Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Halloween Pumpkin M&M Cupcakes and Cookbook GIVEAWAY

UPDATE: Yay I WON Cupcake Hero::September with my caramelized banana creme brulee cupcakes. It was a super close contest and Christy's PB banana sandwich cupcakes look amazing too. This was so much fun, I can't wait to see the next roundup!

Can you guess what time it is again?! IT'S CUPCAKE HERO TIME!! Okay now I know you're thinking this girl needs to cut back on the sugar / coffee / Red Bull, and maybe I do...but with Halloween coming up we all know how likely that's gonna be (mwahaha). Returning to the ever-important topic of cupcakes, I've been plotting a while now for October's challenge (partly to distract myself while waiting for the results of September's throwdown including one of my entries).

The theme this month, Booo-tiful Pumpkin Cupcakes, had both flavor and decorative components. We were told to use pumpkin in some part of the cupcake plus to make the top "Halloween-y." Aye aye, Captain CB! Our awesome hostess was even so kind as to point us to this goldmine of ideas. I went in search of a cool-lookin' design that wouldn't require anything too fussy (like fondant or food coloring) and found these fun chocolate M&M insect and mummy toppings. All the instructions on how to make these yourself are below and know that I love questions =).

Let's not be shallow though and forget what's on the inside (I'll be here all night, folks 8p): unbelievably moist pumpkin cake with a hint of spice, punctuated by chocolate candy bits. I de-veganized the original recipe by cookbook goddesses Isa and Terry (which they'll hopefully forgive), but that can be easily reversed using vegan versions of the candies, cream cheese, etc.

Vegan or not, the recipes in their cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (VCTOTW) are some of the best in existence. There are so many unique flavors, like green tea, Boston cream pie, rum raisin, and margarita cupcakes. This book would rock anyone's socks off, so I want to give a free copy to one of you! To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment by next Friday, October 16, telling me your favorite thing about Halloween. Please make sure to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win.

Creepy Pumpkin M&M Cupcakes [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from VCTOTW and Hello, Cupcake!
Makes 12 cupcakes

XIAOLU'S NOTES: I had work in the afternoon, so I baked the cupcakes midday and refrigerated them until I had time to prepare the rest at night. This worked out great so don't be intimated if you can't do all this at once!

1 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup soy milk (I used regular milk)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup M&M candies, roughly chopped up
Cream Cheese Frosting (Recipe below)
Chocolate and M&M Insects and Eyes (Recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a standard muffin pan with paper liners. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt together into a small bowl. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir the pumpkin, oil, sugar, milk, and vanilla together until thoroughly mixed. Add in the dry ingredients and stir into the wet ingredients until just combined. Fold in the chopped M&M candies.

Fill paper liners about 2/3 full with batter. Tap the pan firmly against the counter one time to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack and let them cool completely there.

To assemble insect cupcakes: spread an even layer of cream cheese frosting onto the cupcakes using a knife or spatula. Gently peel the chocolate candy insects from the parchment paper, place one or more on each cupcake, and press slightly to secure. That's it!

To assemble mummy cupcakes: if you have melted chocolate leftover from making the insects and eyes, squeeze 1-2 teaspoons on the top center of each cupcake then spread and and smooth it out with a spatula. Place a pair of M&M eyes on top of the chocolate (or directly on the cupcake). Next, fit a piping bag with an Ateco #48 tip (or other rectangular basketweave tip) and fill it with cream cheese frosting. Make the "bandages" by piping flat strips of frosting at different angles across each cupcake, leaving only a strip right around the eyes.

Mummycakes caught in the buff (orange?) - how embarrassing!

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces (1 cup) cream cheese (low-fat is fine), room temperature
1/4 cup (2 ounces or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups sifted powdered (confectioner's) sugar

In a large bowl beat the cream cheese and butter until soft and smooth. On low speed beat in the vanilla, salt, and sugar. Start with 1 1/2 cups of sugar and add more to achieve desired sweetness and stiffness. Finally, beat on high speed for a few moments until smooth.

Chocolate and M&M Insects and Eyes
Regular, mini, and peanut M&M candies
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

XIAOLU'S NOTE: I roughly followed the templates from Hello, Cupcake! If you'd like to try them, just leave a comment with your email and I'll send it right over.

