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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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BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE
At first I fixated on the blood
For days, any conversation in the Umble house eventually led to the options I considered
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
CHOCOLATE GUINNESS CUPCAKES
Start to finish: about 30 minutes
1 cup stout (Guinness)
For the ganache filling: