A Happy Halloween Treat!

spookycakes3BTomorrow marks the end of October, and at long last we have completed all of the work on the house—no trick! Yesterday, our heating and air systems were professionally cleaned, which resulted in two filters worth of soot and grime pulled from the systems by a huge and very loud industrial strength Hepa Filter machine. We are literally breathing easier around here now, and should have all put right and in its place soon…say, around Christmas!

But for now, it’s time to move on and enjoy one of my favorite holidays. You know it—it’s Halloween.

These hauntingly good little mini cupcakes have been my go-to standard for many a party and birthday event, and they seem very appropriate and timely as a Halloween treat to share with you. The cake itself is a light and moist pale yellow cake with pretty flecks of orange zest. And that hint of that orange flavor is a perfect foil for the deep, dark chocolate ganache frosting. Orange, black and white = Halloween…see? I made these last weekend to take to a “significant decade” birthday party for a friend, and I think they would be the hit of any Halloween party, too.

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Did I hear you say that you need a little something to warm you up before trick or treating? Check out my Spooktacular Beef and Italian Sausage Chili recipe from last year. Make a pot of chili and these mini cupcakes, and let the party begin.

chili1

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Mini Orange Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting
(Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)
Makes 4 dozen

2 cups flour (not self rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter (I stick) softened
1 cup granulated cane sugar or white sugar
1 generous tablespoon finely grated fresh orange zest
3 large eggs at room temp
1 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk

24 count mini muffin baking tin(s)
mini muffin paper baking cups (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter your muffin tin(s) and line with one mini muffin paper cup per slot, if using, or lightly flour the tins if not using paper baking cups, tapping out any excess flour.

Sift together the 2 cups of flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar, butter and orange zest together with an electric mixer (fitted with a whisk attachment if using a stand mixer) on medium high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla and continue to beat for another 3-5 minutes, until the mixture is thoroughly blended. Reduce the speed to low, and add the flour mixture and milk alternating in 3 batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until the batter is just smooth, do not over mix.

Drop batter by teaspoonfuls into each of the 48 mini muffin tins lined with baking cups, filling each cup about 1/2- 3/4 full. Bake for 13-15 minutes until the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the tin and a toothpick inserted into the middle of one comes out clean. The cakes should stay pale in color, not golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes in the tins and set on a wire rack. After 5 minutes, remove the cupcakes from the tin and allow them to finish cooling completely on the wire rack before frosting.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting
Makes about 2 cups

3/4 lb. good quality bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped or in chip form
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over low heat, bringing it to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chocolate, whisking until smooth. Allow the ganache to cool slightly, about 3-5 minutes at room temperature. Take each mini-cupcake and dip the top of the cupcake into the ganache just to the edge of the paper cup, or just to the edge of the dome of the cake. Turn the cupcake a little bit to cover the top well, lift it out of the chocolate and allow it to drip a moment, then place back on the rack to firm up. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes until all are frosted. Allow the cupcakes to sit at room temperature until the ganache firms up, about an hour or so. You can enjoy these now, or they will keep at room temperature for a day, or carefully stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.

You can also decorate them if you please with purchased decorating icing, or make your own very quickly (as I did) combining a tablespoon of softened butter, a cup of powdered sugar, two or three drops of vanilla extract and just enough milk mixed together to make a smooth icing consistency. If you plan to color the icing, do so now. Place the icing in a piping bag with a tip, or into a plastic bag and cut off the very tip of it, then slowly squeeze out the icing to decorate your cupcakes in the desired pattern. I’ve used a person’s initials, spelled out greetings and made patterns. I didn’t make spooky spiderwebs on these because they were for a birthday event, but the shape of these certainly lends itself to that.

Note: Leftover ganache is a wonderful thing! You can store it in the fridge until solid, scoop out balls of it with a melon scoop and mold quickly with your fingertips into truffles, then roll in powdered cocoa or nuts to give as gifts. You can also reheat it slow and low until just liquid again and use it as a sauce for ice cream, berries or cake. Be careful in reheating because if allowed to simmer it will break the cream and you’ll have a chocolate mess!

Our first fire in the newly rebuilt fireplace and chimney...home sweet home!

Our first fire in the newly rebuilt fireplace and chimney…home sweet home!

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38 thoughts on “A Happy Halloween Treat!

  1. Ahhh, is good to see you sitting in front of your own fire again! What an ordeal you’ve been through. How fitting that you can celebrate the end of those scary times with a hauntingly good treat! So nice to have you back Betsy! Linger lazy by that fire a while!

