Today I made Halloween cupcakes with the help of two of my sisters and the "help" of my two nephews; an activity that managed to last for almost all of the afternoon, so engrossed were we all in the competition to out-gross each other with our sugar paste ghouls and monsters. For me, the severed finger and the eye balls win top prize for most repulsive treats, but the cats and pumpkins are rather sweet if you're keener on Disney-fied devils. Making sugar paste models is a great activity for children because it's just like playdough or plasticine but better, because you, er, they can eat it afterwards.
I wanted to make a cake that could equal a blood-shot eye ball in inducing excitement. And there is no treat more revered to children than the fizzy drink. When I was a child, I was never allowed fizzy drinks apart from at birthday parties or Christmas, which meant that at every occasion it was in reach, I would end up guzzling as much as I could and spend the rest of the day bouncing off the walls with a Tizer moustache. It would usually end in accusations of showing off, followed by tears before bedtime, but I bloody loved it!
Coca Cola was the most coveted of all the fizzy drinks (even though I knew it could dissolve a whole tooth if you left it in a glass overnight and take the paint off your car - I'm not sure that second one is established fact, but it certainly was for me, aged 3+) and so for the cupcakes, it could be nothing but Coca Cola, all the way. The cakes are sweet, but in a slightly spiky, intriguing way, and the cola, oil and molasses together, make the cakes very moist and dark in colour. Don't worry about levels of cola consumption here though, as there's actually very little cola in each cake (or slice of cake), so all effects should remain at a manageable level.
Although there's no time to make them for Halloween proper, extending the ghoulish festivities will be nothing if not welcome, or you can easily transform them for Bonfire Night with different sugar paste models and edible glitter stars and sparkles.
Chocolate and Cola cupcakes:
Makes 36 cupcakes or 2 x 8" sandwich tin.
10 oz (250 g) unsalted butter, softened
4 oz (100 g) dark chocolate (min 70% cocoa solids)
3 eggs, beaten
14 oz (350 g) plain flour
7 oz (175 g) caster sugar
7 oz (175 g) molasses sugar
2 oz (50 g) cocoa
7 fl. oz (200 ml) cola (full fat only)
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
A dash of vanilla extract
10 oz (250 g) unsalted butter, softened
1lb, 4 oz (500 g) icing sugar
5 tbsp milk
A very generous splash of vanilla
Various ghoulish food colourings (I used Squires Kitchen pastes in Black Extra, Red Extra, Mint Green and Tangerine).
- Beat your butter in a bowl until really creamy, sift over the icing sugar and whisk together until mixed thoroughly. Add the milk and vanilla and whisk together until pale and fluffy.
- Separate portions of the buttercream into different bowls and dye them your chosen Halloween inspired colours.
Preheat your oven to 180C (160C Fan Assisted) and line your muffin trays with cupcake wrappers or grease and line your sandwich tins.
- Place the chocolate, cola, molasses sugar and half the butter in a saucepan on a low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved, but avoid letting it come to the boil. Allow to cool slightly.
- Beat the caster sugar and remaining butter together until pale and fluffy and gradually beat in the eggs.
- Pour the chocolate and cola mixture over the sugar and butter and mix together.
- Stir in the oil and vanilla and sift over the dry ingredients. Mix together thoroughly and spoon into your cupcake cases or pour out into your tins.
- Bake on the middle shelf for about 15 minutes for cupcakes or 35 - 40 for sandwich cakes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Ice the cakes with the buttercream using a palate knife and top with a sugar paste figure of your choice, or alternatively some Halloween jelly sweets.