Yay! It’s Halloween! And to celebrate the day, I have baked up a batch of these delightfully spooky Ghost Cupcakes! What we’ve got here is a dark as your soul chocolate chip filled fudge cupcake frosted with a silky pale as moonlight vanilla buttercream frosting. I adorned half of the cupcakes that I baked with marbled chocolate curls and the other with black sanding sugar (yeah, I know for some reason it looks green – just think of it as graveyard grass). Next, I topped them with an oh so scary, yet very delicious, little meringue spirits. Yeah, I do realize that these little ghouls lean more towards cute than creepy, but considering all that has gone on this year, I’m ready to take a big ole helping of cute.
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I mean, think about it…You get to dress weird, drink booze and eat candy for dinner. In fact, all of that fun stuff is encouraged. How could you go wrong on such a day! Sadly, this year is definitely going to be a bit different. Don’t get me wrong – there is a whole bunch of downright scary, some would say absolutely terrifying, things lurking about out there. Things you definitely do not want to encounter. Not that we are venturing out. Like everything else so far in 2020, nearly all social Halloween events have been pretty much cancelled. Rightfully so, yet nevertheless disappointing. So, I’ll be staying in with the Husband and we’ll be dressing weird (actually we’ll likely be in our quarantine clothes…i.e. pajamas), boozing it up and binging on candy, all on our lonesomes.
Our modern holiday of Halloween, actually has Irish origins. Today’s celebrations are derived from the Celtic holiday of Samhain. Samhain was Celtic New Year. It was a harvest festival which marked the dying of the sun-god and a turning to the colder, dormant half of the year. On this night, the Celts believed the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was at its lowest point. The dead could more easily travel back over to our side, and if we weren’t careful, we could accidentally wander over in to their world and be trapped-a good reason to stay close to home and bonfires, no doubt! This belief likely gave rise to our Halloween legends of ghosts, ghouls and witches wandering about on this night in particular. I’ve posted some great Halloween recipes in past years ranging from the historically based traditional recipes such as:
Soul Cakes (Traditional Halloween/ Samhain)
Yeasted Irish Barmbrack Bread (traditional Halloween/Samhain)
Irish Tea Barmbrack with a Whiskey Honey Glaze (traditional Halloween/Samhain)
To the more whimsical offerings such as:
As well as some wonderful boozy libations to kick your celebrations into high gear:
A few year’s ago I managed to combined whimsical and boozy altogether in my Halloween treats with these adorable – I mean terribly frightening Itsy-Bitsy Tipsy Spider Cupcakes.
And last year a had a howling good time making these little rascals:
Which brings me to this year’s offering: Spooky Ghost Cupcakes!
Just look at these ghastly little ghouls! The cupcakes are rich, fudgy and shot through with chocolate chips. They get their dark sinister shade from the black dutch process cocoa that I used. This cocoa gives baked items a REALLY dark chocolate flavor. To tame it down a bit, mix a little of it in with regular dutch process cocoa. That way you will get a deeper darker shade, but less of the bold, intense flavor.
The frosting is a fluffy vanilla buttercream which I have adorned with some marbled chocolate curls for some of the treats and with black sanding sugar on the rest. And finally, those adorable…ahem…frightful fiends perched on top are made from meringue.
Making meringue is pretty easy if you follow some helpful tips. Firstly the bowl and whisk that you use must be super clean. It can have no oily residue or the egg whites simply will refuse to whip up properly. To ensure it is grease free, you can put a bit of vinegar on a paper towel and wipe the inside of the bowl. The egg whites need to be at room temperature when you start to mix them. Begin at a low speed and slowly increase until you reach medium to medium high. Once the egg whites reach soft peak stage, start to slowly add the superfine sugar to the bowl. Stop mixing when you reach the stiff peak stage. Use a piping bag fitted with a round tip to make your ghosts. Once they are completely cooled you can add the eyes and mouth with a food marker, decorating icing or mini chocolate chips. The mini chocolate chips were pretty easy to use. I just gently pushed the pointy end of the chip into the dry meringue. I must say these meringue cookies are pretty fun as well as tasty. If you are short on time, you could even skip the cupcakes and just make a batch of ghost meringue cookies.
