Black Velvet Beetle Cakes

We don’t celebrate Halloween as such in our household. Well we don’t trick or treat or encourage trick or treaters, but I do use it as an opportunity to take something and give it a gruesome twist. Last year was a Sweeney Todd Pie to accompany my Mrs Lovatt costume. This year as inspired by a copy of A Zombie Ate My Cupcake the publishers kindly sent me I used the instructions in the book on how to make black beetles and designed a cake around it. I used marzipan to make the beetles as I had some left from a cake decorating job. In amongst the marzipan beetles modelled on cockroaches and scarab beetles there is one little beetle with friendly eyes. This was the first beetle I made but decided the cakes would be too cute if he was on all of them.

Why have I called them Black Velvet cakes? well given Red Velvet cakes are essentially chocolate cakes with a bucketful of red food colouring (I duck as cake spatulas are hurled at me from Red Velvet Cake enthusiasts) added I decided to christen these Black Velvet cakes because they are simply chocolate cakes with black food colouring added to darken the colour. Weirdly although I used my usual chocolate cake recipe they tasted more chocolatey with the addition of the black food colouring. I’m sure this is purely psychological because the colouring makes the cakes look richer. I’ll admit cocked up slightly with the icing. My own fault for not adding the icing sugar gradually. I added too much icing sugar and it turned almost in to a paste, but I was able to spread it on to the cakes without too many problems. Thankfully in this case the icing was acting more like a glue and would be hidden under the edible dirt.

Gross fact: black marzipan when accidentally rolled the wrong way looks suspiciously like mouse/rat/bat droppings. While this could have given the cakes a rather disturbing twist I didn’t think the recipients of the cakes, Hubs’ workmates, would appreciate it or ever ask me to bake for them again! I’ve entered these cakes to English Mum’s Big Autumn Bakeoff.

Black Velvet Beetle Cakes

makes 12 fairycake sized cakes

80g self-raising flour

20g cocoa powder

100g caster sugar

100g butter

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

black food colouring


90g unsalted butter

150g icing sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder

black food colouring

100g marzipan

edible lustre dust (I used antique gold and snowflake)

70g oreos, just the biscuits minus the cream filling

1) Preheat oven to 180°c and line a bun tin with fairy cake liners.

2) In a bowl beat together the butter and caster sugar until it is light and fluffy then one at a time stir in the eggs. Don’t worry if it begins to look curdled. Mix in the vanilla extract.

3) Fill each liner 2/3 with cake mix. Bake for 15-20 min until risen and pass the cocktail stick test.

4) While the cakes are cooling make the beetles. First knead black food colouring into the marzipan until evenly coloured. Pinch off a Malteser sized piece of marzipan and roll into a rugby ball shape. Place on a piece of clingfilm and gently press to flatten. Shape into a beetle shape. Mark the head and wings using a teaspoon. Add additional detail with a knife and cocktail stick. Brush lightly with lustre dust. Roll six mini sausages out of the marzipan about 1.5 cm long. Attach two of the legs near the head and the other four to the rear. Leave on the clingfilm to dry for  few hours.

5) In a bowl beat together the butter, then gradually add the icing sugar and cocoa until light and fluffy. Slowly add the black food colouring until you have the desired colour. Adding a small amount of red dye can help it stop looking like something you may concrete bricks together with. Using a pallet knife use nearly all of the buttercream to coat the cakes.

6) In a blender blitz the Oreo biscuits (or similar chocolate biscuit) then coat the cakes with this edible dirt. Pat down slightly to help it stick.

7) Place a small blob of buttercream on the bottom of the beetle then stick on to the cake. It helps keep the beetle on the cake if you mould it slightly to the shape of the cake.

Post Author: Jules

Freelance food geek who's passionate about food education.

31 thoughts on “Black Velvet Beetle Cakes


    (October 29, 2010 - 11:06 am)

    I agree with you about the red velvet and food colouring. I’m laughing because I sometimes send things in for my husband’s work mates (many different nationalities) and cannot imagine what they’d think if they received cakes with edible beetles on them! I’ve got some of the edible lustre so might have to find time to make some for them as well as the trick or treaters.

    English Mum

    (October 29, 2010 - 11:14 am)

    These are utterly amazing! You’re so clever. And yes, I wholeheartedly agree about red velvet cakes (spookily containing lots of crushed up beetles too!) x


      (October 29, 2010 - 11:18 am)

      I didn’t think about the cochineal connection to Red Velvet cakes!

    Magic Cochin

    (October 29, 2010 - 1:37 pm)

    I love these!


    Holly B

    (October 29, 2010 - 6:46 pm)

    What a fab idea! Need to try these out!


    Natalia Rivera

    (October 30, 2010 - 3:58 am)

    Do you have black cocoa available over there? It’s a specially processed dutched cocoa that’s nearly black and can negate the use of any food dye. In th US, it’s available from King Arthur Flour.


      (October 30, 2010 - 6:03 am)

      I haven’t seen black cocoa for sale over here.


