Tonawanda News

October 13, 2013

PINSPIRED: Broken-glass cupcakes are macabre fun for Halloween

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — This is how I found myself, one Friday morning, driving to work with a measuring cup full of edible blood in my car’s cupholder, with a mixing bowl full of broken glass sitting on the passenger seat.

I was very careful not to speed. I can just hear that playing out: “Gee, officer, really, it’s not what it looks like ... honest!”

I digress.

Pinterest loves Halloween. ‘Round about Oct. 1 or sooner, you starts seeing the costume ideas, the decorating notions, the jack o’lantern designs, the slightly macabre goodies. You probably know what I mean: finger-shaped cookies (or hot dogs), some truly disgusting-looking gummy worms, and, of course, cupcakes festooned with what looks like broken glass and oozing blood.

As an amateur cake decorator, I’m always looking for new edible “special effects.” That last one couldn’t help but catch my interest and I repinned it, making the comment, however, that I couldn’t imagine the circumstances in which I’d get to try it anytime soon. You can’t really send those into elementary-school Halloween parties, after all.

Fortunately, we have Pinspired. Motto: Giving Greater Niagara Newspapers writers the chance to try messy things out of sheer curiosity!

I whipped up a batch of red velvet cupcakes with white icing, and I’m not even going to be embarrassed to tell you that I used a mix and — gasp — canned frosting. The cupcakes are merely the vehicles for the effects here, after all. 

For the “glass,” the ingredients are: 2 cups water, 1 cup of light corn syrup, 3 1/2 cups of white sugar and 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar. Mix in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees, then pour the mixture onto a metal baking pan. Let cool completely. Break into “glass” shards.

For the “blood,” the ingredients are: 1/2 cup light corn syrup, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1/4 water or so — I used less — and red and blue food coloring. Mix the corn syrup and cornstarch. Add water until it’s the consistency you want. I found it wise to add this very sparingly. The recipe then calls for 15 drops of red food coloring and three drops of blue.

Arrange the sugar “glass” shards on the frosted cupcakes. Drizzle with blood. Voilá.

This is all pretty simple, but it tripped me up slightly in three places. One: I don’t recommend using gel — generally professionally grade — food colors for this. It made my first batch of “blood” far too dark and more purple than red. Since I wasn’t going for Klingon blood this time, I had to pitch it. It might work if you used the colors far more sparingly than I did, but personally I’d just go with good ol’ fashioned liquid colors.

Two: Test your candy thermometer. I didn’t and my molten sugar mixture started to brown just before it actually reached 300 degrees, thereby giving my finished sugar glass a distinct caramel-colored hue. It worked, but it would be nicer if it were clear. To test a candy thermometer, place it in a pan of boiling water. After five to 10 minutes or so, it should read 212 degrees. Adjust accordingly.

Three: I was trying to hasten the cooling time for my sugar glass, so I popped the pan in the fridge for a few minutes. It worked but the resulting candy was stickier than it should have been, and some of the pieces were fouled by the sugar “dust” that resulted when I smashed it into pieces. Let it sit at room temperature and this is less likely to happen.

All that said they were pretty easy, and look kind of neat. Macabre, certainly, but all in the spirit of Halloween.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com. Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler.

• WHAT: Broken-glass cupcakes • DIFFICULTY: Moderate • TIME: About an hour, plus cooling time for the "glass" • RESULT: Pin it!