Dairy-free Spider Cupcakes with “buttercream” frosting

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dairy free spider cupcakes craftIn Kindergarten at our school, there’s something universally dreaded among the parents and it’s called “book cooking.”

Maybe “dreaded” isn’t the right word. It is definitely a day that we non-teachers are stretching out of our comfort zone.

Each family is given a book to read to the kids, and a cooking lesson to lead the kids through. The cooking lesson relates to the book. This all happens during class with the teacher watching. UmHmmm.

Our book was called Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock. It’s this trippy story about a ginormous black spider that whenever he sees and says “moss-covered rock,” the rock smashes the daylights out of him. The spider tricks his friends into saying the magic words so they get conked out and he can steal their food, until along comes little bush deer and she outsmarts that bad little arachnid… and well. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you but I bet you can guess what happens next.

I will admit, I am a last minute kind of girl. It took me months to muster the courage to say “Anansi” out loud.

But I am a little bit of a planner so thankfully I had the foresight at Halloween to pick up some spider-themed goodies to use in favor bags.

Our cooking lesson was suggested to be: bring in chocolate to melt and have the kids pour it over marshmallow and stick red licorice lines into it for feet and add M&M’s for eyes. Except, I didn’t want to jack with the candy melter in class so we did spider cupcakes instead.

Here’s the twist. One girl in the class is allergic to milk.

I’ve never had to bake for a milk allergy before but I was up to the challenge. Now before you go all preachy on me – check your labels, call the companies, do your research before blindly taking my word for it. Ingredients change and allergies are different. This worked for our situation. Everyone is alive and the lactose-free child remained as such.

Turns out… Duncan Hines cake mixes have no dairy in them. Yes!

I always substitute the water for buttermilk or milk when I use a mix and I do use a mix sometimes (even bakeries use Duncan Hines as their base, trust me)  — so this time I used Almond milk. (No nut allergies in our class.)  These turned out great – but if you try this, be sure to set your oven timer for a couple minutes before what the box says. I cut about 3 minutes off the time listed on the back of the box and they were perfectly moist and so lightweight.

Now the difficult part. Chocolate buttercream frosting without the butter. Hmmm… Here’s what I did. I used one cup of butter-flavored Crisco (100% vegetable oil), and 1 cup of this stuff

dairy free margarine for baking

mixed together with 1 – 2lb. bag of powdered sugar

powdered sugar from sprouts

(I totally believe the label on this sugar. It’s the most expensive sugar I’ve ever bought. Do NOT buy this stuff at Sprouts!), 1 teaspoon + of vanilla extract, a dash of butter extract, two tablespoons of pure 100% Hershey’s cocoa, and some more almond milk to fluff it up. No milk whatsoever.

I couldn’t believe how good it actually tasted. I actually even saved the extra frosting.

So the kids frosted their dairy-free cupcakes, dipped them in chocolate sprinkles, used Haribou gummy sour strings (I wish I could tell you where I got these because they were perfect for spider legs,) and chocolate sizzlets cinnamon candies,  Wilton candy eyeballs to decorate. Some even used pretzel sticks for legs.

2014-01-22 22.18.41-2 dairy free spider cupcakes craft spider cupcakes as school snack dairy free

After our Spider lesson, they all had a goodie bag to take home with a giant glow in the dark spider, a spider ring, spider fact cards, and a lollipop made into a spider.

spider goodies bags for book cooking

To make the lollipop spiders, just take 4 black pipe cleaners (spiders have 8 legs you know, insects have 6) and wrap around the stem of the lollipop and bend the ends into legs. Hot glue goggly eyes on it. The hardest part was stuffing them into the treat bags, lol.

spider snack ideas

There you have it. The next time you’re randomly chosen to do book cooking with Ananzi and the Moss-Covered Rock for children with milk allergies, you’ll know just what to do. Glad I could be of service.

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