Haunting Halloween Cupcakes
Planning on having your friends over for a Halloween masquerade or Victorian Haunted House party this year? If so, CIA Chef Dianne Rossomando suggests three beautiful designs to decorate cupcakes using royal icing and rolled fondant: dramatic stamped silhouette shapes, creepy piped spider webs, and whimsical fondant mummies.
“Royal icing’s strength and the fact that it dries extremely hard makes it ideal for decorating,” says Chef Rossomando. “You can purchase ready-made fondant at your local craft store. A combination of sugar and cornstarch, fondant can be decorated in a number of ways by using stamps, cookie cutters, paintbrushes, food color markers, piping gel, and food coloring.”
Roll the fondant to 1/8-inch thickness and cut out circles with a 3-inch round cookie cutter. Allow the plaques to dry for 24 hours on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Once dry you can start to decorate them.
For silhouette decorations, choose a clean printing stamp with a design such as a spider or cat. Dip a small artist’s paintbrush into black food coloring, apply the color onto the raised portion of the stamp bottom and quickly stamp the circle. Once the shape is stamped onto the fondant and the food coloring is dry, the decorations are ready to place on an iced cupcake.
For a spider web you will need both black and white royal icing and a piping bag with a #0 tip. Fill the piping bag with black icing. Follow these steps:
- Using a small off-set spatula, flood white royal icing onto the top of a fondant circle.
- Pipe a dot of black icing in the center of the circle and pipe a series of circles graduating out toward the edge of the circle.
- Take a toothpick and run it through the black icing from the center to the edge, wiping the tip after each swipe, continue all around the circle until you complete a spider web. You need to do this relatively quickly before the icing sets.
- Once done, place the decoration on top of an iced cupcake.
For mummies you will need to purchase both white and black fondant. Cut out approximately 6-inch-long strips of rolled white fondant; it does not matter if the length and width of each strip is different. Figure about 12 to 16 strips per cupcake. Also cut out as many pairs of eyes as you will need. Using the bottom of a piping tip cut out two white circles for each pair of eyes. With the bottom of a piping tip that is slightly smaller, cut out two from the black fondant. “Glue” the black circles to the white circles by piping a small dot of royal icing onto the white circles. Place the eyes on a cupcake without icing, then working your way from top to bottom, lay fondant strips over the top and basket weave them across the top of the cupcake. Take a paring knife or scissors and cut off the excess strips. With a little supervision, mummy cupcakes are a great project for your kids to make.
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Devil’s Food Cake
Makes two 8-inch or 9-inch layers, or 24 cupcakes
- 2 3/4 cups sugar
- 3 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 5 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup butter, melted and kept warm
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans with a nonstick spray and line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper. For cupcakes, prepare pans with cupcake liners.
- Sift the sugar, flour, baking soda, and baking powder together.
- Add the beaten eggs in three additions, mixing on medium speed until each addition is fully incorporated. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
- Add the butter and mix until evenly blended. Add the water and vanilla and mix, scraping down the bowl periodically, until a smooth batter forms. Add the cocoa powder and mix until evenly blended.
- Divide batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake the cakes until a skewer inserted near the center comes out clean, for 8- or 9-inch cakes 50 to 60 minutes, for cupcakes about 20 minutes.
- Let the layers cool in the pans for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. The cakes are ready to fill and frost now, or they can be wrapped and stored at room temperature for 2 days, or frozen for up to 3 weeks.
Nutrition analysis 2-ounce serving: 200 calories, 3g protein, 35g carbohydrate, 6g fat, 150mg sodium, 45mg cholesterol, less than 1g fiber.
Vanilla Sponge Cake
Makes two 8-inch or 9-inch layers, or 24 cupcakes
- 2 cups cake flour
- 6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 5 large egg yolks
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly spray two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans with a nonstick spray and line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper. For cupcakes, prepare pans with cupcake liners.
Sift the flour twice and set aside. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla extract to the melted butter, and stir to combine. Set aside to cool.
- Combine the sugar, eggs, and egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer and set the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Whisking constantly with a wire whisk, heat until the mixture is warm to the touch or reaches 120°F on a candy thermometer.
- Remove the bowl from the heat and attach it to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the egg mixture on medium speed until the foam triples in volume and just begins to recede, about 5 minutes. Stabilize the foam on low speed for 10 minutes.
- Fold the flour into the egg mixture using a rubber spatula. Blend a small amount of the batter into the melted butter, then fold the tempered butter back into the remaining batter.
- Fill the prepared cake or cupcake pans about two-thirds full. Bake until the top of each layer is firm to the touch, for 8- or 9-inch cakes about 30 minutes, for cupcakes about 20 minutes.
- Let the layers cool in the pans for a few minutes before turning out onto wire racks to finish cooling. The cakes are ready to fill and frost now, or they can be wrapped and stored at room temperature for 2 days, or frozen for up to 3 weeks.
Nutrition analysis 1.5-ounce serving: 130 calories, 3g protein, 18g carbohydrate, 4.5g fat, 15mg sodium, 90mg cholesterol, 0g fiber.
Makes about one cup
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
- 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- Liquid or paste food colorings as needed, optional
- In the clean, grease-free bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low speed just until they become loose, about 1 minute.
- Add the cream of tartar and continue mixing on low speed until the egg whites become frothy, about 2 minutes.
- Add the confectioner’s sugar gradually with the mixer on low speed. Continue to mix until the icing holds a soft peak and is dull in appearance, about 2 minutes.
- The icing is ready to use for piping lines. Or, add a small amount of water until the icing reaches looser consistency for flooding, or filling in, an outline.
- If desired, divide the icing among smaller bowls and add food coloring(s).
- If you won’t be using the icing right away, take the following steps to keep the icing from drying out: Clean the sides of the bowl or container to remove any drips; if a dry crust develops on the bowl, small pieces can drop into the icing and clog the tip of your pastry bag or parchment paper cone. Place a dampened paper towel directly on the surface of the icing and then cover the bowl very tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.
Note: You may prefer to use pasteurized egg whites in this recipe to eliminate any food safety concerns.
Nutrition analysis 1-ounce serving: 90 calories, 1g protein, 23g carbohydrate, 0g fat, 10mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol, 0g fiber.