cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
teaspoon baking powder
3 lrgs eggs
cup warm water
cup vegetable oil
teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 lrgs egg whites
2 cups unsalted butter room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Chocolate Cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin cups with muffin cup liners; set aside.
For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream: Combine egg whites, sugar, and vanilla in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar has dissolved and whites are hot to the touch, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer bowl to the electric mixer. Using whisk attachment, mix on low speed, gradually increasing to high speed, until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes.
Note: You might need to make another half recipe if you choose to make elaborately decorated cupcakes.
Position halved cupcake tops on top of frosted cupcakes, pressing gently to affix the wings to the soft frosting. To make bugs, attach tops with the domed side up and points meeting just inside the edge of the cupcake and extending off the opposite side. To create butterflies, attach pieces, cut-side up, with rounded edges in the center of the cupcake (the domed shape will create angled wings). Refrigerate until frosting is firm and the wings are secure, about 30 minutes.
Prepare gumdrop and licorice heads: Snip licorice strings on a diagonal into 1 1/2 inch lengths. Use a toothpick to make 2 two holes in the top of each gumdrop on opposite sides. Insert the pointed end of one licorice strip into each hole to create antennae. Using extra frosting as adhesive, attach a gumdrop head to each cupcake.
Decorate wings as desired with assorted colored frostings: Place frosting in pastry bags fitted with couplers and round tips, and pipe over surface of wings. Alternatively, gently spread frosting with a small offset spatula over the surface of the wings as desired. If you prefer lots of frosting, spread each wing with a base coat of frosting first and pipe out decorations in a different color; minimalists may pipe simple decorations onto the bare black wings.
This recipe yields 30 cupcakes.