Isn’t Halloween the best holiday ever? I mean, every holiday has its merits. Christmas is great. Thanksgiving is even awesome- all that food. But HALLOWEEN, YOU GUYS. This is the best time. When else is it acceptable, even expected, that your food either resemble body parts or have eyes? It’s only at Halloween, and it’s basically awesome.
I call this “Monster Bark.” You can call it chocolate bark, Halloween bark, whatever. It depends also on what candy you use on top. Mine has bloodshot eyes, so clearly it has to be monstrous. Yours can be totally different! People usually think of bark as a Christmas thing; peppermint bark. But there’s no reason why you can’t make it for any holiday or occasion.
First you need a bag of chocolate. I prefer to use real chocolate as my base, and if I want more color (i.e. Candy Melts) or other kinds of chocolate I add a little in by swirling it or layering. You can in theory do whatever you want, I just find sometimes the Candy Melts melt a little quicker, so using chocolate as a base helps keep it firm. I used Hershey’s Special Dark for the base of this, and I added a little bit of black food coloring to make it look a bit darker. You can use a mix of white, milk and dark chocolate, or use dark chocolate with orange and/or green Candy Melts swirled in. Or add some white. Use your imagination!
I obviously stuck with one color.
You can use a bag of chips melted, or two large bars of chocolate. Depending on the amount of people or the size of your pan, you can even double that.
Next, you’ll need sprinkles and candies. I went really simple, but you can go crazy. Mine has Wilton candy eyes, candy corn, Wilton orange + black sprinkles, and some green and pink round sprinkles as well as candy pearls. You can use regular old Halloween candy too, and pretzels, and nuts… whatever it is you love.
When I was little, Bewitched was one of my favorite TV shows. It used to be on in the early afternoons in syndication, on channel 11 or something. I’d rush home from school to try and catch it. I loved Samantha Stevens so much, and I wished I could just wiggle my nose and do magic like her and Tabitha. I even designed some Cupcake Rehab merchandise based on the show’s opening credits. It’s only fitting that I share this photo! Especially since I’m starting to think about what my jack-o-lantern this year will be. Previous years: Edgar Allan Poe, many varieties of cats, Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas, Oogie Boogie and Jack Skellington (also from TNBC), pipe smoking pumpkins, regular jack-o-lanterns, witches on brooms and many more.
Jack-o-lanterns are kinda my thing.
So, today since we’re talking about jack-o-lanterns, I thought I’d post just a little a short and sweet little DIY/recipe post for you; in true Halloween-y fashion. These jack-o-lantern puddings are actually just pumpkin puddings in cute glasses that I DIY’ed. I mean, what are jack-o-lanterns made of? Pumpkins! Duh.
You’ve probably seen this idea or something similar all over the Internet. But do you know how it’s done? Nope- I didn’t buy jack-o-lantern glasses.
Aren’t these adorable? I know they are. They’re definitely not scary at all. But maybe the Wicked Witch of the West wouldn’t have been so upset if Dorothy had dropped a cupcake on her sister, instead of a house. Don’t you think?
So, it’s getting close to Halloween. Everyone is either having a party, going to a party or expected to make something for a children’s party… or just for the kids, period. You need something easy but cute to make (and maybe use to impress people with your creativity) and I have just the thing- these!
Black and white with a little green is my favorite Halloween color combination. I usually avoid black and orange because it’s everywhere. It’s also really versatile, it can be used for witch cupcakes, monster cupcakes, vampire cupcakes… just about anything! And if you get a lot of black or black & white cupcake liners, you can also use them year-round for other things.
But anyway today we’re talking about witches. Wicked witches- who had a cupcake fall on them- with legs made of striped paper straws and shoes made of black paper. So easy!
Yeah. That’s right. Today we’re talking about witches. Because in case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s October, and that means one thing to me: Halloween.
Ohh, Halloween. My favorite time of year. The leaves changing (hopefully) & crunching beneath my boots, the air getting brisker, the wind kicking up. The costumes & makeup start appearing in stores earlier & earlier nowadays, but I reserve my Halloween excitement for the first week in October. I refuse to do ANYTHING Halloween-related before October 1st. Yes, it’s my favorite holiday & yes, I’m excited. But it’s like buying Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving; it’s just wrong to me. I’ll wait until October to celebrate Halloween… & I’ll wait until December 1st for Christmas, thanks.
