Recipe: Helene’s “dirt” cupcakes

My friend Helene is incredibly talented and wonderfully creative – plus she makes amazing cream puffs!  Here is her latest baking creation – “dirt” cupcakes.  Helene’s beautiful “dirt” cupcakes are chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing, cookie crumbs for the dirt and fondant critters. Looks super nommy and almost too cute to eat!  Adorable toadstools, snails…hee hee 🙂  Next up for Helene – playing with marzipan and working on “pecan insects”.  Can’t wait to see how cute those are!

"Dirt" cupcakes

Here’s Helene’s recipe for her “dirt” cupcakes and the tiny critters, along with her words of wisdom:

– 50g dutch cocoa powder

– 250 ml boiling water

– 175g flour (I used all purpose)

– 2tsp baking powder

– 0.5tsp salt

– 200g sugar

– 115g unsalted butter (soft)

– 2tsp vanilla extract

– chocolate cookie crumbs (about 1 cup … I guesstimated it)

– 2 or 3 beige coloured wafer cookies

– some fondant (hard to say how much … I bought a block but really it was way too much) … either store bought or homemade

– gel food colouring (or liquid food colouring but  it may be a bit more difficult to get vivid colours)

First you put the cocoa powder in the boiling water and you let it sit until it is about room temperature. While this is happening, you sift together the baking powder, flour and salt.

In another bowl, mix the butter, eggs and sugar until they are all fluffy.

Then you put everything together and mix until it’s uniform.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 – 20 minutes. It really depends on the size of cupcakes … just keep testing with toothpicks … and since they’ll be covered nobody will see the poked holes. If the toothpick comes out clean, it’s done.

While the cupcakes are cooling, either make whatever buttercream frosting that you want or be cheap like me and use store bought :P. Also crush a few wafer cookies and mix it with the chocolate cookie crumb to make the “dirt” with little white and grey specks in it.

This is also when you can start making the critters. The gel food colouring really works better with fondant because it doesn’t dilute it as much and you only need to add a little to get bright colours. One thing that I need to stress: either wear gloves or use a plastic baggie to mix the fondant and the colour. Once the colour is mixed it won’t stain your hand but at first it will … and unless you want to look like you murdered Rainbow Brite, best to use plastic or vinyl gloves.

For the critters really, there is no method … I just tried a few things until I was happy with what I got. Fondant starts out soft but will air dry fairly quickly so make sure to keep the unused portions wrapped in plastic.

With everything set and cooled, just ice the cupcakes (no need to be neat about it) and roll the top of them in the “dirt”. When you are ready to serve them, put the critters on top. This can be done in advance but if you stick some of the critters inside the cupcake (like some of the earthworms on the picture) they may eventually grow soft because of the moisture in the icing so best to do it at the last minute if possible.

A tip: when working with fondant, powdered sugar can help make it not stick to your fingers or tools that you use to shape it. Once you are done making the critters, you can gently brush them with a paintbrush or similar tool dipped in a tiny tiny bit of water. This will remove the sugar and give your critters a nice shine … but if you add too much then it may start to make the critters soft so just a little bit is needed.

Water can also be used to make two pieces stick together. Professionals will tell you that this is wrong and that there is some specific product for that but what do they know? It worked for my mushrooms and snails … they didn’t come apart.

Thanks Helene for the fantastic recipe – you rock!

 

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