Wednesday, October 19, 2011

If You Want To Live and Thrive, Let the Spider Run Alive (Black Widow Chocolate Rum Cupcakes)

Black Widow Chocolate Rum Cupcakes
Are you getting in the spirit of Halloween yet? Please tell me you are! Here I can almost feel it coming in the air (tonight...hold on =p), which is just starting to get that real bite of cold. Still the chill comes and goes. And on days like this one when I bake, it still gets hot enough that I worry about my chocolate toppers melting before they can be appreciated in all their spooky glory...

If you're wondering what the post title's all about, it's just a quote I found while searching for a spider-related saying for these cupcakes. This one caught my eye right away...heck if I saw a Black Widow, I certainly wouldn't mess with it! There's just something extra creepy about that red hourglass marking, don't you think?

More Black Widow Cupcakes
So I've seen plenty of adorable spider cupcake ideas (like those featured over on McCormick's Kitchen PLAY), but I really wanted to make my version more realistic and creepy than those I'd come across ^_^. Since it's notoriously difficult to color homemade fondant a true black and I happened to have some black modeling chocolate on hand, I turned to this medium to make my crawly friends more dimensional and thus, my spidery vision start coming to life. Then melted chocolate, red candy melts, and a good blast of cold freezer air did the rest!

One thing that I failed to foresee was that the semisweet chocolate I used wouldn't be dark enough to match the black modeling fondant. That's why I've replaced semisweet with dark chocolate in the recipe below and also suggested that you even add a bit of black food coloring to make these truly black widows rather than "brown widows" as my boyfriend called mine hehe. Hope that you like these and you're having as much fun preparing for All Hallow's Eve as I am! And be sure to stay tuned for the next cupcake in my Halloween series -- it's so good you might even call it deadly...8p.

Black Widow Chocolate Rum Cupcakes [Printable Recipe]
Makes 12 to 14 cupcakes

XIAOLU'S NOTES: These can easily be converted into kid-friendly moist chocolate cupcakes by substituting the 3 tablespoons of rum with boiling water and simply omitting the rum from the ganache. The ganache needs to be used shortly after it's made. Toppers can be made in advance and stored at room temperature, but you should re-freeze the toppers for 10 to 15 minutes before moving them to the cupcakes since they (especially the spiders) are quite delicate. I made my spider toppers with semisweet chocolate and they turned out a bit too brown, so I definitely recommend using dark chocolate and even adding some black food coloring.

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup PLUS 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
6 1/2 Tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup milk [NOT skim]
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 Tbsp boiling water [OR 1/2 cup IF omitting rum]
3 Tbsp dark rum
Rum Chocolate Ganache (Recipe below)
White Chocolate Spiderwebs (Recipe below)
Chocolate Spiders (Recipe below)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease tops of a cupcake pan and then line it with baking liners.

In a large bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add egg, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water and rum (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared cupcake liners, filling no more than 3/4 full. If there is batter left over, fill an additional 1 to 2 liners in another baking pan OR standalone baking cups with the remaining batter. Bake 18 to 23 minutes or until a toothpick or thin knife inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes, then remove from pans to wire racks to finish cooling. Make the ganache as you wait for the cupcakes to cool.

Dip each cupcake upside-down into the ganache up to the liner, lift cake out of chocolate, and let excess ganache drip off. Next, turn cupcake right-side up and place on wire rack to let ganache set. (If ganache begins to harden before all of the cupcakes are dipped you may heat for 5-second intervals in a microwave until chocolate is smooth again).

After 30 minutes, once ganache has partially set, center a white chocolate spiderweb and then a chocolate spider atop each cupcake. Enjoy!

Rum Chocolate Ganache
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate (chips or finely chopped bar)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp unsalted butter
2 tsp dark rum

Make ganache after cupcakes are mostly cooled off. Place chocolate in a small to medium bowl. Bring heavy cream and butter just to a boil. Pour hot cream mixture over chocolate and let sit for about 5 minutes. Begin stirring mixture and continue stirring until the mixture is uniform and smooth (may take about 5 minutes of stirring). Stir in rum. Use immediately.

