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1 package chocolate cake mix (regular size)
3 tablespoons butter, softened
6 tablespoons baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons 2% milk
64 pretzel sticks, halved
4-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons shortening
32 red M&M's minis
Prepare and bake cake mix according to package directions, using a greased 13x9-in. baking pan. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Crumble cake into a large bowl to measure 7 cups.
In a large bowl, beat butter, cocoa and vanilla until creamy. Beat in confectioners’ sugar alternately with milk until smooth. Add cake crumbs; mix well. Shape into sixteen 1-1/2-in. balls and sixteen 3/4-in. balls.
To assemble spiders, insert a wooden or metal skewer through one small cake ball and then halfway through one large cake ball; repeat with remaining balls. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets; insert eight pretzel halves into each large ball to form legs. Freeze 2 hours or until firm.
In a microwave, melt chocolate chips and shortening; stir until smooth. Dip each spider in chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets.
Remove skewers and attach M&M's for eyes. Refrigerate until set.
Test Kitchen Tips
Trust us: Don't skip the freezing step. Freezing helps keep these little cuties intact when you dip them in chocolate.
Adding shortening helps prevent chocolate from cracking when it hardens.
Chocolate is notoriously finicky. To prevent it from becoming granular (or "seizing," as it's sometimes called), be sure your bowls and tools are completely dry. Heat can also cause chocolate to seize, so microwave for 10 seconds at a time, then stir.