Ghostly Glowing Haunted Cupcakes

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d. Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d. Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time! Round about the caldron go;  In the poison’d entrails throw.—  Toad, that under cold tone, Days and nights has thirty-one; Swelter’d venom sleeping got, Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot! 

Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble. 

Fillet of a fenny snake, In the caldron boil and bake; Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,— For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.  

Double, double toil and trouble;  Fire burn, and caldron bubble. 

Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf; Witches’ mummy; maw and gulf Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark; Root of hemlock digg’d i the dark; Liver of blaspheming Jew; Gall of goat, and slips of yew Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse; Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips; Finger of birth-strangled babe Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,— Make the gruel thick and slab: Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron, For the ingrediants of our caldron.  

Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble. Cool it with a baboon’s blood, Then the charm is firm and good.

From Macbeth

It’s Halloween week! I’ve got some spooky treats lined up for you all as perfect additions to your scary celebrations. This will be a series of three (yep three!) recipes—two sweets and one drink—to round out that frightening table of yummy haunts. I’ll reveal the snacks one by one, so follow along each day (Tues-Thurs). Well let’s jump to it then! Or should I say, let’s soar through the air on a broom to it! Nope that doesn’t sound quite right… Okay I’ll stick to the recipes.

Today we finish up the spooky week of recipes with glow in the dark ghostly chocolate cupcakes! Although to be honest, they look a bit more like the Stay Puft marshmallow man from Ghostbusters. He was scary though too, right?

Everyone loves a glowing party trick. Especially when it’s a terrifying ghost on top of a scrumptious chocolate cupcake.

Every few years, these glowing cupcakes surface and revolutionize the Halloween snack table. A gelatin coating with a secret ingredient on top of the frosting causes them to glow under black light. Well, I feel like it’s time for these babies to come back. Appeasing a Food Geek style.

The secret to the cupcakes’ glow is tonic water. Tonic water! The ingredient in tonic water that makes it bitter is a molecule called quinine. Quinine has a particular part of its structure that causes it to light up under fluorescent light. (For those chemistry nerds out there—it’s that benzene ring!) And guess what a black light is? Yep you’ve got it. A fluorescent light.

Unfortunately there isn’t a ton of quinine in tonic water, so you can’t put it into the frosting itself to cause it to glow without making it really bitter. The solution is to create a glaze of sorts over the frosting with gelatin! The clarity of the Jell-O allows the quinine to shine through more clearly and cause the glow without needing to add so much tonic water that it’s unbelievably bitter.

Often these recipes use flavored/colored Jell-O like orange or lime, but these can cause kind of an icky colored glow. I use only a sweetened plain gelatin to keep the ghosts white and glow blue-ish. Super spooky!

PS: getting a good picture of the glow is kind of difficult on an iPhone! Ignore the semi-poor quality.

Feel free to use any cupcake or frosting recipe, but there are some guidelines that will lead you to success. A cupcake that domes too much will cause misshapen ghosts, so chocolate cupcakes work best due to their relatively limited rising power. Also, a buttercream frosting will pile up and hold its shape during dipping the best, so that’s the route I would suggest. (Oops rhyming?!)

Now you’re ready for a glowing success at your Halloween celebrations! And you know what these cupcakes go really well with? A Witches Brew Orange Rum Cocktail and Frightening Jagged Glass Threads! Also from this Halloween week series. Check all of them out to have a spread like this! You know you want to.

Enjoy the recipes and have a splendid Halloween! How will you be celebrating? Let me know in the comments!

Ghostly Glowing Haunted Cupcakes

Chocolate cupcakes

Adapted from Something Blue Bakery (Also adapted slightly for Red Wine Cake)

Makes 30 cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups sugar

1 cup cocoa powder

1 tablespoon baking soda

½ tablespoon baking powder

½ tablespoon kosher salt

1 ½ cups vegetable oil

1 ½ cups 2% milk

1 ½ cups hot coffee

3 eggs

½ tablespoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350⁰F. Combine dry ingredients and sift together getting rid of any clumps in the cocoa powder. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the coffee, and beat until well combined. Don’t let it sit before you start the mixer, otherwise it will get clumpy. Stop and scrape the sides and bottom.

2. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating well until smooth. Add the oil and milk slowly while keeping the mixer on low speed. Be careful otherwise you’ll end up with batter all over your walls.

3. Give your batter one last scrape, taking care to get the bottom of the bowl, and beat for 30 more seconds.

4. Pour batter into cupcake liners to about ¾ full. This translates to one full standard ice cream scoop. Bake for 15-20 minutes, turning the pan once during the baking process. When a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean, your cupcakes are ready to come out. Do not overbake!

5. Cool for several minutes, remove from the pan, and store covered in the fridge after cooling until ready to use. These will also freeze well, sealed in a Ziploc bag, for several weeks.

Classic Vanilla Buttercream

Adapted from Add a Pinch

Depending on how heavy you frost your cupcakes, frosts about 30 cupcakes

2 cups butter, softened

7-8 cups powdered sugar

4 teaspoons vanilla

⅛ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1. Beat the softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on medium setting and cream until smooth and a bit lighter in color.

2. Add 7 cups powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, until well-combined. After each addition, turn the mixer to the highest speed for a few seconds.

3. Add the vanilla and salt. Beat until well-combined.

4. Add the heavy cream and continue to beat until incorporated. If your frosting looks less firm than you’d like it, add more powdered sugar, ¼ cup at a time, until the consistency seems right. It should be pretty firm, but still pipe-able.


Gelatin “glaze” adapted from Knox

Makes enough glaze for 30 cupcakes

2 packets of plain, unflavored gelatin

¼ cup sugar

1 cup boiling water

1 cup cold tonic water

Mini chocolate chips (60)

1. First, frost your cupcakes with a wide, circular piping tip (or a cut plastic bag) so that you create a pile of frosting—almost like a bee hive. Aim for no more than 4 passes on each side. 3 is best. Freeze or refrigerate your cupcakes until the frosting has hardened—about 1 hour for freezer, 4 hours for fridge.

2. Combine the sugar and gelatin in a medium-large bowl. Add the boiling water and whisk to combine. Add the tonic water, making sure that all ingredients are incorporated.

3. Using either a shallow bowl of ice water, or placing in the fridge, wait until the mixture has cooled down to just above room temp and there are no more bubbles remaining on the surface.

4. Working quickly, dip the frosting top of the chilled cupcakes one by one into the gelatin mix covering all of the frosting, but stopping at the top of the cupcake. Gently shake off excess. After dipping, place each cupcake into the freezer for several minutes (preferred, although the fridge is acceptable—you will just have to wait longer in between dips). Continue with the next cupcake and repeat this process 4 more times.

5. After dipping and allowing the “glaze” to set (15 minutes in freezer, 1 hour in fridge), press the mini chocolate chips into the frosting where you want the ghost eyes to be.

6. Turn the black lights on and serve! I would recommend that you keep these cupcakes in a plastic container until ready to serve. The gelatin will become hard if you let it sit out for several hours and become rather unpleasant in texture. Just before your party guests arrive, put them out on your table.




  1. Glowing cupcakes! The best! I could have used this trick as a kid. I love all of the science you use to explain your recipes. Happy Halloween!! Enjoy all of your movies and sweets xoxo!

    • Kelsey
      October 30

      It is a pretty cool effect! And thanks Kathryn! Happy Halloween 😀

  2. November 1

    Your chubby little ghosts are pretty much the cutest treats ever!!!! When I stayed up in Rotorua in New Zealand everyone drank so much tonic water because they swore that the quinine kept the mosquitos at bay – pretty sure it was just an excuse to drink more gin though haha.. I hope your halloween was spectacular.

    • Kelsey
      November 2

      Thanks Ruby! xoxo

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