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Candy Cane Cupcakes

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DESSERT of the MONTH

Makes: 18 cupcakes

Hands-on time: 40 min.

Total time: 1 hr. 55 min.

1 (18.25-oz.) pkg. white cake mix

1 cup buttermilk

½ cup water

½ cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa

1 tbsp. red food coloring

¾ tsp. peppermint extract, divided

1 (16-oz.) can ready-to-spread cream cheese frosting

Crushed peppermint candies

1. Preheat oven to 350. Place 18 paper baking cups in muffin pans.

2. Beat cake mix and next 4 ingredients with an electric mixer at low speed about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl; beat at medium speed 1½ to 2 minutes until mixture is well blended.

3. Stir together 2/3 cup batter, cocoa and red food coloring; set aside.

4. Stir ½ tsp. peppermint extract into remaining batter. Fill muffin cups two-thirds full.

5. Spoon 1 tsp. red batter over each cupcake; swirl in with a wooden skewer.

6. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes to wire racks; cool completely.

7. Stir together cream cheese frosting and remaining peppermint extract; spread frosting evenly over cupcakes. Sprinkle with crushed candies.