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.



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!


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.

Irish Apple Crisp

Mike tagged me in a Facebook post with this recipe, and the comment section went wild. Friends and relatives chimed in from all over; everyone wanted it, everyone wanted me to bake it, everyone wanted to come over for dinner and have it for dessert. And so, I made it.

I strayed a bit from the original recipe in terms of some of my ingredients, my preparation, and my topping. Rather than McCann’s Irish Oatmeal, I used regular quick-cooking oats; instead of using a food processor to make the crumble, I just rubbed the butter in with my hands. I also chose to go with a whiskey sauce, rather than the honey whiskey whipped cream in the original recipe. My California bestie Amanda also made this, but she subbed nutmeg for the cinnamon because she’s allergic, and I bet hers was amazing, too. Mike absolutely loved this recipe, whiskey sauce and all. He’s looking forward to sharing this post on Facebook, gloating that it’s his…all his.


For the crisp

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons Irish whiskey (I used Jameson)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons Kerrygold Irish Salted Butter*, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats

For the whiskey sauce

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 lightly beaten egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons Irish whiskey

*Yes, I bought this ultra-trendy butter. I’ve yet to eat it, but suspect it’s delicious. 


In a medium pan, bring water and whiskey to a boil. Remove from heat; add golden raisins and and vanilla. Cover and allow to sit for about 1 hour, or until the raisins have absorbed most of the liquid.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 glass baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine sliced apples with sugar, cinnamon, and ginger, tossing to coat. Stir in raisins; pour into your buttered baking dish.

Combine flour and light brown sugar. Add butter and rub into the mixture until it looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in oats, then pour crumble over apple mixture.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until top is golden brown and apples are tender.

To make the whiskey sauce, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in sugar and beaten egg yolk, then cook, stirring constantly, on medium-low heat for about 5-6 minutes, until the sugar melts and the mixture begins to thicken just slightly. Remove from heat and quickly stir in whiskey. Serve warm; reserve leftovers in the fridge.

Makes about 6 servings, depending on your serving size.


Mega Chocolate Caramel Cookies

These cookies are massive. Four-inches-wide massive. They’re also made with Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder and stuffed with Milky Way Simply Caramel candy bars. Yep, that’s right: dark chocolate cookies stuffed with caramel candy. Genius, right?

I found the recipe at Life, Love, and Sugar while scrolling through Pinterest for Halloween cookie ideas. While I omitted the sprinkle of sea salt on the top because I didn’t have any sea salt, if I make these again I’ll definitely add it. They smelled amazing in the oven, and they’re now packed safely in a box on their way to my nephew Roman in North Carolina. Next time, I think I’ll cut the candy bars into quarters, rather than just halves, and make smaller versions. I actually made two batches, as the ingredients below yielded 10 cookies for me. I also chilled my Milk Way bars prior to stuffing them inside the cookies, but I’m not sure this was necessary. When I cut one of the cookies in half, the caramel definitely didn’t ooze out the way it appeared to in the original baker’s blog post, but I’m sure they’ll taste great anyway.


  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened*
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 Milky Way Simply Caramel fun-sized candy bars, cut in half

*The original recipe recommended salted butter for this, but I just used regular unsalted. I suspect this may alter the flavor of the cookies, so fingers crossed that mine turned out okay. 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat well, then add the flour mixture all at once. Beat on low, then medium speed, until combined.

Scoop generous, 2-tablespoon-sized scoops of dough and roll into a ball. Break the ball in half and stuff with half a Milky Way; press back together and roll again to seal the candy bar inside. Place on baking sheets several inches apart; cookies will spread as they bake.

Bake for 10-12 minutes; the centers will look puffy, but the edges will be just set. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 10 four-inch cookies.

Here we have a cookie sliced in half. 

Skeleton and Mummy Cookies

Halloween is just a few days away, and I’ve spent this weekend baking, fulfilling my role of Great Pumpkin. My favorite girls in Maryland – Mo and Margo – will receive these skeleton and mummy cut-outs just in time for the holiday. Will the royal icing stand up to shipping? It’s a fairly dry confection, so I’d hope so. And I suppose if any of the eyes or bandages flake off in shipping, it’ll just add to the Halloween creep factor. Hopefully I’m not going to traumatize the children.

