Red Wine Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Haunted Red Wine Dark Chocolate

My goal had been to make Halloween cupcakes that were blood-red. Or at least not the day-glow red that many red velvet recipes have to offer these days. After a couple of bouts of fruitless searching on Google and Pinterest (yes, I got that desperate), I remembered the amazing “Red Wine Velvet Cake” from Smitten Kitchen‘s cookbook. It doesn’t bake up bright red and it would be the perfect addition to a grown-up Halloween party. You can find a similar recipe on her blog. It is “red wine chocolate cake”.

I am not a wine connoisseur by any means. I chose a cheap red wine. I went in looking for a wine with a sweet flavor and a brighter red color. A fun label helps my decisions as well. I’m sure I didn’t spend more than $8.00. My reasoning for choosing a bright red wine was simply I thought it would add to the red color rather than the chocolate color. I don’t believe it did, but that may have also been because of my next mistake.

Haunted Red Wine Dark Chocolate

The recipe calls for cocoa. Specifically, Dutch cocoa. I cannot find Dutch cocoa at my local grocery stores. I typically use just regular powdered cocoa with good results. Often, I use dark chocolate cocoa since I am a fan of dark chocolate. My intention was to use the regular cocoa. But while I was baking, I got a little distracted (or something) and grabbed the dark cocoa instead. The darkness of the cocoa overpowered any hope I had of having a red tint to the cake. I don’t think even a bottle of red food coloring would have helped.

Since I had an entire bottle of wine at my disposal and there were going to be no children at this event, I decided to take the red wine flavor a bit further and add it to the frosting as well. Many recipes for frosting with alcohol just replace the milk (or cream), with the alcohol. Alcohol, while a liquid, is also a dehydrator. Think about how you feel after a night out. I have found that leaving in at least one Tablespoon of milk, helps retain the moisture needed. Adding the milk has helped with my ability to pipe the frosting onto cupcakes.

Haunted Red Wine Dark Chocolate

To make these truly Halloween worthy, I added black fondant cutouts. I used a marshmallow fondant. I have found I like the taste the best. Plus, it uses 3 ingredients versus the other types which would require finding a specialty baking shop. Most recipes yield about 2 pounds of fondant. I rarely need that much. I discovered that it is simply a matter of dividing the recipe so you end up with the amount of fondant you want. In this case, I divided by 4 to end up with one-quarter of a pound. Another trick I learned (and forgot to do this time) is to add the food coloring to the melted marshmallows before adding the confectioner’s sugar. This means you will only have one color, but it will save you from having to knead the color into a sticky brick.

Haunted Red Wine Dark Chocolate

You can follow the link  for the cake recipe. To make the cake into cupcakes, I used a muffin pan lined with cupcake liners. I baked them for 20 minutes, which I think may have been a minute too long.

Red Wine Frosting

  • 16 ounces confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • red food coloring (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cream butter in mixing bowl. Add vanilla.
  2. Slowly add confectioner’s sugar until it is all in the bowl.
  3. Add 1 Tablespoon milk.
  4. Add red wine 1 Tablespoon at a time. You may not need all 3 Tablespoons depending on the consistency of frosting you want.
  5. If you want your frosting more red, add a touch of red food coloring. (I didn’t have any on hand, so my frosting stayed pink.

Haunted Red Wine Dark Chocolate

 

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Deadmau5 Helmet

01_completed helmet

Prepare yourselves, guest post by Sean headed for ya…

About a month ago one of my coworkers comes to me and asks, “Do you think you could make a Deadmau5 head?”  I’m vaguely aware of who Deadmau5 is, enough that I can name at least one song and know what the “Mau5heads” look like, so I consider it for a few seconds and then answer in the affirmative (for anyone who doesn’t know, go here).  He goes on to explain that he would like to have one for his son for Halloween this year.  It sounds like fun and he gives me an open checkbook, so of course I dive right in.

The project started with a 12″ Acrylic Globe meant for lamps and a sheet of foam core board (before you start writing things down, I’ll have a parts list at the bottom of the post).  I measured the diameter of the globe (to ensure it was actually close to 12 inches) and used that measurement to draw a large circle on the foamcore, and then performed various complicated maths to decide what shape I was going to make the ears.  Truth be told, I guessed a bit…  I ended up drawing another circle an inch or so away from the first, and then drew lines that went from the tangent of the first circle to the center of the second.

02_ear template

After that was finished, I cut out the ears and did a quick mockup with some painter’s tape to see how it would look.

