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'Crime scene' cupcakes give Halloween extra edge


 These 'crime scene' cupcakes may not seem too appetizing, but they sure will add a spooky dimension to Halloween this year.
REZA MARVASHTI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 10/12/2011

BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE

At first I fixated on the blood spatter.

For days, any conversation in the Umble house eventually led to the options I considered and ultimately discarded.

Strawberry preserves weren't red enough. Food coloring wasn't the right consistency. And ketchup didn't taste right.

I finally decided on corn syrup and red food coloring. And then I had to learn to fling blood with the abandon of an experienced serial killer.

It's not so easy to craft a crime scene on the top of a cupcake.

But it did seem like a good Halloween idea. I've never been into the creepy part of the fall holiday.

From childhood, I hated haunted houses and those Halloween parties where blindfolded guests stick their hands into peeled grapes pretending to be eyeballs.

But I am now the mom of two teenage boys, and the days of superhero costumes and pumpkin patches are long gone.

It was time to up the gore factor.

And my husband inspired me to turn to crime scenes. Not in a way that would make us the next installment of "Dateline" or "48 Hours Mystery" and their continual fascination with spousal murders.

My husband creates crime scenes for a living (he's one of the good guys, I promise).

And while I come home from work with stories of mangled participles and misplaced modifiers, he gets to dish on the details of digging shallow graves.

I'm not sure how I decided to make the leap from crime scenes to cupcakes. But I do love to make the tasty treats. I know they've outlived their trendiness. But I'm sticking by them.

When I first had kids, I had grand visions of elaborate cakes. My mother crafted my birthday treats with care, and I still think of my resplendent Barbie cake as proof of how much she loves me.

It turns out I lack the patience for such artistry. I almost cried when my son tore into a cake I'd spent hours decorating.

So, instead, I turned to the lazy baker's palette.

For years, I experimented with flavors but left the outer layers pretty plain: a carefully piped mound of frosting was decor enough.

And then I discovered "Hello, Cupcake," a book by some sweet artists who use icing, candy and other treats to turn cupcakes into Yorkies, rubber ducks, corn on the cob and more.

I didn't try a single creation. The authors wrote that anybody could re-create their visions. But I was intimidated.

And then I got the follow-up book, "What's New Cupcake?" for Christmas.

A co-worker had a January birthday. It seemed like a good time to experiment.

I created Chinese food cupcakes for the occasion.

It was really fun--and a lot easier than I'd assumed.

I was shocked that a lime-flavored Tootsie Roll really could become a broccoli floret.

But once I could craft a vegetable from candy, it seemed like there was no limit to what I could put on a cupcake.

Including, it turns out, a bloody crime scene.

Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973
Email: aumble@freelancestar.com


CHOCOLATE GUINNESS CUPCAKES

Start to finish: about 30 minutesMakes 24 servings

1 cup stout (Guinness) 16 tablespoons butter cup unsweetened cocoa powder 2 cups all-purpose flour 2 cups sugar1 teaspoons baking soda teaspoon salt 2 large eggs cup sour cream

For the ganache filling: 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped cup heavy cream 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature 2 teaspoons Bailey's Irish cream

For frosting: 8 tablespoons unsalted but- ter, at room temperature 4 cups confectioners' sugar 4 to 8 tablespoons Bailey's Irish cream

Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. 3. Combine stout and butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. 4. Add cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. 5. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. 6. In large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. 7. In bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat eggs and sour cream to blend. 8. Add stout-butter mixture, beat until just combined. 9. Mix in dry ingredients on low speed. 10. Divide batter evenly among cupcake liners. 11. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. 12. Allow 5 to 10 minutes to cool in pan, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. 13. To make ganache filling, place chocolate in heatproof bowl. 14. Heat cream in small saucepan until simmering, then pour it over chocolate. 15. Let sit for one minute and then whisk until smooth. 16. If chocolate is not completely melted, place bowl over double boiler or give it a very short burst in the microwave (15-20 seconds). 17. Add butter and Bailey's and stir until combined. 18. Set aside to let ganache cool until thick enough to be piped. 19. Meanwhile, cut out a portion from center of each cupcake using a small paring knife. 20. Once ganache has reached correct consistency, transfer it to a piping bag fitted with a wide tip and pipe it into cupcakes. 21. To make frosting, place butter in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. 22. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. 23. Gradually add powdered sugar until incorporated. 24. Mix in Bailey's until smooth and frosting has reached good consistency to pipe or spread. 25. Frost cupcakes as desired. Recipe from: annies-eats.com