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Penguin Cupcakes

Calling all penguin lovers! Last year my penguin cake was a big hit, and I didn’t want to leave all of you hanging this winter. So here are some penguin cupcakes, which I think are just as cute!!

They’re also a bit easier to make.

My penguin cake involved a double batch of cake batter, hours of piping (I’m not exaggerating), and quite a bit of buttercream.

On the other hand, these penguin cupcakes can be made with 1 batch of cupcakes, and a half batch of buttercream frosting. They’re adorable, and come together pretty quickly.

image of cute penguin cupcakes

The Penguin Body

These mini penguin cakes are made with my chocolate cupcake recipe. This recipe uses black cocoa, which gives the cupcakes a super dark, almost black color.

It seemed perfect for the inside of these penguins, and it also is one of my favorite cupcake recipes.

It makes super moist cupcakes, and I love how chocolatey they taste.

In retrospect, I kind of wish I’d made some cupcakes with my marble cake recipe.

They would’ve been awesome, because they’d have been black and white!!

I ended up using a few vanilla cupcakes that I had leftover from another project, as seen below 😛

image of stacked cupcakes to make mini penguin cake

No matter what cupcake recipe you use to make these penguin cupcakes, just be sure they’re fully cooled and unwrapped before you frost them 🙂

If you chose to make each penguin with 2 cupcakes, you’ll be able to make 6 penguins with one batch of cupcakes.

Or, if you want to make some baby penguins with just one cupcake, you might end up making a few more!!

You also could make freakishly tall penguins that use three cupcakes. These are your penguins, and you get to determine their height!!

Just be sure to use a wooden skewer to keep your cupcake tower upright and stable as you frost it.

The Penguin Blubber

Now onto the frosting, or as I like to call it, the penguin blubber!! I used my favorite american buttercream to frost these cupcakes.

However, if you prefer a less sweet frosting like swiss meringue or Russian buttercream (CBC), you can use whatever you like best!

Just be sure it has a light colored base (so you can color it), and is stiff enough to be piped.

I start with a vanilla base, then incorporate gel food coloring for the facial accents, and melted chocolate and black cocoa to make the black buttercream.

image of cute penguin cupcake stack

I order my black cocoa on amazon, but if you can’t get it in time, a dark cocoa powder will also work. You can find dark cocoa powder at most grocery stores.

Black buttercream can be a bit finicky to make, and I find making the base naturally dark with chocolate makes it easier to get a truly black color.

Gel food coloring also helps a ton!! It allows you to get strong colors without throwing off the consistency of the frosting.

Decorating These Penguins Cupcakes

So now that we’ve figured out the construction of our penguins, it’s time to discuss making them so adorably cute.

The first step is giving them the right shape. They have a curved body and rounded head, and that can be hard to smooth with an offset spatula.

To get smooth sides on shaped cupcakes like this, I love to use an acetate sheet! It’s a thin piece of plastic that is flexible, and allows you to smooth frosting easily on curved surfaces.

I also order my acetate sheets on amazon (surprise surprise!). They come in larger sheets, which I cut into smaller pieces using scissors.

image of penguin cupcakes on mini pedestals, positioned to look like a little penguin family

The next part is creating to face!! Believe it or not, the penguin face is mostly piped without piping tips! It’s just small piping bags, cut to have small openings.

If you have small round piping tips they can help, but they’re not necessary.

Tips for Making These Cute Penguin Cupcakes:

  • Insert a skewer or chopstick into the stacked cupcakes to make them easier to frost. Chill the stack with the skewer in, then remove it as you pipe on the second layer of frosting.
  • Be sure to thoroughly chill the crumb coat of each penguin, to help them keep their shape for decorating
  • You can make the cupcakes for these penguin cakes in advance! The cupcake stacks can be frozen for up to 2 weeks, if stored in an airtight container.
  • You can also decorate the penguins ahead of time! Once the cupcakes are fully frosted, the buttercream will lock in all the moisture. They keep in the fridge for several days.
image of penguin cupcakes on cake stand with frosting bags around them

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try making these penguin cupcakes, I’d love to hear what think! Please leave a rating, and let me know your thoughts by sharing a comment.

Or if you share your creations on social media be sure to tag me @chelsweets!

