Close 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:
Recipe – Brain and blood clot cupcakes
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
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
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.