I know that when I say this, it will show that I am very much a part of the minority, but I don’t love Halloween. All of that changed when I was approached about doing a Kitchen Play assignment involving Halloween decorating ideas. I’ve always wanted to increase my food-decorating repertoire and knew this would be a fun way to do it. And deep down, I knew it would reconnect me with the kid who used to love Halloween.
I’m sure you’re familiar with McCormick – leaders in fabulous herbs and spices, seasoning mixes, Grill Mates, and seafood accoutrements. My product to play with? FOOD COLOR. And not just any food color…BLACK food color! And vanilla extract! I was in love from the first email inviting me to participate.
Luckily this was a baking and decorating assignment, which helped me reel in my ideas a little bit. A fabulous recipe that involves only a boxed cake mix and a little extra vanilla extract serves as the base for my Halloween cupcakes, and from there it only gets better. I used chocolate icing as the topping after adding a healthy amount of black food coloring for some extra spookiness. Don’t worry, I’ll provide the recipe at the end!
The original recipe from McCormick gave a wonderful idea for spider cupcakes, which I knew I had to try. But to branch out on my own I decided to make some scary ghost meringue cupcake toppers that would not only give another dimension of Halloweeniness (yes, that’s a word) but also allow another decorating idea.
This is also a fun project to get kiddos involved in. Would the cupcakes turn out like professional bakery cupcakes? Probably not – but that’s the fun of it! So grab some kids (yours, the neighbors’, your nieces and nephews) and make some Halloween magic with McCormick. Who knows, you may even rediscover the kid in you who loves Halloween, just like I did!
RECIPES (cupcake recipe and spider decorations are from McCormick)
For the cupcakes:
• 1 box chocolate cake mix
• 1 Tbsp McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
• 5 drops McCormick Black Food Coloring
Mix the ingredients and bake per the instructions on the back of the box. Let cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting:
• 1 16-oz can of chocolate frosting (sure you can make your own, but go easy on yourself – you’ll get your “homemade” on when you make the meringues!)
• 20 drops McCormick Black Food Color (I know it sounds like a LOT but you want this black!)
Stir together the frosting and the Black Food Color until completely blended. (As cool as swirls could look in the finished product you’re really going to want a solid black base!)
For the decorations:
• mini M&Ms
• chocolate sprinkles
• black or red licorice
• ghost meringues (see below)
For the meringues I used this recipe from Joy of Baking. The only differences were that I used a finger dipped in water (not just any finger – MY finger!) to push the tips of the meringues down and I used mini M&Ms dipped in a bit of frosting for the eyes rather than using the candy eyes you can find in specialty baking stores. You can even use a little extra frosting to paint the mouth on if you like or leave them mouth-less!
So once the cupcakes have cooled you’ll want to frost them with about 2 Tbsp of frosting each. I used a sandwich bag with the tip cut off to apply a clean layer of frosting, although you can certainly use a knife to spread it evenly on the top. For the spider cupcake I sprinkled the chocolate sprinkles all over the top and gently pressed them into the frosting. Cut the licorice into 2-3 inch pieces and stick 4 in each side into the frosting. Use a tiny bit of frosting on two like-colored mini M&Ms and set atop the sprinkles for the eyes.
For the ghosts, complete the meringues according to the recipe. If you use M&Ms for the eyes, add a little bit of frosting to the back of two like-colored M&Ms and put wherever you feel that ghost’s eyes should be. Paint the mouth on with a toothpick if you’d like, and feel free to give it whatever expression you think it should have. After applying the facial features, gently press the meringue onto the top of a frosted cupcake. Get ready for some OOOHs and AAAAHs to come your way with this one!
I would love to say a big thank you to Kitchen Play and McCormick for putting the fun back in Halloween. The product is phenomenal and it’s so much fun to put my imagination to use! Gather up those kiddos, both young and old, and get ye to making some cupcakes!
McCormick is also sponsoring a wonderful giveaway at Kitchen PLAY. Simply recreate any one recipe from this month’s SideCar Series, post about the experience on your blog and provide a link to your post on Kitchen PLAY to enter. All qualifying bloggers in each course will be entered to win $50 (10 prizes total). The deadline is October 31, 2011. Please review the complete contest rules before entering. Good luck!