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.

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.

Orange Cupcakes

Mike turned 42 this past Sunday. Each year I ask him what he’d like me to bake, and his answer is usually chocolate chip cookies. Then I force him to choose something different, and this year, he picked orange cupcakes. Not just any orange cupcakes, though – an homage to the Hostess cupcakes of our childhood, complete with a squiggle of white frosting across the top.

There are several copycat Hostess orange cupcake recipes out there, and this is a hybrid of several, plus my own take on the filling and frosting. I used buttercream frosting, rather than the fondant-like topping available on the store-bought version, and I’m glad I did. The cupcakes turned out a bit dry, and they needed the extra moisture from the filling and frosting. They tasted amazing, but next time I think I’ll use a cupcake recipe that’s oil-based, rather than butter-based, for a softer texture. You’ll have filling and frosting left over, which you can store at room temperature in airtight containers for 2-3 days for another use.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • zest of 1 1/2 medium oranges
  • juice from 1 medium orange
  • 2 tablespoons milk

For the filling

  • 4 teaspoons butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons milk
  • yellow and red food coloring, for tinting

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with paper liners.

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

In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter on medium for 1 minute. Add sugar and orange zest, beating until fluffy. Add egg and beat, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Add flour mixture and orange juice and milk in three alternate batches, beginning and ending with the flour.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling about 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely before filling and frosting.

To make the filling, beat butter and shortening together until combined. Add powdered sugar in small batches, beating until combined.  Once all sugar is incorporated, beat on medium speed for two minutes. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla and beat to combine; you may want to add more vanilla to taste, depending on your preference.

To make the frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, then add powdered sugar all at once. Beat on low, then medium speed, until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add orange extract, vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon of milk, beating for about 1-2 minutes to combine. Add additional milk to reach a smooth consistency that will be easy to pipe and spread. Reserve about 1/4 cup frosting for white squiggle; tint the remaining frosting a yellow-orange. I used golden yellow gel food coloring with one drop of liquid red to get my desired shade.

To assemble, use a sharp knife (a melon baller did not work well for these cupcakes, I have to say) to core each cupcake. Place filling in a piping bag and generously fill each hole.

Place orange frosting in a large piping bag fitted with a large plain tip and generously pipe a blob on the top of each cupcake, then flatten it out with an offset spatula.

Place white frosting in a small piping bag with pipe the squiggle on the top of each cupcake.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 12 cupcakes.

Turkey Cupcakes

My nephew Roman loves chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and these adorable little turkeys are on their way to North Carolina, along with my mom, for his Thanksgiving. I cannot get over how cute they are.

There are plenty of turkey cupcake decorating ideas out there, but I chose the M&M version for ease of completion. You can create their beaks, wattles, and feathers with the same candy, though I recommend buying a larger bag so you have enough for the whole batch. I used several different designs for their feathers, as you can see in the photo below, but I think the stand-up version – where you place the candies vertically instead of pressing them flat into the frosting – yields the best look.

Ingredients

Preparation

Bake cupcakes and allow to cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Make frosting and hand-frost the tops of the cupcakes. Fit a piping bag with a large plain tip and pipe a blob for the face, then pipe additional frosting around the top edge of the cupcake to make it easier to place the candies.

Add candy eyeballs, then use a yellow M&M for the beak, red for the wattle, and the colors of your choice for the feathers. I used two different methods for the feathers; I pressed some directly into the frosting flat, while I stood others up vertically, using the frosting as sort of a bolster. I prefer the second method, as the candies look more feather-like that way.

Store in an airtight container and serve within a few days. The moisture from the cupcakes and frosting will affect the candies after a while.

Makes 13. Below is a look at the flock for Roman!

Dracula’s Favorite Cupckes

October went by in a blur, and I never got a chance to post these fun, Halloween-themed cupcakes. They’re a basic almond cupcake filled with blood-red raspberry filling, topped with a little bat. I like to think Dracula would have enjoyed them.

I initially planned to poke holes in the tops and have some of the filling ooze out vampire-bite-style, but that didn’t quite work. Fortunately, I had some bat sprinkles, so that worked well. To make your raspberry filling appear a bit more bloody, simply add red food coloring once it’s cooled. You could also go with a cherry filling if you wanted to, as cherry and almond are good flavor friends as well.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 recipe raspberry filling
  • Red food coloring

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 to 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk
  • Bat sprinkles

Preparation

Prepare raspberry filling and allow to cool; add several drops of red food coloring, stirring well until you reach your desired color.

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

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

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs, vanilla, and almond and beat until combined.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into each cupcake well.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately place cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Once cupcakes are cool, prepare frosting: in a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes.

Add vanilla extract and almond extract, beating well to combine. Add 1 tablespoon milk and beat well; add additional milk if necessary to achieve a smooth consistency that will be easy to pipe and spread.

To fill and frost: using a melon baller, scoop out the center of each cupcake. From the core, cut away all but the top 1/4 inch, leaving a small disc of cake. Reserve the scraps for a trifle or other treat.

Place raspberry filling in a zip-top bag and carefully snip one corner; pipe filling into each cupcake, then top with cake discs. This will help the raspberry filling from getting into your frosting, although I suppose for a vampire-themed cupcake, that wouldn’t be the worst thing.

Fill a piping bag with frosting and pipe onto each cupcake; using an offset spatula, flatted the swirls just slightly. You can also just frost the cupcakes by hand if you prefer.

Top each cupcake with one bat.

Store at room temperature for up to 3 days; you’ll have some filling left over, which you can combine with the cupcake scraps for a delicious mini trifle.

Makes 12 cupcakes. Below, you’ll see the blood-red raspberry filling.

 

Princess Cupcakes

Princesses have come a long way in popular culture. As a kid, I had the classics: Cinderella, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and the coolest princess ever, Princess Leia. Since my 1980s childhood, we’ve seen many strong female role models emerge in children’s stories. Today’s princesses aren’t lying around waiting for some rich guy to kiss them; they’re going off to battle, undoing spells from witches to save their families, and discovering that what makes them different is actually what makes them awesome. Even Princess Leia became a general, not that I’m surprised.

Princess cake and cookie flavor is a vanilla-citrus-flavored baking emulsion (read: flavoring that is water-based, so it won’t bake out) that you can find at cake stores and specialty baking suppliers like King Arthur Flour. This is the first time I’ve used it, and I’m very pleased with the results. I decided to go the traditional princess route and tinted my frosting pink, then added some pearl sprinkles as well.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon princess cake and cookie flavor
  • 3 tablespoons milk

For the frosting

  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon princess cake and cookie flavor
  • 3-4 teaspoons milk
  • Red food coloring
  • Pearl sprinkles, if desired

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with 6 paper liners.

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

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add egg and princess cake and cookie flavor and beat until combined.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into each cupcake well.

Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately place cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting: beat butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 1 minute. Add powdered sugar all at once and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Once all the sugar is incorporated, beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, then add flavor and 2 teaspoons milk; if frosting is too thick, add remaining milk. Add a few drops of red food coloring to tint frosting pink.

Fit a large pastry bag with a Wilton M1 tip and pipe generous swirls of frosting onto each cupcake. Top with pearl sprinkles.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 6.