I will warn you that humidity is a terrible thing for meringues! They will absorb any moisture in the air and go from delightfully crisp and airy to sticky and chewy abominations! I had quite an issue with this in steamy old Virginia! The regular day to day weather here is not ideal, but I had the adding difficulty of making these meringues while enduring torrential rains from a hurricane that was passing by! I still managed to make it work, but I would be lying if I said no “colorful” language was heard on the day. So for those of you in cooler and drier climes, this should be easy peasy. But to be safe, once your meringues are cool, put them directly into an airtight container and put that container in a cool place out of any direct sunlight. I would recommend not placing the ghosts atop the cupcakes until right before you are ready to serve.
So what are you waiting for? These spooky specters are just perfect for any Halloween gathering. Ooops! Yeah, that’s not happening. But, I have no doubt that your family or quarantine pod will be delighted to be haunted by these little apparitions. Next year you’ll be ahead of the game and can unleash these unearthly revenants on the rest of society. Happy Halloween ya’ll!
Spooky Ghost Cupcakes
For the Cupcakes:
- 1 cup (85 grams) Dutch-process Cocoa
- 2 1/3 cups (283 grams) All-purpose Flour
- 1 2/3 cups (354 grams) brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional but tasty
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups (255 grams) chocolate chips
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) milk, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon (14 grams) vanilla extract
- 1 Tablespoon vinegar, cider or white
- 1/2 cup (99 grams) vegetable oil (can substitute 1/2 cup butter if you prefer)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper or silicone muffin cups, and grease the cups.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, espresso powder, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips. Set aside.
In a large measuring cup or medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, oil, and vinegar. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing until everything is well combined.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling the cups about 3/4 full. I always use a 1/4 cup muffin scoop for this.
Bake the cupcakes for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of one of the middle cupcakes comes out clean.
Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and as soon as you can handle them, remove them from the pan, and transfer to a rack to cool. Store cooled cupcakes airtight.
For the Fluffy Buttercream frosting:
- 3/4 cup (149 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (if you use unsalted butter)
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) boiling water
- 1/4 cup (28 grams) meringue powder
- 1 tablespoon (14 grams) vanilla extract
- 4 cups (454 grams) sifted confectioners’ sugar or glazing sugar
- 32 tablespoons (454 grams) unsalted butter
- black sanding sugar or marbled chocolate curls for the top of the cupcakes (you could also use chocolate jimmies)
Dissolve the sugar (and salt, if you’re using it) in the boiling water, and cool to room temperature.
Use a mixer on low speed to beat in the meringue powder, until the powder is dissolved and the mixture is foamy.
Increase the speed and beat until soft peaks form.
Beat in the vanilla, then the confectioners’ or glazing sugar.
Add the soft butter a few tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Frost cake immediately; or store buttercream at room temperature, covered, for a few hours before using.
Once the cupcakes are frosted, add the marbled chocolate curls or sanding sugar as you prefer.
For the Ghost Meringue Cookies:
- 4 large Egg Whites (room temperature!)
- 1/2 teaspoon Cream Of Tartar
- 3/4 cup Superfine Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Clear Vanilla Extract (can be omitted)
- mini chocolate chips, melted chocolate or black decorator’s icing for ghost eyes and mouth.
Preheat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
In a large spotlessly clean bowl of a stand mixer beat egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla. Start with lowest speed and slowly increase until you reach medium speed and the whites hold a soft peak.
Gradually add in sugar and increase mixer to medium-high speed. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Spoon meringue into a piping bag fitted with a round tip. Pipe swirls of ghost shaped meringue onto prepared baking sheet.
Bake in preheated oven for about 1.5 hours or until the meringues are dry and crisp to the touch. Turn off the oven and allow the meringue ghosts to continuing drying in the oven for a few hours.
Decorate meringues with ghostly eyes and mouth and then move immediately to an airtight container for storage.
Wait to top the cupcakes with the ghost meringue cookies until you are ready to serve.
Spooky Ghost Cupcakes brought to you by Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)
Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Spooky Ghost Cupcakes: