Hanukiah? Chanukkiyah? Cupcake menorah!

Sometime around August, we were planning our holiday email schedule.

Tracy:  What should we email on Friday, December 11?  It’s right after our free shipping offer, so maybe a 3-recipes campaign?

Me:  That’s the first night of Hanukkah!

PJ:  (silence)

We all understand the silence… none of us can forget the famous flourless chocolate cake that she blogged for Passover, or the No-Knead Challah for Rosh Hashanah. PJ, born and raised Catholic, has  eagerly researched traditional Jewish holiday foods for our blog.  But try as she may, there’s always something that’s not “kosher.”  So, this time I volunteered – after all, I’m Jewish, and I’m the one who’s always requesting these recipes.

So what do we blog?  Latkes have been done twice, rugelach of many flavors, mandelbrot… what’s left?

Then it comes to me – I’ll BAKE a menorah!  Eight mini-cupcakes, plus one regular sized for the shamash. Perfect.

But I hesitate…. there’s got to be some rule I’m breaking.  My mother is in town, so first I ask her. “Do you think it’s OK to make a menorah out of cupcakes?” She thinks for awhile, then responds, “I think so. But I think that each branch needs to be connected somehow.” Hmmm…

I consult Wikipedia. “In celebration of this miracle, the chanukkiyah has eight branches for eight candles or oil lamps, none higher than any other, except for one higher branch for the auxiliary candle, or shamash, which guards against secular use of the other lights and is also used to light them. The ‘shamash’ symbolically supplies light that may be used for some secular purpose.” Nothing about a connecting branch, but better consult the Rabbi just to be certain.

So a few weeks ago, I’m picking up my kids from Sunday school, and I decide to go early to ask the Rabbi what he thinks of a cupcake menorah. Sure enough, he’s hosting a parent discussion about the “December Dilemma.”  And he suggests – I kid you not – creating fun menorahs with your kids. And then he pulls out a menorah that his family made out of BEER BOTTLES!

Well, if my Rabbi can make a menorah out of beer bottles, then surely I can make one out of cupcakes.

Now I’m feeling good about the concept, but how should it look?  Food styling here is key… we often say “better to have no recipe photo than an ugly photo.” I’m not a baker, and I’m not a food stylist, so I need to be extra-careful.  There’s a high chance that this will be U-G-L-Y.

We recently redesigned the cupcakes that we sell at the bakery counter in our retail store, so I decided to start there.

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I love the way these look, so I make a plan to wake up early and consult with the baker who decorates them. Early one morning I show up at the bakery, and she walks me through the process. Take one cupcake, and icing in a piping bag with a wide plain tip. Ice in a spiral, beginning at the outside edge and ending in the center.

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Pour sprinkles into a cupped hand, and with your other hand twirl the cupcake around to cover the outer edge of the icing with sprinkles.

I can do this!

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Here she is in action – makes it look so easy.

http://www.youtube.com/v/XDdt2aWrHkQ

So, let’s get started.  First, I start with our Golden Vanilla Cake recipe.  I admit, I’ve never baked a cake from scratch before – I’m a mix baker. But this one is guaranteed – if I fail, I get a $5 gift card. I figure I can’t lose.

Sure enough, it’s quick and easy to put together. I even get brave and improvise, adding 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract to make the cupcakes extra-yummy.

I cut the recipe in half, which was plenty for the menorah: 6 regular-sized cupcakes, and 20 mini cupcakes. A full recipe would make 12 regulars and 40 minis. The large cakes baked in 23 minutes; the minis baked in 12 minutes. As a decorative touch, I made them in our new blue swirl cupcake papers – thought these would be perfect for Hanukkah.

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And they were.

This recipe was originally developed for our AP Flour, but I was inspired and decided to do another batch, this time with our new unbleached cake flour blend.  The batter seemed to be a bit lighter, and have more volume, thus making a few more cupcakes.

Also, the crumb of the finished cupcake was a bit lighter.  The general consensus around the office was that both were very good, but the ones made with unbleached cake flour (pictured below, at right) had a nicer texture.

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Now for the icing.  I went for the basic Easy Vanilla Frosting recipe.  The name does not mislead – this recipe was so easy, I won’t even try to walk you through it.  In short, throw ingredients in a mixer and mix.

But piping – I fear the piping bag. I’ve tried it a few times before, and can never seem to fill it without making a complete mess. I consult with one of our bakers, and she gives me the magic trick: take the bag with tip, put it in a heavy glass (a beer stein is perfect for this), turn the top of the bag over the outside of the glass, and then scoop in the icing.

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Voilà!

