These spider cupcakes are easy to make with a chocolate cupcake base and cream cheese frosting. For the spiders, you need Oreos, melted chocolate for the legs and candy eyeballs. They can be made traditionally or gluten-free. This post has been updated with new text and photos and was originally published in 2016.
I had been sick for a while when I originally posted these. I wasn’t getting better, so I used some ingredients I don’t normally use – the candy eyeballs and Oreos.
I was hesitant to post them, but they’ve been my most popular Halloween recipe, along with these Witch Fingers for 7 years. So I guess people like them!
You can use any cupcake base and white frosting you’d like. The ingredients below are for super moist and chocolaty cupcakes with a not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting. Both are incredibly easy to make and don’t call for any special ingredients.
For the cake:
- Sweetener – you can use regular old granulated sugar, coconut sugar or honey.
- Flour – you can use all-purpose, whole wheat, white whole wheat or one of the gluten-free options I write about below in the gluten-free section.
- Cocoa powder – I used Dutch-process. If you use regular Hershey’s cocoa powder, your cake will be lighter brown than mine. But it’ll still be tasty!
- Eggs – you can use chia eggs to make this cake egg-free, but there’s no way to make the spider cupcakes vegan due to the cream cheese frosting.
- Milk – you can use any kind of milk that you’d like. I always use unsweetened cashew milk.
- Oil – I use olive oil, but it works great with any kind of neutral oil, like canola or vegetable oil.
- Boiling water – it seems like TOO much water, I know, and the batter will be super thin, almost like water, but the full amount is needed.
- Vanilla extract, baking powder, baking soda and salt
For the frosting:
- Cream cheese – this is for the frosting. No subs are possible if you want to make cream cheese frosting. Same with the other ingredients for the frosting listed below.
- Butter – make sure it’s room temp so that it’s easy to beat in with the cream cheese.
- Powdered sugar – if it’s super lumpy, you might want to sift it or blitz it in a high-speed blender to get it light and powdery again.
For the decoration:
- Oreos – or homemade cookies! I talk about this below.
- Chocolate – you can use melted semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate.
- Candy eyes – I write about homemade options below.
You can use any cupcake base. I think chocolate makes the most sense for these spider cupcakes, but pumpkin is a tasty choice for Halloween.
These Pumpkin Cupcakes are my favorite pumpkin cake recipe. And again, you can make them traditionally or gluten-free!
The recipe below is an adapted version of the famous Hershey’s One Bowl Chocolate Cake. I’ve been making an adaptation of this recipe for 15 years, and I have no desire to ever make or even try another chocolate cake recipe.
Believe me when I say they’re delicious. ;) If you have any questions about the recipe, I’ve probably answered them in my post on Healthy Chocolate Cake.
The candy eyeballs I used on these cupcakes are pretty nasty ingredient-wise. There’s even a warning on the back of the package about how some of the ingredients may have an adverse effect on activity and attention of children.
If you don’t want to use store-bought candy eyes, you can pipe white chocolate right onto the cookie, let it firm up a bit, and then stick a mini chocolate chip upside down to create the pupil. I’m kicking myself for not doing that myself!
Should you really want to use candy eyeballs but don’t like the ingredients in the store-bought options, you can make your own. I’ve made a few different candy eyeball recipes, and this one is my favorite.
The ingredients are powdered sugar, cornstarch (or arrowroot/tapioca starch), vanilla extract, water and black cocoa.
They’re all great options for Halloween dessert! And they all taste like Oreos since black cocoa is what gives Oreo their unique Oreo flavor.
If you take your time with them, you can really make the homemade eyeballs look perfect. But if you rush it, you’ll definitely have sloppy-looking eyeballs.
I also used Oreos, another ingredient I never use on the blog. But at least they’re delicious and don’t come with a warning. ;)
You can use the black cookies I mentioned above instead of Oreos for the spider’s body. You can use all-purpose, whole wheat or gluten-free flour. Just like with the cupcakes for today’s recipe!
You’ll want to make them smaller than called for in the recipe. I’d make the dough balls a little smaller than 1″ and then flatten them when they come out of the oven.
Before you bake up a whole batch, do a few test cookies in different sizes to find out what size you like best. Then, bake up the rest.
How to make them
I think the pictures are pretty self-explanatory. :)
- Unfrosted cupcakes can be made up to 4 days in advance. I would recommend refrigerating them after 2 days, just to be on the safe side.
- Frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
- Frosted cupcakes with the Oreos and spider legs can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.
- Completely decorated cupcakes I would only refrigerate for up to 4 hours. The candy eyes should only be applied shortly before serving.
This is because if you refrigerate candy eyeballs for several hours, the moisture from the refrigerator will cause the black pupils to bleed a bit.