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  2. A lovely fire — and even I might eat one of those cupcakes: you sold me with the rich ganache and the orange zest. They might look pretty with bits of candied orange peel on top, if you like that sort of thing, or want more orange in your chocolate.

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  3. So glad to learn that at long last the work on the house have been completed. First fire in the newly rebuilt fireplace and chimney, how charming and perfect.
    Great mini cupcakes, only problem is if I make them I may end up eating most of them myself.

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    • Hi Norma! Yes loooooong last. Thank you for your kind words. We over the top about being done with the work, but are still very tired from the ordeal. At least it’s all about living and moving on now. 🙂 I know what you mean about the cupcakes…for sure I would eat every one if I made them without an event to take most of them out of here! 😉

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  4. Yay, all your repairs are finished.
    I love your mini cupcakes and what fantastic ideas to use up leftover ganache although in this house we would probably have to make a double batch.
    Happy Halloween.
    🙂 Mandy xo

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  5. Bets! Congratulations on getting thru the ordeal. The house looks lovely. Put your feet up by the fire and relax. The worst is behind you. Love the orange in the cupcakes. Yum!

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    • Hey Deb! Thank you so much, we are relieved to have the worst of it over and mostly to have all of these folks out of our house! Wish I could put up my feet and relax, but there’s still a lot of sorting and moving to do. Still, it’s nice to have a place to sit and enjoy once again…with a cupcake, of course! 🙂

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    • Thank you so much, Tanya, we are so pleased, too. It’s been a looooooong time coming! I am looking forward to sitting in front of the fire this winter (if it gets cold here again), perhaps with some chili and definitely with a Manhattan! 😉 Happy Halloween!

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  6. Hi Betsy, I bet you are soo happy to have your home coming back together!! I love how your fireplace looks…that is something I miss about Atlanta for sure!! I must have missed or forgot your chili post from last year, I made chili today and I like to incorporate sausage in mine too, makes it sweeter I think. And the little ghost on top is just adorable!!! I wonder if my 21 year old son will think I’m silly if I put that on his chili!! He will probably not mind if I follow it up with those cupcakes!!

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    • Hi Linda, and yes, we are pretty ecstatic about having the house “back” to ourselves. It was such a long journey and while it could have been so much worse, this was enough, thank you very much! 🙂 We hope to use the fireplace a lot this winter. We’ve still only had that one nice cold night…good for fires and chili! I think your son would be happy to have homemade chili and cupcakes with a wee ghost…why not?

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  7. What a great photo of your fully restored fireplace and its inaugural fire! I bet you both are thrilled to have your home back with no workman, no matter how nice, always around. Congratulations!
    Your Halloween treats sound great and are perfect for any party this time of year. I remember that Spooktacular Chili, having enjoyed it last year. Once again it’s chili season and I’m sure to make it again. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

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    • We are so thrilled, John, that words can’t express it, and thanks for your good thoughts. We’re here all the time so this is our refuge, and while we are social folk, having people constantly in and out of the house…the dust and dirt and disruption, it’s worn thin. It’s nice to just think about living again, you know? 🙂 I know you like this chili and have made and enjoyed it. I made turkey chili that we had with that one fire (the only time it’s been cold enough here), but am looking forward to this Spooktacular Chili the next time it gets cold…maybe next week!

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  8. I know that you are so happy to be getting your home back to normal…I’m sure you really are breathing easier. I hope you had a nice Halloween…just treats and no nasty tricks. You have had enough of those.

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    • Hi Karen, and yes, we are pretty excited to be able to “live” in our house again. It still has a long way to go before all is put back in place, but just being able to sit in our living room or out on the deck and enjoy the season is truly wonderful. Thanks for your good thoughts, and no, we didn’t have any nasty tricks for Halloween…all good! 🙂

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  9. I have been away far too long, Betsy! What did you have done? The fireplace looks fantastic, what big fires you can have this coming winter.. and I can see the stockings there this Christmas! Lovely combination chocolate and orange is.. it reminds me of those Christmas chocolate oranges I always buy! Perfect colors for hallowe’en!! I will save this for next year.. nah, I’ll have them for Christmas:D

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  10. I am so very pleased for you that your place is finally finished; that fireplace is indeed a work of art, quite beautiful. The cupcakes are adorable and I really love the flavour combo of orange and chocolate. Happy Halloween to you too, hope it was wonderful.

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