Zombies have an appetite for brains – and it turns out that I do, too, at least if you’re talking about these Bloody Brain Cupcakes! They’re the perfect dessert for a spooky Halloween party or just for feeding fans of the Walking Dead. They’re pink cupcakes decorated with pink frosting “brains” and filled with just the right amount of oozy filling to make these truly creepy, as well as surprisingly delicious.
The cupcakes are a simple vanilla cupcake that I dyed with a little bit of pink food coloring. The brain is actually rather gray, not pink, but gray is a very unappealing color for cupcakes and going with a more cartoonish pink gives you a much more visually appealing result. I like to add coloring to the frosting after the cupcakes have baked so that I can try to get the color to match that of the cake. I used a vanilla cream cheese frosting for this batch, but any white frosting will work well with the dye.
The brain frosting design is nice on its own, but I wanted my cupcakes to have a little something extra. I love making filled cupcakes for Halloween, like my famous Vampire Cupcakes (video here) and my Slime-Filled Cupcakes from the Black Lagoon, so adding a filling to these cupcakes was an easy decision. I wanted to keep the filling as easy as possible, so I actually filled them with homemade cranberry sauce (storebought is fine, too), which has a bright, tart flavor and a slightly chunky texture that made a fitting filling. In my vampire cupcakes, I typically use a cherry filling and that is a good option, too.
To pipe the brains, fill a piping bag (or a ziploc bag with the corner cut off) with your frosting and pipe a circle around the outer edge of the cupcake. Pipe a straight line through the center of the circle. Now, fill in the halves of the circle with large squiggles and – voila – you have brains! They may not be anatomically correct, but this method is quick, easy and still makes brains that are instantly recognizable.
You’ll get a lot of compliments about these – and probably a few surprised gasps if you don’t tell people that there will be a filling inside before they bite in! The cupcakes keep well when stored in an airtight container, but should be eaten within a day or two of filling them. I like to keep my cupcakes unfilled if I’m not going to use them right away, then store the in an airtight container and fill them the next day.
Bloody Brain Cupcakes
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 – 1/2 tsp pink food coloring
1 cup buttermilk
approx 3/4 cup cranberry sauce
Preheat oven to 350F. Place liners in a 12 cup muffin tin.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until mixture is fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract and pink food coloring (add gradually until desired color is reached) until mixture is smooth and the color is uniform.
Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until almost combined. Add buttermilk and stir, again, until almost combined. Add the rest of the flour and stir until all ingredients are mixed in.
Divide batter evenly into muffin cups.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean and the cupcake tops spring back when lightly pressed.
Turn cupcakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.
Makes 12 cupcakes
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 – 1/2 tsp pink food coloring
2 1/2 – 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
In a large bowl, beat together butter and cream cheese until well combined. Beat in milk, vanilla and pink food coloring, trying to match the color closely to the color of the cupcakes. Gradually blend in the confectioners’ sugar until frosting is thick and very smooth.
(A photo how-to of the assembly method can be found here.) Take a cooled cupcake and, using a small pairing knife, cut a cone of cake (1-inch across by 1-inch deep) out of the top. Trim off the pointy end of the cone, leaving a flat circle of cake. Set aside and repeat this process for all the cupcakes.
Put your /filling into a piping bag or a ziploc bag with a corner snipped off.
Squeeze a tablespoon or so of frosting into each cupcake cavity, filling the hole up to the top with filling. Top off with a flat circle of cake to plug the hole and keep the filling in place.
Repeat with remaining cupcakes.
Fill a piping bag or a ziploc bag with a corner snipped off with pink frosting.
To pipe the brains, pipe a circle around the outer edge of the cupcake. Pipe a straight line through the center of the circle. Now, fill in the halves of the circle with large squiggles – be generous with the frosting for a “puffy” and rounded brain.