Being it’s so close to Halloween (and Friday the 13th as I bake), I should have taken it as an omen when I ran into a woman who told me, “I read your column all the time, but I don’t try a lot of the recipes because they’re too complicated.”
I told her I love baking weird things, like Pop Bottle Cakes or Lumberjack Cake. I mentioned that for Halloween I was inventing David S. Pumpkins cupcakes named for the super weird Saturday Night Live character played by Tom Hanks. His first appearance – alongside two equally-weird dancing skeletons – last Halloween on SNL was so popular that David S. Pumpkins costumes started selling out at online retailers. Producers invited Hanks back for another guest appearance in 2017.
I bought all the goods to make what I thought would be some super cool cupcakes.
I chose to use a recipe I saw from Cookies and Cups for the Skeleton Cupcakes. They were so cute and utilized things like white chocolate-covered pretzels and marshmallows. They looked easy enough. For the David S. Pumpkins Cupcakes I decided to create my own recipe using black, orange and pumpkin-shaped sprinkles, marshmallows and black licorice. I was ready for magic. But you know what they say about the best laid plans. It was a colossal failure, embarrassingly so.
I decided to start with the skeleton cupcakes because the recipe was very clear and didn’t require me to think much. All I had to do was follow the directions, right? Well, yes, sort of.
I followed directions, but no matter what I did, the little pretzel ‘ribs’ wouldn’t stay in place. Instead, I was left with a bunch of broken pretzel ribs that both my dog and I ate because we hate to see good pretzels go to waste. (You’re welcome America.)
The skeletons were a mess. I even had trouble drawing his face onto the marshmallow. My skeletons looked more constipated than scary.
I decided to give David S. Pumpkins a try. This would be my creation. I just needed to frost a cupcake and cover it with orange and black sprinkles. I was lucky enough to find orange pumpkin candies. All the better! That would make up Pumpkin’s suit while a strand of black licorice would be his tie. I would use black icing to make his curly hair (and a dash of coconut flakes to make the white streak in his hair). With a black baking marker, I’d create his sly grin on the marshmallows. This was the result. Nailed it.
Okay, maybe not. This is a sad looking lot. To top it all off, Tom Hanks’ marshmallow head kept falling off the cake pop stick and when I picked it up and try to shove it back on, his grin started to smear.
My deepest apologies to you Mr. Hanks. I’ve loved you since “Bosom Buddies” and you deserve better than this. It was time to throw in the towel.
After my major baking fail, I started to wash my hands (now stained with the black icing that was supposed to be cupcake hair). I remembered what that woman said about my complicated recipes. While I think it’s fun to tackle the big, unusual cakes and cookies, sometimes what people need are simple recipes – especially now at Halloween when schedules are packed full with tricking or treating, haunted houses and pumpkin carving activities.
Imagine my excitement when I found these adorable, easy Shortbread Pecan Ghost Cookies. Use your imagination and picture the ghosts holding other things like gummy bears or candy kisses. They’re about a million times easier than my attempt at David S. Pumpkins cupcakes and sometimes when life gets busy we don’t need to create more work for ourselves.
Shortbread Pecan Ghost Cookies
Serves: 24 cookies
24 raw pecan halves
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Beat butter and sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy. In a medium size bowl, whisk together flour and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture. Increase speed and mix until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. Divide dough into two disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat; set aside. Unwrap one disk of dough and roll out on floured surface. Dough should be about ¼ to 1/2-inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch ghost cookie cutter, cut out dough and place ghosts on prepared baking sheets.Place one pecan half in the middle of the cookie and gently fold arms up over the pecan half. Repeat with remaining dough and pecan halves. Using the flat end of a bamboo skewer, press two eyes into each cookie.
Bake cookies for 18 to 20 minutes or until they are set and very lightly golden at the edges. Allow cookies to cool completely before serving.
Recipe courtesy of the American Pecan Council