Elanor Harris’s Cauldron Cupcakes

Once upon a time there was an old witch who lived in the woods and loved to bake…

Well, that’s not true. The story of my cupcakes is, unfortunately, not a spooky fairy tale. It is merely the story of a girl who loves both Halloween and baking and wanted to honor those two loves with the cupcakes she created. I chose the specific cauldron design of my cupcakes by looking at the myriad of year-round Halloween decorations in my home and picking something that I thought would be fun to replicate.

The decision to make themed cupcakes caused me to approach baking in a different way than I typically would. Normally when I bake something, I choose by picking a specific flavor or ingredient I want to use, and then worry about what it looks like later, if I bother worrying about it at all. But with these cupcakes, I did it the opposite way. I knew I needed a dark base for the cauldron and some fluffy green frosting to replicate some sort of frothy potion.

For the cake I used my family’s favorite chocolate cake recipe because I knew I could trust that it would be the right color and most importantly, delicious. For the frosting, I chose to make it pistachio because I knew it would be the perfect color. The specific recipe I used was chose for 2 reasons: 1) Whipped cream and pudding frosting would be stable while also having a perfectly fluffy texture to evoke cauldron bubbles and 2) I don’t really like buttercream (I realize I am a cupcake heathen. The ring of black cocoa frosting was a last-minute decision because I wanted a more pronounced rim on my cauldron, and I happened to have black cocoa on hand. It made a perfect black frosting and provided a nice bitter contrast to the lighter pistachio frosting. It also tasted like Oreos, which was neat.

Decorating was my favorite part, although it was also probably the most challenging. I’m not a natural born froster, and historically whenever I’m in the position where I have to frost cakes or cookies I typically enlist someone else to do it for me. But for these cupcakes, I faced my fears and did it myself, and I’m pretty proud of what I did. It’s no masterpiece, but it works and doesn’t look like it was done by a blind person, despite me improvising my frosting technique. Mixing up a batch of modelling chocolate and making the little bones and eyeballs was also delightful and reminded me of playing Play-Doh.

I think that really encompasses what I loved about creating these cupcakes: it gave me a chance to be playful and creative. This year has been difficult for me (and for pretty much everyone), but making these cupcakes felt like a break and provided a welcome distraction from, you know, the world. It was the most fun I’ve had in a while and I’m so happy to share my little creations.

—By Elanor Harris