For the cakes:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cream cheese frosting:

1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring gel

For the decoration:

1/2 pound vanilla flavored candy wafers (we used candymaker brand, basically circles of white chocolate apx. 1 inch in diameter)
1 package mini m&m's
1 package red licorice for the "fur"
small round cookie cutter

For the cakes:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

4. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the cream cheese frosting:

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

2. Add the food coloring to the icing and mix thoroughly. If you can't find the gel food coloring, you can use the liquid. It tends to thin the icing, so have some powdered sugar on hand to thicken it up.

To decorate:

1. Ice all of the cup cakes.

2. Place the cookie cutter in a bowl of hot water. When heated, place a vaniilla candy circle on some wax paper and using the hot cookie cutter, gently melt your way through the candy. You are making one of the eyelids. Heat the cookie cutter again and cut the other side of the vanilla candy.

3. Arrange the eyelids on the cupcake vertically as if it is a cyclops with an eyeslit.

4. Place a mini m&m's in the center as the iris.

5. Cut the licorice into small pieces and place on the surface like hair.

6. Take the leftover pieces of the vanilla candy and break them into strange shapes and use them as the ghoul's teeth.