Dark chocolate ganache
Makes enough to cover 12 to 14 cupcakes
- 2-3/4 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
- Put the chocolate chips in a large heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a saucepan.
- Before the bubbles reach the top of the pan, pour the cream into the chocolate chips and whisk together until smooth.
- Add the butter and stir until smooth and shiny. Place plastic wrap directly over the surface to prevent a skin from forming, then let stand at room temperature overnight to cool. Store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to three weeks.
Half and half
Makes about 8 ounces
- 4 ounces store-bought white fondant
- 4 ounces ready-to-use gum paste
- White vegetable fat (optional)
- Knead the fondant and then the gum paste separately on a counter until smooth; then combine and knead until well mixed. If the mixture becomes sticky, add a little white vegetable fat.
- Cover with an upturned bowl or cup to prevent a crust from forming. To store, roll the mixture into a ball, double wrap in plastic wrap and keep in a sealed container at room temperature for up to two weeks.
- 1-1/2 ounces half and half, colored gray with a dab of black paste food coloring (see page 11)
- 1-1/2 ounces half and half, colored pale brown with 1 drop brown and 1 drop yellow paste food coloring
- Roll the gray half and half into four balls. Squeeze into a triangle shape. Flatten the triangle to create the blade of the shovel. Pinch the edges so that it appears to be sharp, especially at the point.
- Roll the pale brown half and half into a thin sausage shape 3 inches long. Flatten one end and attach it to the back of the shovel blade with water. Repeat to make another three shovels. Let dry overnight. Store in a cool, dry place, but not in the refrigerator.
- 1 ounce half and half, colored black with 3 drops black paste food coloring (see below)
- 1 ounce Royal Icing, colored red with 4 drops red paste food coloring (see page 10)
- Roll most of the half and half into two balls. Pinch one end into a small point to make the rat’s nose. Pull and pinch the other end to make an elongated, thin tail. To make the head appear separate from the body, take the side of a toothpick and roll it around the half and half where the neck would be. Repeat to make another rat.
- To make the ears, roll the remaining half and half into four tiny balls and squeeze them flat. Use a small amount of water to attach the ears to the rats’ heads. Use the toothpick to smooth the area where they join if your fingers seem too big.
- Fit a pastry bag or a parchment paper cone with a fine plain piping tip and fill with the red Royal Icing. Pipe a beady eye on either side of each head. Let dry overnight. Store in a cool, dry place, but not in the refrigerator.
Gravestones & crosses
Makes 6 of each
- 1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- 1/2 teaspoon boiling water
- 2 cups white all-purpose, cake, or pastry flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1-3/4 ounces plain white Royal Icing, for decorating (see below; optional)
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dissolve the espresso powder in the boiling water. Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together.
- Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and, using an electric whisk, beat together until pale in color. Add the egg, vanilla extract and espresso liquid and mix together until combined.
- Add the sifted ingredients to the mixture, in three equal batches, and mix until just blended. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about one hour.
- Roll the dough out on a lightly floured counter to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Using a sharp knife, cut two long strips of dough 1/2 inch wide, then cut into strips 4-1/2 inches long. From the remaining dough, cut out six rectangles 2 x 1-1/2 inches.
- To make the gravestones, cut the top off each rectangle in a curve. Transfer the rectangles to the prepared baking sheet.
- To make the crosses, place a strip of dough on the baking sheet. Cut two 1 x 1/2-inch pieces from another strip of dough. Press the two smaller pieces onto either side of the long strip about one third of the way down. Make sure that the dough is touching so that the parts will bake together and come out as a single shape.
- Bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, turning the cookies once, until set but not dark on the edges. Let cool for 30 minutes.
- If you wish, fit a pastry bag or a parchment paper cone with a fine plain piping tip and fill with the Royal Icing. Pipe the names of people you know or great zombie movie directors on the gravestones.
Makes about 8 ounces
- 1 large egg white, plus extra if necessary
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- 1-3/4 to 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- Paste food coloring (optional)
- Put the egg white and cream of tartar in the bowl of a large freestanding electric whisk and whisk together until frothy.
- With the machine still running, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar until the mixture begins to stiffen and turn opaque white. Scrape down the side of the bowl and whisk briefly on high. The mixture should be stiff but still pliable.
- If necessary, thin the mixture with a little extra egg white or a drop of food coloring. Cover with a damp dishtowel to prevent a crust from forming. To store, put it in a container, place plastic wrap directly over the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and seal the container. Keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
- To color the icing, add the appropriate paste food coloring in drops or on a toothpick or the tip of a knife and beat in until you achieve the required color.