To me, a kid’s birthday cake is more about the decorations than the taste. As long as it’s chocolate and sweet, it passes muster. In more than three decades, I’ve made a number of birthday cakes for my boys—never apologizing for cake mix and canned frosting—during those busy, working mother years.
We’ve had Bert and Ernie cakes, a Cookie Monster cake and even a jail cake (decorated with gingerbread men prisoners in black stripes) the time we had Dave’s birthday party on Alcatraz.
Last year was my most ambitious birthday effort for my granddaughter: rubber ducky cupcakes from the book, What’s New, Cupcake?, by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson.
On Saturday, we had another birthday party for our favorite little girl, and I chose an Elmo party theme and Elmo cupcakes.
While I did make chocolate cupcakes and vanilla frosting from scratch, I am suggesting using a box mix and canned frosting for this recipe, since the prep alone will take you beyond our usual 30-minute-prep time. Still, it’s a fairly simple way to make custom cupcakes and I believe it’s in keeping with the spirit of our Special Fork goal of good food fast.
Here’s the plan: 1) Bake the cupcakes. 2) While they are baking, making the eyes. 3) While the cupcakes cool, roll out the marzipan and cut mouths. 4) Color the noses. 5) make the fur. 6) Next, tint the frosting and frost the cupcakes. 6) Assemble Elmo by affixing the eyes, nose and mouth and sprinkle with coconut fur.
18 marshmallows, each halved lengthwise with kitchen shears to make 36 circles
About ½ cup (3 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chips
Marzipan almond candy dough (such as Odense brand)
Orange icing color (such as Wilton brand)
About 1 ½ cups sweetened flake coconut
Red icing color (such as Wilton brand)
1 can (16 ounces) vanilla frosting
12 cupcakes, made from packaged mix
To make eyes: Arrange 24 marshmallow circles, cut-side down, on a cookie sheet or plate. Microwave chocolate chips on a microwave-safe plate about 30 seconds; stir with a rubber spatula and continue to heat and stir until chocolate has melted. Scrape melted chocolate into a heavy-duty plastic sandwich bag. Use a clean spatula from the outside of the bag to push chocolate to one corner. Snip a small hole in the corner where the chocolate is concentrated. Using the sandwich bag as a pastry bag, squeeze a drop of chocolate on each of the 24 marshmallows to form the eyes. Set aside remaining chocolate in bag.
To make mouths: Slice off about a 1-inch long piece of the marzipan and knead with fingers until pliable. Roll out to ¼-inch thickness and cut out mouth with scissors. (Make a pattern out of parchment paper.). Continue until you have 12 mouths. Lay out the mouths on a baking sheet or plate. Using the chocolate bag, pipe some chocolate on the marzipan mouth; use a spatula or your fingers to smooth it over the entire surface. If the chocolate is too firm, microwave to soften.
To make noses: Color remaining 12 marshmallow circles with orange icing color by dipping a toothpick in the icing color, spreading it on the marshmallow and using water and fingers to smooth and even out the color. Alternatively, dissolve icing color in 1 teaspoon of water in a small custard cup and dip marshmallow; set aside on baking sheet to dry.
To make fur: Put coconut in a bowl, dip a toothpick in orange and red icing colors and add to the coconut, stirring to coat. Add additional orange and red icing color until the desired shade is reached.
To make the frosting: Add red and orange icing color to the frosting, a little at a time, until desired color is reached.
To assemble: Frost a cupcake. Affix two marshmallow eyes at one end of the cupcake (the eyes should sit beyond the edge of the cupcake). Add the nose and mouth and sprinkle with coconut fur. Repeat for remaining cupcakes.
Makes 12 cupcakes.
Note: Be careful when using icing colors since they can stain whatever surface you’re working on.
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