Sunday, September 27, 2020

Haunting Halloween Cupcakes by guest Ellen Byron + Giveaway


Today we're delighted to welcome back Ellen Byron as our Sunday guest. She's been busy with more books and more recipes. Although this will put you in a Halloween frame of mind because as we all know, it's never too early to tenjoy this tasty and tempting treat.

Usually when I share a recipe here at Mystery Lovers Kitchen, it’s from my most recent book release. But not this time.


MURDER IN THE BAYOU BONEYARD revolves around Halloween. Writing it brought back memories of the cupcakes I made for a variety of bake sales and Halloween parties during my daughter’s elementary and middle school years. I came up with this recipe when Eliza was little and sneaking veggies into desserts was all the rage among us helicopter parents. Eliza and I had a great time watching kids wolf down the cupcakes and then seeing them gasp when we sprung the secret ingredient on them. (And a recipe with a secret ingredient seems very appropriate for a mystery blog!)


Unfortunately, Peeps aren’t available this Halloween for the first time since 1958 due to Covid. I’ve included a photo from a past cupcake in addition to what I decorated for this post.







1 box white cake mix

1 cup pureed cauliflower (*)

¼ cup water

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 large egg whites

6 oz. nonfat vanilla yogurt (I like Trader Joe’s French Vanilla because it doesn’t have fake sweeteners in it)



See below.



Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies

Toothpicks and Peeps ghosts (if they’re available)

Candy pumpkins


Green food coloring (you can substitute green sprinkles for the coconut and green food coloring)

Stick pretzels (optional)

Cupcake holders



Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Mix on slow speed for 30 seconds to blend; then mix on a medium speed for at least two minutes until the ingredients are smooth.  Feel free to blend longer if you need to.

Fill cupcake holders 2/3rd full. Bake cupcakes according to instructions on the box.  (BTW, ignore the ingredient list on the cake box!  These ingredients are a substitute for those).

(*) NOTE:  To make the cauliflower puree, cut up a head of cauliflower and steam it until it’s tender.  Then puree it in a blender or Cuisinart until it has a smooth consistency (it may not be totally smooth but get it as close as you can). You can also buy riced cauliflower and puree it, which is what I did for this blog post.

Makes 20-24 cupcakes.





I’m not a fan of canned frosting but if it makes your life easier, go for it. If you want to make your own chocolate frosting, here’s a recipe inspired by one in The Cake Doctor, by Ann Byrn. 

(Note: I make chocolate frosting because I feel like it adds a night-time touch. You can also make vanilla frosting, dye it green, and skip the colored coconut.)



8 T. butter at room temperature

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/3 cup milk (plus additional, if needed to thin the frosting)

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

¼ tsp. salt



Blend the butter and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl until the mixture is soft and well-combined. (If you have an electric mixer, run it on low speed.) Stop the machine and add 1 cup powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt to the bowl. Run on low speed to incorporate. Repeat to add the rest of the sugar, adding a little milk if the frosting is too thick or a little confectioner’s sugar if it’s too thin.

 Makes approx.. 3 cups of frosting.




Frost the cupcakes.

Use green food dye to color coconut and sprinkle it on top of the cupcake so that it resembles grass. (If you don’t like coconut, look for green sprinkles.)

Fill a cake decorating bag pre-set with the smallest tip with about ¼ cup frosting. If you don’t have a cake decorating set, put the frosting into small plastic lunch bag and snip a small corner from the bag.  Use the frosting to write “R.I.P.” on a Pepperidge farm Milano cookie, then stick the cookie into the cupcake.

Add a candy pumpkin in front of the “tombstone.” If you want to add a broken “fence” to your decoration, use some of the frosting as “glue” to form the fence from three pretzel sticks. Place in freezer for a few minutes to harden the frosting “glue.”

Sadly, Peeps ghosts aren’t available this year, but if they are, insert a toothpick halfway into a Peeps ghost, then insert the exposed end of the toothpick into the cupcake.





