Creature Cookies

Here’s another great cake mix-based recipe for busy bakers. I found this recipe on several other blogs, so it’s difficult to give credit to whoever came up with it – I imagine it was an inventive test kitchen baker at a cake mix company.

I chose to add princess cake and cookie flavor to the dough, an amazing product available at King Arthur Flour that promises – and delivers – that classic “from the bakery” flavor. It’s kind of similar to the flavor of an animal cookie and makes a subtle yet wonderful addition to this dough. If you don’t have it, you can substitute vanilla extract if you like, or just leave the dough as-is.

Just a few notes about handling the dough: it’s incredibly sticky, so when you stir in your food coloring, you’ll want to use a mixer. I started out with three separate colors, then realized after some orange dough got into the green dough from my cookie scoop that mixing the colors would also be fun. Lastly, I used two different methods for placing the eyeballs; on the first two batches, I baked the cookies first, then pressed in the eyes when they came out of the oven (resulting in the look of the orange and purple cookies above). On the last batch, I pressed them into the dough before baking, and you can see the difference in the green/orange cookie above. Either method would be fine – you’ll just end up with a slightly different look based on what you choose.

Ingredients

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon princess cake & cookie flavor
  • Purple, orange, green, and yellow food coloring
  • Candy eyeballs

Preparation

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, vegetable oil, eggs, and flavoring; stir very well to completely combine. Divide dough into three portions. Tint one purple, one orange, and one green (I found that using both green and yellow yields a Frankenstein-like color, which is what I wanted); I used my stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, to really work the food coloring into the dough. Chill dough for 30-60 minutes, until easier to handle; it will remain quite sticky, but the chilling process does help.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop portions of dough, then divide each portion in half – you want your portions to be about the size of a gumball. Roll into balls, combining colors if you like.

Place balls on parchment-lined baking sheets and press in candy eyeballs if you like, or wait until after baking and press eyeballs in then, whatever you prefer.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, until cookies are set. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 40.

 

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Crime Scene Cupcakes

crime-scene-cupcakesWant a fun Halloween cupcake? Make these. Seriously – they might be the most fun, creative cupcake I’ve ever made…and they’re incredibly easy to prepare.

When my colleague Rose asked if I’d bake for her Halloween party and come up with some creepy options, a “blood-spattered” cupcake instantly came to mind. While you can make edible blood with all manner of things, I chose to go with raspberry jam, tinted with red gel food coloring to make it more red than raspberry. You could certainly make any flavor of cupcake for these, and I look forward to making some vanilla ones in the future.

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 and blood spatter

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; this recipe yields 16 cupcakes.

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 13-15 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 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.

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

crime-scene-cupcakes-2Here’s the dozen that went to the party – I hope they’re a hit!

 

 

Witch’s Brew Cupcakes

witch-brew-cupcakesAs a person who recently had to give up chocolate because of migraines, I’ve come to sincerely appreciate vanilla. These witch’s brew cupcakes feature a vanilla cupcakes frosted with vanilla buttercream – perfect for those of us who can’t eat chocolate (or simply don’t like it, which I find astonishing).

The bat sprinkles are a Wilton product, which I bought at Target; you can probably find them at your local craft store as well. For a full batch of these cupcakes – which yields 17 – you’ll need two bottles of sprinkles. I mixed up my sprinkles a bit after dipping every few cupcakes to make sure that all of the cupcakes got a few bats.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sour milk*
  • 1 recipe vanilla buttercream
  • Leaf green gel food coloring**
  • Golden yellow gel food coloring**
  • Wilton Bat Sprinkles

*To make sour milk, place 1/2 tablespoon in a glass measuring cup and add enough milk to equal one-half cup total. Stir; let stand for 5 minutes before using. 

**Leaf green and golden yellow gel food coloring are both made by Wilton and should be available to your local craft store. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; this recipe yields 17 cupcakes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat for another 30 seconds.

Add vanilla and canola oil and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Batter will be very thin.

Using a quarter-cup measuring cup, scoop batter into prepared cupcake liners, filling half full.

Bake for 12-13 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

Prepare your frosting and use both leaf green and golden yellow gel food coloring to tint to a bright yellow-green.

Fit a 14-inch piping bag with a the Wilton M1 tip and pipe generous swirls of frosting onto each cupcake.

Place bat sprinkles in a bowl and carefully dip frosted cupcakes into the sprinkles.

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

Vampire Delights

vampire-delightsThis weekend I baked for a colleague’s Halloween party, creating what I hope is a spooky yet fun menu. If you’re having a party for grown-ups or older kids (or if your little ones don’t scare easily), these vampire delights – Italian sugar cookies dipped in blood-red icing – would make a great addition to your menu.

To achieve a blood-red color for the icing, I used red gel, red liquid, and black gel food coloring. I mixed a few small test batches first to get the right color and highly recommend doing so. Too much black yields a purple outcome, but if you add the black a few dots at a time, you can keep mixing to the darker shade without bleeding (yes, pun intended) into a different color family altogether. Make sure you give these cookies a few hours to set before you serve them; the icing takes a while to dry.

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe Italian sugar cookies; I used both a 1-inch and 2-inch cookie scoop to create cookies of different sizes
  • Red gel food coloring
  • Red liquid food coloring
  • Black gel food coloring

Preparation

Bake cookies and allow to cool completely before dipping.

Prepare glaze and add red gel food coloring, red liquid food coloring, and black gel food coloring a few dots or drops at a time to reach your desired color.

Dip tops of cookies in icing; allow icing to harden before you store or serve the cookies.

Makes about 30 cookies, depending on how many of each size you make.

Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes

pumpkinpatchcupcakesMy friend Erika’s daughter is turning 7 this weekend, and I had the privilege of baking for her party. Erika requested a friendly, happy version of Halloween treats – nothing scary – and these pumpkin patch cupcakes fit the bill.

As a gal with a very low tolerance for scary things, I understand the desire to have a friendly, happy Halloween. I can handle creepy things, but once we get into scary territory, all bets are off. I hope that these friendly pumpkins are a big hit at the party, along with the brownies, M&M blondies, and chocolate sugar cookies I made – stay tuned for those recipes shortly!

Happy Birthday, AJ! You’ve got an awesome mom!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 recipe vanilla buttercream
  • orange gel food coloring
  • leaf green gel food coloring
  • 4 miniature Tootsie Rolls

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; this recipe yields 15 cupcakes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat for another 30 seconds.

Add vanilla and canola oil and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Batter will be very thin.

Using a quarter-cup measuring cup, scoop batter into prepared cupcake liners, filling half full.

Bake for 12-13 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

To decorate:

Cut Tootsie Rolls in half lengthwise, then cut each half in half lengthwise again. Knead each piece to soften it a bit, then mold it into a stem shape; set aside.

Prepare vanilla buttercream. Remove about 1/4 cup and tint green; tint remaining frosting orange.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of orange frosting onto cupcakes, then frost with a small offset spatula.

Fit a piping bag with a leaf tip; place 1 stem into the top of each cupcake, then pipe leaves around the stem.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature; Tootsie Roll stems will soften because of the moisture in the cupcakes, so it’s best to prepare these within a few hours of serving.

Vampire Bite Sandwich Cookies

vampiresandwichesSometimes you find a recipe that goes totally awry. Such was my experience today with a recipe for vampire bite cookies, a sugar cookie stuffed with raspberry jam. Let’s just say we’ll be going back to the drawing board on those, but in the meantime, I turned what could have been a disaster into something quite tasty.

Instead of wasting my dough – because I don’t ever toss dough or batter unless has gone terribly wrong and cannot be fixed – I decided to bake the cookies, then use a dark red-tinted raspberry buttercream filling for little sandwiches. Fair warning: when taking a bite, the filling will absolutely ooze out on all sides, but that sort of adds to the Halloween-themed fun, no?

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

For the blood red buttercream

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 heaping tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • Red gel food coloring

Preparation

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

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and extracts, beating well to combine.

Add flour mixture in two batches, beating well after each.

Divide dough in two portions; wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut dough into circles and place about 1 inch apart on prepared sheets.

Bake for 10-11 minutes, until edges are set. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

To make blood red buttercream, in a mixing bowl, beat butter and raspberry jam on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Mixture will look lumpy; that’s okay. Add powdered sugar and beat until completely combined, scraping the sides of the bowl several times. Add food coloring and beat until fully combined.

Flip cookies over and top half with a generous dollop of filling (about 1/2 tablespoon or so). Top with remaining cookies to make sandwiches. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

 

Witch Brew Cookies

witchbrewcookies

With just a few weeks to go until Halloween, these fun witch brew cookies are on their way to my goddaughter Mo and her little sister Margo, whose birthday also happens to fall on Halloween. Does this cookie look like something from a witch’s cauldron? I certainly hope so.

A word about spiral cookies: it’s very important to press your layers together firmly as you roll your dough log to avoid the small gaps you can see in the cookie here. This dough is very soft when rolled out, so waxed paper helps in handling a great deal. I found the original recipe for these over at Lady Behind the Curtain and chose not to roll the dough log in sprinkles before I sliced them, but that would definitely add an extra spooky kick (and some nice crunch) to these treats.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plus 6 tablespoons all purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups butter, cut into cubes and softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Leaf green, lemon yellow, violet, and black gel food coloring

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour with the baking powder, salt, powdered sugar, and sugar. Mix to combine.

Add butter a few cubes at a time, mixing until the texture has the consistency of sand.

Add the vanilla and mix just until a ball forms.

Divide dough into thirds; dough will be very soft.

Add food coloring and 2 tablespoons of flour to each ball, kneading with your hands to combine until you have even coloring. For the electric green color, use leaf green and lemon yellow.

Begin with the green ball; tape a sheet of waxed paper to your counter top and roll the dough ball between it and another sheet of waxed paper. Set aside; repeat this process with the black and violet layers.

Place the green layer, still on its waxed paper, on your counter top and remove the top sheet of waxed paper. Carefully remove the black and violet layers from their waxed paper and place them on top of the green layer.

Roll your layers into a log, pressing firmly as you go and using the bottom layer of waxed paper to help with rolling.

Wrap the log tightly and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with foil or parchment.

Remove dough log from the refrigerator and slice into 1/4 inch cookies.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, until cookies are no longer shiny on top.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on cookie sheets, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.