White Chocolate Spiderwebs
Slightly adapted from Country Living

3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Microwave white chocolate chips in a bowl for 30 seconds and stir. Continue to microwave in 20-second intervals until almost melted. Stir again until chocolate is completely melted. Pour inside a zipper-lock bag with one tip snipped off to create an opening for piping.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper. Slide the spiderweb template underneath paper. To make each web, use piping opening to trace white chocolate along design, making sure to connect all lines. Repeat process until you've created 12 to 14 toppers (depending on the number of cupcakes). Chill them in refrigerator for 10 minutes. Then, using a spatula, carefully remove webs from parchment.

Chocolate Spiders
Modeling Chocolate (Recipe below)
1/2 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
Black oil-based or powder food coloring (optional)
Red royal icing or melted candy melts

Microwave chopped dark chocolate in a bowl for 30 seconds and stir. Continue to microwave in 20-second intervals until almost melted. Stir again until chocolate is completely melted. If desired, add black oil-based or powder food coloring (do NOT use liquid/gel coloring; if you do, the chocolate will clump together and you'll have to toss it!) a little at a time, stirring well in between additions, until the chocolate is the desired shade of black. Pour inside a zipper-lock bag with one tip snipped off to create an opening for piping.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper. Slide a spider template [I simply printed out some cartoony images of black widow spiders I found online; here's what I used] underneath paper OR you could pipe freehand IF you trust yourself to do this. To make each spider, first roll modeling chocolate into 12 to 14 balls about the size of large green peas. Pipe a small dot of melted chocolate on the parchment above the round area of a spider on the template, and press ball of modeling chocolate onto it to secure. Now pipe chocolate to trace along the rest of the design, forming the spider head and legs. Make sure to connect all lines. Repeat process until you've created 12 to 14 spider toppers (depending on the number of cupcakes). Now place red royal icing or red candy melts (melted the same way as the chocolate chips above) into a zipper-lock bag. Snip off a tiny bit of the tip for piping, then trace and fill in an hourglass shape on each modeling chocolate spider "abdomen." Chill spiders in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. Then remove carefully from parchment just before transferring to cupcakes.

Modeling Chocolate
10 oz. semisweet chocolate (coarsely chopped chunks or chips)
1/3 cup light corn syrup
Black food coloring, as needed (such as McCormick Black Food Color)

In a shallow bowl, melt the chocolate in microwave (be careful so that the temperature does not exceed 100 degrees F) for 2 minutes; stir. If chocolate is not completely melted, return to microwave for 30 seconds at a time and stir until smooth. Add corn syrup to the chocolate and mix well (scrape all the corn syrup into the chocolate with a rubber spatula). Using a rubber spatula, stir and fold mixture, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl well, until no shiny syrup is visible and the mixture forms a thick ball. Pour mixture onto a large sheet of wax or parchment paper and spread with the spatula until it’s about 1/2-inch thick; let it sit and stiffen, uncovered, for about 2 hours.

After that, knead black food coloring into the modeling chocolate 1 to 2 drops at a time until you get the desired shade. Use at once or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

I'm submitting these Black Widow Spider Cupcakes to McCormick's Kitchen PLAY Contest as a conceptual adaptation of My Baking Heart's Spider Cupcakes. They're giving away ten $50 prizes to those who recreate any of the recipes in this month's Halloween-themed Progressive Party. If you're interested in entering, you can review the complete contest rules here. Deadline is October 31, 2011. Good luck!


  1. You made these cupcakes so pretty...and creepy at the same time. :) Nicely done.

  2. Awesome looking treats! Buzzed..
    Take care..

  3. The spider design is amazing. You could play a nasty practical joke and place a real spider coated in chocolate:)

  4. They are so cute. I was thinking about making your pumpkin muffins and decorating them with chocolate spiderwebs, but this ones are cool too. I wish I had your patience for modelling spiders :)

  5. Wow! Pictures, cupcakes, black widows, spiderwebs, everything looks great!!

  6. Gorgeous cupcakes! I love their looks...



  7. oh wow!! you are so talented!! They look amazing!