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The piping itself really was as easy as the baker demonstrated.  I piped on the icing…

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And then twirled the cupcakes in sparkling blue sugar…

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And the result?  Just what I’d pictured in my mind:

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My young daughters caught a glimpse of this as I was writing the blog, and immediately begged for us to do one this Hanukkah.  I have a feeling that I may have just started a new family tradition in my house.

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Red and green sprinkles for Christmas?  White for New Year’s Eve?  A few fun decos on top?  Have fun, happy baking, and a very happy holiday season to you!

comments

  1. chip

    And the best part is, at the end of Chanukah you have nine stale cupcakes with candle wax all over them! Yum! :-)

    Ha! These should freeze quite well. And I’m planning on dripless candles for my next batch… Regular Hanukkah candles are too large for the mini-cupcakes – we had to trim them down for the photos. Birthday candles should be perfect.

    Reply
  2. Meghan

    This is such a great idea! I always feel bad for my friends who are Jewish when there are only Christmas-themed desserts at our holiday party; it’s nice to see something that can be decorated for Hanukkah.

    Yes, it’s rare to see decorated desserts for Hanukkah. Glad I could provide some inspiration!

    Reply
  3. Jules

    What a cute idea! This could be a lot of fun for the last night. I love the beer bottle Hanukkiah. Cracks me up.

    Apparently, it was made out of Heineken bottles, and called a “Heinekenukiah”

    Reply
  4. Donna @ WayMoreHomemade

    I think it’s a wonderful idea. Anything that gets kids excited about being involved in the holiday. Even if you have to make some extras to eat at the end.

    For Christians celebrating Christmas… Cupcake Advent Wreath?

    GREAT idea for Christmas – thank you!

    Reply
  5. Amital

    Very cute idea! I’ll try it too, but just for decoration … keep in mind that actual Chanukah candles should burn for at least half an hour, but I think by then the flame would ruin the cupcakes.

    Reply
  6. Tinky

    Halley–LOVE the story about the beer-bottle menorah. You almost convinced me to make these, but I STILL fear the piping bag. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I’ll try some sweet-potato latkes (calling them yam-ul-kes; blog post will be up soon). Happy Hanukkah!

    Yum… I’ve never tried sweet-potato latkes. I’m curious… Now please, do NOT fear the piping bag. Even a mix-baker website manager like me can do it!

    Reply
  7. Kathryn

    OOOOH-lovely! Thanks so much for doing something special for Hanukkah. I’m doing these for the 8th night so that we can eat all the yummy cupcakes right away!

    Reply
  8. Marjorie Rissman

    I love this idea and will make it. Too bad there are NO Chanukah cupcake papes to be found. I have tried evrywhere. Please see what you can do for 2010! Thanks. Happy holidays to all!

    I’ll speak to our merchandising team and see if we can find any for next year. :-)

    Reply
  9. Ilene

    These are so lovely. What an inspirational idea! Have my dessert for the first night–I think this might be for the last night as then we could have all of them lit and they do look spectacular all together. Thanks.

    Reply
  10. Marilynn Rebby

    The cupcake menorah was adorable- i have many menorahs-including a Disney one- why not something to show off our culinary skills.

    I too have so many menorahs… but this was my first edible menorah.

    Reply
  11. Karen

    What a beautiful idea. The finished product is amazing. I know the girls will love it and I love the idea of starting a new tradition for the holiday. They are so festive and look delicious. Happy Hanukkah!

    Happy Hanukkah to you too!

    Reply
  12. Tammy

    LOVE the idea, as we have made hanukkiot out of all kinds of (inedible) materials: bolts, bottle caps, ceramic tiles, pebbles, etc. But never cupcakes, which I will make ASAP and surprise my guests. The catch? In lighting Hanukkah candles, they must be allowed to burn completely. Surely that’s too long to wait for dessert ~ I’m not inclinded to use them all week like chip, above. I will need to eat them. Daily. So a good candle holder oughta do the trick…and small candles…

    Yes, eat them immediately. And use small candles. :-)

    Reply
  13. TiV

    Best regards from Finland! Beautiful cupcakes! We normally do not use that kind of frosting, I mean so “generous”. But it looks good when there is a huge amount of frosting! One question: doesn´t it tast way too sweet? I know, cupcakes must taste sweet, but I am wondering if it gets a bit too sweet with that amount of confec.sugar on it?….

    Well, for my kids, the more frosting the better. This frosting was not too sweet, but I think you could adjust the sugar to your liking.

    Reply
  14. Ariella

    Brilliant! “Kol haKavod” (all the honor, or “you go girl” more loosely translated). They are beautiful! Can hardly wait to try them!

