In the distance, an owl cooed. This was the moment when Tabitha realized she had stumbled straight into a fairy tale. The dirt road that led from her house to the bus stop had suddenly misted over with cool fog. She could swear that the branches of the towering oaks on either side of the street bowed down as passed them, like knights to a queen. Or maybe that was just the wind. Surely that was just the wind.
She shivered and pulled the red cape further over her shoulders and smiled slightly. A red cape and a basket on her arm. Yes, she had surely found herself in a tale of some kind.
Admittedly, last year’s Halloween Stories were much spookier (Vampires! Mummies! Zombies!) I much prefer these types of stories though. Especially since I’ve moved to Maine and walking down a cool, foggy street under the glow of street lights, fog horns blowing in the distance, is pretty much a daily occurrence. And yes, sometimes living here is exactly as romantic as it sounds. Remind me that I said that when I’m buried under a mound of New England snow in February please.
When it comes to Halloween-inspired treats, these owl cupcakes might be my most favorite ever. Not just because owls, for some reason, always remind me of my friend Liz, one of my most favorite people on the planet, or because of their overwhelming WANTS TO PINCH THEM cuteness. But because they’re so clever and yet so easy. You could simplify this with ease by using a box mix and a can of frosting. One trip to the supermart and you’re good to go. WHO’S THE MOST CLEVER? WHO?
Cookies ‘n Cream Owl Cupcakes
Source: 6bittersweets.com | Makes 15-17 cupcakes | Print Recipe
Cookies N’ Cream Cupcakes (Recipe below)
Chocolate Ganache Frosting (Recipe below)
30-34 Chocolate, cream-filled cookies (like Oreos or Newman’s Own)
30-34 Chocolate-covered mints (like Junior Mints)
15-17 Candy-coated chocolates (M&Ms)
For Cookies N’ Cream Cupcakes
1 Cup of soy or regular milk
1 Teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
3/4 Cup of granulated sugar
1/3 Cup of canola oil
1 Teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 Teaspoon of almond extract, or more vanilla extract
1 Cup of all-purpose flour
1/3 Cup of cocoa powder, Dutch-processed (or regular cocoa powder)
3/4 Teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 Teaspoon of salt
1 Cup of chopped chocolate, cream-filled cookies (about 8-10 cookies)
For Chocolate Ganache Frosting
1/2 Cup of heavy cream
5 Ounces of semisweet chocolate, finely chopped [or use a combination of semisweet and bittersweet]
1-2 TBsps of corn syrup
To make the cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line two (2) muffin pans with baking liners.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and vinegar, then set aside for a few minutes to curdle.
3. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and almond extract, if using, to the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy.
4. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
5. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are OK; don’t overbeat). Gently fold in chopped cookies.
6. Fill liners 3/4 full with batter.
7. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
To make the ganache frosting:
8. Combine the chocolate and cream in a medium, microwave-safe bowl. Try to submerge the chocolate as much as possible, but it’s okay to have some above the cream.
9. Microwave the mixture on medium for 1 minute. Stir and heat again in 15-second increments, stirring thoroughly each time, until fully melted.
10. Stir in corn syrup.
11. Let this cool and thicken (in the fridge if needed) before using. If it cools too much, reheat in the microwave at 5-second intervals until it softens to the consistency you want.
[No microwave? Use a double-boiler.]
To make the owls:
12. Split the sandwich cookies in half crosswise, keeping the cream side whole.
Tips for splitting the cookies:
– Microwaving 5 cookies at a time for 3-5 seconds will help to keep the cream side solid but all microwaves are different, so test a batch first for best time.
– A frosting spatula will split the cookies most cleanly
13. Use the dull side of a paring knife to remove any excess crumbs from cream filling and to smooth the sides of filling that has shifted during splitting.
14. Collect the remaining sides of the cookies without cream to use for the ears. Make 2 parallel cuts with a serrated knife in these cookies 1/2 inch from each rounded side, discarding the 1/2 inch strip that remains from the center of the cookie.
15. Pair up the cream-sided cookie halves so that those with similar amounts of cream are together. Gently push Junior Mints into the cream of each, but don’t push too hard or you’ll squish the candy! Play around with different positions to give each “owl” its distinct expression.
16. Use a small spoon or spatula to smooth the chocolate ganache frosting onto the tops of the cooled cupcakes. Place the cream sided cookies, cream side up, on the middle of the cupcakes and make sure that the eyes are oriented the way you want. Push gently to make sure they’ve adhered to the frosting.
17. To make the ears, attach the cut, cream-less cookies to the cupcakes above the “eyes”, textured side facing up and round edges inward. These should hang over the edge of the cupcakes, but be sure to press them into the frosting where possible to make sure they adhere well.
18. Lastly, press M&M candies [standing them up on their sides] between and slightly below the cookie “eyes” as beaks.
19. Coo to owl cookies when no one is looking.