I love Halloween – it’s all about pure fun and fantasy (and candy!). We usually have a big Halloween party after the trick-or-treating, with simple games that prolong the night (murder-by-wink is a favorite, as is the always-anticipated doughnut-eating contest, with favorite flavors tied to strings and no hands allowed). The hardest part is getting the kids through the time from the end of school through the dinner hour. It’s just too exciting! My plan is to keep them occupied. And one of the best ways to do so is with a “spirited” decorating project.
I know, I know, they’ve already had a party at school, and they are sugared-up beyond belief. But it’s only one night, and the occasional crazy over-indulgence is part of the fun of childhood. Luckily, Halloween is on a Friday night this year, so they can sleep off the sugar without worrying about getting up for school. After a couple of days, the candy “disappears,” and I’m lucky that my daughter never seems to notice or care. It’s more about the costumes, neighborhood haunting, and party atmosphere than the actual eating of the candy. So why add cupcakes to the mix? It’s not just a diversion to pass the time until it’s dark enough to head out the door; it’s also about creating memories in the kitchen.
Cupcakes are a good decorating choice because each kid gets one and there’s no fighting over portion size (“his slice is bigger than mine!”). Plus, they can take them home as favors and eat them the next day. Of course the cupcake has to be chocolate. And not just any chocolate cake – but DEVIL’s food cake. It’s more than the name of the cake. This recipe has plenty of kid appeal, while not being too sweet for the adults. It’s tender and dark and a perfect match for the simple dark ganache frosting that acts as soil for the graveyard decorations. Bake and frost the cupcakes in advance (or, if the kids are slightly older, you can let them frost the little cakes).
Set out the decorating supplies and give them some ideas, then watch as their imaginations go crazy. I like to use crushed chocolate cookies as “dirt,” but you could also use black non-pariels, black crystallized sugar, or chocolate jimmies. Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies are perfect gravestones, cut in half and stuck into the icing. Food coloring decorating pens are great for writing names or sayings on the gravestones before adding them to the cupcake. Look at your favorite candy store for spooky additions like candy skulls and pair them with gummy worms, or gummy body parts sticking out of the “grave.” Try gumball eyeballs staring up from the dirt, or candy insects crawling over the surface. Ghost Peeps are simple and easy – use lollipop sticks to attach them to the cupcake (I avoid toothpicks because some kids will poke themselves while trying to eat the Peeps).
For something simpler, dust the icing with cocoa powder or powdered sugar through a Halloween stencil. If you want to get into the craftier side of food, dip marshmallows in green candy melts, let harden, then pipe a Frankenstein face with dark chocolate. Cut pieces of Tootsie rolls and insert in the “neck” for electrodes. Following the same idea, dip marshmallows in orange candy melts and pipe jack-o-lantern faces in chocolate. For a witch hat, brush an ice cream cone (sugar cone variety) with dark chocolate candy melts and let it dry. Then use additional chocolate to glue it to a round chocolate cookie (such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers). If you like, pipe a buckle or stripes in orange or bright purple. You can put a couple of gumball eyeballs peeking out from underneath when you place it on the cupcake. You get the idea…wander the candy store for more inspiration. And Happy Halloween!!
More Devilishly Fun Halloween Cupcakes ideas and recipes follow after the jump