A recipe from one of my new favorite designers, Matthew Mead. It can be found in his new book, Halloween Tricks & Treats
Wise Owl Cake
30 Unfrosted cupcakes, store-bought or made from your favorite recipe. (I used Devils Food!)
1 Recipe Easy Icing*
1 Tube ready-made vanilla decorating frosting (to fill donut holes)
2 Chocolate-glazed jimmy-topped donuts
2 black jelly beans
Orange gel food color
Red gel food color
Decorating bags with couplers
#199 fine cut tip, #2 and #5 round tips
To decorate the cake
1. Arrange the cupcakes in a single layer to fill a large round plate (ours is 16 inches in diameter).
2. Spoon 3/4 cup Easy Icing into a small bowl. Tint with 23 drops orange food color and 10 drops red food color, mixing until blended, for the beak. Spoon 1/4 cup frosting into a second bowl and tint with brown food color, for the accents. Tint the remaining 3 cups frosting with 30 drops of orange food color, 9 drops of red food color, and 6 drops of brown food color.
3. Fit decorating bag with the #199 tip. Fill the bag with orange icing. Cover the top of the assembled cupcakes with "feather" peaks as shown. For each peak, hold the bag straight up with the tip against the cake; squeeze the bag, keeping the tip in the icing until the peak forms; stop the pressure and reposition the tip for the next peak. Work from the center out, rotating the plate; refill the bag as needed.
4. Place the donut tops on the frosted cake for eyes, as shown. Pipe vanilla decorating frosting into the center of each and top with a jelly bean. For the beak, use a spoon to place 3 drops of frosting on the cake: start with a largish dollop near the eyes, then add 2 dollops below it, each smaller than the previous. Run the spatula under hot water until heated, dry thoroughly, and use to contour the beak as shown.
5. Fit the other decorator bag with the #5 round tip. Fill the bag with the brown icing. Hold the bag at an angle and pipe the brow outline onto the cake as shown. Change the tip to the #2 round tip and pipe on the squiggle details.
They call this "easy" but it's just plain good! It's a pure shade of white so it's easy to tint.
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon butter flavoring
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups confectioner's sugar
Beat the shortening, vanilla and almond extracts, butter flavoring, and salt in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Slowly add 2 cups confectioner's sugar, beating well. Beat in 2 tablespoons water. Slowly add the remaining 2 cups confectioner's sugar; add 1 to 3 tablespoons more water, as needed, beating to a spreadable consistency.