Soot Sprite Cupcakes

After watching Spirited away I was inspired to make these soot sprite cupcakes! They play a very small role in the movie but they’re so stinkin’ cute!!

image of soot sprite cupcakes made with black cocoa frosting and candy sprinkle eyes

These cupcakes are incredibly easy to make and are equally delicious. With the help of dark chocolate and black cocoa powder, these cupcakes have an intense chocolate flavor and most of their coloring is natural.

I do like to use a bit of black gel food coloring in the frosting to make it jet black, but you really don’t need much thanks to the dark chocolate and cocoa in the frosting.

What is a Soot Sprite?

Soot sprites (also known as Susuwatari which means “wandering soot”) are an imaginary sprite created by Hayao Miyazaki and drawn by Studio Ghibli.

These cute little sprites make appearances in both My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. In different versions of subtitles they’ve been referred to as “black soots,” “soot sprites” or “dust bunnies.”

Just like their name implies, they are tiny little creatures made of soot! They’re shown to be about the size of a tennis ball and are black and fuzzy.

Sometimes they extend long, thin limbs to complete different tasks but they usually hover in the air as they move around. They make a squeaky sound when they’re excited and sadly they dissolve back into soot if they’re crushed.

Decorating These Soot Sprite Cupcakes

Now let’s get into how we decorate these adorable Spirited Away cupcakes.

I used a large grass tip (Wilton 234) to create their fuzzy little bodies. I chose to use a large tip because it makes piping process quicker and easier. However, you can use a small grass tip too!

image of cupcakes frosted with black frosting using a grass tip to make soot sprite cupcakes

For our soot sprite eyes, I kept things simple and used some large candy eyes. You could also make the eyes with fondant or even mini marshmallows! Don’t be afraid to get creative 🙂

I also topped the cupcakes with some colorful star sprinkles but they’re totally optional!

Substitutions and Swaps – Chocolate Cupcakes

These cupcakes use quite a few ingredients and I know you might not have all of them on hand. Or if you have food allergies or restrictions, I’ve got you covered.

Below are some swaps and substitutions that you can make:

  • Chocolate Chips – You can use milk, dark or semi-sweet chocolate to make these chocolate cupcakes!
  • Buttermilk – You can also use full fat yogurt, sour cream, whole milk, or an alternative yogurt or milk (almond, soy, oat) if you’re dairy free.
  • Instant Espresso or Coffee – This ingredient is optional, so if you hate coffee you can omit it. However, you can’t really taste the coffee once the cupcakes are baked! I just like adding a bit of coffee because it enhances the chocolate flavor.
  • All Purpose Flour – This recipe turns out best with AP flour, but you can use a gluten free flour blend or cake flour if that’s all you have on hand.
  • Dark Cocoa Powder – I love using black cocoa powder and I order it Amazon! Hershey’s also makes a dark cocoa powder that is available in most large grocery stores.
  • Vegetable Oil – You can use any flavorless oil in this recipe. Canola or sunflower oil would work great!
  • Eggs – If you have an egg allergy you can use 2 flaxseed eggs or 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce.
  • Vinegar – This recipe needs a bit of vinegar because it uses baking soda as a leavening agent. The vinegar activates the baking soda and helps the cupcakes rise. You can use white or apple cider vinegar.
image of black cupcake batter being poured into cupcake liners to make soot sprite cupcakes

Substitutions and Swaps – Black Buttercream Frosting

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
  • Heavy Cream – Whole milk or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat) will work fine in this frosting recipe if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Dark Cocoa Powder – I love using black cocoa powder and I order it Amazon! Hershey’s also makes a dark cocoa powder than is available in most large grocery stores.
  • Dark Chocolate – You can use milk, dark or semi-sweet chocolate to make this chocolate frosting, but dark chocolate will help give it the deepest color!
  • Black Gel Food Coloring – I am a big fan of Americolor gel food coloring, but any type of gel food coloring will work. I don’t recommend using liquid food coloring as it doesn’t have as intense of a color.

