Headless Horseman Cupcakes for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

“You can’t reason with a headless man.”

Happy Halloween! It’s 1989 and your 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Merritt is wiping clean the transparency filled with math equations and pushes the overhead projector out of the way. That creaking noise coming down the hall can only mean one thing. It’s video day! The TV cart is being wheeled into your classroom with the trusty VCR on the rack below. Best. Day. Ever. And since it’s October 31st there is only one movie to be played – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Bing Crosby’s sweet baritone voice will soon be filling your ears. That unlikely ladies’ man, Ichabod Crane, will be dancing (and mostly eating) before your eyes. Happy Halloween indeed.

We watched this classic Disney cartoon practically every October in elementary school. I had not watched the short movie in (I don’t want to do the math) some years. Upon my most recent viewing I was a little taken a back by all the alcohol consumption. I shouldn’t have been surprised though. Remember Dumbo? Or Gaston? Old Disney movies are filled with substance abuse. Thanks to mancouch.com I was able to find statistics like “out of 24 G-rated Disney films” there were 275 alcohol related instances. Not sure what that means, but that’s your information to live with now. The cartoon is actually more funny than scary, so at least Disney got that right. Despite the ominous ending, you’re laughing the whole time the Headless Horseman is after poor, lankly Ichabod Crane. I cannot say the same for Tim Burton’s version. While Johnny Depp is often humorous there were many moments of that film I watched through my fingers. Not sure why? Please refer to this post.

After living in New York City for several years, I felt silly to discover on an Amtrak train ride to Albany that I lived so close to the real life Sleepy Hollow. It’s a quiet, secluded location just outside Manhattan. There once existed a real man named Ichabod Crane. Except he wasn’t a superstitious school teacher, but a military Colonel. The history is actually pretty fascinating and is documented well here.

If you’d like to reminisce to a time when the sound of approaching horse hooves sent chills up your spine then look no further.

Let’s bake a movie…

Headless Horseman Pumpkin-Spiced Latte Cupcakes with Caramel Butter Cream

These cupcakes probably look more delicious than menacing, which I guess is never a bad thing when it comes to desserts. Thanks to my husband who ground up our fall flavored coffee beans the cake has a wonderfully abundant flavor of sweet pumpkin spices and a hint of acidic coffee. A happy marriage will be in your mouth. The luxuriously smooth caramel flavored butter cream on top makes you think you’re actually biting into that famous seasonal latte. That is, of course, if you can get past the ghoulish (yet tangy) eyes of the Headless Horseman.

INGREDIENTS

For the cupcakes:
2 2/3 cups flour
3 tbsp. espresso powder (I used Pumpkin-spiced but any flavor will do)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. Salt
15 oz. can of pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs, room temperature
Special tool: silicon mini bunt cups or pan

For the frosting:
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

4 large egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Caramel sauce, smooth and from a squeeze bottle

Decorating:

1 yellow Starburst

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

1) For the cake, using a whisk sift together flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add pumpkin, brown sugar, granulated sugar and oil. Blend together on medium. Add eggs one at a time, beating until each are incorporated. Switch blender to low and add dry ingredients in two additions, mixing until just incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides, if necessary. Spray bunt cups liberally with non-stick cooking spray. Fill bunt cups no more than 2/3 of the way with batter. Bake in the over for 20-22 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in bunt cups for 10 minutes on wire rack. Then remove cupcakes to cool completely on rack.

2) For the frosting, cream butter with mixer until light and fluffy (about 2 mins). Set aside. Place a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the bowl is not touching the water. Whisk the egg whites and sugar in the bowl frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  You should feel no grains of sugar when you rub mixture between your thumb and finger. In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg mixture on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Allow the bowl to become cool to the touch (about 10 mins). Reduce speed to medium-low and begin to add creamed butter 2 tbsp at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, slowly add the caramel sauce in a long and steady stream. Add enough caramel to your level of taste. Careful not to add too much, it will flavor the butter cream quickly. Separate the frosting evenly into two small bowls. In one bowl add several drops of yellow food coloring till the desired yellow is achieved. In the second bowl add 5 drops of yellow for every 1 drop of red until desired orange is achieved. Transfer frosting to two different piping bags fitted with different sized star tips.

