Lure guests in with spider cupcakes

October 28, 2006|By Anne Byrn | Anne Byrn,TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

Halloween and other holidays used to make me panic because, with young children, I was supposed to turn out clever cupcakes and other treats without a blink. This is why I think so many folks turn to store-bought, because they just don't have a trick (so to speak) up their sleeve for trick-or-treat party food.

These cupcakes are as adorable to look at as they are scrumptious to eat. Imagine rich devil's food cake, smeared with butter-cream frosting and topped with a crunchy chocolate treat in the shape of a spider.

Let these be the star of a children's party or an adult dinner party. Begin with a creamy pumpkin soup, then serve a plate full of grilled-cheese sandwiches made your way and a crunchy Caesar salad.

Anne Byrn writes for Tribune Media Services.

CASUAL HALLOWEEN SUPPER

Grilled cheese sandwiches

Ceasar salad

Halloween Spider Cupcakes

Halloween Spider Cupcakes

Makes 22 to 24 cupcakes

CUPCAKES: 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain devil's food cake mix

2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder

1 1/3 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups of your favorite buttercream frosting (divided use)

6 drops yellow food coloring

2 drops red food coloring

GARNISHES:

24 Chocolate Spiders (recipe follows)

Tiny round decorating candies (optional)

Brown decorating gel (optional)

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcake cups with silver paper liners. Set aside.

Prepare the cupcake batter: Place the cake mix, cocoa powder, buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed.

Spoon or scoop a heaping 1/4 cup of batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it two-thirds of the way full. (You will get between 22 and 24 cupcakes; remove any empty liners.) Place cupcakes in oven.

Bake the cupcakes until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 16 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners, lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool completely, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the buttercream frosting of your choice or use prepared frosting from the supermarket. Place a quarter cup of the frosting in a plastic sandwich bag and set aside. Add the yellow and red food coloring to the remaining frosting. Blend well so the frosting is evenly orange. Place a heaping tablespoon of frosting on each cupcake and swirl to spread it out with a short metal spatula or a spoon, taking care to cover the tops completely.

Garnish cupcakes: Cut off a small piece from one of the bottom corners of the plastic bag holding the frosting. Pipe 2 eyes on each of the Chocolate Spiders. Place a small, round decorating candy in the center of each eye, if desired. Place a spider on top of each cupcake. There will be 6 extra spiders for additional platter garnish or simply to enjoy. If you wish, pipe a web on the platter using brown decorating gel. The cupcakes are ready to serve.

Per serving (based on 24 cupcakes with spiders): 346 calories, 4 grams protein, 18 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 45 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 41 milligrams cholesterol, 280 milligrams sodium

Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Mary Mullen.

Chocolate Spiders

Makes 30 spiders

You can make these spiders up to two days before you bake the cupcakes. (The six extras make wonderful platter decorations or sweet treats by themselves.)

1 1/4 cups chow mein noodles (divided use)

2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup milk

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

1 cup crispy rice cereal

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and set aside.

Measure out 3/4 cup chow mein noodles and break them into small pieces. Break the remaining noodles into 2-inch pieces. These will be the spiders' legs. Set the noodles aside in separate groupings.

Combine the chocolate chips and milk in a medium-size saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the confectioners' sugar, cereal and the small chow mein noodle pieces until blended.

Drop the chocolate mixture by tablespoons in a slightly oblong shape (the body of the spider) onto the prepared baking sheet. You will have about 30 bodies, about 2 inches in size. Immediately insert the noodle legs into the spider bodies, 4 on one side and 4 on the opposite side. Space them evenly apart. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and chill the spiders until hardened, 30 to 40 minutes.

Once chilled, remove them from the waxed paper by pushing up from the underside of the waxed paper. Store the spiders in a plastic storage container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Per spider: 94 calories, 1 gram protein, 5 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 13 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, trace cholesterol, 21 milligrams sodium

Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Mary Mullen.

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