October 31, 2014

Frankenstein's Monster Cupcakes

Do you guys realize that every year I've had this blog, I've done a classic horror movie monster cupcake for Halloween? Last year, I did zombie cupcakes. The year before that, I did vampire fang cupcakes. The year before that, I didn't have a blog.

This year, I knew I wanted to keep that ball rolling, so I asked a friend what monster cupcakes I should make this year. Her answer was immediate: Frankenstein.
But Frankenstein cupcakes had been done to death, and by better decorators than I. Or so I thought. Every Frankenstein cupcake I came across was abso-freakin-lutely stinkin' adorable. Don't get me wrong, I love the cute, but at Halloween, I want something a little more gruesome.

So I sat down to brainstorm. How did I do Frankenstein cupcakes that were a) a little more gruesome, and b) accessible to my general lack of decorating skills?
I went back to the monster's origins. Dead flesh stitched back together and reanimated with the use of lightning and mad science. If the monster was flesh that had been stitched together, I could take green Airheads and "stitch" them together over a cupcake. And the frosting should be red, and I could add some red dessert sauce (I used the syrupy part of cherry pie filling) to make the gaps in the "flesh" look all raw and bloody.

Yes, these are words I used to talk about cupcakes.
I had originally intended to use shoe string licorice to stitch the Airheads together, but I couldn't find any, and I didn't really want to order it online. I ended up using a tube of black gel icing from the grocery store. Cookie icing, or a small batch of royal icing would probably work better, since gel can sometimes run.

The Airheads actually ended up being a little more difficult to deal with than I thought. While they were beautifully pliable after being microwaved for a couple of seconds, they harden back up very quickly. Luckily, I wanted raggedy edges and unevenness, so it ended up working out for me, but that's something to keep in mind. And the cherry pie filling can cause the Airheads to "melt," so either add them right before serving, or skip the pie filling "blood." (You can even skip the gaps in the "skin;" it didn't end up having quite the effect I envisioned)
I also decided to buy a nuts and bolts chocolate mold so I could make the monster's iconic neck bolts. I just melted some Merckens black chocolate wafers with some Merckens super white (Merckens black is really more of a very dark brown-- Wilton's gives you a truer black but Merckens tastes so much better), and dry brushed on some silver luster dust, which made them actually look super realistic. Then I just added a touch of red gel icing around the edge for that added touch of gore. I wanted it to look like the bolts had been jammed right in.

But the decorations don't stop at the top:
I colored the cupcakes green and filled the with more cherry pie filling for added oozey gore when you bite into them.

These cupcakes were a bit time consuming, but easy enough for the novice decorator, I think. Except for the chocolate mold and luster dust, there's not a single thing I used that isn't easy to find, most of which can even be found at the grocery store. The cupcakes can be baked, filled, and frosted ahead of time, too.

Cupcakes: I used my Birthday Cake Cupcakes, but Almond cupcakes would go really well with the cherry pie filling
Frosting: I used the same recipe from my Zombie Cupcakes, just added a little raspberry extract (because I thought it would go with the cherry and the watermelon Airheads) and a little whipping cream.
Filling/Blood sauce: Canned cherry pie filling
Skin: Watermelon Airheads. I liked the color of the watermelon better, but Green Apple would also work
Stitches: Black gel icing (royal icing might work better)
Bolts: Black and super white Merckens wafers, melted and poured into this nuts and bolts mold, and brushed with silver luster dust

October 23, 2014

Recipes for Little Helpers Round Up

I've always figured that the kid friendliest recipes would be the ones that little hands could help out with. Kids can learn good kitchen etiquette, they get a sense of accomplishment from actually making the food they're going to eat, and Mom or Dad gets some help in the kitchen. Plus, food is fun, so everybody wins. So if you've got a little helper, I've done a round up of some of my recipes that fit this description: easy prep (and easy clean up), minimal use of sharp implements of doom, no mixer necessary, and many of them (with a few exceptions) are even safe for the littlest hands that have trouble staying out of their mouths. (I also had a little too much fun with the new "Comic Book Theme" on Picmonkey. :D)

Obviously, parents are the best judges of what their kids can help with, that should go without saying. I'm just trying to be helpful.


Gluten and egg free, can be made dairy free with the substitution of vegan chocolate hazelnut spread. Little ones can mash the bananas and mix the up the batter.

Dairy, gluten, and refined sugar free, this can be mixed right in the mug it's cooked in, and kids can watch it rise in the microwave. (Note: the mug can be very hot right out of the microwave)

One bowl, egg free muffins that include kid-friendly cereal

Peanut butter, banana, oats, and applesauce make them good for breakfast. Sugar makes them cookies. (Gluten and dairy free)

A homemade graham cracker crust is filled with canned peaches (peach pie filling also works) and topped with crisp mix (Egg free)

Lunch and Dinner

Great for a quick meal or a snack when making a whole pot of pasta isn't feasible. Older kids can learn to do this by themselves, and it's way better than Easy Mac. (Note: the bowl will be very hot straight out of the microwave.)

Kids can mix up this 5 ingredient meatloaf with their hands (always a fun time), and then shape it for the muffin tins

It's pizza and a waffle all in one. Pancake mix makes the batter a breeze to put together, and using the waffle iron means it cooks fast. It's a meal in itself or a fun alternative to breadsticks. (Egg free)

I loved Uncrustables as a kid, and it never occurred to me that I could make my own. Kids can make their own flavor combinations, and use pastry cutters to cut them into fun shapes. Plus, they can be adapted for different dietary needs (gluten free bread, nut free butter, etc.)

Peanut Butter Blondies

If kids are willing to sacrifice their Halloween candy, they can help make these blondies. The batter takes a little extra arm strength to whip up, but they can handle it.

I have a friend who makes this chocolate cake with her toddler's help (she even subs in grated zucchini for some of the oil), and uses the opportunity to talk about science (baking soda plus vinegar equals SCIENCE) and shapes. My addition was to use toasted marshmallows instead of frosting. (Egg and dairy free, vegan without the marshmallows)

I got this recipe originally from my middle school home ec class. Melted butter and instant pudding mix make these brownies super simple, and my public school curriculum agrees this is a good recipe for kids to make.

This barely counts as a recipe, and even the littlest can get involved by adding sprinkles or chopped nuts before they go in the freezer. (Gluten and egg free, use dairy free chocolate hazelnut spread for vegan)

The hardest part is shredding the zucchini. Bonus, it's a good way to sneak in some veggies (vegan)