    I would think making eight big ones, and 36 minis, freezing all but the first big one and first mini, would be ideal…you can take out each afternoon what you’ll light that night, and once the candle burns out, you can eat the remains (to avoid the stale issue, at the end of the festival).

    Chanukah Sameach / Happy Chanukah!

    Wow – “you go girl” in hebrew!

    Reply
  15. jane

    My kids will only be home for the last night of Chanukah – what a great surprise this menorah will be for them! (I may try a tin-foil guard hidden in the center of the icing to keep the wax off them…)

    Thanks for a delightful idea.

    Reply
  16. Muffy

    A great idea—and I thought latkes mades of various potato varieties was cutting edge! LOL!

    On the down side: I can’t quite get the math to work out (on the baby cakes). Maybe I am trying to change the out to frequently.

    The uo side: it has inspired me to work harder on my Sonora Desert (where I live) inspired menorah.

    Reply
  17. Stephanie

    I think this is a great idea for the last night of Hanukkah, my little ones that will be at my house will be thrilled to be able to eat the cupcakes after the candles burn out.
    Great Idea!!!!

    Reply
  18. Mark Loveland

    Stunning! … I hope you don’t my adopting it for my dining room table:)

    Of course not – the whole point of this blog is to inspire! Thanks so much, Mark.

    Reply
  19. MaryJane

    Halley,
    The blog is delightful and your menorah is just lovely. The candlelit photo is my favorite. I’m so proud of you for tackling your fear of piping. Chag Urim Sameach!

    Reply
  20. Debbie

    To Chip: if you put the cakes in a covered container each nite, then on the last nite scrape off the wax, you have 9 DELICIOUS cupcakes the kids will remember for a long time. These would be great for small birthday parties, each child having a candle they can help blow out. OR could you imagine them in red sugar for Valentines Day? The big one could be the joining of the heart and the little ones the actual heart shape.

    Reply
  21. PJ Hamel

    Thank you, Halley, for finally doing a Jewish holiday recipe that’s actually kosher (right)? Catholic girls like me need to stick to St. Patrick’s Day… And readers, what none of you can know yet is this – not only are the cupcakes gorgeous, they’re DELICIOUS. Tender, soft, vanilla-y, with that crown of creamy frosting. You’d think they’d be too sweet, but they’re absolutely not. So I don’t know the first thing about how long candles have to burn and where the wax might drip, but be sure to save some cupcakes out for eating, as well as menorah-ing. Happy Chanukah!!! (P.S. Catholic me went to Jewish kindergarten. “Chanukah, Chanukah, what a happy time…” Does that count?) PJH

    Reply
  22. Sherrie

    Enjoyed your blog and your inspiration for celebrating with an edible menorah. I know my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will enjoy these treats. Here is another suggestion…why not make a menorah out of gingerbread! Then we could eat it too at the end of Chanukah.

    Also would like to mention that I purchased your latkas and made some tonight for the 1st night. We all liked them and it was so easy to do. Saved me a lot of preparation time. I’ll be buying my latkas from you every year.

    Glad you had tasty success with the latke mix, Sherrie – enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  23. Kimberly

    Those are just beautiful, what a lovely blue. I’m not Jewish, but I want to make these because they’re too pretty (and easy)! Very handy tip about filling the icing bag, way easier than me trying to hold the bag open with one hand and slopping icing with a spatula in the other hand.

    Reply
  24. Karen in Canada

    I am so inspired by your beautiful cupcake menorah! I think I will follow the suggestion made by one of the people who commented that she will bake them on the eighth night – and then eat the menorah!! My only sorrow is that the menorah suggestion wasn’t posted sooner, because I would have liked to have ordered the blue swirl cupcake liners, but I live in Canada, so they couldn’t even arrive for day eight. Still, I will get them for next year when I order again.

    I am very impressed by your creativity! They are beautiful (and now I’m hungry for one too)…
    Happy Channukah and Merry Christmas to all

    Reply
  25. Nina

    Just an idea for those who don’t have the color papers – split the batter in three, tint two of them in blue with different quantities of color as to obtain two shades of blue and the fill the forms with layers of each shade plus the natural uncolored batter layer.

    Reply
  26. TiV

    Regards from Finland! Beautiful cupcakes! We do not decorate our cupcakes so generously here, but we should, it looks lovely! One thing I am wondering, aren´t they too sweet with so much icing? Ok, I know cupcakes MUST taste sweet, but I am still hesitant with the amount of sugar… This is a matter of different tastes of course, but how do you feel? Is there any icing made with a little bit of different ingredients?

