October 23, 2014

BEWARE: Here’s a Halloween project your kids might get lost in.

This blood-curdling FOREST is one of our fave Halloween projects. We think it’s super-creepy and creative. And why wouldn’t it be?! It’s inspired by the work of one of the most fantastic filmmakers (and a personal favorite at the Candy Lab): TIM BURTON!!

These eerie trees are made from chocolate candy melts. And the soil is composed of Oreo cookie crumbs. For the FULL FRIGHTENING RECIPE, read on (if you dare).

First, take 3 cookie sheets and line them with wax paper. Then draw a tree (about 4-inches tall) on another piece of paper, adding a 1 1/2 inch line below the base of the tree which will serve as the tree’s support. Place the drawing under the wax paper.

Take ONE CUP OF DARK COCOA CANDY MELTS and separate it into 3 plastic bags. Don’t seal the bag. Microwave each bag for 10 seconds—one at a time. This will begin to soften the candy melts. Massage the mixture and return to the microwave. Repeat the process until the candy is smooth. Now you can seal the bags, pressing out the excess air.

Snip a 1/8 inch corner from the bag and, following your drawing, pipe an outline and fill in the center.

While the candy is still wet, add ORANGE SPRINKLES to get the effect shown in the picture above. Place the tree into the refrigerator to set. Then repeat the process to make more trees. Each tree should take about 5 minutes to set.

After the trees are made, spread some CHOCOLATE FROSTING on top of a cupcake. Roll the top of the cupcake in a medium sized bowl in which you’ve placed 2 cups of GROUND CHOCOLATE COOKIE CRUMBS. Repeat with your remaining cupcakes.

At that point, you can gently peel the candy trees from the waxed paper. Then place them on top of the cupcakes, into the chocolate frosting, until they stick. Repeat until you have as many trees as you’d like.

And there you have it: ONE PETRIFYING FOREST!!

Happy Halloween,

Alan and Karen


October 21, 2014

Have you ever wondered: How do I get my photos of food to look better?

Well, they were wondering that at the Bakepedia website too!

So Dede Wilson interviewed Alan about his methods–and his photo philosophy. Along the way, Alan reveals the 3 MOST IMPORTANT things to think about when you’re photographing your own creations. You can find that entire illuminating interview by clicking here.

You’ll also learn about another project that Alan—and Karen—worked on recently: Dorie Greenspan’s new book BAKING CHEZ MOI. (More on that in a later post—but for now you can check out Dorie’s blog by clicking here.)


Happy Reading–and Photographing,

Alan and Karen


October 20, 2014

HALLOWEEN is almost here…which means it’s time for SPOOKY CAKE POPS!!!

We came up with this wicked pair a little while back. And they’ve been a SPOOK-TACULAR hit with the neighborhood kids. (And, believe me, we see a ton of trick-or-treaters on Halloween night! We live close to SLEEPY HOLLOW.)

We call them IGOR and DR. CYCLOPS.

This diabolical duo are made from Dunkin Munchkins. We put the Munchkins on plastic forks and dipped them in melted frosting.

We stitched up Igor using chocolate frosting and an orange Sunnyseed Drop.

Dr. Cyclops gets his good eye from a Gummy Lifesaver and a Junior Mint.

Don’t hesitate to try your own variations. That’s why we love Halloween! There are so many eerie ways to go!!!

Happy Decorating,

Alan and Karen


October 17, 2014

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

Over the years, we’ve found that cupcakes are great attention-getters when it comes to fundraising. So to lend our support, we concocted a variety of pretty pink bras, hoping to inspire folks to put on their own Awareness bake sales.

Pink Bras-24

We created different flesh tones in frosting, using red and yellow food coloring and just a touch of cocoa powder.

For the full recipe, click here.

Alan and Karen


October 15, 2014

While we’re on the subject of marshmallows (see previous post),  what could be more satisfyingly marshmallowy than S’MORES!!

Of course, these are not your typical S’mores. They’ve been through a Candy Lab transformation and emerged as S’MORE CUPCAKES!!

Marshmallows play their usual big role in our S’mores. But so do pretzel sticks, graham crackers, candy bars and chocolate taffy. And don’t forget the cupcake base!

