“I have been ‘cooking’ since I was 3 years old. Now I cook for my two teenage sons and bake decorated cakes for family and friends. I came up with this for an online contest. It was a hoot!” —Tammy Baker, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Preheat oven to 350°. Line 21 muffin cups and 6 mini-muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine cake mix, water, oil, coffee and eggs; beat on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium 2 minutes. Stir in chocolate chips. Fill prepared cups two-thirds full. Bake 18-22 minutes for regular-sized cupcakes and 10-12 minutes for mini-cupcakes or until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.
Place 1-1/3 cups chocolate frosting in a small bowl. Tint black with food colouring. Cut a small hole in the tip of a pastry bag or in a corner of a food-safe plastic bag; insert #125 or other large petal or flat pastry tip. Fill bag with black frosting and set aside.
Frost mini cupcakes with some of the remaining chocolate frosting. Separate Oreo cookies, leaving cream filling on one side of the cookies. Place filling sides of cookies on frosted cupcakes for eyes, cream side up; attach brown M&M's with chocolate frosting.
Trim plain sides of cookies into triangles for ears; place above eyes. Insert #16 or other star pastry tip into another pastry bag. Fill bag with remaining chocolate frosting. Pipe feathers on ears and around eyes. Place yellow M&M's between eyes for beaks.
In a large bowl, beat confectioners' sugar, butter, shortening and enough water to reach spreading consistency; frost large cupcakes. Arrange cupcakes side by side on a covered cake board.
Pipe black frosting across tops of cupcakes for tree trunk and branches. Place owl cupcakes on branches.