Using a fairly thick and dark pen or marker, draw outlines of insects or whatever creepy design you want on light-colored paper. Separate your candies by color.

Gotta confess, the OCD part of me kinda relished this part.

Place chocolate chips in a plastic zipper-lock bag and microwave at 10-second intervals, massaging the bag in between, until the chocolate is fully melted. Press as much air as possible out of the bag then close the top.

Lay a piece of parchment or wax paper over the outlines you made earlier. Use scissors to cut off a 1/16-inch corner of the plastic bag and pipe the chocolate onto the parchment paper along the outlines underneath, making sure to connect all the parts to each insect. Before the chocolate hardens, place the M&M candies on top.

If making mummy cupcakes, spread out pairs (one for each cupcake) of mini or regular M&M candies in matching bright colors. Use the same bag of melted chocolate to pipe dots on the candies to make pupils.

Chill all piped chocolate in the refrigerator until firm, at least 5 minutes.

XIAOLU'S NOTE: If the chocolate starts to solidify as you're working with it, you can microwave it again at 10-second intervals until it softens again.


  1. My favorite thing about Halloween is trick or treating... although I'm a bit too old for it now! The second best thing is Halloween time at Disneyland YAYYYAYYAYY!

    These cupcakes are too, too cute!

  2. This is such a cute idea! First of all, I love pumpkin. Especially in baked goods. Second of all, I love how artistic the insects and mummies are without you have to use crazy cake-decorating ingredients, such as fondant. Plus you got to sort the M+M's. Which I also compulsively do while eating them. They taste better that way.

    My favorite part of Halloween is the costumes, but only the creative ones. Last year, I was the food pyramid and made this whole costume out of oak tag (that heavy paper you can buy in drug stores). I got to get the creative juices flowing, which is always fun! Awesome giveaway.

  3. I love your creepy crawly cupcakes - too cute! Good luck in the competition.

    My favourite part of halloween is definitely the kids coming to trick or treat - too cute!

  4. My favourite thing about Halloween is the day after Halloween, when all the candy goes on sale!

    Your cupcakes are lovely! Great job!

  5. Wow! I really love these cupcakes; they are cute but are easy to put together. :) Looks like you just might have another contender for the Cupcake Hero contest!

  6. These cupcakes are SOOOO awesome - I'd love to see the templates too! Here's my email - it's typeamommyblog(at)gmail(dot)com. Thank you!!!

  7. My favorite thing about Halloween is the pumpkin craving. I remember, as a kid, the search for the perfect shape and size and the fun of deciding what design to come up with. I also remember saving the pumpkin seeds and roasting them with some salt for a snack.

  8. Love that mummy and all those bugs "crawling" around on the parchment paper is a hoot. Great job!

  9. My favorite thing about Halloween is, by far, CANDY!!!!

  10. Michelle - I love and miss trick or treating too. I've never heard anything about Disneyland's Halloween celebrations. But now I'm curious!

    Joanne - Your food pyramid costume sounds hilarious. I won't have time to dress up this year but I'll save up ideas for 2010.

    Alicia - Kids in costumes ARE adorable. I can't to dress my own one day.

    Wandering Coyote - I like the way you think hehe.

    Dorothy - You're a sweetheart and I'm excited to see what you made. I'll try to pick a book you don't already have for the next giveaway ;).

    Elizabeth - Enjoy the template!

    Britt22king - What a sweet memory and I love that you ate the seeds too. Thankfully there's no age limit for pumpkin-carving.

    Oneordinaryday - I loved these critters too and was almost sad my coworkers gobbled 'em up so fast 'cause I couldn't look at them anymore.

    Heather - I hope you get a lot of candy this year :).

  11. I really miss Halloween from when I lived in Boston. It was so fun watching all the little kids dress up and collect candy. Maybe I will have to make some of these cupcakes to compensate? They are fantastic. I love how you have decorated them. Simple yet so effective! :)

  12. Ohhh what CUTE cupcakes! I loooove dressing up for Halloween- I will never be too old to dress up!
    Congrats on winning the September Cupcake Hero, that's awesome!!

