Campus Life

Beaver mascot cupcakes

A recipe to celebrate graduations and sisterly bonds

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The delicious cupcake beavers have a Reese’s head, half Nutter Butter tails, and mini marshmallow teeth.
Courtesy of Professor Gareth McKinley

I’m a PhD student at MIT (SM ’17) and my older sister graduated from Caltech (PhD ’16). We lived 3,000 miles apart for 12 years, since she first left for college, so when she moved back to Boston a few years ago, we made a point of spending a lot more time together. After I told her I had started volunteering as a Tim the Beaver mascot for MIT events, she let me know that one of the few things our “rival” schools have in common is the beaver, “nature’s engineer,” as our mascots. So we worked together to adapt a groundhog day cupcake recipe ( to make a beaver-themed cupcake design that we could both enjoy. After making them together for a couple years to celebrate graduations at MIT, we’ve settled on a favorite recipe that combines the best of tastiness and aesthetics. We wanted to share this now as a fun event to do with those you love at home when travel is still restricted for a lot of people and yet there is much to celebrate.

The snack has been popular with my research lab in mechanical engineering, where we’re fond of understanding the mechanics of food — because what food with chocolate and frosting is not fun? To compliment the very geometric nature of the face of our cupcake design, a labmate (Anoop Rajappan, PhD ’21) also created a “cupcake function” that recreates the beaver portrait, visible here (

Recently, experimenting in the kitchen has taken on new meaning for us, as my lab published a research paper in April introducing Oreology, or the fluid mechanics of Oreo creme. After studying the mechanics of twisting open sandwich cookies, we made a device, the Oreometer, for people to precisely twist open Oreos in their kitchen. The beaver cupcakes have similarly interesting flow properties, as frosting, chocolate, marshmallows, and cake are all “soft materials” with non-Newtonian deformation and complex constitutive models relating stress and strain.

While we think about that more, we’ll make another batch of beaver-themed cupcakes this year to help celebrate as more friends and colleagues cross the stage and go on to new adventures across the world. I hope you enjoy the cupcakes like we have!


Chocolate cupcakes

Many different boxed mixes work well! We like Betty Crocker Super Moist Triple Chocolate Fudge. Follow the recipe on the box. Or see the groundhog day cupcake recipe above to make cupcakes from scratch.


Mix these all together in a bowl until smooth. Other buttercream frosting recipes also work.

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
2 tablespoons milk


Decorate as desired. Tweezers are helpful for placing decorations! We recommend: 

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for the heads
Hershey’s Chocolate Drops for the cheeks
Brown M&Ms for the ears - held by frosting or melted chocolate
Mini-marshmallows for the teeth
Chocolate-covered sunflower seeds for the noses
Candy eyes for the eyes
Half Nutter Butters for the tails