3) To assemble, slice the bottoms of two cupcakes to make a flat surface to balance one on top of the other. Place one cupcake top side down and place the other cupcake on top so that both smooth sides are touching. Pipe yellow and orange “flames” on top of the assembled cupcake. Heat unwrapped yellow Starburst in the oven for 5 seconds till softened. Flatten Starburst with fingers and cut out eyes, nose and teeth with a small pairing knife. Apply the eyes, nose and teeth to the side of the cupcake using a tiny bit of frosting as glue.

Source: Cupcakes from Annie’s Eats; frosting from Martha Stewart

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Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes with “Slimer Curd” for Ghostbusters

If someone asks you if Ghostbusters is an awesome movie, you say YES!

So I went to the internets to check what year Ghostbusters came out. Answer: 1984. Turns out several movies that shaped my childhood, and will most likely make appearances in future posts, premiered the very same year. It’s a pretty esteemed crowd containing the likes of The NeverEnding Story, The Temple of Doom, The Karate Kid, and The Terminator (how Ghostbusters managed to avoid the ever present 1984 “The” is a mystery). Ghostbusters rose to the marshmallow cream of the crop to be the highest grossing comedy of all time, until an 8-year-old Edvard Munch wannabe claimed the prize.

For this post I probably could’ve gotten away with simply listing a bunch of quotes:

– “Back off man. I’m a scientist”
– “Get her!”
– “It’s right here Ray. It’s looking at me.”
– “Don’t look at the trap.” “I looked at the trap Ray.”
– “Dropping off or picking up?”
– “The walls in the 53rd Precinct are bleeding.”
– “Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria!”
– “Ok. So, she’s a dog.”
– “What did you do Ray?”
– “Cross the streams…”
– “We came. We saw. We kicked its ass!”

Actually, one of those quotes was referenced during my wedding ceremony (thanks Bro!). Have fun trying to guess which one.

Now, I’m pretty terrified of ghosts. Just ask my husband. Paranormal Activity is never again allowed to be played in this apartment. Ever. Never ever. It took two weeks of watching America’s Next Top Model episodes every night at 3am to get over that film. For reals. But, Ghostbusters never made me pull the covers over my ears.  Yes, I have an irrational fear that ghosts want to whisper  in my ear while I sleep. And the covers will stop that? Don’t ask. But, as a kid I would sip on my Ectocooler juice box and laugh at Venkman getting slimed. Come to think, Bill Murray might’ve been my first crush. Well, human crush. Am I the only one who thought the Fox from Disney’s Robin Hood was, well, a fox? Oh really? Is that so? Ok, I’lljustbeoverherebye.

Living in New York City for nearly a decade now I really enjoy watching movies from my childhood set in Manhattan. It’s pretty fun to see how much it’s changed and how it really hasn’t changed. And Ghostbusters doesn’t disappoint. It’s still a little weird to think that I now live 6 blocks from where Mr. Stay Puft first bobbled his giant marshmallow head onto the screen. And from Dana’s apartment window is the image of the building where I had my first corporate job (side note: same building is also featured in Superman and Zoolander and where Chandler Bing was a transponster). I’ve even visited the real firehouse. In fact, if you visit me I’ll take you on a Ghostbusters Tour (tips accepted). But, before the tour can begin…

Let’s bake a movie…

Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes  with “Slimer Curd”

Now maybe you’re thinking I should’ve baked a really really big Twinkie. If you are, then you’re probably right. Dang it. Wish I would’ve thought of that sooner. But, it’s ok because as my coworkers pointed out (thanks y’all!) these cupcakes are pretty tasty. The cake is moist and full of lovely vanilla flavor. The tiny little vanilla bean flecks are a delightful detail. The frosting simply melts in your mouth with all its toasted marshmallowy gooeyness.  With those two components alone the cupcake is pure and wonderful, but then, of course, it gets slimed. The “Slimer Curd” is a tangy sweet duo that brings the treat to a whole new level. I currently have a bowl filled with the bright green curd in the fridge that I fully intend to spread on English muffins,  waffles, and who am I kidding, eat right out of the bowl.