That being said, I was super psyched to post this little cupcake topper how-to. I couldn’t wait any longer! I didn’t come up with this idea myself (unfortunately) but I did somewhat modify it from the original directions. I did that because I didn’t have matching mini cupcake liners & regular liners. I don’t do many mini cupcakes, so I never buy the liners. I adapted the directions to suit me & my materials, and with just a little bit more work put in I think they look just as cute. Ladies & germs, I give you…
“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good & loaded & whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon Appetit.” -Julia Child
I think every food blogger in the universe has been inspired by the book and the ensuing movieJulie & Julia; or at the very least thought, “Wow… that could happen to me!” But we love it not just because it’s a fabulous blogger-makes-good story, but because it involves Julia. The unflappable and beloved Julia Child, she herself who is an example of the very same path most of us food bloggers have taken: non-cook morphs into cook (or baker) and writes about it. And then- success! However, with bloggers, if we’re lucky we get one one-thousandth (or one one-millionth) of the readers that over the years have bought, read and attempted to execute recipes from Julia’s books. Julia was a pioneer in many ways, and her life was fascinating. Her relationship with her husband Paul reminds me a lot of my relationship with Jay; he was un-endingly supportive and encouraging of her in all her exploits & possible craziness. Of course he & I are not quite Julia & Paul Child clones- I doubt Julia ever had a mohawk and Paul was certainly never a cop nor was he in a death metal band- but seriously. Jay has humored me in all of my blogging lunacy, and it can also be said that without him there might not even BE a blog. And without Paul, there would have been no Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So yes, at this point it may seem cliche to love her and be a big fan of hers, but I can’t deny that I spent a large portion of my childhood watching the show Julia had on PBS with Jacques Pépin: Cooking at Home (as well as watching The Galloping Gourmet, the Frugal Gourmet & Yan Can Cook… remember those dudes!?). I always loved Julia, even before I knew who she was & how important she was. And whenever we were at my aunt & uncle’s house for dinner, my Uncle Pat used to do a hilarious impression of her while he cooked.
Well, today would’ve been Julia Child’s 100th birthday.
Child was born Julia Carolyn McWilliams in Pasadena, California, the daughter of John McWilliams, Jr., a Princeton University graduate and prominent land manager, and his wife, the former Julia Carolyn (“Caro”) Weston, a paper-company heiress whose father, Byron Curtis Weston, served as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. The eldest of three children, she had a brother, John III (1914–2002), and a sister, Dorothy Dean (1917–2006).
Following her graduation from college, Child moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter for the advertising department of upscale home-furnishing firm W. & J. Sloane. Returning to California in 1937, she spent the next four years writing for local publications, working in advertising, and volunteering with the Junior League of Pasadena.
Child repeatedly recalled her first meal in Rouen as a culinary revelation; once, she described the meal of oysters, sole meunière, and fine wine to The New York Times as “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.” In Paris, she attended the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and later studied privately with Max Bugnard and other master chefs. She joined the women’s cooking club Cercle des Gourmettes, through which she met Simone Beck, who was writing a French cookbook for Americans with her friend Louisette Bertholle. Beck proposed that Child work with them, to make the book appeal to Americans.
In 1951, Child, Beck, and Bertholle began to teach cooking to American women in Child’s Paris kitchen, calling their informal school L’école des trois gourmandes (The School of the Three Food Lovers). For the next decade, as the Childs moved around Europe and finally to Cambridge, Massachusetts, the three researched and repeatedly tested recipes. Child translated the French into English, making the recipes detailed, interesting, and practical.
In 1963, the Childs built a home near the Provence town of Plascassier in the hills above Cannes on property belonging to co-author Simone Beck and her husband, Jean Fischbacher. The Childs named it “La Pitchoune“, a Provençal word meaning “the little one” but over time the property was often affectionately referred to simply as “La Peetch”.
PBS announced an interactive celebration called Cook For Julia about a month ago, and I really wanted to participate. So I popped ‘Julie & Julia’ in the DVD player, flipped through Mastering the Art of French Cooking and got to work! ‘Cause see, I was debating doing a version of Julia’s cherry clafoutis, just with “drunken cherries” instead. That’s when I decided (as I often do) to go against the grain. And not just recreate a Julia recipe as they suggested, because everyone will be doing that… but instead, I made Julia some birthday cupcakes. That is, after all, what I do best. Cupcakes. For people in my family, every year, they get a batch of birthday cupcakes, and Julia should get the family treatment. Not only that but what better ingredient to use in a birthday cupcake than alcohol? Or even better… alcohol-soaked fruit?
Remember my bourbon cherries? Well the one month waiting period is up! And those little bourbon cherries are ready (and in turn, the cherry-infused bourbon is ready, too, but that’s another post).