03_first mockup

Not too shabby.

Notice the washi tape in the above photo that outlines the mouth area of the head? I just sort of eyeballed that, but the idea was to go from one side of the head all the way to the other and make the mouth large enough so that it would not only look similar to an original Mau5head but also provide enough room to see.  The next step was cutting it out, so I grabbed my trusty Dremel and went at it.

06_cut mouth

It was just after this step that I had my first disaster.  It turns out that this acrylic is pretty brittle, and one of the times I was moving the head around from one place to another I managed to split it almost in half because the corners of the mouth create a really weak spot in the plastic.  After acquiring another acrylic dome I performed the same cut, but this time I cut some reinforcement circles out of the plastic leftover from the mouth, and then epoxied those into place inside the head near the corners of the mouth.  This provided enough reinforcement in that area of the Mau5head to prevent that from happening again.

07_reinforcement discs

08_reinforcement glued

Next were the eyes.  I was originally planning on using some large plastic Christmas ornaments that split in half, but decided I wouldn’t like the look of them once they were painted, and also I wanted to backlight them with LEDs.  This, of course, gave me no recourse but to go ahead and build the vacuum form table that I’ve always wanted.  I made a small one, sized for the styrene sheets available at the local hobby shop.  I ended up making a buck out of half of one of the ornaments and vacuum formed the eyes over the buck.

04_vacuum mold

05_vacuum form

The second mockup looked even better.09_second mockup

I painted the ears with white glue to provide a little extra stiffness and to seal the paper so that it would accept paint without soaking it all up.  I then added mounts for the ears using foot long lengths of threaded rod that were hot glued into channels that were cut into the back of the ears.

10_coated ears

11_ear mounts

One thing to note… while the hot glue worked pretty well, I ended up redoing one of the ears using E6000 after someone accidentally headbutted a street sign while wearing the Mau5head.  If I ever have to build one again I’ll likely do the ears in two layers that sandwich the threaded rod.  Lesson learned.

The next step was marking holes on the head for mounting, drilling them out, and then everything was given another test fit.

12_marked ear holes

13a_ears mounted back

13_ears mounted

I then prepped and painted the head with rattle cans.  Eventually this ended up being four coats of gloss black and two coats of clear.  I rushed the paint a bit and didn’t have time to do wet sanding between each coat, so the paint has quite a bit of texture, but honestly this ended up looking great.  It catches the light well and looks, well, not too bad.

14_first coat

19_closeup of paint

While the first coat was drying, I started working on the eyes.  The mounts were made of a couple of strips of plastic that were cut from the remainder of the mouth material that I had used to reinforce the sides of the Mau5head.

15_eye mount

I mounted each of them on my soldering station and got to work on the first of the lights, a strip of LEDs mounted on either side of a short bolt that was hot glued into the hole in the center of the strip.  My soldering skills aren’t the best, but the lights worked afterward!

16_eye mount leds

16a_they work

I then mounted the strips on the inside of each of the eyes using a small amount of hot glue.

17_eye mounts in place

18_eye led testTo mount the eyes on the head, I marked where the center of each eye would be and drilled two holes, one for the bolt and the other for the wiring.  The mouth grid went in next, made from the lath that is used for putting stucco on a house.  It is held in place with epoxy on both ends of the mouth.

21_mouth grid test fit

I then mounted the LED strips around the outside edges of the ears, and finished up the wiring inside.  It’s intended to be run at 18v from two 9v batteries that are held in place inside the helmet. Anna ended up making a small mounting bag for them that is held in place using sticky velcro, but I neglected to get a photo of that.  Anyway, I turned the lights off and lit it up.. and the results were astounding.

23_holy crap leds

The last thing to go in was a child’s bicycle helmet, I pulled the styrofoam shell out of the helmet and mounted it directly to two of the bolts that are holding the ears in place on the head.

22_helmet mount

The styrofoam shell can be left out and a small piece of foam placed into the top of the helmet so adults can wear it.  I mean, if anyone were inclined to do so.  It’s smaller than the real deal, since it was intended to be kid-sized, but still looks pretty good.

Overall, I had a really good time making this.  After I was finished I was a little sad, because I wanted one for myself.  Maybe I’ll get around to that sometime before next Halloween.