The complete instructions can be found on the DUNCAN HINES website where our S’mores were voted FIVE STARS and “worth the effort.” (Total Prep Time: 30 minutes!)

To reach the recipe, click here.

Here’s to toasty gooey deliciousness!

Alan and Karen


October 13, 2014

Hi! Karen here. I had to share this picture of these HUGE marshmallows I found when I went to France recently with my mother. While we were in the town of Sarlat, we came across this amazing shop window—which brought my mind right back to the Candy Lab! The marshmallows were shaped like bananas, strawberries and long ropey threads. And each individual one was about was the SIZE OF MY HAND!

french marshmallows

The French love marshmallows. I’ve even seen French marshmallow kabobs! It goes together with their love of meringue and just about anything that uses frosty foamy egg whites. (I don’t know what happens to all the egg yolks!) Then again, who doesn’t like marshmallows? They’re low fat, satisfying and fun!

This picture got me thinking about exactly where marshmallows came from. So when I got home, I called our intrepid CUPCAKE HISTORIAN who we haven’t seen in a while. In a second, he was back with the whole story.


Turns out that the marshmallow started as medicine, as a sweet confection for sore throats. The root of the marshmallow plant was used by the Egyptians, and later by the French who added the egg white meringue, corn starch and sweeteners. In 1948, American Alex Doumak invented a method of mass-producing marshmallows. And this approach led to the marshmallow’s now famous drum-like shape.

So here’s to marshmallows!! And, as an added bonus, here’s one of our favorite marshmallow projects–the PUFFY SHEEP from the cover of OH, MY!


Au Revoir,



October 10, 2014
Butterflies-feature size

It’s time for another of our CUPCAKE CLASSICS.

This beautiful butterfly project comes from our original HELLO, CUPCAKE! And it’s one of the projects fans love to make,  judging by how many we see at our decorating classes and special appearances.

We think the real appeal of these butterflies are their chocolate wings. They’re made using a hard-to-fail color-pulling technique (in which you blend two colors of candy melting wafers into whatever pattern you chose). No matter how you pull the color, they turn out wonderful.

For more on these marvelous Monarchs—and the color pulling technique—turn to pages 77-79. Then watch your cupcakes take wing!!!

Happy Cupcaking,

Alan and Karen


October 8, 2014

Hi everyone. Alan here—with a special post.

You know, throughout my life, people have always said I was “animated” And I’ve often been called a “character.” But now I’ve actually jumped right into the pages of a novel—Yona Zeldis McDonough’s new YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME.


Yona and I were good friends back at Vassar. Last year, we were reunited at the Brooklyn Book Festival. And we had a lot to catch up on: Yona’s many novels (for both children and adults) and, of course, my cupcake books. “I was fascinated to learn about Alan’s journey, with Karen Tack, into cupcake land,” says Yona, “and when he gave me a signed copy of What’s New, Cupcake?,  I pored over the pages, in awe of the creativity and flair of their designs.”

After our chance reunion, Yona had an idea. “As it happened,” she says, “I was working on a novel in which the protagonist, Miranda Berenzweig, is a food editor at a fictional magazine called Domestic Goddess.  And it occurred to me that it would be both fun and fitting to bring Alan and Karen’s work into my novel.  After all, Miranda is a magazine editor always in search of good story ideas; wouldn’t these adorable and clever cupcakes make a great story for her? So I developed a small plot line in which Miranda is trying to score an exclusive recipe from Alan and Karen for her magazine. She succeeds, and Alan brings the cupcakes to her office so that she can see—and taste—them.  Everyone loves them and Miranda’s boss is very pleased with her work.  I based the ‘exclusive’ recipe on A Rose is a Rose, which I found on page 123 of WHAT’S NEW, CUPCAKE?” 

roses pages

I’m very proud to appear in Yona’s terrific book–which you should definitely order. (To do so, click here.)

Yona was nice enough to let us run an excerpt from her book, one in which the fictional Alan first appears. (I also crop up a couple of more times in the novel.) Here’s that excerpt:

A knock on the door halted the small tornado of her thoughts.  “Miranda? Alan Richardson is here.”