I’m not that experienced with royal icing, and I’ve used the meringue powder version for these treats, rather than the version with a fresh egg white. Royal icing consistency can vary from much more liquid, appropriate for “flooding” sugar cookies, to a sturdier variety more commonly found on gingerbread houses. It’s not exactly tasty, but these cookies have a delicious chocolate flavor that will more than make up for it.


For the cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the royal icing & decoration

  • 1 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • About 2-3 tablespoons water
  • Small-sized candy eyeballs


In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract, beating until well-combined.

Slowly add flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl often and beating until a very well-combined, soft dough forms.

Gently knead the dough a few times to make sure it comes together; roll dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees; line three baking sheets with parchment or foil.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with a gingerbread man-shaped cookie cutter and place on prepared sheets about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are set. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheets for 1-2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

To make the royal icing, combine the meringue powder, powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon water in a mixer and beat on medium speed using the whisk attachment; your mixture will probably clump together at first, so just dribble in enough additional water to make a smooth consistency. Continue to beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes, until peaks form.

Fit a piping bag with a plain tip and fill with royal icing. For skeletons, pipe eyes, mouths, ribs, and arm and leg bones. For mummies, place a small dot of icing on the back of each eyeball and press it onto the cookie; swap out your piping tip for a flat-style tip (I used a Wilton 47 basket weave tip, because that was as close as I could get; a rose petal tip like a Wilton 104 would also likely work) and pipe bandages across the cookies. Allow icing to harden completely before storing; store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature.

Yield will vary depending on the size of your cutters; my batch yielded about 18 cookies.

Lemon Almond Biscotti

Lemon and almond make a great pair, not unlike my California-based best friend Amanda and me. Yes, I also have a Pittsburgh-based best friend, Kate; and yes, I get that you’re not supposed to have more than one best friend because best is a superlative but I’ve always marched to my own drummer so there you have it. Anyway…Amanda and I have known each other since we were 14 and despite a distance of about three thousand miles, still text each other nearly every day.

Amanda is  big fan of lemon, and I baked this biscotti for her. Biscotti travels very well, so it’s suitable for a trip across the country. It’s packaged up with the Halloween M&M cookies I made for her kids, tucked into a recycled box from my latest Amazon delivery because I know she won’t judge me for using a recycled box, and will instead applaud my attempt to save the planet one recycled box at a time. Enjoy, my dear friend!


  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking powder; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, almond extract, and lemon extract and beat on medium speed until combined.

Add flour all at once; beat until combined. Dough will be very thick and somewhat sticky.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for just a moment to bring the dough together; divide the dough in half and roll into logs about 14 inches long; place on your baking sheet and press dough down to about 1-inch thickness.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

Slice each log into 1 1/2-inch slices, then place slices on baking sheets and return to the oven and bake for another 6 minutes on each side. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature; makes about 20 slices.

Halloween M&M Cookies

Finding Halloween cookies that ship well can be a challenge. Many adorable treats involve icing, frosting, or other decorations that aren’t quite suitable for a trip across the country. Sure, I’d love to bake adorable sandwich cookies with eyes and fangs that look like The Monster Book of Monsters from Harry Potter, or witch hat cookies made with Hershey’s kisses, or even just cute cut-outs frosted to look like ghosts and tombstones, with but such treats don’t hold up in shipping.

Fortunately I found these easy-to-bake, easy-to-ship Halloween M&M cookies at Cooking with Karli. I amended her recipe just a bit by adding two tablespoons of vanilla extract, rather than just one. I also meant to keep some M&Ms out to press into the tops of these cookies but totally forgot, so they definitely look more cookie-from-the-black-lagoon with the M&M lumps in them than I’d intended…but that actually works well for Halloween, right?


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 11.4 ounce package Ghoul’s Mix M&Ms


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until creamy.

Add flour mixture all at once and beat with the mixer running on low speed; when the flour mixture is about halfway incorporated into the butter/egg mixture, add milk. Beat to combine completely, then stir in M&Ms. Though the original recipe said the dough will be very soft, mine was pretty sturdy.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough and roll into balls, then flatten the balls slightly and place on the parchment-lined baking sheets. If your dough is softer, you’ll be able to just drop the scoops onto the baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are set and tops no longer look shiny. Remove from oven and cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container; if shipping, store between layers of waxed paper. Makes about 30 cookies.

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.


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.


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.