Aren’t these just the cutest cupcakes? And they are so simple to make. That’s my kind of cooking – maximum impact for minimum effort. I made these last week for R’s last day at kindy. When I offered to make him a cake for his last day, I was imagining a much less extravagant offering. I had in mind an easy chocolate cake, some frosting and perhaps a few sprinkles. That’s it. I should have known R would come out with “Oh yes cake! A spiderman cake? Spiderman cupcakes!” His reaction when he saw the finished product was priceless – well worth the effort of icing 768 individual strands of webbing (32 cupcakes x 24 strands of webbing! Not that I was counting or anything…..)
Naturally my immediate reaction after hearing a plea for Spiderman Cupcakes was to scour Pinterest for ideas. For the first time, Pinterest didn’t have all the answers! There were lots of pics for extravagant multi-tiered birthday cakes but I just needed something simple. I found this pic on flickr from the amazingly talented Liana at Star Bakery in the UK. Since it was simply a flickr photo, there was no tutorial, no recipes, nothing. I would have to improvise.
I made chocolate cupcakes because, well, they’re my favourite, and I also thought the chocolate colour would look great against the red icing. I haven’t included a cake recipe on this post because basically you can just use any of your favourite go-to cake recipes. Anything will work. There are really only two things you need to remember when making cupcakes. The first is that you should only fill the patty cases to about 2/3 full, or you will end up with conjoined muffins, not sweet self contained cupcakes. The second thing to remember is that if you are using a regular cake recipe, then adjust the cooking time. A whole cake may take 40 to 45 minutes to bake, but cupcakes will generally only take 12 to 15 minutes to bake. They’re ready when a skewer pierced through the centre of a cupcake comes out clean.
Now the fun part! Decorating these lovelies!
YOU WILL NEED:
2 cups Pure icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
3 tablespoons water
Red food colouring
Black writing gel (I used this one from Queen. I needed 3 tubes for 32 cupcakes)
White marshmallows (You will need 1 marshmallow for every 3 cupcakes. I used 11 marshmallows for 32 cupcakes)
A note on using red food colouring – a true red hue is notoriously difficult to obtain. Often, your mix wil appear pink or worse, salmon coloured, a lesson I learned the hard way when I made an Elmo cake for R’s first birthday. I used almost two bottles of food colouring to make that cake a true Elmo red. Mr Perfect Day called it my radioactive red cake because it had so much artificial colouring. We’re sure our insides are still glowing after eating it. It looked fantastic though! A good tip to achieving a true red colour is to use gel food colouring rather than the common liquid food colourings. Since the infamous Elmo cake incident, I now only ever use Wilton food colouring gels. They are so true to colour, a little goes a long way and mixing colours to achieve different shades is a breeze.
A note about the “eyes”. I used marshmallows to make the eyes. The one piece of information on the flickr photo from Start Bakery was that fondant was used for the eyes. I have never worked with fondant before and I wasn’t about to start for this recipe. I just used what I had on hand which happened to be marshmallows but you could just as easily use any white candy cut to the right size and shape.
Sart by making your icing. I generally don’t measure my ingredients to make this icing. I just mix and blend until I achieve the right consistancy. For these cupcakes, I used approximately two cups of icing sugar, approximately 3 tablespoons of water and about 1.5 teaspoons of Wilton red food colouring gel. You really can’t go wrong. If your mixture is too thin, add more icing sugar. If it is too thick, add more water. You’re aiming for a blend that is thin enough to spread across the top of the cakes but which won’t run down the sides of the cakes. Once you are happy with the consistancy, spread the icing on the top of each cupcake and allow to set before adding the web design. This icing is fully set within a couple of hours but the icing will be firm enough for the web decoration within about 15 minutes.
Now you’re ready to add the spider web. Start by making a cross using the black writing gel.
Next, make another cross, cutting through the mid points of the first cross, as shown, so you have eight “spokes”.
Draw three strands of webbing between the spokes as shown. TIP: the results are much neater and more web-like if you draw three strands of webbing within each triangle segment first, before moving on to the next segment. If you simply draw around in a circle, making all the outer web strands first, then all the middle then all the inner strands, the results will not be nearly as good. ANOTHER TIP: Try to curve the web strands as shown. This will give a more realistic and professional result.
After completing the web strands within all the triangle segments, you are ready to add the eyes. The picture below shows the three stages of cutting the marshmallow to achieve the eye shape. I used kitchen scissors to cut these. I wouldn’t recommend using a knife as you wouldn’t achieve the clean straight edges that you need. TIP: Dust your hands and the scissors with icing sugar. This will prevent the marshmallows from sticking and stretching as you cut them.
The first step is to cut a single marshmallow down the centre, making two semi-circles.
Next, cut the tips off one end of each of the semi-circles, so th you have a straight edge along the base as shown.
Now, cut three layers from each of the shapes. You will end up with 6 eyes from one marshmallow. This is the trickiest step as you will be cutting the marshmallow quite thinly so it will stretch and stick. Coat your scissors and you fingers very well with icing sugar before cutting.
Place two eyes on each cupcake, with the curved side of the eye facing outwards. Simply place them on the cupcake. The gel webbing will ensure that the marshmallow adheres to the top of the cake. Next, carefully pipe the black writing gel around the outside edge of each eye. Voila! Spiderman!