INGREDIENTS

For the cupcakes:
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting:
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the curd:
3 large eggs
¾ cups sugar
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
4 tbsp. (2 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
Green and yellow food coloring, optional

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

1) For the cupcakes,  whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream the butter with the seeds on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute. Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.  Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer. Divide the batter between cupcake pans preparedwith paper liners. Fill about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

2) For the frosting, place a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the bowl constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer egg mixture to the bowl of  electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk starting on low speed and gradually increase to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Scoop frosting into a piping bag fitted with your tip of preference. You could also fill a freezer bag and cut the tip. Pipe big swirls of frosting on top of cupcakes.

3) For the curd, whisk together the eggs and sugar in a sauce pan until well blended.  Add the lime juice.  Place the pan over medium-low heat.  Whisk constantly, until the mixture is warmed through.  Be careful not to heat the mixture too quickly to avoid curdling the eggs.  Whisk in the butter a little bit at a time, stirring in each addition until completely incorporated before adding more.  Continue to cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens and a spoon or spatula leaves a path when drawn through it. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.  Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. When cooled add green and yellow food coloring to create the Slimer effect. Drizzle over cupcakes.

Source: Cupcakes from Annie’s Eats; frosting from Martha Stewart; curd adapted from Annie Eats


Blueberry Pie Cupcakes for Stand By Me

There aren’t many questions I can answer for certain. One of the major questions plaguing me right now is “what are you doing with your life?” Huh, what? Um, I’m 31, married, living in Manhattan, and I spoil a 23 lb French bulldog named Omar. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Uhhhh… “Next year?” Oh, um, maybe, yeah, we’ll see…”When are you going to have a baby?” Say what now? But the one question I can answer with the most conviction is “What is your favorite movie?” Stand By Me!!!

A small film made in 1986 had a big impact on me. I was only 5 when the movie hit theaters, but I was around 8 when I got to see it on HBO. I don’t know if your family was the same, but mine recorded almost every movie that premiered on HBO Saturday nights from 1985 – 1991. Now, I just wrote the word “recorded”. For those of you born after 1999 (gulp) I mean that we used to put a VHS cassette into a VCR and press the record–ok never mind I can already feel you rolling your eyes. My family had dozens of VHS tapes containing 3 movies on each, but the one with Stand By Me almost wore out. Subsequently, I purchased the VHS, and then eventually the laser disc, and finally the DVD.

Obviously, the movie made a great impression on me. It’s hard for me to think of another coming of age movie that balances the jovial awkwardness of adolescence with the disheartening dawning of adulthood. As I re-watch the movie over the years each time something new touches me. I’m sure when I was 8 it was the thrill of watching an R rated movie with tons of vomit and cursing. When I reached 12, the age of the characters, I could understand with more clarity the insecurities of Gordie, the innocence of Vern, the joke covering of Teddy, and the peacekeeper of Chris. The scene that stood out to me at a time in my life when having raging acne and the wrong name brand jeans could mean endless ridicule was the “milk money” scene. “I wish I could go some place where no one knows me.” Yes, Chris, I do too. Learning that sometimes adults will let you down may be a valuable lesson but no less heartbreaking to a child. As an adult, I can barely bring myself to watch the last scene with Chris as we hear Richard Dreyfuss narrate his ultimate fate and the visual of River Phoenix fades away. It reminds me of the friends I’ve lost, the dreams I’ve had that never were. And of course, it reminds me of such a beautiful talent in River that was lost to all of us.

If you haven’t seen this movie, then you probably don’t know me or I would’ve made you watch it by now. Please do yourself a favor. Growing up in the ‘80’s in Sugar Land, TX, I may not have had the exact same problems as Gordie and the gang. But I sure was captivated to watch them cross train trestles, pinky swear, and vainly insult each other’s mothers. And I would also like to thank Stephen King (author of the novella) for making me permanently scared of junk yards with only 3 words, “Chopper, sic balls.” (Even though there were no junk yards in Sugar Land and I, being a girl, have no balls.)

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

Ok, so now let’s bake a movie…

Blueberry Pie Cupcakes

White cake filled with blueberry pie filling and topped with Swiss meringue butter cream with fresh blueberries.

