Día de los Muertos Cupcakes
aka, Day of the Dead Cupcakes.
In July? I know what you’re thinking. You see, a few days after I made wedding cupcakes for Janine Jarman, she called me back and asked if I could make some Day of the Dead themed cupcakes for a girlfriend’s bridal shower. I had never done anything using sugar skulls, but I was too excited for the challenge to say no =]
So I had about 2 weeks to come up with an idea for these cupcakes, the specifications were; 20 red velvet, 20 marble, sugar skulls on top, red purple and pink as main colors.
I did some research online and found that most sugar skulls are made from molds. I found a Day of the Dead themed mold that featured 5 different skull faces that were the perfect size to put on top of a cupcake. Ordered and in the mail.
Next I couldn’t decide what I wanted to decorate these sugar skulls with. Royal icing? Edible food markers? A combination of both? Of course I chose both! But I didn’t have any edible food markers on hand so....ordered those as well. Figured I’d need them eventually anyways!
My deadline was Sunday July 11, and by that Tuesday all my supplies came in the mail. I may or may not be obsessed with ordering new baking supplies online =]
I knew that these cupcakes we going to take longer than your average cupcake order, so Dylan and I started on Thursday. We actually ditched our Economics class that night to stay home and make sugar skulls, hahah. My baking teacher would be proud, my econ teacher....not so much. So that night we managed to create exactly 40 sugar skulls, it took about 4 hours. Let them dry/harden overnight.
Sugar Skull Recipe
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg white from an extra large egg, or 2 from small eggs
1 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cornstarch, about a half cup, for powdering surface
Mix all ingredients together until a sandy dough is formed. In order to get 40 sugar skulls, I had to make this recipe 5 times. And before putting the dough mixture into the molds, make sure to dip them in cornstarch and sprinkle a good coat of cornstarch on the mold as well. They can be VERY sticky.
Oh Friday. Luckily I worked a day shift at my other job so I had all night to work on decorating the sugar skulls. Dylan my wonderful assistant came over and we worked for 4 more hours hand decorating these skulls with royal icing and edible markers.
The sugar skulls actually stuck to these platters a little bit once they dried, but no need to panic, mini offset spatula to the rescue! You can see the remenents of the stuck skulls in the picture below.
Workin hard with the boy, my mom insisted on a picture while making dinner.
So I made the Red Velvet cupcakes before work that Saturday, and I totally forgot to take any pictures of them! What can I say, I love to sleep in. But the Marble cupcakes were made after work when I was much more awake, hence the photo edidence of them...
My favorite swirl.
-Makes 16 cupcakes
1 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk, room temperature
1/3 cup heavy cream, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Stir together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine milk and cream.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk mixture, and beating until combined.
To make chocolate batter, measure out 1 cup batter, and transfer to another bowl. Combine cocoa and the boiling water in a bowl. Stir into reserved 1 cup batter.
Fill prepared cups with alternating spoonfuls of vanilla and chocolate batter, filling each three-quarters full. Run the tip of a paring knife or wooden skewer through batter in a figure-eight motion to make swirls. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until tops are golden and a cake tester (i.e. toothpick) inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
For this recipe I used a 1½ batch in order to get 24 cupcakes.
Red Velvet Cupcakes
-makes 24 cupcakes
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon red gel-paste food color (I added a little extra to get a darker red color)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cake flour, cocoa, and salt.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in food color and vanilla.
Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and whisking well after each. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam); add mixture to the batter, and mix on medium speed 10 seconds.
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
*Note on the Red Velvet Cupcakes. I’ve been using this recipe for a while now, and have been experimenting with it in order to create the perfect red velvet cupcake! My dilemma is that I want my red velvet cupcakes to be a deep red with a hint of brown, BUT this recipe has been giving me quite the opposite, icky brown colored cupcakes with a hint of red. I originally didn’t want to resort to adding more red food coloring, because it is known to make food taste bitter if too much is used. However, I think I finally found my perfect recipe for red velvet which does include a little extra red food coloring! So keep an eye out for my new recipe coming up in the next few weeks!
Fluffy Vanilla Frosting
-makes 4 cups
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound (4 cups) confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
With an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
Reduce speed to medium. Add the confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed; after every two additions, raise speed to high and beat 10 seconds to aerate frosting, then return to medium-high. This process should take about 5 minutes. Frosting will be very pale and fluffy.
Add vanilla, and beat until frosting is smooth. If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 10 days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.
Love the mustache.
Boxed up and ready to go!
Although these cupcakes took a very long time to complete, it was definitely worth it. I just might have to recreate these when October rolls around...