Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Cupcakes

I wanted to post these sooner so y'all could get some ideas to decorate Halloween cupcakes but I wanted this to be my submission for Rach's Baking Challenge which is due today. But don't worry because there's still time and these are simple. Are the kiddos having friends over tonight for a Halloween sleepover? Hand them some naked cupcakes and a couple bowls or tubs of frosting and decorate some spooky cupcakes!

I decorated these cupcakes at my local bakeshop. They had a cupcake decorating class and the theme guessed it- Halloween! I had more fun at this class than I expected and I met a really sweet girl who was sitting at my table. Her name was Lindsay (Hi Lindsay!) and we had a great time eating and decorating cupcakes and laughing together.

These were really simple to make and the instructor was helpful and took her time showing us how to decorate each cupcake. I'll show you the pics of them individually then tell you which tips to use so you can recreate your favorite ones. There is no recipe today because I didn't think the cupcakes they provided were really that great. You can use a box mix or your favorite cupcake recipe. As for the icing you can use my favorite vanilla cream cheese frosting recipe or your favorite buttercream.

A couple helpful hint before we start. When filling your piping bag with frosting, fill no more than 2/3 full. Twist the bag to secure it shut. To aid in piping your cupcakes, put the frosting bag into the hand you write with. Let the twisted neck of the piping bag rest in the nook between your thumb and forefinger. As you pipe, use your fingers to press the frosting out of the bag. Use your opposite hand to provide stability and to help guide the tip.

Are you ready? Here we go!

Ridge Swirl- This cupcake is piped with Wilton Star tip #21. With your tip about 1/4-inch above the cupcake, start piping on the outside and pipe a swirl towards the center. Top with sprinkles.

Soft Swirl- This cupcakes was piped with Wilton round tip #12. With your tip about 1/4-inch above the cupcake, start piping on the outside and working your way towards the center. Top with bat and ghost confetti.

Eyeball- Also using Wilton tip #12, pipe on a swirl of frosting as in the above cupcake, then smooth. Or simply plop some frosting onto a cupcake and smooth with an offset spatula. Using a Wilton tip #2 or 3, starting from the inside and working towards the outside, squeeze squiggly lines to resemble veins. Top with rounds of fondant for the iris and pupil.

NOTE: You could also use prepackaged writing gel for the red veins and taffy or soft chewy candy (Starburst, tootsie rolls etc.) for the colored part.

Pumpkin- using Wilton round tip #10, pipe a circle along the exterior of the cupcake. Fill in the center working from the top and going down to the bottom. Top off the pumpkin with leaves using Wilton leaf tip #352 or #67. Use Wilton round tip #2 for the tendrils.

Jack-O-Lantern- With this one you want to pipe the face details first, then fill around it. Using Wilton round tip #2 pipe the outline (black) of your desired face. Then fill in the face details with Wilton round tip #3 or 4 (yellow). Using the Wilton star tip #16, pipe the stars around the face details until the cupcake is entirely covered. For better detail go back over the outline with more black icing.

NOTE: When piping stars, you want to place the tip on the cupcake, squeeze gently as you lift it slightly off the cupcake, then stop squeezing before you lift it off completely.

Smooth Jack or Ghost- You can do this one what ever color you want. Smooth icing over a cupcake. Pipe the black details of the face with Wilton round tip #2 or 3, fill in the details with Wilton round tip #3 or 4.

Moon & Witch- Spread out some yellow icing onto your cupcake and smooth with an offset spatula or a butter knife. To make the with on her broom, use a cookie cutter to cut out some chocolate fondant. You can also use some rolled out tootsie roll. Dust with cornstarch to keep from sticking.

Mummy- Using Wilton round tip #4, pipe some eyes. Make them as small or as large as you want. For larger eyes you want to squeeze the frosting and hold it in place as the blob grows :-) Using Wilton round tip #2, pipe the pupils. Using Wilton basket weave tip #47, pipe random lines all over the cupcake til it's completely covered and the eyes are still exposed.

NOTE: The basket weave tip has two sides- a smooth side and a ridged side. When piping the mummy hold the piping bag with the ridged side down so when you pipe, the smooth side is up.

Also, you want to pipe your mummies on a dark background, in other words, chocolate cupcakes work best for this so the eyes show up better.

Spider & Web- Spread icing onto cupcake and smooth it with an offset spatula or a butter knife. Using Wilton round tip #2, pipe 4 concentric circles onto the cupcake. Using a toothpick start from the center of the cupcake and pull outwards. Work your way around the cupcake until the web is formed. Top with a spider or pipe one yourself. To pipe the spider, make 8 little legs using Wilton round tip #2. Then pipe 2 round mounds (one slightly larger than the other for the body) using the same tip. Use sprinkles for the eyes.

Hairy Monster- Using Wilton grass tip #233, pipe the fur. With this one you want to hold the tip directly on the cupcake and squeeze as you're lifting the tip up. It can be as random as you want- messy is fine. Using Wilton round tip #4, pipe eyes, tip #2 or 3 for the pupils and nose and crooked mouth.

Star Tip Monster- Pipe stars using Wilton star tip #21. Start with the tip on the cupcake then pull up as you're squeezing. You want all the lengths to be different lengths- the more random the better. Pipe eyes using Wilton round tip #4 for the eyes and round tip #2 for the pupils, nose and mouth.

Open Mouth Monster- With this one you want to cover half the cupcake with black frosting. Smooth it the best you can with an offset spatula. Using Wilton round tip #5 pipe a half circle around the bottom of the cupcake and around the mouth. Then pipe lines back and forth to fill in the top half of the cupcake. Pipe eyes with Wilton round tips# 4 (yellow) and tip #2 for the pupils and eye brows. Using Wilton round tip #3 pipe some teeth. You want to squeeze as you're pulling away from the cupcake for jagged teeth.

Happy Halloween! Have a safe weekend!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sweet and Salty

Here's another quick treat for anytime of year but also really simple and good enough for a Halloween party. My MIL used to make these all the time- Chocolate covered peanut butter crackers. mmm!

There's no recipe, just an idea. And even at that it's nothing new. But I think it's a cute idea to make for the holidays because you can use different colored chocolate and sprinkles for any occasion. Just think white chocolate with red and green sprinkles or crushed peppermint candies for Christmas, milk chocolate with pink heart sprinkles for Valentine's Day or semi sweet chocolate with Autumn leaves and pumpkins like these for Fall.

I used packaged toasty crackers with the peanut butter already in them but you could easily buy some Ritz crackers and fill them with your favorite PB. My neighbor makes these every year to put on her Christmas trays. They provide the perfect balance of salty and sweet. If you've been reading long then you know that I'm not generally a fan of chocolate and peanut butter together unless it's Chex Mummy Mix, but these I love- lots of chocolate, the salty crunch of the crackers and the nuttiness of the peanut butter. Enjoy!

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Crackers
  • peanut butter filled crackers
  • chocolate chips
  • sprinkles (optional)

Melt chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time til smooth and lump free. Stir gently as to not incorporate any air bubbles.

Dip crackers in the chocolate and coat then on all sides. Pick up chocolate coated cracker with a fork. Shake off excess chocolate by gently tapping on the side of the bowl.

Place on wax paper and top with sprinkles of choice. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container or in the freezer up to 3 months.

NOTE: I was able to cover 54 sandwich crackers with a bag and a half of chocolate chips- about 18 ounces.

I used Lance crackers, Guittard semi sweet chocolate chips and Wilton sprinkles and pumpkins.

These 3 crackers for especially made for the little boy I nanny for. He has a thing for sprinkles!

Stay tuned for one more Halloween treat coming up Saturday morning!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Eat Dirt!

When I was a young child and I used to eat dirt with a neighbor friend. I also used to chew on crayons and paper, but that's a story for a different day :-) We used to make mud pies by compacting dirt from around the big trees in the backyard into a pie plate and then watering them down with the water hose. I don't really know what I was thinking back then but no one ever told me not to do it. Were they good? No, not really.

This is a different take on eating dirt that is actually tasty and it's fun for kids to make. In fact my 14 year old brother made these by himself with my supervision of course. He made the pudding while I crushed the cookie crumbs but he assembled them by himself. They're not supposed to be pretty or perfect so just let the kids be kids and get pudding on the side of the cup or spill dirt. There's not a wrong way to do this.

They're fun and they're creepy and they're perfect for kids to make for sleepovers or for parties this Halloween weekend. And the best part is that after you eat the pudding and the chocolaty cookie crumbs dirt you get to slurp on slimy worms!

