Vamptopus. Raging unicorns. Ball washers. Robots with laser eyes. Pizza that tastes like butt. Glitter. Clowns. All of these things can be found in the iconic season 7 episode "Pennywhistle's Magical Menagerie." It is rich with Supernatural's history and full of Easter eggs for the fans to discover and take delight in. It relishes in tongue in cheek humor all the while holding on tight to a whimsical storyline. So, as I sat down to think up another Supernatural Cupcake Wars cupcake, I knew I had to pay homage to this delightful episode.
But how? How on earth could any cupcake represent this episode? It took some thinking, but I think I may have done it!
Who can forget the rainbows that appear in this episode? We have the unicorn with a rainbow streaming out of its ass---a straight reference to Sam and Dean's conversation in "Houses of the Holy." Arguing about the possible existence of angels, Dean snaps, " Yeah, you know what? There's a ton of lore on unicorns too. In fact, I hear that they, they ride on silver moonbeams, and they shoot rainbows out of their ass." And then there is the beautiful rainbow slinky that captures Dean's heart. The moment he sees it, he wants it! What really makes this moment work is how Jensen Ackles makes Dean look so boyish as the little girl walks by. Here is badass hunter Dean Winchester, the man who has faced down everything from the Devil to Dick Roman and more, awestruck by a children's toy.
So, I knew I had to make a rainbow cupcake. I wasn't sure how, but I knew I didn't want to use a cupcake mix. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it from scratch just like the rest of them. However, that also meant having to break down and use food dye for a second cupcake. I generally don't like the idea of food dyes or processed ingredients in my baking, but if I was going to do this right, I'd have to concede the point. So, I found a way to make my cupcake rainbow without it coming out an ucky gruesomely brown mess. No one wants that. That would probably taste like butt, too.
Since I had that part figured out, I had to think more about how this cupcake would fit the genius of "Plucky's Pennywhistle Magical Menagerie." I had rainbows nailed. But what about other iconic moments? How would this cupcake scream this episode? Then it hit me. One of the most quoted moments in the episode (really is it possible to just quote the whole episode please?) is after Saul has been murdered in the ball pit. Dean asks Sam what the cops think happened, and Sam replies, "They think the ball washer did it." Dean, as juvenile as always asks, "The what?" Sam, not swift to what was happening, replies, "The ball washer." Dean, with amusement laced in his voice asks, "The what?" We're rewarded with Sam tossing an epic bitch face at Dean, finally realizing his brother was just making him say it over and over.
How would I represent that on a cupcake you ask? Easy. Skittles! They're already the color of the balls in the ball pit, and while it may not be a ball washer, who cares? It's also fit in well with the already established rainbow theme, too. All the colors would be there, and after all, the tagline for Skittles is "Taste the rainbow."
The more I thought about this cupcake, the more I liked the concept. So I then thought about another iconic moment. The clowns beating the snot out of Sam. We know Sam is afraid of them---we're never quite told why our bad ass hunter who can face down demons, angels, ghosts, and Lucifer himself, is so deathly afraid of clowns or how that started, but it did yield some great comedy. So, seeing him cornered by two nasty and scary clowns led to a very bizarre situation. Sam repeats over and over again, "If it bleeds you can kill it." Only these clowns don't bleed. They expel of all things glitter. Glitter! It's utterly ridiculous.
As Dean confronts Howard in the basement about his hoodoo practice, he manages to turn the tables on the angry food service employee. He takes a drawing Howard had made as a child and throws in a clown statue, burning them just in time. The clowns had finally trapped Sam in between them, and as the younger Winchester curls in on himself expecting the blows, they explode all over him in a massive glitter bomb. It's so bad it coats Sam from head to toe, leaving him to spit some of it out in shock.
As he returns to Dean, he throws his arms open in supplication, allowing his older brother to mock his ridiculous appearance. Dean tells him, "I'm sorry, you look like you got attacked by some PCP-crazed strippers."
So, glitter had to be thrown into the mix, too! To stick with the rainbow theme, I knew it had to be rainbow variety as well. But glitter, generally, isn't "edible" so to speak, so I had to search for something that would be edible and fulfill the glitter requirement. It took some digging, but I went to Fancy Flours and found a rather nice shakeable glitter to sprinkle on the cakes.
