How to Make Brain Cupcakes to Scare Your Friends This Halloween

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Brain Cupcakes Halloween recipe
Photos courtesy Bread & Company

Blood, guts and bleeding brains are staples at any good Halloween party. So pastry chef Ann Kirk of Little Dom’s in Los Angeles, put the creative side of her brain to good use with these spooky brain cupcakes to scare your friends this Halloween.

Don’t get grossed out, you’re not really eating brains. Brain Cupcakes are simply vanilla bean cupcakes decorated with pink icing to resemble brains. They are then topped with shards of sugar glass and filled with raspberry jam that oozes “blood” when bitten into. YES!

[MORE: How to Make Candy Corn Shots Perfect For Your Halloween Party]

What better way to gross out your friends. And not to mention, we could all use a little more brains in our lives. Check out the recipe and try these delectable gory treats for yourself.

Brain Cupcakes Halloween recipe

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes (makes 12 cupcakes)

3 oz butter (3/4 stick)

5.25 oz sugar (3/4 cup)

1 each vanilla bean

1 large egg

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1 ¼ tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

6.25 oz all purpose flour, sifted (1 ¼ cup)

5 oz whole milk (1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp)

½ cup raspberry jam, optional

1 recipe Vanilla Buttercream (see below)


Preheat oven to 350F

1. Split and scrape vanilla bean.  Add pulp to sugar and set aside.  (keep vanilla bean pod for another use)

2.  Add butter to mixer bowl and fit with paddle attachment.  Paddle on medium speed until creamy.  Add in sugar and vanilla bean pulp and continue to cream until light and fluffy.  Add in egg and vanilla extract, beat on low until combined. 

3.  In a separate bowl, combine sifted all purpose flour, baking powder and salt.  On low speed, add dry ingredients into butter mixture alternating with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.: dry/milk/dry/milk/dry. Mix until just combined, smooth out by hand with a few stirs of a spatula.

4.  Spoon cupcake batter into paper lined cupcake tins, filling 2/3 full.  Bake at 350 for approximately 20 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed in the middle.

5.  Remove from oven and cool.

6.  Optional if you want your brain to bleed – poke a deep hole in the top center of the cupcake with a piping tip.  Fill the hole with raspberry jam making sure it’s flush with the top or just under.

7.  Fit a piping bag with a #4 plain tip.  Fill piping bag half full with dyed Vanilla Buttercream.  Pipe half of the top of the cupcake with long S-like switchbacks or abstract squiggles.  Next, pipe the mirror image on the other half and there’s your Brain Cupcake.

[MORE: The Zombie Cupcake Recipe You Need To Make This Halloween]

Vanilla Buttercream

4 oz egg whites (I use Eggology Pasteurized egg whites but you can also separate 4 eggs and use just the whites)

7 oz sugar (1 cup)

1 lb butter, cubed

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

A few drops of food dye – black for a spooky dead gray brain or red for a pink alive brain

1.  Leave butter out at room temperature to soften slightly, it should still feel cool to the touch and hold its shape.

2. Place a small pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.  In bowl of stand mixer, combine egg whites and sugar.  Place mixer bowl over pot of water being careful that bottom of bowl does not touch the water.  Whisk constantly until mixture reaches 120F.  If you don’t have a thermometer, use a very clean finger to test.  Mixture is ready when it’s beyond hot tub temperature (105F).

3.  Remove from heat and attach bowl to mixer.  Using the paddle attachment, paddle on low speed for a minute or so and then turn to high speed and mix for 6 minutes.  Egg white mixture will be opaque white, shiny and fluffy.

4.  On medium-high speed, add butter cubes in one or two at a time.  If your butter is still on the cold side, squish the cubes between your fingers before adding it in.  Don’t worry if it looks broken at some point, it will come together when all the butter has been added.  Add in vanilla extract and paddle until combined.

5.  Add a few drops of food dye and paddle to combine.  Continue until you reach your desired color.

~Follow piping instructions above.

~~Vanilla Buttercream can be made a few days ahead of time and chilled during storage.  To use, remove from refrigerator and let soften for 15 minutes or so.  Paddle to lighten and smooth out texture.