COOKING ADVENTURE #40: Owl Cupcakes
…. Yeah. I love owls. They are one of my favorite animals, not just because they’re cute. I think they are very intelligent and wise animals. And I’ve discovered recently that owls are associated in many different countries with death. Hmm… sounds like a good idea for a Halloween cupcake to me! At first glance, this looks like an incredibly ambitious task. When I found the recipe, I knew I wanted to try it. But I had also wanted to do it with my friends, because… it’s more fun to do these things with someone else, than by yourself. However, craft night didn’t pan out to be very crafty so I found myself rolling up my sleeves the next night, preparing to dive into a veritable chocolate death. They may look cute and innocent… but deep inside, they are secretly trying to kill you. DON’T LOOK INTO THEIR EYES.
A few weeks ago on the lovely Pinterest, I found this great recipe for making owl cupcakes. Of course when I went to the actual site (Real Simple) to learn how to make them, what I got was a picture and then a rather short description of the candies they had used to decorate it. They had no tips on how to do the feathery frosting. So, folks, I knew my cupcake decorating skills were going to be put to the test. So, I went to the store and bought the necessities: chocolate frosting, m & m’s, Oreos, chocolate and golden cake mix, cupcake paper liners, and icing. When I got back home, I discovered I didn’t need the icing. Whatever, it was on sale. I’ll be using it, no doubt, for another cooking adventure.
I decided to use the golden cake for this recipe because, honestly, there is SO much chocolate on top. I figured that if I wanted to eat one, I’d have to give my stomach a little break and do a part of it in non-chocolate. I looked at the directions for how to make the cake mix. Use vegetable oil and flour to line the muffin tin. Unfortunately, for a few minutes, I forgot that I was actually making cupcakes and that there would be a protective liner inside. So I spent a few painstaking moments rubbing oil into each little cup and even willed myself to touch flour in order to sprinkle it in each cup. It dawned on me soon after I was done that I’d just wasted a bunch of time doing it. However, because my sink was full of dishes and because I was too lazy to wash the entire pan, I just slipped the little cupcake liners in on top of my oiled and floured mess and continued.
The recipe is fairly easy to make (if you’re not an idiot like me, that is.) In a large bowl, I mixed the cake mix with three eggs, one cup of water, and 1/3 cup vegetable oil. Then I took a whisk and slowly stirred everything so that it was blended together. At this point, I tried to keep hand mixing the batter so that all of the little lumps were smooth. This, it turns out, is much easier to do with an electric mixer than with just my arm and a whisk. After a grueling fifteen minutes of mixing, I finally plunked my whisk in the sink and set about spooning the cake batter into each cup. This wasn’t as easy as it seemed.
I have a glass mixing bowl with a pouring spout on it. Unfortunately, that currently has pumpkin filling in it from making another batch of those amazing pumpkin croissants, and is sitting in my fridge. I had to resort to taking a large spoon and precariously holding the glass bowl over the muffin tin in order to not spill any batter anywhere. I still did. I also discovered that this recipe makes more than 12 cupcakes. I had to make another batch after I’d finished the first one. In total, I had 16 cupcakes. They were in the oven at 375 for about 18 minutes. I also managed to over-fill the cups so they came ballooning out of each cupcake slot when I baked them.
After they were out and had cooled, I opened the chocolate frosting and smeared a glob on each one, making sure to cover the surfaces completely. It was at this time that I decided I needed some motivation. It was already 8:30 and let’s be honest, I’m kind of a granny when I go to sleep because I usually hit the sack early. I turned on the perfect person to get you going: Gordon Ramsey. As “Kitchen Nightmares” played nearby, I continued applying frosting to my cupcakes.
When all were covered, I turned to the next item necessary: Oreo cookies. You are supposed to separate the cookies and have enough white cream left on both halves for the white of the eye. The easiest way to do this would be to take a knife and simply cut the cream down the middle. However, it was getting later and later and I wanted to get these cupcakes done. So, I ended up just twisting the Oreos apart like a little kid would and then placing them into the chocolate frosting slightly above the middle of the cupcake.
Next: the eyes. In the original picture, it says that they used junior mints. Now, I’m pretty sure that junior mints are a much larger candy and would have looked kind of silly on this owl. So instead, I resorted to use brown m & m’s. Problem with that was that I ran out of brown and had to use the other colors to fill the rest of the eyes. You can place the m & m’s anywhere on the white of the eye. I should have experimented more with this but I didn’t think of it. I just ended up putting all of the m & m’s in the center of the Oreos. Then I fished through the bag for all of the yellow m & m’s and stuck those down low between the oreos for the owls’ beaks.
Now, the hardest part. I had to make the feathers for the owls out of chocolate frosting. I’d seen people use professional plastic bags with special tips in order to create different designs on cakes. Since I have none of these wonderful tools, I found a pretty good alternative: plastic sandwich bags. I scooped a few helpings of the chocolate frosting into the bag and then snipped the corner with some scissors so that there was a tiny hole there. Then, I used that to squeeze out a little dollop for each feather, trying to focus around the bottom of the eyes and on the head. This took FOREVER to do with sixteen owl cupcakes. Eventually, the frosting got warmer and at room temperature, each feather didn’t quite keep its shape like it should have.
By the time I was done, it was 10:30 and I had a raging headache. But, the owls were beautiful and I was happy I’d taken the time to make them. I put them in the freezer over night for the frosting to set and then took them to work the next day. They were a hit!
Next time on Cooking Adventures for our assured 3rd co-op event, I will be crafting a jack o’lantern cake! Excited? You should be. Stay tuned.