Lily Vanilli’s Halloween gingerbread cupcakes recipe

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makes: 12
Skill: medium
Prep: 40 min
Cooking: 15 min
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  • RIP, sweet little cupcakes! Create your own creepy gingerbread graveyard – the tombstones are made of gingerbread cookies, surrounded by chocolate soil. These gingerbread cupcakes are by far our favourite Halloween cupcakes to make for Halloween.


    • Chocolate cupcakes:
    • 1⁄4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 2⁄3 cup (140g) superfine (caster) sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 1⁄2tsp vanilla extract
    • 3⁄4 cup (115g) all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted twice
    • 1⁄4 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa
    • 1⁄4tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
    • 1⁄4tsp salt
    • 1⁄3 cup (80ml) sour cream
    • 4tbsp strong espresso, cooled
    • Chocolate frosting:
    • 1⁄4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1⁄4 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa
    • 1⁄3tsp salt
    • 1⁄2tsp vanilla extract
    • 11⁄2 cups (250g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
    • 2tbsp full-fat milk
    • 2tbsp heavy (double) cream
    • Gingerbread:
    • 3 cups (450g) all-purpose (plain) flour, plus extra to dust
    • 1tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
    • 2tsp ground ginger
    • 11⁄2tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1⁄4tsp salt
    • 1⁄2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1⁄2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
    • 2⁄3 cup (160ml) black treacle
    • 1 large egg
    • zest of 1⁄2 lemon, finely grated
    • white icing pen


    • Chocolate cupcakes:

      1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper cases.
      2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat until thoroughly incorporated.
      3. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl.
      4. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the sour cream. Then slowly add the cooled coffee.
      5. Using an ice-cream scoop, spoon the batter into the paper cases, filling them three-quarters full. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
      6. Cool in the muffin pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

      Chocolate frosting:

      1. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and the cocoa until combined.
      2. Add the salt, vanilla extract, sugar, and milk and continue to beat, slowly adding the cream. Beat until very smooth.


      1. To make the gingerbread, sift together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt and set aside.
      2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the egg and treacle and beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture and lemon zest gradually, and beat until incorporated.
      3. Divide the dough into two pieces. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours.
      4. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
      5. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the dough to a thickness of around 1⁄4 inch (5mm). Use a cookie cutter to cut out the tombstone shapes, or cut them out freehand with a knife or cut around objects of the right shape and size. (You can make really effective cookie cutters using thick sheets of foil trays – using scissors, cut long strips with very straight edges from an aluminum tray, fold to a double thickness, and shape however you like, bending them around things to help you get a clean shape. Staple the ends together and you have a bespoke cookie cutter!)
      6. Transfer the cookies onto the lined baking sheets, about 1 inch (2.5cm) apart. Bake for 6–8 minutes depending on size, until each cookie is firm and the edges are just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 1–2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
      7. Using a white icing pen, ice text onto the ‘tombstones’.
      8. Cover the top of the cupcakes with chocolate frosting, then dust with a thick layer of cocoa ‘soil’. Insert the iced gingerbread ‘tombstones’ and decorate with white fondant flowers.

      A Zombie Ate My Cupcake! by Lily Vanilli, photography by David Munns, illustration by Paul Parker, published by CICO Books.

    Top tip for making Lily Vanilli’s Halloween gingerbread cupcakes

    For extra-wide cupcakes, make up the batter as usual - this will make 6 extra-wide cupcakes - and use with extra-wide cupcake cases or individual pie tins, with a diameter of about 31⁄2 inches (9cm).

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