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Zombie Brain Cupcakes

Elise Strachan:6 frighteningly fantastic Halloween dessertsZombie Brain Cupcakes. TODAY, October 27th 2016.
Elise Strachan:6 frighteningly fantastic Halloween desserts Zombie Brain Cupcakes. TODAY, October 27th 2016.Nathan R. Congleton / TODAY


Classic Vanilla Cake Batter
  • 9 ounces butter
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups (260g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (You'll need 1 1/2 batches)
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean, halved crosswise, split lengthwise
  • cups powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons whole milk
  • To Decorate the Cupcakes
  • Green food coloring
  • 2 cups strawberry sundae syrup
  • 1 large jar morello cherries
  • Green cupcake liners
  • Thin food-grade syringes (optional)
  • Chef notes

    Elise Strachan, the creator and host of the popular online baking show My Cupcake Addiction, shares her sweetest, spookiest recipes. These zombie brain cupcakes manage to be creepy, cute and delicious all at once. In other words, they're perfect for Halloween. 


    For the basic vanilla cupcake batter:

    In a stand mixer with the whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and eggs on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

    Using the tip of a sharp knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the mixer bowl. (Or add the vanilla extract, if using.) Add the oil to the creamed mixture and combine.

    In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture and milk to the creamed mixture and beat on high speed until the flour is completely mixed, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

    For the vanilla buttercream frosting:

    In a stand mixer with the whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed for at least 5 minutes, until the butter has lightened in color and is thoroughly whipped.

    Using the tip of a sharp knife, scrape the vanilla seeds into the butter (or add the vanilla extract) and beat to incorporate.

     Add 1 cup of the sugar and begin mixing on low speed to combine, then beat on high speed for about 2 minutes.

    Repeat this process 1 cup at a time until all the sugar has been added. Add milk a dash at a time if the mixture becomes too thick or dry. Scrape down the sides as needed and make sure so sugar is visible.

    The frosting will last for 1 month in the freezer, 2 weeks in the fridge and 3 days at room temperature.

    (Watch Elise make buttercream frosting on her website, My Cupcake Addiction.)

    For the zombie cupcakes:


    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 cups of 2 muffin tins with green cupcake liners.


    Make the cake batter and tint it green. Fill each muffin cup two-thirds full with batter. Bake until the center springs back when lightly touched, 20 to 22 minutes.


    Transfer to a wire rack to cool.


    Make the frosting and tint it green.


    Once the cupcakes are cooled, use a sharp knife to carve out a cone-shaped hole in the center of each cupcake, reserving the piece you cut out. Spoon in about 1 teaspoon of strawberry syrup, then fill with 2 or 3 cherries (whatever fits) and fill to the rim with syrup. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, as the cupcake will absorb some of the syrup, and then add more (skip this step if you are using the syringes; see step 8). Trim off the pointed bottom of the reserved core pieces and use the top as a lid, placing them back on top of the cupcake centers.


    Scoop 1 tablespoon of frosting on top of each cupcake and use the back of the knife to create a smooth dome. Place the rest of the frosting into a zip-seal bag and cut off a small corner. Pipe two long center lines down the middle of the cupcake (this is the center of the brain where the two lobes meet) and then on either side, pipe two rows of curvy lines to resemble brain matter.


    Using a teaspoon, allow small droplets of strawberry syrup to drop onto the tops of the zombie brains to resemble blood.


    If using syringes, suck up some of the remaining strawberry syrup into the syringes and stab them into the tops of the cupcakes.


    Encourage your guests to inject their "zombie brains" with strawberry "blood" just before eating.