October 17, 2011

Owl cupcakes...whoo's ready for Halloween?

Whoo...whoo wants a cupcake?  Halloween is coming and this is my nod to the holiday.  I've been wanting to make these since last Halloween when I first saw them.
I have to admit that Halloween is not my favorite holiday of the year.  Christmas is definitely more up my alley.  I guess it's because we didn't have Halloween in Hong Kong and growing up years ago in Brooklyn, Halloween not only meant costumes and trick or treating, it also meant hearing eggs whack the windows of the bus on the way home.  But I love Brooklyn and I do love the little ones dressed up in their adorable costumes during Halloween; I never get tired of seeing little Thing One and Thing Two's a la Dr. Seuss roaming around.  But I could do without the bloody masks and skeletons. 
But these cupcakes are sooo cute!  I saw them last year on One Charming Party but I'd already made a batch of spider cupcakes (see them after the jump) so I've waited a whole year to make them now.  It's simply chocolate cupcakes with dark chocolate ganache frosting.  Oreo cookies and a few reese's pieces complete the cupcake's transformation into an owl.  It's so creative yet simple - why didn't I think of that!  But I've come to terms with the fact that I'm just not the creative type but I think I'm a pretty good student.  The sprinkle "eyelashes" were my original addition though - what do you think?  She's the girl and I call her "Harriet."  It's kind of like having the lone smurfette in the midst of all the boy smurfs.
I also made some milk chocolate dipped pretzels rods to snack on.  I like to make these once in a while and it's fun also at Christmas with some green and red sprinkles.  I love the contrast between the sweet milk chocolate and the salty, crunchy pretzel.   

So whoo...whoo's ready for Halloween?
Have a fun and safe holiday!

Owl cupcakes

Chocolate cupcakes

These owl cupcakes are super easy.  Basically, what you see is what you get;  you barely need instructions at all but here goes... 

To start, you need chocolate cupcakes.  I recommend one with a dark chocolate ganache frosting instead of buttercream since it gives you a nice black color that works well here.  If you don't want to make the cupcakes, go ahead and buy some and assemble the owls with some oreo cookies and a few reese's pieces. 

This time around since I had buttermilk in the fridge, I went with a very simple chocolate cupcake recipe that uses buttermilk.  These cupcakes are super moist and very easy to put together.  In a pinch, you could mix the batter all up in one bowl but I start by sifting the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt) in one bowl and combining the wet (buttermilk, warm water, a little oil, and vanilla extract) in another.
Simply combine the wet ingredients into the dry by hand or with a stand mixer until smooth.  That's it.  This cupcake recipe is quite similar to my favorite super moist chocolate cake.  Like the cake, this cupcake batter is also quite thin and runny and creates a very moist crumb but is not quite as fragile and super-moist as the cake.  I've tried making cupcakes from the cake recipe.  While it's utterly delicious, it does fall apart a bit too easily and you need to eat it with a fork.  If you have freshly brewed coffee nearby, substitute coffee for the warm water in this cupcake recipe.  It will boost the chocolate flavor much as it does for the cake. 
A half recipe makes 10 cupcakes.  Fill the cupcake liners no more than 3/4 way up.  In a 350 degree oven, it only takes about 17-20 minutes for the cupcakes to be done.

Ganache Frosting

I'm using my go-to chocolate ganache frosting recipe for these cupcakes.  I make enough to frost just about a dozen cupcakes.  It's the same recipe I used for these.  It's just a matter of warming up some cream with a bit of corn syrup (to give it shine).  Pour over chopped bittersweet chocolate and let it start melting the chocolate before whisking together. 
I put this in the bowl in the refrigerator and whisk every 5 minutes or so until it's thick enough to spread on the cupcakes.  Work quick once you get to this point because the ganache will harden fairly quickly.


To put the owl faces together, you need some oreo cookies, reese's piece, and a few black sprinkles if you want to make the eyelashes. 
Do you remember eating oreos as a child and twisting them apart to lick the filling?  I thought I remembered being able to perfectly twist off an oreo cookie and get all the cream filling on one side of the cookie as a kid.  Well, either I remembered wrong or I've lost that talent so use a knife to help you with the separting job.

Apply the frosting liberally, working an offset spatula upward at the top to create 2 little points for the ears of the owl.  Then just stick on the oreos and reese's pieces.
This is what you should get. 
And if you have some extra ganache frosting?  Why not take the filling-less oreo halves and fill them with ganache.
It's best to eat the owl cupcakes the same day since the oreo cookies will get soggy once you cover the cupcakes. 

Last year...

Another simple Halloween cupcake idea.  Make the same cupcakes and turn them into spiders.  I saw these on Bakerella and made them last year.  The hardest thing about these is tracking down the licorice twists or wheels for the legs.  I finally found them at one of those candy stores at the mall featuring all kinds of retro candy.
I think the spider legs might've been a little too lifelike for my little one last year.  He seemed far more comfortable eating the plain cupcakes.  It could've been the creepy M&M colored eyes I choose.

Chocolate dipped pretzels

I like to make (and eat) these milk chocolate dipped pretzel rods.  I definitely recommend using milk chocolate instead of anything darker.  Not only do you need that creaminess you get from milk chocolate but the sweetness is a nice contrast with the salty pretzel. 

Just melt some milk chocolate (I use Callebaut) slowly over a bowl of barely simmering water.  Let the chocolate cool just slightly and pour it into a narrow glass.  Dip the pretzel rods, shaking off the excess.  You can break the pretzels and make them shorter if you like. 
Leave them plain or add seasonal sprinkles or other toppings you like and lay them on a piece of parchment paper to dry.
Leave them on the parchment for several hours until they are totally dry before removing. 
Now here's the problem with these chocolate pretzels.  Unless you temper the chocolate - that is, follow a process of heating and cooling the chocolate in a certain way, the chocolate will very likely bloom.  That means, you will see white or gray color blotches or spots on the chocolate after a day or so.  It doesn't look good but is perfectly safe to eat and doesn't change the taste of the chocolate at all.  I seriously thought I was going to try tempering for the first time but I didn't have the time.  I mention this since you might want to bare it in mind if you plan to give them away as gifts.  One way to get around this visual problem is to use white chocolate. 

Well, I think that just about covers everything today.  See you around!


Chocolate Cupcakes
A great basic recipe for moist chocolate cupcakes adapted from Martha Stewart

- Makes approximately 20 cupcakes -

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup warm water (or substitute with coffee if available)
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. 

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Whisk eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil and vanilla together.  Add wet ingredients into the dry and beat in the stand mixer until combined.  (This process can also be done by hand.)

Pour batter into baking cups, no more than 3/4 up the paper liners.  Bake for about 17-20 minutes, rotating the pans midway through the baking time.  The cupcakes are done when the tops spring back lightly when touched.  Let cool on wire racks.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting
From Martha Stewart

- Makes 4 cups or enough to frost roughly 3 dozen cupcakes* -

1 lb. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
2 1/3 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup corn syrup

Place chocolate and instant espresso powder (if using) in a heatproof bowl.  Warm cream and corn syrup to a light simmer.  Pour over the chocolate and let stand a few minutes until chocolate begins to melt.

Whisk the mixture, from the center outward, until just evenly combined.  Refrigerate, stirring every 5 minutes or, until frosting begins to hold its shape and is thick enough to frost.  This process could take close to an hour.  Work quickly once the ganache has thickened enough to work with since it will harden quickly thereafter.

* For 1/3 of this recipe: 

As someone who works with smaller quantities, I thought you might want the proportions of the ingredients for 1/3 of this recipe.  This would be enough to frost up to 12 cupcakes.

1/3 lb. bittersweet chocolate
1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 teaspoons corn syrup

When making this smaller quanity, you can leave the ganache out at room temperature (instead of refrigerating), stirring occasionally until it is thick enough to frost.  This will take a bit longer whereas the refrigeration method takes roughly 20 minutes or so.


  1. Monica - these are ADORABLE!! I love them. Keep them in mind for the annual bake-sale at Washington in May. They are always looking for bakers to make things and anything owl is a HUGE hit!! THanks for sharing your baking post!

  2. Thanks, Jen! I'll have to keep these in mind for the bake sale - thanks for the tip. I'd just have to make them the same day; the oreos get soggy if they're covered overnight. Thanks for checking in!

  3. Those owl cupcakes are just ADORABLE!

  4. Thanks, Colette! I thought so too when I first saw them. : ) I'm all for cute rather than scary on Halloween!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...