Thursday, November 27, 2008

Halloween Cupcakes

A few days before Halloween, a package arrived in the mail for me. I tore into it and realized my boyfriend had surprised me with Karen Tack's Hello Cupcake!, a book I'd been talking about for awhile and really wanted! I was so excited.
The ideas in the book are so cute and creative, allowing you to use every day pantry items to make really professional looking cupcakes. There's designs for occasions like Thanksgiving, Halloween, and birthdays, etc, and the tricks you learn are clever and useful (if a bit time consuming occasionally). My only issue with the book is that to make some of the more detailed cupcakes, you'll need a lot of ingredients (For example, I wanted to make the werewolf cupcakes for Halloween, but didn't have M&Ms, Fruit Roll Ups, Marshmallows, or Oreos- and that's a lot of crap to buy for one little batch of cupcakes!)

So I decided to go with the pumpkin cupcakes. Simple but appropriate, and they matched the Halloween cupcake liners that I had already purchased. Oh yeah, and it was 7 pm and I planned to bring them to work the next day.

I just used boxed yellow cake mix and Betty Crocker cream cheese frosting- I'll explain! As a baker I sometimes feel it's cheating or a copout to use boxed mix and icing. In a way, it is. But to me, mixes are exactly what I feel a classic cupcake should be- so why would I make my own, if someone else already did it perfectly? I've had the cupcakes from Billy's/Crumbs/Magnolia/[insert trendy NYC bakery here] and I'll be honest: I'll take cake mix over those any day. Plus, you have to know your audience. Mine was my office, not a team of expert bakers. And I knew they'd be more than satisfied with mix. I will say frosting is better homemade, but in the interest of time, I let Betty take care of it.
So the pumpkin decoration obviously uses orange food coloring. I wound up using half a bottle my red and yellow food colorings- next time I will just run out to Michael's for the Wilton paste coloring. It's much better quality.
To get the pumpkin look, you kind of have to mound the frosting- I spooned a huge clump on top and turned the cupcake clockwise against my offset spatula to cover the cupcake but concentrate most of the frosting at the top. I then rolled each cupcake in a plateful of orange sugar sprinkles, and came up with this:

Then, I used toothpicks to press five lines in the frosted cupcakes, from the top center on down. I scooped some frosting into a ziploc bag, cut a hole in the corner, and piped frosting over the lines. I topped with an upside down green gumdrop. Perfect little cupcakes! And when I ran out of orange frosting, I piped some chocolate on the rest of the cupcakes! They were a big hit!

Difficulty Rating: 1

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