Camouflage Cupcakes (Nut-Free)

 In Cake, Cupcakes, Dessert, Nut Free, Recipes

I never thought I’d produce a camouflage anything in my kitchen.  But, today, I have proven myself wrong.  You guys, I made a camo cake AND two dozen camo cupcakes.  I’m in a strange state of wonder over the whole thing.

Camo cupcakes with creamy chocolate frosting

Here’s what happened.  Over the last few months, my son has been profoundly interested in all things military.  I’m not sure how it started or why, but he wants to watch WWII documentaries and check out library books about amphibious vehicles.  My Dad is a Vietnam War Veteran and when we were home a few weeks ago, Dad shared some of his memorabilia, much to my son’s delight.  I’m happy that he wants to know more about our American history and how our fine military operates, but it makes me just a little bit nervous.  Fighting and war are big topics when you’re merely a child.  Understanding the political and environmental situations that necessitate military force is something he likely won’t study until high school and I don’t dare explain to a six-year-old!

So, this sweet child turns seven tomorrow.  Today, we have two celebrations for him – one at school and one with a few of his friends this evening (hence the cupcakes and cake).  He wants everything to be camouflage – the plates and napkins, his shoes and (sigh) even the cake.  I literally spent two weeks wringing my hands over how I was going to make a camo cake.  I crafted a plan (of course) and held my breath while these things baked.

Here was the running commentary, which happened out loud, not just in my head: “Will the three batters hold up individually so that all three colors emerge or will they just bleed together into a mass of some terrible greenish-brown blob?”  “Will I be able to taste the spinach powder (which I used to “dye” one part of the batter green because food dye is yucky)?”  “Will the green batter turn brown when I bake it leaving me with a checkered cake instead of a camo one?”  And finally: “What have I gotten myself into?”

You will be rather pleased to know that my efforts resulted in a successful camo cake!  Let me walk you through it a bit.  It is NOT difficult, it just requires a little bit of patience.  But, if you ever need to make a camo cake or cupcakes, I have your solution!

So, we start with a really good, basic vanilla cake batter recipe.  Once you’ve incorporated all your ingredients, divide it into thirds in three separate bowls.  One third you’ll leave plain vanilla.  Another third, you’ll turn into chocolate (magical!) and the remaining third, you’ll “dye” green.  Let me say a few things about spinach powder (or any vegetable powder) you may use in baking:

  • You’ll need a good acid in the recipe to keep the powder from turning brown. For this recipe, you’ll see that I added vinegar to the whole milk.  That’ll do it!
  • Be mindful of your quantities. Powders are concentrations of the vegetable, which means the flavor is strong.  You will taste the spinach if you use enough of it!  I started with 3 teaspoons in this recipe.  It gave me the perfect camo green color.  I can taste the slightest hint of spinach in the final product, but that’s because I knew it was there.  I doubt the regular, unassuming consumer would notice it.
  • I added the spinach powder directly to the batter. Some people prefer to soak the powder in water first, then add the liquid to the batter.  I didn’t test this method, so if you do, let me know how it goes!

And now for the most time-consuming part.  You’ll need to add spoonfuls of the batter one at a time.  You’re trying to create that camo “pattern.”  The good news here is that precision and perfection are irrelevant.  Just drop ‘em in.  Let the camo baking gods do the rest.  Here is what my first layer looked like:

Camo cupcake batter pattern

When I baked the cake (a 2-layer 9-inch round cake), it only took one layer in each pan.  The cupcakes needed, like, 1.5 layers.  I filled the cupcake liners almost all the way to the top.  This batter rises really well, so my resulting cupcakes have a nice big, overflowed top.

And here’s what the inside of the cupcakes looked like after baking:

Camo cupcake pattern after baking

Pretty awesome, no?

Here is the bottom of the cake, too.  I thought this view showed the cool marbling of the camo pattern:

Bottom of the camo cake - pretty cool marbling, right?!

Needless to say, both the cupcakes and the cake were a huge hit!  And now I’m off to contemplate how my baby could be SEVEN already?!?!

Camo cupcake with chocolate frosting

Camouflage Cupcakes (Nut-Free)

[wpurp-searchable-recipe]Camouflage Cupcakes (Nut-Free) – – – [/wpurp-searchable-recipe]

  • Prep Time: 30m
  • Cook Time: 30m
  • Total Time: 1h


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 teaspoons spinach powder

Chocolate Frosting

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons whole milk (and maybe more if your frosting is thick)
  • Chocolate jimmies, optional

How To Do It

  1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees (F).
  2. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter. I typically do this in 20-second increments so the butter doesn’t get too hot. Once all the butter is melted, set it aside to cool just to room temperature.
  3. In a glass Pyrex measuring cup, stir together the milk and vinegar and let sit for a few minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and baking powder with a fork.
  5. In a large bowl, measure out the sugar and add the melted and cooled butter. Stir together with a fork. The sugar won’t dissolve – you’ll have a grainy mixture instead.
  6. To the sugar and butter, add the eggs and whisk until incorporated.
  7. Stir in the yogurt and vanilla extract.
  8. Now, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milk to the butter and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.
  9. Once you have a smooth batter, transfer one third of it to a second bowl and another third of it to a third bowl.
  10. To one bowl add 3 Tbs. cocoa powder and stir to combine. This will get pretty thick.
  11. To another bowl add the 3 teas. Spinach powder and stir to combine.
  12. Fill a cupcake pan with paper or silicone liners. Drop spoonfuls of each batter into the cupcake liners. You’ll want all three colors in the same layer, but in no particular order. Add a second layer until your cupcake liners are 2/3 full.
  13. If you’re turning this into a cake, butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Drop spoonfuls of the batter in a random pattern along the bottom of the pans. Be sure to fill in the gaps along the edges and in between colors.
  14. Place the pans into the oven and bake about 30 minutes (the cupcakes and cakes took the same amount of time) or until there is no jiggle on the top of the cakes or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. I noticed that mine did brown slightly on top.
  15. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes in the pans.
  16. Turn out onto a cake rack to cool completely.
  17. Now prepare your frosting. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a hand mixer on high.
  18. You can spread the frosting on the cooled cupcakes with a butter knife (the old fashioned way) or place the frosting in a piping bag and pipe the cupcakes in your desired pattern.
  19. Sprinkle jimmies on top (or grate some chocolate…) if you’d like.
  20. I store these in a covered container in the fridge and bring them out about an hour before serving, so they don’t have that cold refrigerator taste. They last 3-4 days.
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