You can also freeze the unfrosted or frosted cupcakes for up to 3 months. But don’t freeze them with the Oreo or piped legs, just with the cream cheese frosting.
The texture will be fine, but the cupcake liners get a little soft and imperfect looking after being frozen. I doubt anyone will care, but if you need something picture-perfect, frozen cupcake liners are… not that. ;)
I always use Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-free Flour in these cupcakes. King Arthur Flour Gluten-free Measure for Measure Flour works equally as well!
If you make these cupcakes as a cake at some point, then you should really use Bob’s. I talked about it in my Jack Skellington Cake post.
Nobody I’ve made these cupcakes for has known that they’re gluten-free. And I’ve served these cupcakes to at least a few hundred people since 2016 or so.I haven’t tried a third brand in this recipe, so I can’t say for sure how well they’d work out. But I think as long as you’re using a flour that’s meant as a direct sub for all-purpose flour, it’s likely to work.
Almond flour, coconut flour, oat flour, etc. will not work.
For the Oreos, you need to use gluten-free Oreos, gluten-free copycat Oreos, or the gluten-free version of the black cookies I’ve mentioned a few times.
The candy eyeballs should be gluten-free, but who knows when a company decides to change their recipe. So always check the package before buying!
More kid-friendly Halloween recipes
I hope you’ll enjoy these spider cupcakes! I’d love to hear how they came out if you try them. :) Thanks!
Spider Cupcakes for Halloween (traditional or gluten-free)
- Prep Time:
- Cook Time:
- Ready in:
- Yield: 24 cupcakes
- 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar or coconut sugar or 1 cup (320 grams) honey
- 1 3/4 cups (236 grams) flour (see notes for options)1
- 3/4 cup (85 grams) cocoa powder (I used Dutch-process)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs (50 grams each, out of shell) or 2 chia eggs2
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) milk3
- 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) oil4
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (177 milliliters) boiling water5
- 2/3 cup (150 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- two 8-ounce packages (450 grams total) full-fat cream cheese6, room temp
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups (240 grams) powdered sugar
- 24 Oreos (use GF Oreos if you're gluten-free)
- 1 1/3 cups (226 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
- 48 candy eyes
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Preheat your oven to 350 °F (175 °C). Line 2 muffin pans with 24 liners.
- In a large bowl, stir together the sugar (if using honey, don’t add it yet), flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Add eggs, milk, honey (if using), oil and vanilla. Mix until combined and then stir in the boiling water. The batter will be almost as thin as water.
- Fill each liner just a little more than halfway full.
- Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with some moist crumbs, but no liquid.
- Let cool for 5 minutes in the pans, and then, turn out onto a rack to cool. Let cool completely, about an hour, before frosting.
- Once the cupcakes have cooled, prepare the frosting. Beat the butter and cream cheese until soft and smooth.
- Add the salt and vanilla and beat until combined. Add in the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and beat until fluffy.
- Spread about 5 teaspoons of frosting over each cooled cupcake.
- Note that the candy eyes should only be applied shortly before serving. This is because if you refrigerate candy eyeballs for several hours, the moisture from the refrigerator will cause the black pupils to bleed a bit. The Oreos and legs can be added to the cupcakes a day ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.
- Twist the Oreos apart and place the side without frosting face up on the cupcake. You can also use whole Oreos if you prefer.
- Melt the chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Pour into a piping bag.
- Pipe 4 legs on both sides of the Oreo. Pipe a tiny bit of chocolate on the bottom of two eyes and place on the Oreo.
- You can make the cupcakes up to 4 days in advance. I would recommend refrigerating them after 2 days, just to be on the safe side. Frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Frosted cupcakes with the Oreos and spider legs can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. Try to add the candy eyeballs just a few hours before serving.
To make the cupcakes:
Make the frosting:
- For the flour, you can use all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour. If you're gluten-free, use 1 3/4 cups (236 grams) Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-free Baking Flour or 1 3/4 cups (236 grams) King Arthur Gluten-free Measure for Measure Flour.
- To make the chia eggs for this recipe, mix together 2 tablespoons of ground chia seed with 6 tablespoons of water until well combined. Let sit for 1-2 minutes until goopy like regular eggs.
- If you use canned coconut milk, water it down so it's about as thin as dairy milk. Maybe half coconut milk and half water?
- For the oil, you can use canola, vegetable, grapeseed or olive oil (not an expensive, super flavorful one). Anything neutral.
- I know that sounds like a lot of water, but I promise you, you need 1 cup!
- If you live outside of North America and have the kind of cream cheese that's meant for toast (that comes in a little plastic tub) rather than American-style brick cream cheese, then get two 300-gram packages of cream cheese, place it in the center of a cheesecloth, and wring out the liquid until you have 450 grams of cream cheese left.