Saturday, October 24, 2015

There's a Little Zombie in All of Us

When most people think of holiday baking, it's all fruitcakes, fudges, and gingerbread houses. When I think of holiday baking, it's all ghost cakepops, sugar skull cakes, and Nightmare Before Christmas birthday cakes. Clearly when I don a festive holiday hat, it has horns on it. When I sing holiday tunes, it's usually the theme from the Addams Family. And when I decorate my home for the holidays, children run screaming in the opposite direction. Halloween is my lifeblood, and each year I try to outdo myself on all things spooky and wicked (the latter comes relatively easy for obvious reasons...spend five minutes in the Clovis Walmart and new forms of torture just come springing to life in your imagination). So this year I asked myself one very important question when I was coming up with baking ideas: on a scale of 1-10, how gross can I make something look while still getting people to eat it? I was delighted to settle on a solid 8.5 and went for broke. And thus, the bloody brain cupcake was born:
Did you just gag a little? Then my work here is done.
There were points during the decorating of these cupcakes where I was cackling with witchy glee and then just full on evil laughing once finished. Strangely enough, my evil laugh and my regular laugh are strikingly similar. It shouldn't be too hard to transition into my evil laugh full-time after I've completed world domination, so that's a plus. I am still taking applications for minions and underlings, however. I did cheat some (what evil genius doesn't?) and just made these cupcakes from a box mix using the cake-jacking method of adding in an extra egg, using butter instead of oil and doubling the amount, and using milk in place of water. I was more focused on the creation of repulsive decoration and less on taste. Can you blame me? Duncan Hines has had my back too many times to turn away now. Never forget where you came from!
But I suppose I can't be that evil if I'm sharing my trade secrets.
Naturally I had Halloween cupcake papers on hand. I couldn't call myself a Halloween enthusiast if I didn't.
 Once baking my cupcakes according to package directions, I let them cool off on a cooling rack in the fridge because I was extremely impatient...but not before ogling how perfectly domed and sized they all were. I am super horrible at getting my cupcakes to all be the same size and not extremely large or way too tiny. Goldilocks would hate me. Somehow this recipe that was supposed to make 24 cupcakes only made 21. I guess I had to sacrifice three cupcakes in order to get 21 perfect ones. Worth it!
You know what really sucks? Trying to fill a squeeze bottle with jelly. My kitchen is permanently coated in raspberry jelly now.
No bloody brain cupcake would be complete without blood. Obviously. Sometimes I really need to turn overly-spelling-it-out teacher mode off, but I don't know how. My blood was simply seedless raspberry jelly mixed in a bowl until smooth. You need a COMPLETELY cool cupcake before filling though.
Filling is a sinch! Sink the tip of the squeeze bottle into the cupcake and fill to your heart's content.
I applied moderate pressure to the squeeze bottle and once the filling was noticeably spilling out the top, stopped.
About 3/4's of a jar of raspberry jam will fill 21 cupcakes. Save the remaining jelly for later. Phase two of reaching evil baking genius has been completed. Now, on to phase three and making of the frosting!
You noticed the vodka in the background, didn't you, you sly little minx? You're also not surprised at all, are you?
I made my standard almond buttercream for the brain base. You need:
  • Two sticks (1 cup) of softened butter
  • Six cups of powdered sugar
  • One tablespoon of vanilla
  • One teaspoon of almond extract
  • Three-four tablespoons of milk or heavy cream
  • Brown, red, and black gel dye
 Mix together the butter and two cups of sugar until you've got a nice lumpy base. Add in the extracts and one tablespoon of milk and mix. Scrape down the bowl then add in two more cups of sugar and one more tablespoon of milk. Add in the remaining two cups of sugar after scraping the bowl and the remaining milk (I used all four tablespoons for easier piping). Once the frosting is mixed, add in one drop of red dye, one drop of black dye, and three drops of brown dye. This magically calculated formula (also known as "winging it") yielded a perfect brain matter color. Now it's time to create brains. Delicious, tasty braaaaaiiiins. I made it halfway through this blog without a zombie reference. I'm feeling pretty good about myself.
Once you've placed half of your frosting into a piping bag fitted with a round open tip (I used a #12), start by piping a single line down the center of the cupcake to separate your brain's hemispheres. I can get scientific, thanks for noticing. Then simply pipe a wavy line partially on top of the middle line to boost up your frosting and give your brain a dome shape.

You can continue to pipe that same line further over on the cupcake, all the while continuing to just zigzag and make wind-y lines. Some of them I continuously piped, others I stopped and used a completely separate second line. I liked the continuous line look better. Simply repeat the process on the other side of the cupcake.
And you, too, can feel like your very own Dr. Frankenstein. POWER!!!
A field of brains. Knowledge is power (and yummy), after all.
You could call it a day here and have boring gray brains for dessert, but I felt as though the grossness factor was a mere four without making stuff even bloodier. I was also testing out my skills as a creator here, you know, so if the zombie apocalypse ever happens, I'm able to trick the undead into eating my cupcake brains instead of my actual brains because they just look that good. Plus a zombie full of cupcakes is going to be a lot easier to run away from. These are the things I pontificate about (had I been born with less of an active imagination, I may be solving global warming or the bacon shortage or something important. Eh.).
Yes, now we've achieved 8.5 on the grossness scale.
To splatter blood on your brains, first stick all your frosted cupcakes into the freezer for 30 minutes. Once the frosting is solidified and can be touched without causing any damage, you're ready to get messy. Take a small bowl of the raspberry jelly and dilute it with a few drops of water. Mix in some red food coloring for maximum gore and find a small paintbrush. Get creative and fill in whatever nooks and crannies you want to by brushing the jelly onto the frosting. You don't need to put a lot on if you don't want to. You also don't need to use much pressure when brushing so the brains don't get flattened. No one wants to eat a brain that looks like its been met by a Mack Truck. And there you have it...a cupcake that looks so gross you won't want to eat it. But you will anyway because it's still a cupcake, and no one can resist a good cupcake.
Even when it's oozing blood.
I'm hoping people will be brave enough to eat these at the costume party we're attending tonight. If not, my husband and I will be consuming mass quantities of brain matter and loving it. We sampled the cupcake I cut in half for blogging purposes (the things I do for you people), and I am happy to report that I will henceforth be covering everything in seedless raspberry jam (except steak; we've been over this before). It is tart, sweet, and perfectly blended with the French Vanilla cake and utterly complementary of the almond buttercream...I'm starting to think those zombies have the right idea because brains are delicious. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
Brains in surplus...I could've become one rich lady if the Wizard of Oz Scarecrow was real.

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