Showing posts with label chocolate cupcakes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chocolate cupcakes. Show all posts

Monday, October 29, 2012

Witches and Ghostly Wisps -- Oh My!

When I wrote The Diva Haunts the House, I immersed myself in all things spooky and ghostly. To that end, I visited a haunted sanatorium, St. Albans Psychiatric Hospital, in Radford, Virginia. My friend, Amy, who is always game for interesting adventures agreed to go with me.

My father worked in the radiology department at St. Albans when I was a child. I still have a vivid memory going there with him once. The front doors closed behind us and locked before the doors in front of us opened. That's a very eerie feeling. One that I didn't experience again until I visited someone in jail.

The hospital was abandoned some years ago. Originally built as a boys' school in 1892, it's a huge, sprawling building that sits high on a hill. From the other side of the river, it looks, or used to look, like an elegant mansion.

These days, it's downright spooky with broken windows and peeling paint. But remnants of former beauty remain -- the broad main staircase and huge moldings hint at better times for the building.

St. Albans has been the focus of a number of paranormal investigations, some of which you may have seen on television.  It even has its own Facebook page and Twitter page!  

This amazing video was taken at St. Albans by Grave Concerns Paranormal.  

Seven Hills Paranormal Society says St. Albans is the most active site they have investigated.  They specifically mention shadow people and unexplained noises.  Investigators from Seven Hills, as well as many other individuals, have reported that someone touched them when no one else was there.  Hearing voices and footsteps is not uncommon.  Assorted paranormal investigators have recorded eerie electronic voice phenomenon and have seen apparitions.

It's a little bit creepy to visit a haunted site to begin with and St. Albans certainly doesn't need any dressing up to make it scary. There are narrow stairways, and lock down wards, and plenty of stories about water that turns on and off, and people who felt someone touch them. Nurses are said to have spent their shifts sitting on the stairs at night, checking on patients only when necessary. It would be easy for someone unfamiliar with the building to get lost, which would be scary indeed.

The photo above was taken when the lights were turned off in the bowling alley. I thought for sure that if anything weird showed up in my photographs, it would be there. As you can see, there's nothing sinister.

So Amy and I drove home, sad to see the state of the old building. Neither of us heard anything odd, felt a cold entity, or were "touched" by a ghost. End of story, right?

A year later, I pulled out the photos that I took, looking for some to use. It was the first time I had viewed them full screen. Maybe we weren't as alone as we thought!
This is radiology. Do you see the wisp in the air at 11 o'clock?

This is the wisp enlarged. You can see that it is partly in front of the open cabinet door, so it's not a stain on the wall.

Fear not, the ghosts haven't made me forget a recipe! This frosting makes enough for witch cupcakes but if you are like my friend who thinks the cake is really only something to hold the frosting, then you might want to double the recipe.

Peanut Butter Surprise Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes
(makes 12 cupcakes)

1 cup flour
1/2 cup high quality unsweetened powdered chocolate like Pensey’s
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups minis

Combine flour, powdered chocolate, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and blend well with a small whisk or a fork.

Cream butter with sugar. Add each egg and beat well. Add the flour mixture in small amounts, alternating with the milk. Beat in the vanilla.

Divide between cupcake papers, filling each about 3/4 full. Insert a Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in the center of each cupcake and push down into the cupcake batter just a bit. Bake 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Peanut Butter Frosting

1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar

Allow butter to come to room temperature. Cream it with the peanut butter. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beat until desired consistency is reached.

Witch Cupcakes

These can be made with any cupcake. I added a little bit of turmeric to the frosting to give the witches a yellowish tint, but green would be very cute, too.

I have to say that these were fun to make and very easy. If you baked the cupcakes and made the frosting ahead of time, this would be a fun project for kids. I would just set bowls of the candies on the table and let them create. I bet they would come up with spectacular witches!

Tootsie Rolls
Green Mini M&Ms
Red Jolly Ranchers
Peel and Strip Twizzlers
Mini chocolate chips

Twist an Oreo cookie apart. Scrape off the white middle and save. Cut each cookie in half.

Roll out a Tootsie Roll. If it sticks to your cutting board, just slide a knife underneath it to loosen. Cut a triangle for the top of the hat.

Place one half of an oreo cookie about 1/3 of the way down as the brim of the hat. Place the hat above it. I bent them a little bit to add character.

Add two green mini M&Ms as eyes.

 Mold two small pieces of leftover Tootsie Roll as eyebrows. If you place them close together and slant them a little, they look menacing.

 Cut off a tiny bit of the Oreo middle and mold it into a cone for the nose.

 Cut a thin piece off a red Jolly Rancher and mold it into a frown. Add strands of Twizzler for hair, and of course, a mini chocolate chip wart.

 When I was all through, I was disappointed by my grouchy group of witches.

So I turned their frowns upside down and lifted their eyebrows. Much better! These are exactly the same cupcakes.