Now that I had everything planned out, I had to think of flavors. What on earth does a rainbow cupcake taste like? I guess it could taste like most anything as long as you colored it, but I wanted a flavor to match the brightness of the cake, the Skittles, and the glitter. What would suffice for such a cupcake? I arrived at lemon cupcakes. Lemon is a bright flavor, and it seemed to match the bright colors I had in mind. So, I found a great lemon cupcake recipe.
Here it is:
2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup milk
splash of vanilla extract
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp lemon zest
-Preheat oven to 325Âº and line the cupcake pan
-In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until creamy. Add the milk and lemon juice and lemon zest.
-In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking soda. You can either use your hands or a whisk to do this.
-Now add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Careful not to over-mix!
Now that I had the cake, I was stumped on frosting. I suppose I could have gone for the simple vanilla buttercream, but it just didn't seem to fit what I envisioned. So, what other frosting could I go with? A vanilla cream cheese? That seemed no different than vanilla buttercream in flavor composition, so I nixed that idea. So I thought about it some more. Funny story. I go to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival every single year. Have since I was four. There is a shop I visit there every time, a soap shop. It's called Blue Heron, and it is stationed right here in Minnesota, too. They have a great soap flavor there, one I get every time I buy. It's called Lemon and Honey. Since I was running low on soap, I went to order some on their website. It hit me. Lemon and Honey. Honey is a great combination with lemon, so why not try for a honey frosting! It'd compliment the lemon cake so well, adding a different layer of sweetness. I found a recipe, but really simply adapted this cream cheese frosting here:
Honey Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter
12 oz cream cheese
3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Â½ tablespoons honey
I had everything planned. Cake and frosting recipe selected, I set out to make these.
I started with the batter. I followed the recipe exactly and tasted it. It was really a nice sophisticated lemon flavor. I knew that once it baked it would be an even richer flavor. Of course, as this picture shows, it was a lovely lemon yellow, too. I then divided the batter between six bowls. I'd have six colors in my rainbow---following the ROYGBIV configuration, skipping the indigo since it's hard to duplicate in food dye.
It took some patience to make the colors as rich as I wanted. And boy was it messy. It took a lot of elbow grease to mix each color together, making my baking time take a bit longer than usual, too. Once I had the shades I was looking for, I started to fill my cupcake holders. I put the colors in reverse, so it became VBGYOR. I hoped that if I didn't disturb my pan too much they wouldn't mix up too much and turn in that aforementioned messy brown. Wouldn't want anyone to think they'd taste like butt after all!
Once that was done, I put them into the oven. Because I had so many colors, these cupcakes bloomed like muffins! They were big, beautiful, and I hoped they would bake well. They took a bit longer than normal due to the extra batter. I sacrificed one to the cook, tasting it. It was a nice rich lemon flavor as I had expected! It also made me very excited to frost and decorate the next day.
When it came time to make the frosting, I followed the recipe, but as I tasted it, I wanted a little more honey. So I splashed in a little bit more than the recommended and tasted again. It was nice and sweet, but not overtly so. I had it rich and creamy and ready, so I sat down and frosted my cupcakes. Each one then got a shake of the glitter until it looked like one of those clowns exploded on it, and a sprinkle of Skittles to complete the look. They looked like so much fun!
Bright, colorful, and full of references to "Penny's Pluckywhistle Magical Menagerie," it exceeded my expectations! I had the rainbow at every level from cake to glitter to Skittles for that vicious unicorn and the whimsical slinky. I had the ball washer/ball pit reference. I had the glitter bomb clowns. It looked like a cupcake for this episode certainly should.
Now all there was left to do was taste! Did it taste like butt? NO. It was sweet with a nice tart finish from the lemon cake. The Skittles added a nice fruit burst crunch and the frosting had a nice honey finish. The cake was absolutely fantastic and a fun treat to eat. Hell, if I was going to throw a birthday party for kids I'd bring them these. And for the adults the flavors wouldn't be so overpowering as the colors made it seem.
These were a huge success on every level, even if they did take a bit more work. They'd certainly make a statement on any display.
Thanks to a good conversation with Linda (bookdal) I have my next cupcake in mind already. A Felicia Day/Charlie Bradbury concoction. Honoring our Queen of Moons, I'll make a cinnamon flavored cupcake with nuts and brown sugar frosting.
Oh, and as always, share your ideas for a Supernatural Cupcake War!