Tuesday, October 9, 2012

31 Days of Halloween: Guest Post from Funtober by Robert

Today's Guest Post is Robert from Funtober.  Check out his blog.   He has some great recipes, crafts, costume ideas!  Really, he's got tons!  I got to try making this spider cupcakes!

Decorating Cupcakes for Halloween

So many Halloween treats are boring. When children return from their annual trick or treat on Halloween, they have collected a bag full of store bought packaged candy. A few years ago, while searching for recipes for a Halloween party, I discovered hundreds of amazing photographs of Halloween cupcakes online. While they can't be distributed to children at the door, they are the perfect dessert for a Halloween party. I've been itching to try my hand at them, but I have no cupcake decorating experience. So when I saw Get Your Crap Together was doing 31 Days of Halloween, I took it as an opportunity to learn how to decorate cupcakes and enlisted my mother's support. Here's what we ended up making:

We started by looking at photographs of fancy cupcakes and recipes online. When we had picked out a few recipes and had a good idea of what we needed, we ran to our local grocery store to pick up some ingredients. It proved to be a fundamental mistake. We should have made a stop first at a craft store like A.C. Moore, Michaels or Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts. When we stopped there later, they had a much better selection for creating fancy Halloween cupcakes than our local grocery store.

We started with a box of cake mix for the cupcakes. Because this post isn't about the recipe for the cupcakes. It is about how to decorate them. Feel free to decorate your own cupcake recipe instead.

When we pulled them out of the oven, I was excited to get started decorating. But I have not watched nearly as much Cupcake Wars as my mother. She quickly informed me that we couldn't decorate the cupcakes right away because we needed to let the cupcakes cool completely before putting on the frosting. So I ended up coming back the next day to work on the frosting.

The original plan was to do an orange cream cheese frosting for half of the cupcakes and a black buttercream frosting for the other half. But we simply could not get the frosting black. When we went to the grocery store, we looked for either black onyx cocoa or Wilton's black icing color. When we didn't find either product in our local grocery store, and our effort to turn dark cocoa black failed miserably, we were left with only the orange cream cheese frosting. Fortunately, it was delicious.

The Orange Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 stick butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons orange juice (accidentally left out of the ingredients photo above)
1 orange, zested
12 drops yellow food coloring (We used the four pack Assorted Food Color & Egg Dye from McCormick)
4 drops red food coloring

1. We creamed the cream cheese and butter together with an electric mixer until smooth.
2. Beat in the confectioners sugar until smooth.
3. Added orange juice and zest, then mixed until combined.
4. Added food coloring and beat until smooth.

The original plan had been to put orange pumpkins on top of the black buttercream. So I decided that I would just put them on top of the chocolate cupcakes. However, things are never easy. Of course, we forgot to buy cake decorating bags. So we made our own by cutting a hole in a large ziplock bag and adding one of my mom's cake decorating tips. We also discovered that the green cake decorating tube which we bought for the stem was too dark (practically black). This obstacle didn't stop my mom; she whipped up a smaller batch of green frosting for the pumpkin stem.

Green Frosting:
3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 drops green food coloring

1. Cream butter and cream cheese together with back of spoon until smooth.
2. Stir in confectioners' sugar until smooth.
3. Add two drops green food color and stir.

I immediately set to the task of decorating the unfrosted cupcakes with fun Jack o' Lanterns while my mom pondered how to put spiderwebs and spiders on the cupcakes. You too can turn your children loose on a cupcake to make Jack o'Lanterns while you work on the beautiful ones for the party.

We spread the cream cheese frosting on the top, but you could also pipe it.

You can practice your cupcake decorating technique on a plate until you get what you want. And then replicate it on the cupcakes. For the spider and web, we cut one tube of Betty Crocker's Black Decorating Gel with a large opening for the spider body and opened the other with a pin so that we could make the small lines for the spider legs and web. We used the orange cream cheese frosting to make the eyes on the spider.

Although my mom made the spider and web out of black icing, there are other ways to add creepy spiders to your cupcakes. The least creative way is simply to buy plastic spiders and instruct people to remove them before eating. Another simple idea is to turn the cupcake into the body. Use black sprinkles across the entire top on a thin layer of frosting. Add candy such as M&Ms for eyes and long legs with licorice draping over the side. I believe black gumdrops produce far superior spider toppings, though. Use a large gumdrop for the body, a smaller one for the head, and roll slices of the gumdrops into legs. If you prefer smaller spiders, buy black milk chocolate for the body and head.

As you can see, we used frosting for the spider legs. But there are other ways. Wilton makes cherry flavored black candy strings to help you create spider legs or cat whiskers. You could also cut black licorice into appropriately sized pieces. Or use the rolled, sliced gumdrops described above.

My mom did the spiderwebs the hard way, connecting the web with the icing. Because we didn't know the nifty tip for making a spider web on a cupcake. Just make circles with the black icing and then form the web by running a tooth pick or knife from the center to the edge.

We used a simple black and white cupcake wrapper from our grocery store. If we had started at the craft store, we would have ended up with some cool Halloween wrappers that say "Trick or Treat" on the bottom. But the best I have found were online. If we had thought to start there, we would have had awesome spider web cupcake wrappers from Amazon. You should definitely learn from our mistakes. And if you throw a Halloween party every year, invest in a cupcake stand. Although there were some Halloween cupcake stands at our local craft store, the selection online is substantially better.

Because of the cream cheese frosting, we stored them in the refrigerator overnight. I took them into work the next day and they loved them. That was when a coworker mentioned that her local craft store had items for decorating cupcakes for Halloween. I have no idea why we didn't think of that at the start. So the next weekend, we hit our local A.C. Moore for more ideas.

For decorating the top, they had a number of different possibilities. So if you don't care for spiders, or simply want a change of pace, there are other possibilities. There were pumpkin icing decorations and candy molds to make skulls, gravestones, pumpkins and scarecrows. We were thinking that the sticks on the candy could be cut down to the appropriate size to stick in the cupcakes. They also had a great assortment of black and orange sprinkles, which we couldn't find at our normal grocery store. The spray on cake stencils for Halloween also caught my attention. If you are cake decorating challenged like I am (did you see my jack o'lanterns???), one of these possibilities might work better for you.

Although our decorating skills wouldn't have won us Cupcake Wars, we've got the technique down now and our next batch will be amazing. And so will yours.

This guest post was written by Robert Melton, the founder of Funtober, a website dedicated to Fall fun.

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