. To start, just frost the cupcakes as usual with an offset spatula. This does not need to be too finicky – I wouldn’t even bust out a pastry bag for this. Roll the frosted cupcake in the chocolate jimmies. Word to the wise: don’t frost all your cupcakes first. This frosting has a tendency to dry a bit as it sits, so if you wait too long you’ll lose all that sticking power.
Once you’ve got that done, I’d recommend grabbing a pastry bag with a wide, round tip. A zip-top bag with the corner snipped off works just as good – no need to get too futzy if you don’t have to. Fill this with the rest of your frosting and pipe a round dollop of frosting on each cupcake for the groundhog head. I’d say the head should be somewhere between the size of a quarter and a poker chip. Once the heads are finished, insert two almond ears into each along with a chocolate chip or M&M nose and little chocolate eyes. With that – you’re all done and you have a little repetition of groundhogs (which is what the internet tells me is the name for a group of them – that or coterie).
I realize writing this on Groundhog Day doesn’t give you much time to whip these up for your Groundhog Day movie night, but I’ll say that this recipe is good any day of the year.
Happy Groundhog Day and big thanks to my friend Molly!