HAMLET: Tongue the on trippingly speech the speak.
HAMLET: Nunnery a to thee get!
OPHELIA: Lord my good.
HAMLET: Be to not or be to.
(HAMLET slaps HORATIO backwards)
HAMLET: Horatio, earth and heaven things in more are there.
HORATIO: Strange is this, lord my.
— The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)
I have a fear of fondant. Not (as it turns out) for any particularly good reason. I just do. It's probably fear by association: the first time one of my friends from school tried, it was a disaster. His cake was beautiful, but inedible. Except maybe if you tried prying off the fondant.
But when I saw these ghosts from My Sweet and Saucy, I couldn't resist. So after a bit of hunting for a good cupcake recipe, the fondant epic ensued.
It was, I have to say, shockingly un-epic. I was expecting tears and blood, and maybe a dragon lurking in the cupboard. Onlookers waiting for the spectacle were sadly disappointed. A lot of kneading (read: sweat) required, but nothing else worth mentioning. And in the end, the cupcakes and frosting were delicious—and the fondant was even better. Shows how much I know.
Ghost Cupcakes (stolen and slightly modified from My Sweet and Saucy, Sing for Your Supper, and The Cake Bible)
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespsoon confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
1 tablespoon gelatin (10 grams)
3 tablespoons water (45 grams)
½ cup corn syrup (164 grams)
1 tablespoon glycerine (18 grams)
2 tablespoons solid white shortening (24 grams)
8 cups powdered sugar (920 grams)
Black edible ink or edible coloring
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Fit the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan with paper muffin cups, or butter them with flour and tap out the excess.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until it is blended into the butter. Add the egg, then the yolk, beating 1 minute after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the vanilla, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add half the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear. Scrape down the bowl and add the buttermilk, mixing until incorporated, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients. Scrape down the bowl, add the melted chocolate and mix it in with the rubber spatula. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin molds.
Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes are dry and springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into their centers comes out clean. Transfer the muffin pan to a rack and let the cakes cool for 5 minutes before unmolding. Cool to room temperature on the rack before glazing.
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of shimmering water. Transfer the bowl to the counter and let stand for 5 minutes.
Using a small whisk or rubber spatula, stir the confectioners’ sugar into the chocolate, followed by the pieces of cold butter. If the glaze is too thin to spread or use as a dip, stir it over ice water for a few seconds (less than a minute). With a small metal icing spatula, give each cupcake a crown of shiny ganache, and let the glaze set at room temperature (or in the fridge if you are in a hurry). If the ganache loses its gloss and you miss it, give the tops of the cakes a puff of hot air from a hairdryer right before serving.
Place several cups of water on the stove and bring to a moderate simmer.
Pour 3 tablespoons water into a heatproof measuring cup, and sprinkle gelatin on top. Allow mixture to sit for five minutes. Pour hot water into large pan, and place measuring cup in the water bath. Stir gelatin, until it melts and no clumps are visible.
Add corn syrup, glycerine, and shortening. Stir until everything is melted, as much as six or seven minutes. The hot water bath may need to be replaced (or reheated) if it becomes too cold.
Measure out powdered sugar into extra-large bowl. Pour syrup over sugar. Lightly grease a wooden spoon, and stir sugar and syrup thoroughly. When no more sugar can be incorporated with the spoon, lightly grease hands and knead fondant in bowl. Try to incorporate all the powdered sugar into a ball of fondant (this may take a while). Turn out fondant onto a smooth, clean surface. Knead several more times to form a smooth ball. If fondant is sticky, add a bit more powdered sugar. If you are unable to incorporate all the sugar, add a few drops of water.
Wrap ball tightly with plastic wrap, and place in airtight container. Let sit at least three hours before rolling out. (Fondant will keep a month at room temperature, or indefinitely in the freezer.)
Roll out 1/3 fondant about ¼ inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter, cut out 12 circles. Place each circle on top of a cotton ball (set the long way) and shape to look like a ghost. Make two eyes with edible marker or coloring. Let ghosts dry slightly, then place on top of cupcakes. Rewrap remaining fondant and keep for future use.
Makes 12 cupcakes