Yield: 12

Penguin Cupcakes

image of cute penguin cupcake stack

These penguin cupcakes are almost too cute to eat!! They're made with moist chocolate cupcakes, and are decorated with black cocoa and vanilla buttercream!!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 3 minutes


Chocolate Cupcake Batter

  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips - milk or dark (57 grams)
  • 1/3 cup black cocoa powder (32 grams)
  • 3/4 cup hot water (177 grams)
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso or coffee (3 grams)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (98 grams)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (150 grams)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (2 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (3 grams)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (73 grams)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature (114 grams)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar (4 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)

Chocolate and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup (or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (217 grams)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (500 grams)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (2 grams)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (60 grams)
  • 1/2 cups of melted dark chocolate, cooled (87 grams, 3 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup black cocoa or unsweetened baking cocoa, sifted (50 grams)
  • black, orange, and pink gel food coloring


Chocolate Cupcake Recipe:

  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 350°F. Place cupcake liners in baking pans.
  2. Add 3/4 cup of (VERY) hot water into a large bowl. Mix in 1 1/2 tsp of coffee or espresso powder, and stir lightly until dissolved.
  3. Carefully pour in 1/3 cup chocolate chips and 1/3 cup of sifted black cocoa powder. Let this sit for 2 minutes to melt the chocolate, then stir until smooth.
  4. Pour the dry ingredients (3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt) into chocolate espresso mixture, and stir until just combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a spatula.
  5. Mix in the eggs one at a time.
  6. Then add 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp vinegar, and 1 tsp vanilla, and mix until the batter is smooth - it will be thin!
  7. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full, and bake for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (or with minimal crumbs).
  8. Allow cupcakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and place in the freezer for 15 minutes (to accelerate the cooling process).

Vanilla and Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

  1. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. 
  2. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
  3. Once fully mixed, add in the salt.
  4. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.
  5. 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.
  6. Stir by hand with a rubber spatula to get the frosting SUPER smooth.
  7. Place 2 cup of vanilla buttercream into a small piping bag, and seal with a rubber band. Cut a small, 1 cm opening at the end and set aside.
  8. Color 1/4 cup of frosting orange with gel food coloring, and a 1/4 cup pink with gel food coloring. Place each color in its own, small piping bag. Snip a small opening that is about 1/3 cm wide.
  9. Add in the sifted cocoa to the remaining buttercream, and mix on low until the cocoa is fully incorporated.
  10. Mix in the cooled, melted chocolate, and a squirt of black gel food coloring. Stir until the frosting is evenly colored.
  11. Place 1/4 cup in a small piping bag fitted with a small round piping tip.
  12. Place the remaining frosting in a large piping bag, and seal the top with a rubber band. Cut the tip of the bag to have a 1.5 cm opening.

Assembling the Penguin Cupcakes:

  1. Stack two fully cooled cupcakes on top of each other, with a generous layer of vanilla buttercream between them.
  2. Secure the stack with a wooden skewer, to make it easier to frost.
  3. Cover in a thin layer of vanilla frosting, to act as the crumb coat.
  4. Chill for 10 minutes in the freezer or fridge, until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  5. Carefully remove the wooden skewer.
  6. Add a second, thicker layer of black chocolate frosting, and smooth using an offset spatula and acetate sheet.
  7. Pipe on two wings with the black buttercream.
  8. Chill for an additional 10 minutes to help the chocolate frosting set.
  9. Pipe a heart shape on front of the cupcake stack, and fill it in. Smooth using an offset spatula.
  10. Use the orange frosting to pipe on a beak and feed.
  11. Pipe on the eyes with the black buttercream in the small piping bag.
  12. Use the pink frosting to add two tiny little cheeks.
  13. Repeat with remaining cupcakes and frosting.


Be sure to add a dab of buttercream underneath each cupcake to keep it in place, and prevent them from sliding once they're decorated.

If you want to make baby penguin cupcakes, just use one cupcake, and cut it in half to add frosting between the layers.

You can make these penguins in advance! Once frosted, they keep in the fridge for several days. The buttercream locks in all moisture, so the cupcakes stay nice and fresh.

These cupcake can be made in advance! If stored unfrosted in an airtight container, they can last for:

  • 2 days at room temp
  • 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 for up to 2 weeks.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 426Total Fat 15gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 42mgSodium 225mgCarbohydrates 70gFiber 3gSugar 57gProtein 5g

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Monday 29th of May 2023

Hi! I was wondering if, just like your penguin cake if I could unwrap the cupcakes and make mini penguin cakes with frosting?


Saturday 10th of June 2023

@Chelsweets, Thanks! I tried it and it was really delicious!


Sunday 4th of June 2023

Hi Alex,

You totally can do that! Just be sure you have some small skewers on hand to help keep the cupcakes in place while you frost them. Hope that helps, happy baking!


Thursday 10th of March 2022

Thanks for sharing this idea. My daughter wants a penguin cake for her birthday this year and this was just what I needed to finalize our plan. I'll be using 6" cake pans and I just ordered the black cocoa. Perfect!


Wednesday 10th of November 2021

I can't find the baby penguin cake recipe on your website. Where can I access the recipe? My son requested your penguin cake for his birthday!

iin mackechnie

Tuesday 16th of June 2020

My granddaughter age 5 and I made some but they do not look as good as yours! Ours are kind of messy!

Kat Zimmerman

Tuesday 18th of February 2020

This is so adorable ?


Sunday 23rd of February 2020

Thanks Kat :)

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