Of all the major holidays, Halloween is the one that'll really prompt you to get crafty in the kitchen. And when it comes to festive baked goods, few are less daunting to execute than the frequently pinned spider web cupcake. Thankfully, we have our friends at Food & Wine to thank for this easy-to-follow recipe that both kids and adults can freely enjoy. Bonus: These chocolate-frosted red velvet stunners (with tapioca filling!) can be refrigerated for up to three days, rendering them the ultimate make-ahead dessert. Scroll through the recipe below to get a jumpstart on next weekend's party.
Red Velvet Spider Web Cupcakes
Total Time: 2 hours
Serving size: 2 dozen cupcakes
For the cupcakes
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 tbsp unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (starting at $6; beanilla.com)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 oz liquid red food coloring (or 1 tsp gel coloring concentrate)
2 tsp distilled white vinegar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups canola oil
2 large eggs
Filling and frosting
1/4 cup small pearl tapioca, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes and drained
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup Marshmallow Fluff ($22/pack of 12; walmart.com)
1 cup heavy cream
10 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Spray the paper liners with vegetable spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the red food coloring, vinegar and vanilla. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the sugar with the oil and eggs at medium speed until combined. Beat in the buttermilk mixture until blended, then beat in the dry ingredients at low speed until smooth; scrape down the side and bottom of the bowl as necessary.
2. Pour the batter into the prepared cups, filling them two-thirds full. Bake in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for about 30 minutes, until the cupcakes are risen and a skewer inserted in the centers comes out clean; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pans, then turn them out onto a rack and let cool completely.
3. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the tapioca and boil, stirring, until softened but still slightly chewy, about 15 minutes. Drain the tapioca and cool it under running water; shake dry.
4. In a medium bowl, beat the butter with 1/2 cup of the confectioners' sugar until fluffy. Add the Marshmallow Fluff and beat until smooth. Fold in the drained tapioca. In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 1 cup of confectioners' sugar with a few teaspoons of water to make a white glaze that is loose enough to pipe.
5. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Let stand until melted, then whisk until smooth. Transfer the chocolate frosting to a shallow bowl.
6. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip with the tapioca filling. Poke the tip deep into the center of each cupcake and pipe in the tapioca filling; wipe off any filling that oozes out of the top. Dip the tops of the cupcakes in the chocolate frosting, then stand the cupcakes upright onto a baking sheet. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a fine tip with the white glaze. Pipe a fine spiral or concentric circles on the top of each cupcake, then drag the tip of a skewer or toothpick from the center outwards to form the spider web design. Let the frosting and glaze set before serving.