Bloody Murder Cupcakes

Due to inclement weather, trick-or-treating has been postponed in many neighborhoods around Pittsburgh. Cue outrage! I do have to admit that in my childhood we went trick-or-treating exclusively on Halloween, regardless of the weather. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor freezing temperatures kept children of the 1980s inside on Halloween night. Out we went with coats over our costumes or sweatshirts underneath, prowling the neighborhood in eldest-child-lead packs (I truly have no recollection of ever trick-or-treating with my parents), returning soaked and half frozen with pillow cases full of candy bars we had to break in half before eating, lest they be laced with razor blades. Ahh, the 80s.

But times are different now, and in all fairness it really is horrible out tonight. In any case, to celebrate this Halloween, I’ve whipped up some bloody murder cupcakes, a new take on the crime scene cupcakes I’ve made previously, thanks to some candy decoration weapons. Mike is very excited to take these to work in the morning.

 

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

For the frosting, blood spatter, and weapons

  • 1 recipe vanilla buttercream
  • 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • Red gel food coloring
  • Wilton Halloween weapon candy decorations*

*I had the variety pack, which featured knives, axes, and meat cleavers and I bought at my local Target. Fun!

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; this recipe can yield 12-16 cupcakes depending on how full you fill the wells. Now that I’ve baked this, I recommend filling the wells about half full, rather than three-quarters full as I did tonight.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well-blended, then make three wells for the wet ingredients.

Place vinegar, vanilla, and vegetable oil into the wells; add water and mix until the batter is smooth. The mixture will bubble up slightly when you add the water, so just keep mixing until you get a smooth consistency in the batter, which will be fairly thin.

Use a 1/4 cup measure to fill the cupcake wells about half full.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on wire racks.

Prepare the frosting and fit a 14-inch piping bag with a large plain tip. Pipe generous portions of frosting onto each cupcake, then flatten out each blob with a small offset spatula.

Stir together raspberry jam and red gel food coloring to your desired bloody shade.

Using a teaspoon from your flatware, drop, drizzle, or splatter jam onto each cupcake. If you like, lightly drag a toothpick through the jam splatters to extend the splattered effect. Place a candy weapon on top.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

Coffee & Walnut Cupcakes

I’ve never been a coffee person. Tea is my warm beverage of choice, especially now in caffeine-free migraine life.  But even before I went caffeine-free, I’d really only liked coffee in baked goods, like my favorite dessert, tiramisu.

While coffee and walnut seems like a more American combination to me, this recipe actually comes from Baking with Mary Berry, which Mike gave me for my birthday this year. I’ve seen several coffee and walnut combinations on British food sites, right up there with the Victoria sponge, the Battenburg cake, and various fruitcakes. My batch turned out okay, just a bit on the dry side. The original recipe called for extra large eggs, but I only had large on hand – I suspect the extra large eggs give a bit more volume and moisture to the cupcakes, so next time I’ll definitely use them. That’s the beauty of baking; even “mistakes” can turn out delicious.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

For the frosting

  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 teaspoons boiling water
  • 7 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 12 walnut halves, toasted*

*Mary’s original recipe doesn’t include toasted walnuts, but I prefer toasted nuts to raw ones for flavor and texture.

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners; my batch yielded 13 cupcakes, so I used two tins.

In a mixing bowl, combine coffee granules and boiling water, stirring to combine. Add butter, flour, sugar, milk, and eggs and beat until combined. Stir in walnuts.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into cupcake tins. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For frosting, in a mixing bowl, combine coffee granules and boiling water, stirring to combine. Add butter and powdered sugar, beating on low speed for a few minutes, then on medium speed for a few more minutes, to combine completely. Scrape your bowl a few times to avoid streaks of dissolved coffee.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop frosting onto cupcakes and spread with an offset spatula. Top with a toasted walnut half.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. The original recipe yields 12, but mine yielded 13.

Citrus “Traybake” Cake

“Traybake” isn’t really part of the American baker’s vocabulary…unless she watches the Great British Baking Show, of course. Visitors to this blog know very well of my GBBS obsession, which lives on in full force

A traybake can be a cake, brownie, or other dessert baked in a rectangular pan. Ranging from the simple to the complex, traybakes are apparently a staple of family baking in Britain. This recipe is adapted from Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes: Easy Bakes in Minutes; I subbed oranges for limes because that’s what I had on hand. I suspect that I slightly over-baked my cake, but Mike’s coworkers registered no complaints. I also made the mistake of zesting my lemon and orange in advance, then trying to sprinkle the chilled zest over my icing; next time, I’ll zest the fruit straight onto the icing so it falls more evenly, rather than in clumps.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 1 cup margarine* straight out of the fridge
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons lemon curd
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • zest of 1/2 orange

For the icing

  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon and orange juice
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • zest from 1/2 orange

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 (or 9 x 12, if that’s what you have) baking tin and line it with parchment.

Place all cake ingredients in a mixer and beat well to combine, until batter is light and fluffy. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, until well risen and the top springs back slightly when gently pressed.

Remove from oven and cool completely before icing.

To make icing, place powdered sugar in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon lemon and orange juice at a time to make a smooth, thick drizzle icing. Pour over cake; spread with an offset spatula to cover completely. Top with lemon and orange zest.

Allow icing to set, then cut into 16 pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Spiced Apple Cupcakes

Fall begins tomorrow, and I am ready. As a person who appreciates all seasons, I welcome the changing leaves, crisp evening air, and an excuse to bake with delicious fall favorites like apples, pumpkins, and one of my favorite spices, nutmeg. Apples feature heavily in many fall desserts, but these cupcakes feature an easy pantry staple that also lends great, tender texture: applesauce.