Tips for Making the Best Soot Sprite Cupcakes

  • Make your own buttermilk if you don’t any! Add 2 tsp of lemon juice or vinegar to 3/4 cup of whole milk.
  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Make your black frosting in advance! The color will deepen as it sits at room temperature.
  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better, so be sure you set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Mix your cupcake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure your cupcakes are tender and fluffy.
  • One batch of batter can be also be used to make one 9×13 inch soot sprite sheet cake. Bake it at 325F for 33-38 minutes.
  • Make these soot sprite cupcakes vegan or dairy free! Use your favorite type of dairy free milk to replace the buttermilk and heavy cream and use vegan butter sticks in place of the butter.
image of soot sprite cupcakes from spirited away and totoro

Making These Cupcakes in Advance

These soot sprite cupcake can be made in advance! Just be sure to wait to add the candy eyes and stars or else the sprinkles can bleed.

If stored unfrosted in an airtight container, these cupcakes can last for:

  • 2 days at room temperature
  • Up to a week in the fridge
  • Up to 3 months in the freezer

If you have extra buttercream you don’t use, it can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container or piping bag for up to 2 weeks.

Let Me Know What You Think

I’d love to hear what think of these soot sprite cupcakes! Please leave a rating and let me know your thoughts by sharing a comment.

Also please tag me @chelsweets! Use the #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations on social media.

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 12

Soot Sprite Cupcakes

image of soot sprite cupcakes made with black cocoa frosting and candy sprinkle eyes

These soot sprite cupcakes are made with moist dark chocolate cupcakes and are decorated with black cocoa frosting to look just like adorable dust bunnies!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Additional Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 13 minutes

Ingredients

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (170 grams)
  • 1/3 cup milk or dark chocolate chips, melted (57 grams)
  • 1 tsp instant espresso or coffee (2 grams)
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour (98 grams)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (150 grams)
  • 1/3 cup black or dark baking cocoa powder (32 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (2 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (3 grams)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (73 grams)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature (114 grams)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar (4 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)

Black Cocoa Buttercream Frosting

Additional Decorations

Instructions

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe:

  1. Begin by preheating oven to 350°F (175°C), and place 12 cupcake liners in cupcake pan.
  2. Add 3/4 cup of buttermilk, 1/3 cup melted chocolate chips and 1 tsp instant espresso powder into a heat proof bowl. Heat in the microwave at power level 7 for 1 minute or over a double boiler until the chocolate has melted.
  3. Whisk together until the ingredients have combined, making sure all the chocolate is melted. The mixture might look a little separated, but it will come together once you add in your dry ingredients.
  4. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients (3/4 cup all purpose flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup black or dark cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp baking soda) into chocolate espresso mixture and stir until combined.
  5. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a spatula.
  6. Add 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 2 large eggs, 1 tsp vinegar and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix just until the batter is smooth.
  7. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for about 18-19 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  8. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes in the pan before moving them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Black Cocoa Buttercream:

  1. Beat 1/2 cup of unsalted butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. 
  2. Mix in 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp salt on a low speed.
  3. Slowly add in 1 cup powdered sugar and 1/3 cup black cocoa.
  4. Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream half through adding in the powdered sugar to make it easier to mix.
  5. Mix in 1/2 cup of cooled, melted dark chocolate and a couple squirts of black gel food coloring.
  6. Beat on low until the frosting is evenly colored and the desired consistency and color are reached.
  7. If the frosting is too thick, add an extra Tbsp of heavy cream. If it's too thin, add in another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.
  8. Stir by hand with a rubber spatula to get the frosting SUPER smooth.
  9. Place the frosting into a large piping bag fit with a grass frosting tip and set aside.

Decorating These Soot Sprite Cupcakes

  1. To decorate these soot sprite cupcakes use a grass tip to pipe black frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes.
  2. Top with candy eyes and some colorful sprinkle stars and enjoy.

Notes

This recipe can also be used to make mini soot sprite cupcakes! It makes about 40 mini cupcakes, which only need to bake for 9-10 minutes.

These cupcake can be made in advance! Just be sure to wait to add the canady eyes and stars, or else the sprinkles can bleed. If stored unfrosted in an airtight container, these cupcakes can last for:

  • 2 days at room temperature
  • Up to a week in the fridge
  • Up to 3 months in the freezer

If you have extra buttercream you don't use, it can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container or piping bag for up to 2 weeks.

Nutrition Information

Yield

12

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 338Total Fat 15gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 40mgSodium 300mgCarbohydrates 45gFiber 4gSugar 29gProtein 6g

Let me know what you think!