Since you made it this far, here is the parts list that I promised and some links to where you can find each item:

12″ Acrylic Globe – $17 at Home Depot
One sheet of foam core – $2 just about anywhere
LED strip – $15 at Amazon
Plastic Ornaments – $4 at Amazon
Threaded Rod – $2 at Lowes
Styrene Sheets – $7 or so, here’s an Amazon link
Krylon Fusion Black Gloss (2 cans) – $9 at Walmart
Krylon gloss clear – $4 at Walmart
Various mounting hardware (nuts and such) – $5
Stucco lath – $10 for a 3×8 sheet at Lowes, you need a very small piece though
9v batteries (2) – $10 or so
9v battery clips (2) – $4 at Amazon
Assorted wire (I gutted an old mouse) – Free!

Total: $80-ish

Hope you enjoyed it! I’ll hand the keys to the blog back to Anna now.

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Halloween Treats

Halloween Treats

Just in time for Halloween, I have a quick cupcake treat for you to mix up for the kids. They went over well with my students after a long character day walk during school. They were delighted to kick their shoes off and settle into this brightly coloured treat.

I am not one to turn to box mixes, 99% of the time I bake from scratch. Every now and then, a box mix is needed for a quick project. Particularly when the crowd isn’t particular about the taste. Seven-year-olds would be happy with a scoop of frosting!

Halloween Treats

This isn’t a new trick, there are dozens of tutorials on how to make multi-coloured cupcakes. Essentially, you mix together a white cake recipe (I used a box for this project), separate into bowls (one for each colour), and mix in food coloring. Then you scoop a little of each color into your cupcake pan and bake away.

I will give this warning, if you are using a box mix, remember to only fill each cup about half full. Otherwise you end up with towering cupcakes. Which I ended up trimming down before adding the frosting.

Halloween Treats

I used a basic buttercream frosting tinted bright orange. I believe that was my favourite part!

Supplies:

  • White cake mix (or recipe) plus ingredients listed on back
  • Food colouring
  • Cupcake pan and liners
  • 3 bowls
  • Frosting

Directions:

  1. Mix cake according to directions.
  2. Separate into 3 bowls.
  3. Add desired food coloring to bowls (I used purple, yellow, and green)
  4. Scoop each color into cupcake pan.
  5. Bake according to box (or recipe) directions.
  6. When cupcakes are cooled, decorate with frosting.

Halloween Treats

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Baking With Booze

Irish Cream Coffee Cupcakes

It’s a risky title, but I’m going with it. Normally, I save my baking with alcohol until around St. Patrick’s Day. Admittedly, this is when I baked these cupcakes for the first time. Since this excursion into baking with booze, I have been seeking out opportunities to use alcohol in my baking.

I find it rather exhilarating to add a little element of naughty into something so sweet and innocent such as cupcakes. You should see people’s eyes light up when you mention there is beer or liquor in the cupcake they are about to partake. It’s as if they were 16 and sneaking a sip of their daddy’s forgotten beer.

Irish Cream Coffee Cupcakes

The delightful addition to these chocolate cupcakes is Irish Cream and coffee. The flavor of the Irish Cream is not strong (I will probably add more next time). I do plan on using a bit of coffee in all of my chocolate cake or cupcake baking in the future. The addition of the coffee, really accentuates the chocolate flavor. Next time you’re baking, add a quarter to half cup of coffee. I promise, it will be amazing.

I plan to tweak the recipe I followed to make these particular cupcakes just a little bit for personal preferences, but that’s not going to stop me from sharing the source. They are quite good. I followed the recipe posted here for Irish Cream & Coffee Cupcakes.  

Irish Cream Coffee Cupcakes

The one change I did make was with the frosting. I left the coffee out of the frosting. I don’t like a strong coffee flavor. Instead, I increased the amount of Irish Cream I used and added a little bit of milk. When using alcohol to create frosting, you will need to add more liquid that when using straight milk. I imagine it has something to do with the alcohol not moisturizing, but I have not done research on the topic. I just know I need to add more than 3-4 tablespoons to get the consistency I need to pipe frosting.

Irish Cream Coffee Cupcakes

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Will you be my…

Will you be my...

There are any number of ways to ask someone to join your bridal party. I wanted to set the tone for the wedding from the beginning. I toyed with loads of options before settling on how our wedding ultimately looked. I wanted to pull into the mix many of the things that were important to us and play into a large portion of our lives. We have many varied interests, I managed to narrow it down to sewing, video games, and reading. While I tried really hard to work in photography, I never found a way to get it in. There were also many ideas I didn’t manage to make happen. Nevertheless, the day turned out amazingly! If anything went wrong, I have no idea. I managed to surround myself with people who kept everything going without needing to consult with me.