    You could use a cream cheese icing – less sweet, more tangy. It might be just what you’re looking for. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  27. Hilary

    Great blog post! I love your writing style and I enjoyed reading your adventures in cupcake-land. Being a Catholic-Jew I think I will make these for my Jewish family members for our Christmakkah dinner this year! Thank you =))

    Reply
  28. Patricia

    Another idea if you can’t find those pretty paper cups: bake in regular paper and set them in rings of Chanukah gift paper. Fold wrap over a time or two for stiffness and proper height to cover up to the cake and glue, tape, or even staple! Without the angle they might even look more like a candle! We’ll see–I’m definitely going to try these! Thanks for this–loved seeing it in my email! Chag samaech!

    Reply
  29. renee schleifer

    I wonder if anyone out there knows a wondrous recipe for Potato Knick, as it was called when I was a lot younger, say 60 years ago. Some people might call it Potato Pudding, although I’m not sure they’re exactly the same thing. Have been longing for this recipe ever since I can remember. Hope someone knows what I’m talking about? Happy Chanukah, and thanks, Renee S.
    I’m not familiar with that recipe. Has anybody else heard of it? Molly @ KAF

    Hi Renee – Try this Potato Knick. Or this Potatonik. Or these Potato Knicks. Let us know how they compare to your memories! PJH

    Reply
  30. Molly Smith

    It is Chanukah (DEDICATION OF LIGHTS)! It is spelled with eight letters to match the eight days of Chanukah.

    Chanukiah (The holder of the nine candles)! Notice the spelling is nine letters to match the holders!

    When Chanukah is spelled with the CH it is Sephardic (Israel – Spain Hebrew!
    When Hanukah is spelled with the H, it is Ashkinazi (Eastern Europe) Hebrew!

    I always wondered why sometimes it is spelled with an “H”, and sometimes with a “Ch”. Thank you! Since there are so many spellings out there, again I consulted Wikipedia. I know, maybe a few too many “experts” writing there, but that is where I got the the ones I used in the blog…

    Reply
  31. Mike T.

    Hmmm, if you repackage a special “Chanukah edition” kit to make 8 regular and 36 mini, or better yet, 8 Texas and 36 regular, we could mix a batch, freeze it and have it every night to light. Just pull a set out each day to defrost and use that night… Like the candles, each a different color, you could include different colors of sprinkles in the kit (KAF has enough variety)! Maybe even include enough of the blue (or if you find the Chanukah papers) in the kit.

    Reply
  32. Mike T.

    Or, if you want to have all the cupcakes each night (including the ones without candles) just increase the mix to make 64 instead of 36…

    Reply
  33. Marilyn Tomsky

    I’m Jewish. Thank you so much for this inspiration for Chanukah! I’m going to make it for my grandchildren next year when they are almost 2 years old. It is beautiful!
    Sounds like the perfect way to start a holiday tradition with the children in mind! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  34. aja b.

    What a GREAT idea for a menorah. My kids will LOVE it. And if you want a great sweet potato latke recipe, go to epicurious.com and search “curried sweet potato latkes.”

    Reply
  35. Jacqueline Strand

    Thank you so much for featuring something for Chanukah. The blue and white swirl cupcake papers really set these apart and identify them for Chanukah!

    Reply
  36. Alison

    Awesome!I will try to bake these fab cupcakes for Hanukkah! Also sent the link my my Israeli boyfriend:)
    Happy Hanukkah to all!

    Reply
  37. Batya

    Adorable, but as a menorah they should be in a straight line. Afterward, take them apart and eat them. As a kids/family activity, each kid should decorate however they want, light them, eat the meal and then eat the menorah for dessert.

    Reply
  38. Pam Baker

    To all of you concerned about piping:
    A trick I learned many years ago is to put your icing on a piece of plastic wrap, roll it up like a sausage but in a somewhat pear shape and on the small end, cut off the plastic wrap close to the icing and place that end in first, to your piping bag. When you are done, remove the plastic wrap and toss. Or express the remaining icing back into the container. Makes cleanup easier. Makes it easier to change colors without having to own a dozen piping bags. Of course there is a downside. You waste a lot of plastic wrap. But if you are piping multiple colors and multiple tips…makes life a whole bunch easier.
    Pam
    p.s. I would love to do a blog for you about smooth icing a cake and doing some simple cake decorations like rope, scallop or braided edges etc. Of course, I’m sure someone at KAF can do it for you. ;0]

    Reply
  39. Top 10 Cigars

    These are just beautiful. I can’t get over how pretty the glitter looks in the pictures, not to mention how symbolic they are as well! I’d hate to even eat these because they are so pretty. Thanks for putting up something up for the Jewish community! It’s hard to find unique things like this during Christmas.
    -Sylvia

    Reply

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