Halloween is going to be quite different this year. But if you’re bringing these to a socially-distanced party or bake sale, I used the large plastic cups you get at a store like Smart and Final, flipping the cup over so that the lid served as a base.

Makes 20-22 cupcakes.


If you'd like to be in the draw for a signed copy of Murder in the Bayou Boneyard, tell me what's your favorite Halloween treat? I'll make the draw on Tuesday evening. Be sure to leave your email.


Ellen Byron/Maria DiRico





Cajun Country Mysteries

Agatha Award-winning series

USA Today Bestselling Series

Winner of Best Humorous Lefty Awards

The Catering Hall Mysteries (as Maria DiRico)

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  1. I love candy corn, caramels, and my co-workers cutout cookies she makes every year. And these cupcakes look very yummy too- I can't believe there's cauliflower in there!

  2. I love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. These cupcakes are so cute. ckmbeg (at) gmail (com)

  3. Love this, Ellen! (And I'm never going to look at Milano cookies the same way again, lol.)

  4. Candy corn - about a handful and then I realize it's not really my favorite anymore and head for the peanut butter cups.

    1. I feel the same way about candy corn. I love it for a minute and then I'm like, I just ate a spoonful of sugar.

  5. Trying to figure out Halloween this year.
    Usually several of the kids and moms in our neighborhood go around the block as a group. The kids clump together, except when they are running to be the first to the next door.
    Social distancing? Nope.
    And who is handing out the goodies they are getting? Typhoid Mary, perhaps?
    I'm tempted to wear a Commedia del Arte mask like the plague doctor!
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

    1. That would be a great costume! But I feel for all the kids and parents this year.

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  7. My favorite Halloween treat is......Mallow Cups! And those cupcakes are so cute and creative! The book sounds like a great read! Thanks for the chance to win! ladyofshalott03(at)yahoo(dot)com

    1. I used to LOVE those! They're hard to come by now.

  8. Congratulations to all the winners! And thanks for more book recommendations and a recipe!

  9. Chocolate. Especially Hersheys milk chocolate small bars. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  10. Kit Kat. Soothing and yummy. The cupcakes are delightful. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  11. Cute cupcakes! Caramel apples is a favorite.

    jtcgc at yahoo dot com

  12. Oh my goodness, these are wonderful. Thank you for the recipe. I suppose my favorite fall food is carmal apples and pumpkin bars and pie and apples quilting lady 2 at comcast dot net

  13. Your cupcakes are so cute! I never would've guessed using cauliflower-- how devilishly clever, Ellen! My Halloween faves are mostly chocolate, like anything Reese's, and M&M's with any kind of nut. Oh, and of course Twizzlers. lola777_22 at hotmail dot com

  14. Love this series! My favorite Halloween treats are Reese's peanut butter cups and Mounds bars.

  15. Candy corn. It is such a weird little treat that you would never think of eating at any other time of the year. Delicious

  16. Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins are my favorite Halloween candy.
    3labsmom at gmail dot com

  17. When I was a trick-or-treater my favorite was Tom’s peanut butter logs. I don’t know if they’re still available.

  18. Favorite Halloween treat: Milk Way Midnights, Hershey bars or Snickers. I like most chocolate things. dbahn(at)iw(dot)net

  19. My favorite or should I say favorites, candy corn, peanut butter cups & dirt cups. No need for ghost peeps for the dirt cups because dollops of Cool Whip makes a great substitute for a ghost. Also, can dress up the dirt cups using mini peanut butter cups with frosted eyes, pumpkin candy, etc. Thank you for the chance! Buzymom2008(at)wowway(dot)com

    1. What a great idea! Ideas, really. Hope you make them!

  20. Reeses peanut butter pumpkins!

  21. My favorite Halloween treat bid popcorn balls.
    Kitten143 (at) Verizon (dot) net

  22. Love caramels.

  23. Candy corn! Book looks good! shirweed1957@

  24. I love carmel apples!