Back to the topic at hand, bridal party invites. I hadn’t planned on making my own, but I just couldn’t find the perfect invite to use. I found many parts and pieces of invites that I liked (Etsy.com is an amazing source), so I decided to cobble them together and create my own.

I started out wanting to copy a few ideas I had found, but no one had quite the right supplies. I had about given up, when inspiration struck. I was in the midst of making my wedding dress. Why not use wooden spools (sewing) as the base? I could then wrap the message around the middle like a secret message.

Supplies:

  • wooden spool
  • book pages
  • washi tape
  • paint
  • card stock
  • silhouette
  • baker’s twine

Steps:

First, paint your spools in your desired color. I used a wine color.

Will you be my...

Second, while the paint is drying, cut strips from the book pages that are just wide enough to fit on the flat part of the spool. I had to glue a couple strips together to make them long enough.

Will you be my...

Third,  using your silhouette, create a design to print your “Will you be my bridesmaid/maid of honor/bridesman?” strips. Using the pen option, trace the design onto your card stock. Alternatively, you can also hand write your message or print them on a printer. Cut out the strips.

Will you be my...

Fourth,  carefully glue the card stock onto the book page stripes. Give them a minute to dry.

Will you be my...

Fifth, using washi tape, cover the outside end of the paper strips and punch a hole into the middle. This will give you a place to secure your string to keep the paper wrapped tightly. Tie a length of baker’s twine through the hole.

Will you be my...

Sixth, using another piece of washi tape, attach the beginning end of your paper strips to the middle of the painted spools. You may need to use a little glue to keep the tape secure.

Will you be my...

Seventh, wrap the paper around the spool. Use the baker’s twine to secure it in place.

They are ready to be sent or hand delivered. I shipped mine out in a padded envelope since most of my bridal party lived a considerable distance away. If everyone lives close, this would be a great reason for a small party!

Will you be my...

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Birthday Baking

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

This year, I decided to try something new for my birthday treats. Yep, I still make birthday treats for myself. All my co-workers appreciate it. Then again, we are teachers and get birthday treats on a regular basis. Since those treats are store bought, I like to add a little homemade goodness to the mix.

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

I’ve seen stacked cupcakes featured on a few blogs and thought I would give them a try. Rather than try to bake something already round, I opted to bake the cake mixture as a flat sheet. I used a jelly roll pan that is 15 x 11 inches. By baking the cake in this manner, I ended up with a 1 inch thick cake. I then used a 2 in circle cutter to cut out my circles (I think next time, I’ll use a sharper edged cutter as the edges were a little rough).

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

I used a basic buttercream frosting. To make it interesting, I used variegated shades of pink, starting with white. After completing a layer of filling, I added a little more food coloring paste to darken the pink. (I’ll have to do this again as I didn’t take photos of each step.)

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

They turned out amazingly! The cake was fudgey. By using thin layers of frosting, I managed to avoid them being overly sweet.

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

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India Fabric Top

Nearly everyone who sews has a stash of fabric. Some are larger than others. Some have collections dating back decades. Some maybe only a few weeks (Yep, I think that counts!) Some, if they are lucky, have a stash that came from various locations and come with a bit of a story.

Pink India-3909

The white-flowered overlay on this top came from my stash. It comes with a bit of a story of which I only know a small part. This fabric was bought for me by my sister. She spent a short time in India on a missions trip. While on this trip, she managed to remember me and found this fabric. I was so excited to have her home and that she brought me something, that I never thought to ask about where she bought it. Did she barter for it? Was it in an open market? Was there a huge fabric store? It’s been a dozen years or so now, I doubt she even remembers the particular details. I do hope she remembers the fabric when she sees me wearing the top.

Pink India

I used Simplicity 2587. (This pattern is currently out of print, but I saw a couple on Etsy.)  This isn’t my first time using this pattern. It’s quickly becoming a go to summer top pattern. It is an unlined top, so with the right fabric choice, it is nice and cool. The one major adjustment I’ve made is in the placement of the bodice front. I only gather a little in the front and allow the front triangles to overlap rather than rest side-by-side. This adds a little more coverage.

To add the overlay, I treated the solid pink like an underlining. An underlining is a second layer of fabric that is attached to the outside fabric, then they are sewn as if there were only one layer. The only place this created an issue was the midriff band where there ended up being 6 layers of fabric.

Pink India

 

I have already worn this top several times. I am hoping with washing and wearing, the fabric relaxes a bit. It feels a little stiff sometimes.

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