“Bring him right in,” Miranda said.  She’d been angling for this visit for months and she wasn’t about to spoil it; she’d have to deal with her personal life later.

Claudia opened the door Alan Richardson came striding into Miranda’s office with a flourish.  “Cupcakes!” he announced.  “Ready for the unveiling?”

“Of course!” Miranda moved aside some papers and Alan set down the Tupperware cupcake holder.  He and Miranda had been in steady communication about the special, exclusive cupcake he was creating for the Mother’s Day issue of Domestic Goddess.  But he hadn’t wanted to share too many details she had not actually seen the cupcakes before; today was the big reveal.   “Let me just get a few other people in here too.”  She buzzed Sallie and Marvin, and they all clustered around the desk as Alan took the lid off.

There sat twelve perfect pink and red cupcakes, nestled in red paper liners.  They were iced with creamy white frosting and each decorated by a rose that had been fashioned from fruit chews that had been cut, shaped and dipped in decorating sugar.   Tiny green leaves—also fruit chews—peeked out from the petals.  Clustered appealingly together, they looked like an edible bouquet.

“They’re gorgeous,” said Sallie.  “Our readers will love them.”

“We’re going to do a link to a video showing how to make the roses,” Miranda added.  “And we’re going to roll out the click-through feature on the recipe.”  The click through had been Miranda’s idea; it would allow the on-line readers to click to products used in creating the cupcake—a silicon frosting spreader, nesting mixing bowls, rolling pin—and order them on the spot.

“I’m already imagining the layout,” added Marvin.  “Lush!”

“We’ll do another batch for the shoot,” Alan said.  “I just wanted you to see them first.  And taste them too.”

“You don’t need to ask twice!” Sallie began handing out the cupcakes. Miranda brought one out to the receptionist at the front desk, who actually squealed when it was placed in front of her.  When Miranda returned, Sallie was halfway through her cupcake.  “Great work,” she said.  “I think this is really going to be a hit.”

Miranda reached for a cupcake and smiled.  “Thanks. They’re even better than I had hoped.”

“Keep up the good work.” Sallie finished eating and dabbed at her lips with the pink napkin Alan had brought.  Then she turned to go back to her office.  But Marvin, Claudia and Alan were still enjoying the cupcakes—Marvin was in an atypically affable mood and Miranda was tempted to take another; there were still three on the tray. It was a celebration, right? A small but satisfying professional triumph.


Thanks, Yona. Once again, all I can say is that I’m honored. I loved the book—even the pages I wasn’t on!

Happy Reading to everyone,



October 6, 2014
Golden Delicious Apples

It’s APPLE TIME here on the Northeast. So we thought we’d go right to the CORE of the season and present a new apple cupcake.

We pondered McIntoshes, Granny Smiths and Jonagolds. But we settled on the GOLDEN DELICIOUS!!! We think they look great—especially since YELLOW is one of our favorite colors!!

Making them is as easy as falling out of a tree:

First, attach a doughnut to the top of a cupcake using frosting.

Fill in any gaps around the doughnut and then freeze for about 20 minutes to firm.

After firming up the frosting, coat the doughnut again and smooth out any bumps or irregularities in the frosting.

Freeze again to firm.

Once firmed, dip the coated doughnut in yellow tinted frosting, up to the cupcake liner.

After the yellow frosting firms up, give the apple a blush of red using food color spray from Wilton.

Add a pretzel twist for the stem and a couple of leaves rolled and cut from green spice drops.

And there you have it: a perfect yellow apple. (Truth is you can have any variety of apple you choose by changing your food color and spray color.)

Happy Cupcaking,
Alan and Karen


October 3, 2014

Here are a few quick snaps of the most surprising cake we saw at the Sugar Arts show. Forgive the quality of the photos. (We were on the run a lot of time.) But we thought his fans might enjoy at least a glimpse of this great ROBIN WILLIAMS CAKE. It was a very touching tribute—featuring so many of his characters—from Mrs. Doubtfire to Peter Pan to Aladdin’s Genie.

robin cakemrs doubtfire cake

The cake was created by Rebecca Hines.

Division: Masters.

Category: Tiered Cakes Non-Wedding.

More great cakes to come.

Alan and Karen