“It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night.”
It was the old man’s pale blue eye (with a film over it) that turned me into a cake-flour coated madwoman. Well, that and a heart bundt cake Isabel baked a few months ago.
Edgar Allan Poe is always a big deal in Baltimore and in high-school literature classes. But right now, the creepy creator of the modern detective story is in vogue everywhere. There’s a movie coming out next year (with John Cusack as EAP) and people all over the world are working to raise money to keep the Edgar Allan Poe House in Baltimore open to the public.
And really, what better time than Halloween to pay tribute to Poe with some Tell-Tale Heart cupcakes?
In case you never read “The Tell-Tale Heart” — or your memories of junior year English are a little fuzzy — the story is told by an unnamed narrator who lives with an old man (their relationship is never really defined). The narrator keeps insisting he’s not crazy, but he is super freaked out by the old man’s vulture-like blue eye and so he decides to kill him. After he kills, dismembers and buries the man under the floor boards, the police come and search the house. They don’t notice anything amiss, but as they are talking, the narrator thinks he hears the old man’s heart beating under the floor. The beating gets louder and louder until he finally leaps up and confesses.
My idea — a chocolate cupcake with a raspberry cake heart in the middle — wasn’t quite as mad as the narrator’s. But it did take a while to execute.
I really wanted to make the hearts out of red raspberry cake, but I couldn’t find a recipe anywhere. So I added some raspberry puree to a cake recipe from “How to Cook Everything.” It actually turned out really well, although it did make a lot of cake. I don’t think you’ll mind eating the scraps, but if you want hearts that are not quite so puffy and 80’s-tastic, you could try baking it in a sheet pan (be careful it doesn’t overflow). Or just cut the recipe in half.
Unfortunately, I chose the wrong chocolate cake for this particular project. It was good, but the batter was too thick and I had to keep adding milk. The recipe I used for the chocolate-peanut butter cupcakes would be much easier to work with and comes out a darker brown. But you can really adapt the method to any cake recipe (or cake mix) you like.
I found that the easiest way to get the heart to stay in place (and to make sure the heart was surrounded by batter) was to fill the cupcake liner about halfway and then stick the heart down into it. You do have to put all the hearts facing the same way, though, so you can see the heart when you cut the cupcake in half. If you cut it the wrong way, it will just look like a red blob.
They just look like normal cupcakes…
Well, actually they look like crinkly, weird cupcakes. But you get the general idea.
I made chocolate ganache (with a little bit of seedless raspberry preserves) for the frosting and just decorated them with red sprinkles. But you could top them with heart sprinkles, cookies decorated like wood planks, milky blue marbles or candy, Lincoln logs or something raven-y.
(Thump thump. Thump thump.) What is that noise coming from those lovely cupcakes?
“It is the beating of his hideous heart!”
Tell-Tale Heart cupcakes
Method: Bake raspberry cake (recipe below) in a 9×13 cake pan or sheet pan. Allow to cool, then use a small heart cookie cutter (the cutter should not be more than about 1.5 inches tall*) to cut hearts out of the cake.
Prepare chocolate cake batter (I recommend this cupcake recipe). Spoon chocolate cake batter into a prepared cupcake cup, filling the cup about halfway. Carefully stick a raspberry cake heart down into the batter, making sure the heart faces the front of the muffin pan. Cover the heart with batter. Repeat until you run out of chocolate cake batter.
Bake the cupcakes, then allow them to cool — making sure to keep them all facing forward. Frost with chocolate ganache** or other chocolate frosting. Cut a cupcake in half to reveal the heart inside.
Raspberry cake (Based on a yellow cake recipe from “How to Cook Everything.” Makes a 9×13 cake or two 8- or 9-inch round cakes)
2 cups frozen raspberries (1 cup pureed)
1 1/4 stick (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups sugar (depending on how sweet your raspberries are)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Red food coloring (optional, gel preferred)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
Set frozen raspberries out for at least 15 minutes to allow to thaw somewhat, then puree them in a blender. Heat the oven to 350 and grease the cake pan.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth, then continue beating while gradually adding the sugar. Beat for a few minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract and the raspberry puree. Add food coloring as desired and blend well.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into the raspberry mixture (by hand) in three additions, alternating with the milk. Stir just until combined.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when you press your finger lightly in the center (it’s OK to underbake this a little, but you don’t want it too mushy to cut into hearts).
Allow to cool, then proceed with method as described above.
*The heart cookie cutter I used came in a Wilton wedding-themed pack of mini cookie cutters (along with a bell, another heart and two flowers). That pack is available at Michael’s.
**For ganache (enough to frost about 15 cupcakes), place 8 ounces of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate pieces in a bowl, along with a tablespoon or two of seedless raspberry preserves (optional). Heat 1 cup of heavy cream in a small saucepan until steaming, then pour hot cream over chocolate. Stir until smooth. You may need to allow the ganache to cool slightly before frosting the cupcakes.