Ready to frighten Halloween revelers on Wednesday, October 31? Then whip up these spooky brain cupcakes from L.A. eatery Little Dom’s. The Italian restaurant, which is a favorite with celebs (Jon Hamm even has his own booth) has been serving these creepy treats for the past few weeks, and they’re surprisingly easy to recreate at home.
Featuring a vanilla bean cupcake base with dyed vanilla buttercream frosting that can vary in color depending on how disturbing you want the brain to look, these cupcakes also come complete with raspberry jam “ blood”. The frosting, which can be made ahead of time, is light, full of flavor and not at all greasy, while the cupcakes themselves are moist and packed with flavor.
The desserts, which are made to look like brains with the help of a piping bag, are perfect for scaring party guests at your Halloween bash or frightening trick-or-treaters. Check out the recipe below and prepare to be spooked!
Little Dom’s Spooky Brain Cupcakes
Makes 12 servings
For the cupcakes:
• 1 vanilla bean
• 5.25 oz sugar (3/4 cup)
• 3 oz butter (3/4 stick)
• 1 large egg
• 1 tbsp vanilla extract
• 6.25 oz all-purpose flour, sifted (1 1/4 cup)
• 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
• 1/8 tsp salt
• 5 oz whole milk (1/4 cup + 2 tbsps)
• 1/2 cup raspberry jam, optional
For the vanilla buttercream:
• 4 oz egg whites
• 7 oz sugar (1 cup)
• 1 pound butter, cubed
• 1 tbsp vanilla extract
• A few drops of food dye – black for a spooky dead gray brain or red for a pink alive brain
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Split and scrape vanilla bean. Add pulp to sugar and set aside. (Keep vanilla bean pod for another use.)
- Add butter to mixer bowl and fit with paddle attachment. Paddle on medium speed until creamy. Add in sugar and vanilla bean pulp and continue to cream until light and fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla extract, beat on low until combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine sifted all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. On low speed, add dry ingredients into butter mixture alternating with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients: dry/milk/dry/milk/dry. Mix until just combined, smooth out by hand with a few stirs of a spatula.
- Spoon cupcake batter into paper-lined cupcake tins, filling 2/3 full. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed in the middle.
- Remove from oven and cool.
- If you want your brain to bleed, poke a deep hole in the top center of the cupcake with a piping tip. Fill the hole with raspberry jam making sure it’s flush with the top or just under.
- To make the frosting, leave butter out at room temperature to soften slightly. It should still feel cool to the touch and hold its shape.
- Place a small pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. In bowl of stand mixer, combine egg whites and sugar. Place mixer bowl over pot of water being careful that bottom of bowl does not touch the water. Whisk constantly until mixture reaches 120 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, use a very clean finger to test. Mixture is ready when it’s hotter than hot tub temperature (105 degrees).
- Remove from heat and attach bowl to mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed for a minute or so and then turn to high speed and mix for six minutes. Egg white mixture should be opaque white, shiny and fluffy.
- On medium-high speed, add butter cubes one or two at a time. If the butter is still on the cold side, squish the cubes between your fingers before adding it in. Don’t worry if it looks broken at some point, it will come together when all the butter has been added. Add in vanilla extract and beat until combined.
- Add a few drops of food dye and beat on low to combine. Continue until you reach your desired color.
- To frost, fit a piping bag with a #4 plain tip. Fill piping bag half full with dyed vanilla buttercream. Pipe half of the top of the cupcake with long S – like switchbacks or abstract squiggles. Next, pipe the mirror image on the other half and there’s your brain cupcake.
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