  8. Oh my! These look and sound WICKEDLY good!!! Your work should also be listed as art. How is it that you do everything so perfectly?!

    Aunt Suzy

  9. They look and sound fantastic :))))

  10. Another spooooooky treat:) I like the creepy webby additions to your mini cake stand, or whatnot. OoooOOOOooooOOOhh!

    I'm flying on Halloween; perhaps I could play some frightful practical jokes on my neighbors. But I would then probably be arrested or something:/

  11. Hey Xiaolu, The spider cupcakes are looking SUPERB......!!!!!!

    I think its the best on the web till date. The title is really catchy and flashy and gels well with the theme. I appreciate all the hardwork in the detailed icing, guess its really tedious getting it on top of cupcakes...Hope you are enjoying the festive season to the optimal, best regards, Sonia !

  12. dark chocolate, rum, and a cupcake. you have covered all the bases! spectacular!

  13. Elegant and appropriately spooky! Absolutely gorgeous treats.

  14. Your black widows look so realistic, regardless of their shade, that I think I'd have to remove them before I ate them! :)

  15. So pretty, the spider looks cute(scary) and realistic.

  16. Girl, these are AMAZING! I am definitely a little creeped out by a good way!

    I love that they are adult with the rum in them...who says kids have to have all the fun on Halloween!

  17. These are so adorable. Love them.

  18. Oh those spiders are creepy, you've even got the red spot on the back! I remember seeing some of those in real life and it brings chills just thinking about it.

  19. Very cute Xiaolu! And the spiders are very good indeed! :D

  20. Thanks, everyone for your sweet comments =D

  21. too cute to be eaten :))

  22. You made it sounds (from the instruction) so eaasssyyyy lol but I know it's going to be hard!!! This one is tempting to try : )

  23. i have just found your blog it's delicious and very nice your photos see you soon simmy from italy

  24. Well you know what I think? I think you are genius. THis looks fabulous to me!

  25. the spider cupcake looks so delicious and creepy :) love the photo

  26. My son is into spider nowadays (ugh don't ask me why...) and he'll be thrilled to have this cupcake. Your detail work is simply amazing Xiaolu! And photography is stunning!

  27. Aw thanks a lot, everyone!

    Francisca - I admit there are several series of steps and it takes time, but I promise it's not super hard 8)

  28. Fantastic! These cupcakes are just so perfect! If you're not published on Tastespotters of Foodbuzz, I'll eat my ... cupcake!

  29. fantabulous !! your creativity is always inspiring. hope you have a fun halloween :D

  30. These are RIDICULOUS - so spine-tinglingly beautiful yet deliciously creepy. I certainly hope you win the McCormick contest cause you've outdone yourself!

  31. Thanks, you all! So glad you're enjoying these =D

  32. Aw man these spiders look so real and creepy! I'm almost scared they'll crawl off the cupcakes and bite me!

  33. Love, love love these little spiders you made Xiaolu!!! You are so talented!! The spiders look so amazing I am not sure I could bring myself to eat one.

  34. Xiaolu...
    Spiders are so creepy... and I get goosebumps whenever I see one, but I would not say NO to these ones... ;P

  35. A creepy but cool spider cup cake for Halloween! Very impressive!

  36. This post is so fetish-worthy, I’ve been inspired to include it in my Friday Food Fetish blog. If you have any objections, please let me know

  37. How cute and real! Love the chocolate spiders.

  38. Thanks, all! Hope you have a lovely weekend!

  39. haha....brown widows :D They still look great!! The spiders look quite realistic- definitely more scary than cute :) But quite tasty too!!

  40. I love what you did! They are so cute and creepy! ;)

  41. how properly spooky and delicious! the red is a great touch--bravo. :)

  42. These look just great. I am thoroughly impressed!

  43. Your spiders are definitely the most creepy and realistic I've seen!!

  44. I still can't get these cupcakes out of my head! They truly are amazing... Thanks so much again for sharing and today I am featuring these as one of the most memorable fetish worthy foods from 2011. MOAR please!

  45. scary and cool. Going to link to these in my upcoming Halloween Recipes post.


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