Every year around this time, I realize I’m not a Halloween person. Candy, scary movies, haunted houses – no thanks. And don’t get me started about what Halloween means when you’re a college student. Not my cup of tea. But for fear of being seen as the Grinch of October, I’ve made an attempt at Halloween-themed baking.
Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch. In fact, one of my co-workers told me the concept was lost on him, but the cupcake tasted delicious. I believe his exact words were “lose the concept, keep the cupcake”. But since this is likely to be my only attempt at something themed for Halloween, I decided to keep the theme and the cupcake.
If I could do it again, I would have made the orange layer a little more neon orange with the addition of more food coloring. And instead of trying to imitate the chocolate-bottomed candy corn, the read might have been stronger if I had gone with the white, orange and yellow color combination. Either way, these cupcakes are a fun, low-commitment way to celebrate (or not) Halloween.
P.S. – I finally rounded up some photos from a couple weeks back. J and I were part of an awesome cheering section at the Chicago Marathon. It couldn’t have been a more beautiful day, and Jake and Amber (J’s sister and brother-in-law) did great! Maybe we’ll be running it next year?
Candy Corn Cupcakes
*1 box white cake mix
*1 1/4 cups water
*2 Tbsp. oil
*2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
*1 tsp. orange extract
Yellow Food Coloring
Red Food Coloring
*2 sticks butter, softened
*3 cups powdered sugar
*2 Tbsp. milk
*1 tsp. almond extract
Yellow Food Coloring
*Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. Set aside.
*In a mixing bowl, combined the cake mix, eggs, water and oil. Whisk together until smooth. Transfer half of the batter to a clean bowl.
*In one half of the batter, stir in the cocoa powder until combined. In the second bowl, stir in the orange extract, 2 drops red food coloring and 3 drops yellow food coloring. Stir until well combined.
*Spoon a heaping tablespoon of chocolate batter into the bottom of each prepared liner, followed by some of the orange batter.
*Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely.
*Meanwhile, prepare buttercream. With an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add in the powdered sugar, a cup at a time, and beat until fluffy. Add in the milk and almond extract, followed by four drops of yellow food coloring.
*Pipe buttercream atop cooled cupcakes (I used a large star tip).
On Friday night I was sitting on my couch, waiting impatiently for J to arrive so the weekend could officially start. And when I heard a knock at the door, I sprung off the couch to answer the door. I wish I would have thought to take a photo of the sight in front of me: J, holding a homemade coconut cake with two candles numbering ’23’ glowing brightly. Seriously one of the best birthday cakes I can remember receiving.
Although my birthday isn’t until Tuesday, celebrating solo during the week isn’t nearly as fun as celebrating the entire weekend long with someone you love. That someone baked a heck of a birthday cake, satisfying the craving I’ve been harboring for coconut cake over the past two months.
This morning when I told J this cake and the recipe was going on Espresso and Cream, he balked at the idea. Sure, we spent the weekend marveling at the pure deliciousness of each bite, but I’ll be the first to admit this dessert hardly fits the mold of what I traditionally post. It starts with a boxed cake mix and is full of all types of bad-for-you ingredients, like half and half, sugar and Cool Whip. Yes, you read that right. Cool Whip. Just go with it for my sake, because it’s my birthday (almost!) and everyone has the right to eat deliciously low-brow birthday cake on their special day.
P.S. – My dad sent me something special to celebrate the occasion, too. Check it out here.
Easy Coconut Cake
*1 box yellow cake mix
*2 cups half and half
*16 oz. fresh coconut
*1 cup sugar
*1 large carton Cool Whip
*Bake prepared cake mix in a 13×9-inch pan according to package directions. About 10 minutes before cake is done, mix half the coconut, the half and half and sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
*Remove baked cake from the oven and let it cool about 10 minutes. Punch holes in top of the cake with a fork and pour mixture over it. Let cake stand at room temperature for an additional 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 2 hours.
*To ice cake, mix the whipped topping with the remaining coconut. Cover cake with frosting and return to refrigerator.
When I moved into my new office two weeks ago there was a lot of sorting to be done. Things to toss, file away, display on bookshelves, study and devour. Once I tossed what needed to go I sat and marveled at the treasure I found tucked away in the magazine racks of my new digs.
Gourmet magazines. Lots of them, dating back over 10 years, sitting in my office, and for the last two weeks I have been curled up at night in my bed, bookmarking recipes I plan to make. This simple, sweet, understated jam cake is the first of many Gourmet creations to come.
If you’ve been reading Espresso and Cream for any extended period of time, you probably know my fascination and love for simple cakes. This is yet another example. There are no fussy, hard-to-find ingredients, or complicated procedures. In fact, you don’t even need a mixer. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for those kind of cakes, but that time and place is not Monday night. On a weeknight, make this cake and forget the notion that cakes are anything but easy and delicious.
From Gourmet, December 2007
*1 cup all-purpose flour
*1/2 cup sugar
*1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
*1/2 cup milk
*1 large egg
*1/2 cup raspberry jam or preserves
*Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9-inch square or round cake pan.
I wish I could say browsing through The Way to Cook changed my mind, but that would be a lie. It felt the same way I remembered: stiff, formal, and labor intensive. So I put the book back on the shelf and accepted that cooking a la Julia Child might not be my thing.