I found this recipe at Cooking Classy and adapted it slightly to cut down its size, adjust the spice level, and add a vanilla caramel buttercream rather than a cream cheese frosting (which would also be delicious). The cupcakes themselves carry more of a spice flavor than an apple flavor, but are quite delicious with a very tender crumb. The frosting has a subtle caramel flavor that brings a nice balance of sweetness to the warm spice in the cupcakes. Next time, I’d love to try this recipe as a whole cake, served with warm apple compote and whipped cream. Stay tuned!

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Heaping 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened applesauce

For the frosting

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup caramel sauce
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. With the mixer running on low, add the applesauce. Turn off the mixer and stir in flour until just combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into liners, filling about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake for 20-21 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from tin; place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat butter in a mixer for about 1 minute, then add powdered sugar and mix on low, then medium speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add caramel, heavy cream, and vanilla and beat well, about 3-4 minutes.

Fit a large piping bag with a large plain tip; pipe a generous blob of frosting onto each cupcake. You’ll have plenty of frosting left over for another use; I may make a second batch of these cupcakes for mine!

Store in an airtight container at a cool room temperature, or in the fridge. Makes 12.

Gingerbread Sandwich Cake

The Great British Baking Show has influenced my baking in many ways, among them what I’m starting to call things. Two-layer cakes have become sandwich cakes, baking pans have become tins, rising time for bread has become proving time. I don’t mind – I’m an Anglophile after all. This week I re-watched a few episodes from a previously viewed season where the bakers made highly creative sandwich cakes, and wanting to make something fun for the impending arrival of fall, I settled on rich spicy flavors.

This gingerbread sandwich cake features apple pie spice rather than traditional gingerbread spices, although truth be told, they’re quite similar and next time I’ll probably go with the regular gingerbread spice blend. The frosting is a lovely creation of buttercream with molasses and ginger that I found at Two Sisters Crafting and tweaked to suit my own taste for a stronger molasses flavor. The cake itself was a bit on the dry side, so I suspect I may have baked it just a bit longer than necessary. Good to know for next time, as I’ll definitely make this again.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons apple pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup water

For the frosting

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger

Preparation

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 8-inch square cake pans (or tins, if you prefer the British version!) and line the bottoms with parchment.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, apple pie spice, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl well. Add molasses and egg and beat well to combine.

Add flour mixture and water alternatively in three batches, starting and ending with the flour and mixing to combine between each.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 15-17 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter for about 1 minute, then add all the powdered sugar at once and beat on low, then medium speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add molasses and ginger and beat to fully combine, scraping the sides of the bowl at least a few times.

To assemble, place one layer on your cake stand and top with half the frosting; repeat with the second layer and remaining frosting, leaving the sides bare. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Makes about 12 servings.

Madeira Cake

How many recipes do I want to bake? All of them, I suppose…but some more than others. To stay on track and ensure that I try (and ideally, master) as many intriguing treats as possible, I’ve set monthly baking goals. September includes Madeira cake, which seems to be more common in Britain than here in the States.

Contrary to its name, Madeira cake contains no wine. Victorians enjoyed this pound cake-like treat with Madeira, and today it’s served with tea or liqueur. Traditional Madeira cake has a crack in the top, and I’m proud to say that mine did, too. The recipe comes from The Kitchn, and mine yielded a well-flavored but slightly dry cake, likely because I had to bake it for longer than I’d planned. Next time I’ll bake it in a 9 x 5 loaf tin, rather than an 8 x 4, to cut down on baking time.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • Zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • Juice of 1 medium lemon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8 x 4 loaf tin with butter, then line the tin with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes, scraping the bowl well at least a few times.

Add the first egg and one spoonful of flour mixture, beating to combine. Scrape down the bowl, then repeat with remaining eggs and one spoonful of flour mixture for each egg, scraping the bowl between each. Add remaining flour and lemon juice and mix until combined; batter will be quite thick.

Spoon batter into the pan and smooth out the top, then sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top. Bake for about 60-70 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan completely, then lift out by the parchment and store, well wrapped, at room temperature. Makes about 10 servings.

At left, you get a nice view of the crack down the side of the top. 

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

To me, pineapple upside-down cake is pretty retro. I imagine bakers in the 1950s and 60s serving it at dinner parties, but according to What’s Cooking America, inverted cakes that reveal a special topping go back as far as the Middle Ages. Once the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (today known as Dole) began producing in canned pineapple in the early 1900s, bakers across the United States could get easy access to this tropical treat and recipes for pineapple upside-down cake popped up in women’s magazines and cookbooks everywhere.

This was my first attempt at pineapple upside-down cake, and I already have a plan for next time. I adapted this recipe from Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes, which uses a 7-inch cake pan and some ingredients that are harder to find here in the states, like muscovado sugar. My cake baked in a 9-inch pan, which as you can see made the cake layer quite shallow. Next time I’ll use a different recipe, but Mike said this was delicious anyway.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 7 canned pineapple rings
  • About 7 maraschino cherries, sliced in half
  • 3/4 cup self-rising flour
  • 6 tablespoons margarine
  • 2/3 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon pineapple juice

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease a 9-inch round cake pan.

Sprinkle dark brown sugar as evenly as possible over the bottom of the pan and top with pineapple rings, then place half of a maraschino cherry in the center of each ring and between the rings at the edge of the pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, margarine, sugar, egg, and pineapple juice and beat on medium speed until completely combined.

Spoon batter carefully over pineapple layer and spread with a small spatula to make an even layer.

Bake for 25 minutes, until cake is well-risen, golden, and springs back slightly when touched. Remove from oven and cool for about 20 minutes, then invert on a serving plate to cool completely.

Makes 8 servings.