Halloween baking: Brain and blood clot cupcakes

Brain and blood clot cupcakes for HalloweenClose readers of this blog will know that I’m not a fan of cupcakes. Yet not even I could resist the idea of making brain and blood clot cupcakes for Halloween.

I came across the idea via my friend Jessica who blogs at FushMush. She linked to this recipe on Not Quite Nigella on Facebook or Twitter and I mentally stashed it away as something fun to make for Halloween. When we were invited to a neighbourhood potluck dinner to celebrate Halloween and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), I decided I had to make it happen.

I followed the Not Quite Nigella recipe in most respects but I made a few alterations, as follows:

  • Rather than use self-raising flour, I simply added baking powder to plain flour.
  • The original recipe called for 8 teaspoons of jam but then later referred to tablespoons. I used 8 tablespoons in the centre of the cupcakes and liked the effect – the jam oozed to the side of the cupcakes so you didn’t have to cut open the cupcake to see the ghoulish clot.
  • I baked for 25 minutes at 350F rather than 20 minutes at 180C. Most cooking references say that 180C is equivalent to 350F but it actually equals 356F, so the cake needed a few more minutes to compensate for the slightly lower temperature. Of course, all ovens are variable but I’m reasonably confident that most Fahrenheit ovens would need slightly longer, unless you have an electric oven that lets you program in the final 6 degrees.
  • Once I started making the icing, I realised that I had just shy of three cups of icing sugar rather than the required four. I reduced the amount of butter, added a little more milk and made less icing overall. I felt this was an improvement as well. It was enough icing to give the effect of the brains but it wasn’t piled high with butter and sugar. For me, it was the perfect amount of sweet finish to a cupcake, not too much and not too little.
  • I used brown, red and blue food dye gel for the icing. I only added a small amount of red, but it went very pink so I had to add quite a bit more brown and then a smidgen of blue to compensate.
  • What’s more scary than a blood clot and a brain? What about a blood clot in the brain? I had a little jam left over so I added dob to the icing for added effect.
  • Brain and blood clot cupcakes for Halloween

    Recipe – Brain and blood clot cupcakes

    Makes 8
    Ingredients for cupcakes
    2 cups all-purpose flour with 3tsp baking powder, 1tsp salt (or 2 cups self-raising flour)
    2/3 cup caster sugar
    Salt (pinch)
    80ml or 1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used organic canola oil)
    1 large egg
    175ml or 6 fl oz buttermilk
    1tsp vanilla extract
    8tbs good-quality strawberry jam
    Red food dye (optional)

    Ingredients for icing
    170g soft butter
    3 cups icing sugar
    3tbs milk
    Red, brown, black or blue food dyes (gel is best)

    Mixing bowls, spoons, spatula, measuring jug and spoons
    Muffin tray with paper liners or 8 stiff silicone cupcake holders
    Electric egg beater or food processor
    Piping bag (you can use a zip-loc bag)

    Preheat oven to 180C or 350F.
    1. Sift the flour (and baking powder and salt if using) into a bowl. Add a pinch of salt and the caster sugar.
    2. Separately, combine the oil, egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract.
    3. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine. Don’t over-stir it – you want all the dry ingredients to be moistened but the mixture should still be thick and puffy.
    4. Scoop one tablespoon of the mixture in cupcake hole and make an indent in the centre. Fill each indent with a heaped tablespoon of the strawberry jam. (Don’t worry if it doesn’t indent perfectly – the worst that can happen is that the jam will ooze and this simply adds to the creepy effect).
    5. Cover the jam with the remaining batter and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean of batter (if not jam).
    6. Allow to cool.
    7. Beat the butter with an electric egg beater or in a food processor.
    8. Sift the icing sugar and add it and the milk to butter in stages, continuing to beat the mixture.
    9. Add food dyes to create the desired pinky-browny-grey colour. Be careful as a little colour goes a long way. Generally gels are easier to handle than liquid colouring.
    10. Scoop the icing mixture into a piping bag with a round nozzle. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can do what I did and improvise with a zip loc bag with the corner snipped off.
    11. Mentally divide the cupcakes in half so that you can try to create the two hemispheres of the brain. Pipe the mixture out. It doesn’t really matter if it’s messy since the structure of the brain is full of squiggly lines.
    12. Add another teaspoon of jam to the icing to create the brain clot.

    I think it turned out nicely. My only quibble is that eight cupcakes is a low number for so much effort. If I were repeating the exercise, I’d recalculate the quantities so I at least made a dozen.

    The cupcakes went down well, though my neighbour’s six- year-old daughter wanted to check if they really contained blood before she would try one. She seemed relieved when I told her it was strawberry jam. Some of my Scottish friends love brains and blood pudding but I can’t imagine anyone deciding it would go well in a cupcake. And I know better than to serve it to American children on Halloween night.

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    1. I made them too! I’ll have to post my photos.

      I like your addition of the dollop of jam on top. I found mine needed more jam in the centre and they had way too much icing on them.

      Thanks for the mention and the link.

      jess´s last [type] ..Trivia- Saint Badger of the Cross

      • Yay, can’t wait to see your pics! A greater quantity of icing probably looks more ghoulish but purely in culinary terms I think less is more. It was only because I ran low on icing sugar but I’m glad I did.

    2. Wow, those are impressive! And at the same time don’t look at all appetizing–which is actually a compliment to your culinary and decorating skills as I don’t normally see something that looks like a brain or blood and feel the need to shove it in my mouth ;-)
      Camels & Chocolate´s last [type] ..A Room with a View

    3. you are a great cook, thanks for the recipe, i am going to try cooking it