I may have set the bar a little high for my very first blog post. These cupcakes are probably the best thing I’ve ever baked. Ever. And normally a statement like that is reserved for something with cream cheese icing. (As a baker I’ve noticed people tend to flip out over said icing.)

For those of you who have seen the movie the blueberry pie is an obvious reference. If you haven’t, just click on the “vomit” link above. Or don’t. Then you might not want to eat these cupcakes. ; ) The pez is a shout out to Vern – “If I could only have one food for the rest of my life? That’s easy. Pez. Cherry flavored Pez. No question about it.”

I must admit these cupcakes took a little bit longer to make than normal, only due to the addition of the blueberry pie filling. But you could easily make the pie filling the night before or even simpler, buy premade filling. I would highly recommend making the filling, because it’s super tasty with a nice hint of cinnamon. The cake is a rich and moist white cake with a wonderful note of almond that stands up to the blueberry filling. The Swiss meringue butter cream on top is so creamy that it’s almost like biting into a cloud, a velvety delicious cloud. The addition of the pureed blueberries gives it another nuance of flavor. My frosting ended up being a little tangy because the blueberries are now out of season. But, it was a nice union to the sweet filling. Please try to make these before the fresh blueberries disappear completely from the produce aisle.

INGREDIENTS

For the cupcakes:
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature, divided
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. almond extract
2¾ cups cake flour, sifted
1½ cups sugar
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the filling:
14 oz. frozen blueberries (do not thaw)
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of 1 small lemon
½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest

For the frosting
8 oz. fresh blueberries, rinsed
4 large egg whites
1¼ cups sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

Directions

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

  1. For the cupcakes, in a small bowl whisk together the egg whites, ¼ cup of the whole milk, vanilla and almond extracts.  Sift cake flour into the bowl of electric mixer. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt to the cake flour and stir on low to combine for 30 seconds.  Continue with the mixer on low speed and add in the butter. Mix until the mixture resembles wet sand, then add in the remaining ¾ cup of milk. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 90 seconds more.  Add the egg white mixture in three additions with the mixture on low speed. Beat for 20 seconds after each addition, scraping down the sides when necessary. Divide the batter between 2 cupcake pans lined with paper liners. Fill each two-thirds of the way, making sure not go over. Place pans in preheated oven and bake for about 18 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through and remove when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Leave cupcakes in the pan to cool for about 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  2. For the filling, combine the frozen blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon stick, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a medium-large saucepan.  Stir to blend. The mixture will be clumpy and not seem like a liquid, but as the frozen blueberries begin to defrost and release moisture the juices will thicken. Continue to cook over medium-high heat until the mixture begins to boil, about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Once the mixture reaches a boil, continue boiling for 2 minutes more, stirring constantly.  Allow the mixture to cool completely before filling the cupcakes. I transferred the filling to a medium bowl and placed in the fridge to speed up the cooling process. You can make the filling the day before and store in a closed container in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before filling cupcakes.
  3. To fill the cupcakes, use a small paring knife or a fancy cupcake hole cutter to cut a small cone out of the center of the cupcake. (I discarded the bite size pieces. And by “discard” I mean I presented them on a small plate to my husband.) Spoon a tablespoon of the blueberry pie filling into each hole.
  4. For the frosting, place a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the bowl is not touching the water. Whisk the egg whites and sugar in the bowl frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  You should feel no grains of sugar when you rub mixture between your thumb and finger. In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg mixture on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Allow the bowl to become cool to the touch. This should take about 8-10 minutes.  Add the softened butter 2 tablespoons at a time with the mixer speed on medium. Wait until each addition has been incorporated before adding more.  If the frosting isn’t thick and smooth after butter additions continue to whip on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes or longer, until smooth. Puree blueberries in food processor or blender until completely smooth.  Add puree to frosting and mix with flat beater on medium speed until completely incorporated.
  5. To decorate add frosting to a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe big swirls on top of cupcakes covering the pie filling.
  6. Take a big ol’ bite. Enjoy!!!

Source: Cupcakes adapted from  Annie’s Eats; blueberry pie filling adapted from Annie’s Eats; Frosting via Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes