For those of you reading this from somewhere in the US or Canada, you might be surprised to know that there was a time not so long ago when Halloween wasn’t celebrated here in Australia. Imagine that. A childhood with no Halloween. No trick or treating, no costumes and no carving jack-o-lanterns.
While it’s still not celebrated widely throughout Australia, not anywhere near the scale it is in North America, we do seem to be getting more and more in the spirit of things these days.
So with Halloween just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to bake something to celebrate the occasion and these red velvet cupcakes seemed like the perfect choice, especially when topped with a spooky spider’s web or two.
The recipe I’ve used is from my copy of the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and given it was my first attempt, I have to say the result was pretty darn good.
The cakes were light, fluffly and moist and were a gorgeous deep red colour. I’d go so far as to say they were almost as good as the ones from the Hummingbird Bakery itself. Almost. But given their store on Portobello Road is no longer just around the corner for me, I’m more than happy to settle for these. And judging on how popular they were with my family last night, I’d say I’m not the only one.
- 60 g unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 150 g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
- 20 ml red food colouring
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 150 ml buttermilk
- 150 g plain flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp bicarb soda
- 1 ½ tsp white wine vinegar
- 300 g icing sugar (sifted)
- 50 g unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 125 g cream cheese
- Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases, then set aside.
- Beat the butter and sugar together, using an electric mixer (with paddle attachment) on a medium speed. Continue until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add the egg to the butter mixture and beat on high speed until combined well.
- In a separate bowl, add the cocoa, red food colouring and vanilla extract. Mix well to form a dark paste.
- Add the cocoa paste to the butter mixture and combine well, ensuring you scrape the side and bottom of bowl so that the cake mixture’s colour is consistent throughout.
- Turn the mixer down to a slow speed and slowly add half the buttermilk to the mixture. Once combined, add half the flour and continue beating until combined.
- Repeat with the remaining buttermilk and flour.
- Turn the mixer to high speed and beat until the cake mixture is even in texture and colour.
- Return the mixer to slow speed and add the salt, bicarb soda and vinegar. Combine well, then return the mixer to high speed and beat for a further few minutes.
- Divide the cake mixture evenly between the pre-lined muffin tray.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 – 25 minutes.
- Once cooked, remove from oven and leave to cool slightly in the muffin tray before placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
- While the cupcakes are cooling you can now start on the icing.
- Start by beating the icing sugar and butter together with an electric mixer (again using the paddle attachment) on a slow-medium speed.
- Once the butter mixture is well combined, add the cream cheese and beat until mixture is consistent texture.
- Increase the speed on the mixer to high and continue beating for about 5 minutes or until the icing is light and fluffy. Make sure not to over beat, as the consistency of the icing will become too runny.
- Add liberally to the cooled cupcakes.
- A good test for checking if the cakes are cooked is to insert a wooden skewer into the middle of one of the cakes. If it comes out clean – the cake is cooked. If it comes out wet – it needs a little longer in the oven.
- To make the spider webs, I had a generous amount of icing left over after icing all my cakes. If you do as well, then add about 5 teaspoons of cocoa to the remaining icing (combining one at a time), until the icing turns a nice, dark chocolate colour. As the icing is quite thick, you may wish to add some water to make it a thinner consistency before adding to a piping bag. Add of teaspoons of water at a time to the icing until you achieve the right consistency, taking care not to add too much water.
- If you don’t have sufficient additional icing, then I’d suggest making a half portion of chocolate icing, using a simple recipe like this one – http://www.taste.com.au/kitchen/recipes/chocolate+icing,31577.
- Add the chocolate icing to a piping bag and then made concentric circles to each cupcake. Using a skewer or toothpick, start at the inner most circle and drag the chocolate icing outwards to the next ring and repeat until you have a nice, spooky spider’s web. As the icing sets quite quickly, I’d suggest you attempt one spider’s web at a time.