Preheat the oven to 180°C, fan 160°C, gas 4. Line a 12-hole cupcake tin with silver foil paper cupcake cases. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric hand whisk to cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a little flour with each egg to stop the mixture splitting.
Sift over the remaining flour and baking powder, then gently fold in with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth.
Divide the mixture evenly among the cupcake cases. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. The cakes are cooked when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. They should be golden and risen and spring back to the touch.
Put the cakes on a wire rack and allow to cool completely before you start decorating.
Meanwhile, make the buttercream icing. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric hand whisk to beat together the butter and vanilla extract for 2-3 minutes, until pale and soft.
Add half the icing sugar and beat on a low setting at first, so the icing sugar doesn’t puff up and out of your bowl. Beat on a higher setting until smooth, then repeat with the rest of the icing sugar. Continue to beat for 1-2 minutes, until pale and fluffy.
Spread the buttercream over the cooled cupcakes to make smooth domed tops.
Roll out the black icing to 3mm thickness. Cut out 24 x 2cm circles for the ears and 24 x 1.5cm circles for the bases of the eyes. Using the remaining black icing, roll 12 balls, each about the size of a blueberry, for the pandas’ noses.
Press the noses and the bases of the eyes lightly onto the cupcakes, then sprinkle the desiccated coconut over the rest of the surfaces – it will stick to the buttercream. If any of the coconut stays on the eyes or noses, gently brush it away with a small paintbrush.
Press white chocolate chips into place for the eyeballs. Using the black writing icing pen, make pupils in the centres, then draw a mouth under each nose.
Finish the panda faces by making 2 small indentations with a knife where the ears will go, then gently pressing the black icing circles into them so that about a quarter of each is embedded in the sponges and buttercream.