I took this picture and Aaron said "that doesn't look very appetizing Nana". Well isn't that the point? It's dirt and worms! :-)


Dirt Cups
  • chocolate pudding
  • chocolate cookie crumbs
  • gummy worms

Layer the pudding into a cup and top with crushed cookie crumbs. Insert gummy worms and eat!

NOTE: I used boxed pudding and Nabisco Wafers, but Oreos would work equally well.

If you don't like chocolate you could easily substitute butterscotch pudding and use graham crackers or gingersnaps cookies crumbs. You can use anything as long as it resembles dirt.

Worms are delicious!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Candy Corn Fun!

I love candy corn. Well not really, I think it's nasty, but I do think they're pretty cute! Don't you? It just screams Halloween and it's fun so I decided to make candy corn rice krispies treats. Only there's not any candy corn in them, they just look like them. win win!

These were really simple to make, I just made the recipe on the marshmallow bag and divided the recipe into 3 bowls. I colored the first bowl of marshmallow mixture yellow then pressed it into a buttered Pyrex dish. Then I did the same with the second layer only I colored it orange. The top layer was not colored but I did add extra marshmallows just to put emphasis on the white tip. If you make these, make each layer separately because the marshmallows sets up pretty quickly and they'll be too hard to press into the dish.

I've included both recipes on the marshmallow bag and cereal box because for some reason the recipe is not on the outside of the cereal box anymore. I need recipes because I once tried to make these and added way too much butter and marshmallows which yielded a very gooey mess that my husband would not eat. So they're both here for you. FYI: The recipe is on the inside of the box. Hmmm, not smart Kellogg's!

You can cut these into squares but I thought they were cute cut into triangles so they really looked like candy corn. A simple Halloween treat with a fun twist. Whatcha think?

Rice Krispies Treats from Kellogg's
  • 3 tablespoons margarine or butter
  • 1 pkg. (10 oz. about 40) regular marshmallows or 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 6 cups Kellogg's Rice Krispies cereal

In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Add Kellogg's Rice Krispies cereal. Stir until well coated.

Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

MICROWAVE DIRECTIONS: In microwave-safe bowl heat butter and marshmallows on HIGH for 3 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Follow steps 2 and 3 above. Microwave cooking times may vary.

NOTE: For best results, use fresh marshmallows. 1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow crème can be substituted for marshmallows.

Diet, reduced calorie or tub margarine is not recommended.

Store no more than two days at room temperature in airtight container. To freeze, place in layers separated by wax paper in airtight container. Freeze for up to 6 weeks. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

Marshmallow Crispy Squares from Kraft
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
  • 6 cups Jet-Puffed Mini Marshmallows
  • 1 pkg. (13 oz. ) Post Pebbles Cereal (about 8 cups)

Microwave butter in a large microwavable bowl on HIGH 45 seconds or until melted. Add marshmallows; toss to coat. Microwave 1 1/2 minutes or until marshmallows are completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring after 45 seconds.

Add cereal; mix well. Press firmly into greased foil lined 13x9-inch pan. Cool.

Cut into 24 squares to serve. Wrap leftover squares tightly. Store in a cool dry place.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No Clever Title Just Good Coffee Cake

This wonderfully aromatic coffee cake comes from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott. This is the new book that was chosen by The Cake Slice Bakers to bake from throughout the following year. I'm really looking forward to simpler pound cakes and home style confections. Don't get me wrong, I'll always have a special place in my heart for statuesque triple layer beauties.

This cinnamon pecan coffee cake was really tasty. The streusel was buttery and cinnamony and the cake itself was dense and light at the same time. When I saw the picture of this coffee cake, I thought the little black pieces were chocolate chips, which only made me want to make it all the quicker. But as I started to read the recipe, I realized they were raisins. I like raisins, but not in coffee cake, so I left those out and added extra pecans for more crunch. It also had a pronounced cinnamon flavor since I used Red Ape Cinnamon again. I've been adding it to all my cinnamon dishes and Mr. H says we're going to turn into apes!

This recipe makes an entire 9x13 pan of coffee cake so I halved the recipe and baked it into an 8x8 in Pyrex (it baked for the same amount of time). It was excellent hot, right out of the oven with a cup of coffee and some salty bacon. But it was also good the next day heated slightly and topped off with a pat of butta love. This would be a nice alternative to cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning!

Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake from Southern Cakes

Printable Version

For the Cake:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs

For the Cinnamon Raisin Filling:

  • 1½ cups light brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1½ cups raisins
  • 1½ cups coarsely chopped pecans
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, melted

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 9 inch pan.

To make the filling, combine the light brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl and stir with a fork to mix everything well. Combine the raisins and pecans in another bowl and toss to mix them. Place the cinnamon mixture, nut mixture and melted butter by the baking pan to use later.

To make the cake batter, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir the vanilla into the milk. In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar and beat with a mixer on high speed until pale yellow and evenly mixed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl to ensure a good mix. Add the eggs and beat for another 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl now and then, until the mixture is smooth and light.

Use a large spoon or spatula to add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir only until the flour disappears. Add a third of the milk and mix in. Repeat twice more until all the flour and milk mixtures have been incorporated. Stir just enough to keep the batter smooth.

Spread half the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half the cinnamon mixture over the batter followed by half the melted butter. Scatter half the raisins and nuts over the top. Spread the remaining batter carefully over the filling, using a spatula to smooth the batter all the way to the edges of the pan. Top with the leftover cinnamon, butter and nut mixture, covering the cake evenly.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake is golden brown, fragrant and beginning to pull away from the edges of the pan. Place the pan on a wire rack and allow to cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before serving in squares right from the pan. The cake is delicious hot, warm or at room temperature.

Click here to visit the new line up of Cake Slice Bakers!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Think Pink

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2007 at the age of 66. Her cancer was detected at her first mammogram. She had a lumpectomy in February of 2008 and a more invasive mastectomy in April of the same year.

This is the pink ribbon I wore for my grandma during both her surgeries.

My grandmother and I have always been close. She has always been like a second mother to me and not because she is my mother's mother. As a child, I lived with my grandmother and she helped me through a lot of tough times. She is the one who got me interested in cooking and baking. She gave me my first cookbook and I've learned so much from her--in and out of the kitchen.

She lives in Texas but as you know, it's a big state! She lives about 8.5 driving hours from me so I don't see her as often as I would like. She and my grandpa visit a couple times a year and this past week was one of those times. It was a surprise visit as I didn't know they were coming. They were actually just passing through as they were going to visit a family member who was ill and dying. But I was able to spend some time with my beloved grandmother this weekend.

We shopped and talked. We had coffee together and laid in bed and watched the news and spoke to each other like we were best friends. In a way, she is my best friend. She is my biggest supporter and advocate. She is a source of strength and inspiration for me and I'm so glad that I still have her around. Breast cancer did not and cannot take her away from me.

"Kick Cancer's Butt" Pink Ribbon Cake

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup strawberry puree
  • 1 small box strawberry Jello
  • 1/2 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small bowl or a measuring cup, dissolve Jello in hot water. Set aside and let cool while mixing the rest of the ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, oil, eggs, and strawberry puree. Thoroughly mix in the gelatin mixture. Pour into 2 9x5-inch loaf pans and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Allow to cool completely in pans before inverting onto a cooling rack or cake platter. Cover in frosting of your choice.

NOTE: This is the same recipe for strawberry cake that I make for my sister every year. But I baked it into two loaf pans instead and used fresh pureed strawberries in lieu of the frozen ones.

Pink Ribbons: The pink ribbons on the cake were made by melting and tinting white chocolate. I put the pink chocolate in a sandwich bag and snipped off the end to make ribbons. I piped them onto wax paper and kept them in the freezer until I was ready for them.

Cream Cheese Glaze from Bakerella

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp milk

Cream butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and milk until thoroughly combined. Spread on top of cake. Store remainder in the refrigerator.

NOTE: I doubled this recipe to have enough to cover 2 loaf cakes but I still have a lot left. One batch makes plenty of glaze to pour over 2 single layers of cake.

My grandmother is a survivor, but sadly not all women are. Be sure to give yourself a monthly breast exam and tell the women in your life you care about them by getting a mammogram.

It's not just about saving your boobies, it's about saving your life.


#26- Mini Baker is the winner of Everyday Food! Ms. Baker email me with your contact info.

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