  13. Blog love comin' your way. Check out my blog to see what I mean.
    ~ Michelle

  14. wow, these looks yummy and delicious! perfect! very well done!

    cheers from london,


  15. Congrats on the win :) - oh and don't fear the fondant it is a whole heap of fun :D

  16. yay for winning the September cupcake hero award!Your halloween cupcakes are sooo cute! I love your mummy cupcake :)

  17. It's all about getting dressed up! Yes, I'm 24, but I just love being silly and outdressing the kids in outfits I made myself.

  18. These are so great. I would love to have the template to make them.

  19. Julia - I've never been in Boston for Halloween but I bet it's really fun. These cupcakes are definitely a great substitute. I couldn't help smiling every time I looked at 'em.

    Koko & Jess - Thanks and I say we should let our inner kids come out as often as possible, right?

    Michelle - You are a sweetie and I'll be passing on the award soon I promise.

    Pity - Thanks so much!

    Alicia - I guess I can start with premade sometime and work up from there. Your cupcake entry is certainly the best reason I've found yet to try it =).

    Alisa - Thank you, the mummy got the most attention from my coworkers too.

    Pastrymama - Sorry I can't find your email on your profile. If you email me at xiaolu6(at)gmail(dot)com, I'll send it right over.

  20. I would have to say carmel apples and costumes on my kids. Those are my favorite things about Halloween

  21. Oh my goodness these are SO fun and SO cute and so so insanely awesome. I didn't realize from that first photo that you were using M&M's. I need to try playing around and decorating cupcakes like this. Ahhh. You're inspiring me to make cupcakes! But I don't know what I'd do with them because they're hard to transport... anyway. My favourite thing about Halloween - how can I choose?? It's my favourite holiday. I think my favourite thing is all the mystery and spooky stories. =) My email address is emdrecipes @ gmail.com

  22. looking gooood I think I am going to make some myself...
    My favorite thing about Halloween is the pumpkin craving

    my email address is shirlief@gmail.com

  23. What a fantastic blog... you are so not good for my diet :P I'm definitely trying those cakes they look scrumptious.

    My favourite thing about Halloween is all the spooky decor that hits the shops - I love it and just last week ordered myself some candle holders. I wish this stuff was available all year round :D :D

  24. Forget the diet... for now. I am sure that just looking at the goodies has put a few pounds on me!

    My favourite part of Halloween is the costumes - especially the home-made creations.

  25. Steals your cupcakes! <3 miss you

  26. My favorite thing about Halloween is trick or treating with my Girls. We hit the Care Center first then ON To The Town! We go until the girls can go not more. I would like to note that I live In frontier territory On the MN, USA - Ontario,CA boarder so it is still quite safe to trick or treat here as you know everyone in town.

  27. My favorite thing about Halloween is fixing goodies for the treat the kids, and see there faces light up.

  28. so am going to make these this weekend! I luv the bugs and eyes you made as well! My fav thing about halloween (our households fav holiday) is the combo of fall in general along with the supernatural aspect to it. Where else would you see colorful vibrant leaves and pumpkins along with spooky ghosts and witches!

  29. In Spain we do not celebrate Halloween usually .. for me alloween means fantastic English Erasmus memories!!! I loved all the costumes :D

  30. I love the costumes! The build-up to Halloween, when you're with all your friends putting together your costumes and doing make-up and hair - that's my favorite part!

  31. Soooo cute. I almost wish Halloween was celebrated in my country just to make these:-)!

  32. Cutting back? CUTTING BACK? NEVER!!! Love these!

  33. I love everyone's responses! Just a reminder though to leave your contact email in case you win. I'll announce the winner this Saturday!

  34. Love to see the little ones with their sweet faces.

  35. Xiaolu! Your blog is amazing! Wonderful recipes and fantastic pictures!

    My favorite part of Halloween is handing out candy to little kids wearing the most adorable costumes possible!!

  36. Sruti, is that you? Thanks so much for your kind words! It's funny being on the other side of trick-or-treating now but I agree the adorable kids really make it worth it!

  37. hi there - these look so cute! I'm going to try them, but I'd love if you could share the hello cupcake templates for the bugs. here's my email mamadoks@gmail.com

    many thanks! gibble


I love hearing from you all! Please leave me a message if you have questions, advice, or just to let me know you stopped by. Your feedback is always very much appreciated. Thanks! <3 Xiaolu