I was thinking, what can I make with this stuff? I mean… a drink is obvious. Using the bourbon to make a glaze is obvious. And to plop one of these cherries in a cold glass of Coke is obvious, too. But I wanted to do something a little different. And after all, Julia loved to cook with liquor, and she even put it in the food sometimes. *wink*
So I decided to make cupcakes with those drunken little cherries instead of using them in a clafoutis! By the way, if you remember a while back (on my birthday, actually) I mentioned that those vanilla cupcakes were my new favorite- well, this is them. They’re moist with a great vanilla flavor and they aren’t cornbread-y.
CHERRY-BOMB CUPCAKES FOR JULIA
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup sour cream
12 brandy-infused cherries (stems, pits & all- you can also use regular fresh Bing cherries, but if you do, substitute 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract in the recipe with either Kirsch, brandy or bourbon)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir with a whisk lightly to incorporate. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the butter and sugar. Using the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Slowly add the vanilla (and/or Kirsch), milk and sour cream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually mix in the flour mixture.
Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full. Push a cherry into each, keeping stem end up. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.
Let cool 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Cakes can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature overnight.
Make sure, before serving, to tell everyone they still have the pits in them! No broken teeth for Julia’s birthday, k? It’s easiest to eat these with a spoon, that way you can eat around the pits… which brings me to what I served them with…
I served them with a some whipped cream in a jar, ’cause it just seemed like the right thing to do. It seemed like a delicious, fun, offbeat kinda way of topping these off, and just the kinda thing Julia would’ve approved of. It’s really cool, actually, and if you keep shaking it, you’ll get butter. Which also seemed incredibly appropriate for Julia.
We all know that long before Paula Deen, Julia Child was the Queen of Butter.
All you have to do is take a clean, empty 8-oz. jar. Fill it with 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, 1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar and two drops of pure vanilla extract. Close the jar tightly and shake! Seriously. Shake it. For anywhere from 2-3 minutes, vigorously. If you keep going, like I said, you’ll get butter. Then you can refrigerate it, add a little salt and shmear it on some toast. But if you wanna keep it at the whipped cream, be sure to check it after 3 minutes of shaking.
It has an amazing fresh taste. If you like your whipped cream on the sweeter side, add 1 full teaspoon of sugar.
They’re definitely an adult cupcake, not for children. You can definitely taste the bourbon, however it’s not overwhelming or overpowering at all. It just gives the cake and the cherry an extra added oomph. And the whipped cream on the side is just perfection. And as a matter of fact, it’s excellent to make at a dinner or a party. It would be so much fun to have your guests help you make it! Make the cupcakes, set them out, and then fill the jar with the ingredients. Then just pass it around, letting each person shake it. Then… voilà! Fresh whipped cream! And of course serving the entire kit & kaboodle with a cocktail made from the cherry bourbon is a must. Taking a swig or two while baking is probably even more of a must.
So that’s the end of my little tribute. I hope it’s something Julia would’ve been proud of. I can’t help but think that she would be… although seeing how she wasn’t a fan of Julie Powell (and her sometimes irreverent attitude) I don’t know if she’d much like me or my little blog. But it doesn’t matter. Because I have nothing but the utmost love and respect for her and all she did to pave the way for food freaks like me to feel comfortable talking about our dinners with such passion, our desserts with such gusto and our butter with such adoration.
Regardless of how she would feel about me, Happy 100th Birthday, Julia!
I love you, and as evidenced by this celebration, I think we all still love you. Bon Appetit!
Follow more bloggers as they #cookforJulia at the Twitter hashtag!
One of the things that just screams summer, especially when you live near an ocean and are apt to see them A LOT, are seashells. Once the seashells come out, I know it’s definitely summer. You start to see them hanging on wreaths, on restaurant tables, used as planters or candle holders, hanging on walls, on sandals, as earrings, etc. Most people don’t think of the ocean when they think of New York, they just think of “the city.” But New York boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in- dare I say- the world. Coney Island, The Hamptons, Jones Beach, Point Lookout, Brighton Beach, Rye Beach, Manhattan Beach, etc. All of those are not only beautiful but historic beaches. As a kid, going to to beach a few times a week was one of the glories of summer; I could be the little mermaid I was born to be all day long, collecting seashells & starfish, finding little crabs & tide pools, making sand castles and of course swimming myself silly. It’s still one of my favorite things to do. And I still love seashells. I can’t help it, I’m a true summer baby- born July 30th, the height of summer.
