A couple of years ago, my stepdad back in Germany had a tutoring student who came to him once a week to be brought up to speed on math. My stepdad likes to read up on things and consequently knows quite a few bits and pieces of information on all sorts of things. Most of all, he is interested in history, and he kind of expects others to at least have the rudiments down that would make you a well-rounded individual.
He asked his student, who was then maybe 15, whether he knew what day it was – it happened to be October 31st – and he expected him to answer “Reformationstag” (reformation day), as it is the day when Luther nailed his proclamation to the church door. Instead, the boy thought for a moment, and then said, “Why, Halloween of course!” Needless to say, my stepfather is STILL talking about this years later…
Halloween is traditionally NOT a German holiday, even though Samhain, which Halloween as an event is based on, is known there as a pagan feast as well in certain circles. The tradition of dressing up in (scary) costumes is typically cultivated during Fastnacht (Mardi Gras), but I would imagine that at some point German retailers looked across the Great Pond and decided that if this worked so well in the US, why not do it in Germany also? And so now there are generations growing up with it when I, myself, did not. And just to have said it, “Trick or treat!” is totally lost in translation. But I digress.
I am not a great holiday person to begin with, but I will grab any chance I get to cook/bake for one. This year’s Halloween contribution is: kitty litter cupcakes. They were inspired by my friend Pete, a fabulous chef in his own right, who also gave me the tip how to go about making realistic-looking “litter”. I made them as a trial run at our bakery one time and they looked so real that people bought them just because of that – I did not even have the chance to say “red velvet”.
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Red velvet cake is one of those American specialties that has grown on me over the years. In fact, this one actually literally melts in your mouth and I have to more or less fight my family so they will not inhale it all at once.
320 g oil
½ tsp red food coloring (or more if you would like more color intensity; use gel color for better results)
16 g vinegar
240 g buttermilk
225 g sugar
20 g vanilla
300 g flour
20 g cocoa
5 g baking soda
2 g salt
Preheat the oven to 350 F (or 175 C). Combine the eggs, sugar, oil and vinegar, mix well. Sift the flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa together. Add to egg mixture alternately with the buttermilk and mix well after each addition (end with dry). As a last step, blend in the vanilla and food color. Bake for about 20 minutes or until done (toothpick comes out clean). I like to use plain white liners for these, it shows off the red velvet better.
Makes about 12 – 18 cupcakes.
Take about 1 cup Pine Nut cereal, ½ cup powdered sugar and about 1 tsp black food color and combine them in a plastic storage bag. Work the sugar and food color in with the cereal until you have realistic-looking “cat litter”. Adjust the amounts of sugar and food color as needed.
I just LOVE to be able to write that word in a recipe… For the “turds”, start with a tootsie roll and roll it in your hands until it becomes soft and pliable. Keep lengthening it, giving it an uneven appearance, just like a cat turd would look. To make them less shiny, rub on some cocoa.
Simple Cream Cheese Frosting (Base Recipe, Adjusted With Cocoa)
You can either use a classic cream cheese frosting with some cocoa mixed in as a topping for your cupcakes, or be all fancy and use a chocolate pastry cream to get the “litter” to adhere to your cupcake (which is what I used in the photograph; the cupcakes were cored, filled/topped with chocolate pastry cream, and then “littered”).
453 g butter at room temperature
453 g cream cheese at room temperature
225 g sifted powdered sugar (adjust as desired)
20 g sifted cocoa (adjust as desired)
In a mixer, whip up the butter with the whisk attachment. Add the cream cheese and mix well. Scoop in the powdered sugar and cocoa by the spoonful, mixing at high speed between additions. When all is added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix until the frosting looks light and fluffy. Let rest in the fridge for a little before using. This will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week.
Assembling Your Cupcakes
Spread cream cheese frosting on cupcake, then sprinkle some “cat litter” on top. Press down to get the “cat litter” to adhere to the frosting. Place one or more “turds” on top of the “litter”. If there is a danger of them sliding off, put a small amount of frosting in between as “glue”. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
Note: the longer the cupcakes sit, the greater the chance that the “litter” will absorb some moisture from the frosting. It’s no big deal, though.