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Cocoa Cobweb Cupcakes

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch-process
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

For the icing:
2 egg whites
2 1/2 to 3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Black or dark brown food coloring

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 12 muffin-tin wells or line them
with paper muffin cups.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking
soda, and salt; reserve.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat
together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla
and beat well. Beat in the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternately with the

Spoon into the prepared muffin tins, filling each cup about two-thirds full.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 16
to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then
transfer to a rack and let cool to room temperature.

To make the icing, place the egg whites in a bowl. Using an electric mixer
set on high speed, beat until soft peaks form. Add the confectioners' sugar,
vanilla, and orange juice and continue to beat until thick and shiny. The
icing should spread easily. If too thick, add more orange juice. If too thin,
add more confectioners' sugar.

Transfer one-third of the icing to a small bowl and color with black or dark
brown food coloring. Spoon this dark icing into a pastry bag fitted with a
tip, or pour it into a plastic squeeze bottle.

Now, ice the cupcakes and make the cobwebs: Spoon the white icing into the
center of the cupcake and spread with a small spatula or butter knife.
Starting at the center of a cupcake, pipe a spiral of the dark icing from the
center to the outer edge. Then, drag a sharp knife point from the center of
the spiral to the edge of the cupcake. Wipe the knife clean, move about a 1/2
inch to the left or right and drag the knife in the opposite direction from
the outer edge to the middle of the cupcake. Continue in this way until you
have worked your way around the cupcake and formed the cobweb. Repeat with
the remaining cupcakes.

Follow this fun technique for creating cobwebs with two different colors of
frosting. You can do this on cookies and cakes, too. Kids can line the muffin
tins, mix the ingredients, spoon the batter into the muffin cups and of
course, supervise the icing.

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