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Don't Forget the Frosting

Spooky cupcakes scare up a sweet tooth

Chocolate pudding layered with Oreo cookie crumbs and a few strategically placed gummy worms — fondly known as dirt and worms — was my favorite party treat during the years when it was still age-appropriate to dress up and beg for candy from neighbors on Halloween. And then you get older and are expected to crave slightly more sophisticated desserts and buy your own candy. While a Costco membership and a semblance of a disposable income has allowed me to do the latter, the former still eluded me until genius struck amid a moment of extreme gummy worm cravings.

These graveyard cupcakes deliver a whimsical Halloween dessert that, like its inspiration, looks more silly than gross since gummy worms thankfully fail to resemble actual worms. Chocolate whipped cream, or whipped ganache, replaces the pudding and acts as both a filling and a frosting. Buried gummy worms or gummy bears — worms and zombies, respectively — in the center of the cupcake will shock people in a good way. Lastly, sticking royal icing tombstones in the top of the Oreo cookie and ganache dirt completes the spooky look with a morbid touch. Serve up these macabre cupcakes to friends and neighbors as you mourn the death of your trick-or-treating years or, better yet, attempt to sneak into Alpha’s Candyland event.

All photos by Melanie Kim/THE CHIMES

Graveyard cupcakes

Assembly:

Gummy worms

Gummy bears

Oreo cookies

Butter knife

Optional: Piping bag and medium-sized star piping tip

1 batch devilish chocolate cupcakes

1 batch whipped dark chocolate ganache

Royal icing decor

Remove the cream from a package of Oreo cookies, placing the cookies in a bowl and discarding the cream. Crush the cookies to a fine powder either in a food processor or by chopping with a knife until completely pulverized.

If using a piping bag, put in the tip and fill it with the whipped ganache. If not, just have the whipped ganache in a bowl. Use a butter knife to cut a quarter to half dollar size hole in the center of each cupcake that extends down about halfway into the cupcake. Pull up the plug of cupcake from the center and discard, or eat. Spoon or pipe a small amount of whipped ganache into the bottom of the hole of the cupcake, leaving room for the gummy worm or bears. Add a gummy worm or a couple gummy bears into the hole, then cover with ganache. Frost the top of the cupcake with ganache with either a knife or using the piping bag. Place frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator until the whipped ganache is firm enough that it stays when the cupcake is turned upside down.

Pour a thin layer of Oreo cookie crumbs into a shallow bowl. Dip the frosted cupcakes into the cookie crumbs to create a layer of graveyard dirt, adding more cookie crumbs to the bowl as needed.

Stick the tombstones and ghosts or other royal icing decor part way into the frosting to complete the graveyard look.

Devilish chocolate cupcakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup brown sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs, lightly beaten

3 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease the top of two muffin pans with oil or cooking spray and line with cupcake wrappers.

In a medium bowl, cream the softened butter with the brown sugar with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs and beat in until completely incorporated with the butter. Mix in the melted chocolate and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add a third of the flour into the butter, mixing well and scraping the edges of the bottom of the bowl. Add about a third of the milk to the mixture and stir in. Alternate adding the flour and milk until all is completely incorporated into a uniform batter.

Use a spoon or a 2 ounce cookie scoop to distribute an even amount of cupcake batter into the lined muffin pans. Place pans in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pans after the first 12 minutes for even baking. Check the cupcakes after 20 minutes by pressing lightly on the tops, which should spring back when finished. Let the cupcakes cool completely before filling and decorating.

Whipped dark chocolate ganache:

6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

10 ounces heavy whipping cream

Place the finely chopped chocolate in a small to medium metal bowl. In a small pan, heat the heavy whipping cream on high heat, removing from heat just as it comes to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for one minute. Using a rubber spatula or whisk, quickly stir the cream and chocolate together, starting from the edges and working your way to the center until it is smooth and uniformly colored. Pour mixture into another, cool metal bowl or plastic container and let sit in the refrigerator until cold. Use an electric mixture or a whisk and willpower to whip the cold chocolate cream into fluffy, whipped cream.

Royal icing decor:

Carton of pasteurized egg whites, which can be purchased at most major grocery stores

Powdered sugar

Cookie sheet

Parchment paper

Add about a 1/4 cup of powdered sugar to a small bowl. Add a tiny bit of egg white and stir with a fork, repeating until there is just enough to turn the powdered sugar into a stiff paste. Mix the paste well, and then put in a piping bag with a small piping tip, or a plastic sandwich bag with a very small hole cut in the corner. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Pipe small upside-down “U” shapes onto the parchment paper and fill each one in until it forms a miniature tombstone. Other possible designs include ghosts or piping letters, like “R.I.P.”

Try to pipe the designs close to the parchment so they are relatively thin. Royal icing will dry rock hard, but the thicker the design, the longer it takes to dry — similar to puffy paint. Let the icing designs sit on the cookie sheet for a couple hours or overnight to dry. Once the designs dry, you will be able to gently peel them off the parchment paper. Store in an airtight plastic container lined with clean parchment container until you begin decorating the cupcakes. These should be placed on the cupcakes as the last step before serving.

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