    (October 30, 2010 - 9:19 am)

    I love these! Last night I made the ‘Dracula’s bite’ cakes from my Zombie book…. Such funny cakes but some are just a little too effectively gross looking! ha ha!!


      (October 30, 2010 - 10:30 am)

      Originally Hubs wanted me to make the heart cakes that featured in the book, but I couldn’t get one of the ingredients that would give it the authentic wet look.


    (October 30, 2010 - 10:16 am)

    Defo in keeping with the ‘spirit’ of the season! Very well done ;0)

    meaghan (the decorated cookie)

    (October 30, 2010 - 1:04 pm)

    Fantastic! I loooove these. In an “eew” kind of way! Thanks for sending along to CraftGossip. I posted today at


    (October 30, 2010 - 1:50 pm)

    Thes look fantastic Jules!

    […] Um, there’s a bug on my cupcake. A perfect black beetle bug. On a perfect black velvet cupcakes. Find the black velvet cupcake recipe HERE at Butcher, Baker. […]


    (October 31, 2010 - 11:20 pm)

    what fabulously grusome looking cup cakes! I plan to include in my Halloween afternoon tea party next year, not enough of your amazinf bettles included by half!…noon-tea-party/


    (November 2, 2010 - 9:04 pm)

    For bugs, those are certainly good looking! Dare I say yum?

    The Curious Cat

    (November 2, 2010 - 10:39 pm)

    These are cool! We have an annual Halloween dinner where we try to invent spooky/ghoulish food…ours this year is this thurs as we were away for Halloween….quite excited! Going to try and make a severed hand with coloured jelly and strawberry bootlaces! xxx


    (November 3, 2010 - 12:17 pm)

    How ADORABLE are you black velvet beetle cakes?! totally original and Halloween-y but not *too* Halloween-y. No pumpkin in sight – good work!

    Whimsical Wife/Baby Whimsical

    (November 3, 2010 - 2:04 pm)

    They look absolutely brilliant!


    (November 4, 2010 - 2:50 pm)

    These are lovely, fantastic. Also I find Nigella’s Guinness chocolate cake comes out really darkly coloured so then you could escape from adding extra food colouring. I’m with you on the Red Velvet by the way, I was distraught when I discovered it was just chocolate and food colouring, I had hoped it would be something really special. Sad times.

    […] Immy (10) to help me road test some Silver Spoon products including black food colouring (used on my Black Velvet Beetle Cakes), writing icing, chocolate letters, coloured coco beans and sugar […]

    Preseli Mags

    (November 22, 2010 - 2:23 pm)

    Thank you for the link to this – they are terrific. I must have a go at these for my bug mad daughter. (And well done again for winning the bake off!)

    Dreams « Butcher, Baker

    (August 15, 2011 - 1:43 pm)

    […] have asked if there will be classes in the future. The kids have requested I show them how to make black beetle cakes and edible dirt closer to […]


    (September 28, 2011 - 11:04 am)

    I have a total phobia about insects. These beetle cakes MADE MY DAY. I’m still shivering with horrified delight.


      (September 28, 2011 - 11:15 am)

      I’m so glad you like them, even if you are horrified! Some of Hubs’ workmates refused to eat the cakes because they were so freaked out by the beetles. In a true macarbe twist the cakes did contain real beetles thanks to the cochineal I used to help darken the cakes. These beetles are making a reappearance this Halloween on a black forest gateaux style cake.

    Beetle Forest Gateau « Butcher, Baker

    (October 24, 2011 - 8:50 am)

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    […] amazing beetle cupcakes, plus her new beetle forest […]

    Red Velvet Cakes « Butcher, Baker

    (November 4, 2011 - 6:10 pm)

    […] of thing. His current workmates have been testers for my baking experiments over the years from the Beetle Cakes (that left some horrified) to not so successful bakes that, because they are blokes, were still […]

    Dreams » Butcher, Baker

    (January 21, 2012 - 8:50 am)

    […] have asked if there will be classes in the future. The kids have requested I show them how to make black beetle cakes and edible dirt closer to […]

    […] As anyone who has read the fabulous Raymond Briggs book – Fungus the Bogeyman will know, bogeymen love nothing better than dark, damp, grimy places and food that us Drycleaners (aka humans) wouldn’t touch. Cam, who was at the party, decided he was going to make Bogeyman cupcakes. Due to black buttercream being nigh on impossible to make and can have a funny after taste we went for more of a storm cloud grey colour. Then I bended some Oreos down to be the edible dirt. The rest of the decorating was all his own creation and imagination.  He also included a spider with red eyes for Grandma who doesn’t like the creepy arachnids. I thought his ideas were so great I had to share them with you showing that yes boys can make cakes too. If you wanted to make similar cakes to Cam follow the instructions on my Beetle Cupcakes post. […]

    Beetle Forest Gateau » Butcher, Baker

    (October 4, 2012 - 4:07 pm)

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