I bought these Mary Englebreit cupcake liners last spring, with all intentions of using them last summer. But that didn’t happen. I thought they were so cute, I couldn’t resist! I saw a whole summer cupcake theme going on in my head. Sadly, my summer last year was not how I expected. So this summer I decided I would definitely use those little seahorse liners. And I had an idea! I wanted to do a little seahorse on top of each cupcake. But I couldn’t find appropriate molds, nor could I find any edible toppers that were up to my standards. So I decided I’d buy a set of chocolate seashells, and put one on top of each cupcake. But then I saw the assortment of chocolate shells on the internet, and I wasn’t really pleased. I could’ve made my own, by buying some seashell chocolate molds, but then the weather got really hot. And that’s when I said, “Self.. maybe chocolate isn’t the best material to use right now.” I was stuck, yet determined. I’d already put off using those liners for a year! I was GOING to use them.
I brushed them with some gold Wilton pearl dust to give them a little something extra special. It also reminds me a little of sand.
I used an extra large open star tip to frost the vanilla cupcakes with a sweet but ever-so-slightly salty blue frosting (supposed to be reminiscent of saltwater taffy!). Then I topped each one with two seashells. And there you have it- the perfect beachy summery cupcakes.
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs, mixing well after each addition, followed by the vanilla and almond extracts.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a small bowl. Then, with the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk and ending with the flour.
Fill each cup 3/4 full with batter. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the center of the cupcakes spring back when touched. Cool completely before frosting.
SLIGHTLY SALTY “SALT WATER TAFFY” BUTTERCREAM
1 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 stick SALTED butter, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 pound – 1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons milk (perhaps more)
food coloring, if desired
Place the butter and shortening in a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until fluffy. Slowly add the first pound and a half of powdered sugar, a cup at a time until all is incorporated. Turn off the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl very well. Add the vanilla and mix again.
Slowly add half of the milk while the mixer is on, and beat for one minute. Add food coloring. Blend.
Add more milk or sugar as needed to achieve a frosting consistency that’s suitable to piping.
For this frosting color, I used regular McCormick liquid food coloring: two drops of green and three drops of blue. It was the perfect color, wasn’t it? And if you don’t have any salted butter, use a little bit of table salt. Just sprinkle it in, a teeny bit at a time until the desired saltiness is achieved. If you’re concerned about the possible grittiness, then just grind the table salt until it’s super fine. And I usually use homemade buttermilk for things like this; I just mix milk & white vinegar together in a ratio of 1 cup to 1 tablespoon (or 1/2 cup to 1 teaspoon). I mix it together and then just let it sit for 15 minutes. I just find the flavor is better, and this way I don’t have to keep throwing away buttermilk that’s been in my fridge too long or worry about the powdered kind getting all clumpy. Of course any kind of buttermilk works, but that’s just what I like to do.
That beautiful cake stand was a gift from my cousin and his wife who live in New Orleans; it’s from a store called Roux Royale, just in case you’re wondering.
Sometimes, you have to just make some pretty cupcakes for no other reason than to enjoy them, and put them on a pretty cake plate. Even on a random Monday. Or Tuesday… or Thursday. Whenever. Even if it’s pretty hot out. Even if it’s so hot you think your face is going to melt off. ‘Cause look at these! They’re so beautiful, you can’t help but smile.
They’re worth it.
And of course, they go perfectly with my grandmother’s vintage 40’s/50’s summer tablecloth that I recently found. How amazing is this? And how jealous are you? ‘Cause I bet you’re pretty friggin’ jealous right now. That’s okay, I would be too. Between my cake plate and this… pfft. You might as well give up. You ain’t got nuthin’ on me & my summer steez.
Anyway, I love you summer. ♥ Here’s to you & all your awesomeness.
And he’s riding on a parade of cupcakes, apparently. Yep, you guessed it folks. We’re two weeks away from Easter, and spring is officially here… that means so is the annual Best of Easter Cupcakes Compilation!
Each holiday I post a compilation of my favorite (or the best) cupcake or dessert items that are pertinent to said holiday; I also throw in links to other things like snacks or cookies or even meals that relate as well. I started doing it last Halloween (2010). Afterwards, I’d gotten good feedback from people who said it helps them come up with ideas without having to search too much, so I kept it up. The rest is history, as they say.
So here you are. A convenient little list of pretty cakes (& other things listed at the bottom) that are perfect for spring/Easter/Passover/whatever you celebrate. I celebrate chocolate bunnies, myself. Anyway, click on each image & you’ll be brought to the recipe. Enjoy! ..
And there’s more than this that I haven’t pictured here, both for the sake of time & space. If you’re interested in them, I’m listing them below. I hope this helps you guys out with some ideas! And don’t forget- there’s plenty more to come in the next week or two.