Witches not right for your little goblins? The instructions for my Vampire Cupcakes are over at Cozy Mystery Book Reviews.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Low Calorie Chocolate Cupcakes

I was thinking about what a shame it is that Valentine's Day comes along just when some of us are beginning to make progress with our New Year's diets.

Oh, sure.  We could eat one chocolate and not ruin our diets.  After all, we have to learn to eat in moderation.  But some of us would have trouble with the knowledge that there were chocolates in the house.

Fill them with some sort of mushy unidentifiable middle, and I can pass on them altogether, no problem.  But put caramel inside them, and I'll search for them in the attic in the middle of the night.  Did I say I?  I'm sure I meant some hypothetical person.  Not me.  Nooo, the dogs never wake me in the middle of the night to chase some inconsiderate skunk, leaving me half awake in the kitchen looking for a midnight snack.

So I started thinking about low calorie Valentine treats.  In The Diva Paints the Town, Sophie bakes a Black Forest Cherry Cake for Wolf for Valentine's Day.  The calorie count in the whipping cream alone in that cake would blow anyone's diet.

At the moment, I'm working on Domestic Diva Mystery number 7, tentatively titled The Diva Frosts a Cupcake.  You can imagine what it's about.  But the great thing about cupcakes is portion control.  So I started playing with ideas and here's what I came up with.

Cocoa powder has all the flavor but considerably fewer calories than chocolate chips or blocks of chocolate.  A touch of coffee always intensifies chocolate flavor for virtually no calories.  Add beaten egg whites for volume and suddenly low calorie cupcakes seem quite possible.

Now, these aren't going to replace your favorite cake.  But they're a tasty treat for (drum roll here, please) 136 calories a cupcake! Not too shabby!  They remind me a lot of brownies in flavor and texture.  In fact, they might be a nice treat in a lunchbox for a kid who needs to cut back on calories.

I might just stick some of these in the freezer.  You know, for the next time a skunk comes by.

Of course, if you're one of those people who has to have frosting, well, you're on your own there.  To dress these up, I cut a heart out of aluminum foil, placed the cut-out over the cupcakes, and dusted with powdered sugar.  It does add calories, but if you're making them as a treat for a sweetie who is watching his or her weight, those few extra calories might be worth it.  It's your call.  I popped some nice healthy raspberries on top of some, too. 

Low Calorie Chocolate Cupcakes

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Pensey's)
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1/2 cup sugar + 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons olive (or canola) oil
1/4 cup fat free (0%) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Place cupcake wrappers in baking pan.

Combine the cocoa powder, coffee, 1/2 cup sugar, and flour in a bowl. Stir with a fork to combine.

Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites.  When they grow in volume, add the sugar and beat until they can hold a peak. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks, and add the oil.  Alternating between the flour mixture and the milk, add them in small amounts, beating well, then add the vanilla and beat one last time.

Fold about 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate (to lighten the weight). Fold in the remaining egg whites.

Divide equally among 12 cupcake wrappers.

Bake 18 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  They will shrink a bit as they cool.

Cool on a rack.  Makes 12 cupcakes.

136 calories!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Epic Cupcake War!

Okay, so one of my dudes had a birthday a
few weeks ago, and I decided this was the
perfect time to make -- what else -- cupcakes!
Now the boy wanted the Tom and Jerry cupcake
decorations and a few of his buds are vegan,
so it seemed to me it was a perfect time to have
our own Epic Cupcake War!
Vegan vs. Non-Vegan
and may the best chocolate
-chocolate cupcake win!

Now because this is an EPIC battle of the cupcake, I'm going to divide it into two parts. So, this week representing the Non-Vegan Cupcake we have Jerry the mouse on this super chocolate-chocolate recipe!

Non-Vegan Chocolate Cupcake


1 ½ cups flour

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

2 eggs, room temperature

¾ cup milk

3 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup water, warm

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Add eggs, milk, oil, extract and water. Beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Scoop into paper lined cupcake pans and bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes 18.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:

1 cup softened butter
(I use one stick salted, one stick unsalted)
3 cups confectioners sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 tspn vanilla

3-4 tblspns milk

In a large bowl, cream butter and vanilla. Gradually add sugar and cocoa, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides of bowl often. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. For best results, keep icing in refrigerator when not in use.

Stay tuned as we bring on the Vegan Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcake next week!

Comment on either today's blog or next week's blog (or both) and be entered in the drawing to win some serious cupcake swag!

The winner will be announced the following Wednesday (the 29th)! To celebrate my departure to Texas to go on tour with the Fatal Four!!! Look out Lone Star State, here we come!!!

THE TOUR: Maggie Sefton, Wendy Lyn Watson, Hannah Reed and Jenn McKinlay

September 30 - 7:00 PM Barnes & Noble La Frontera Village Round Rock, TX

October 1 - 6:30 PM Murder by the Book Houston TX

October 2 - 2:00 PM Barnes & Noble The Shops at La Cantera San Antonio, TX

October 3 - 2:00 PM Barnes & Noble University Village Fort Worth, TX