Chernobyl Diaries: Nuclear Poppyseed Cupcakes

Pack your bags. We’re going on vacationmuwahahahaha….. 

            Many great horror movies have begun with a group of friends setting off together on a carefree summer adventure. We all know what happens. It’s become quite the genre cliché. Fun becomes trouble and the trouble turns deadly. Each member of the party is picked off, one by clueless one, until the final tough contender remains facing off with The Bad Guy or The Bad Something. While most vacation horror films may seem fairly formulaic in their approach to kill off oblivious youngsters, there are an eclectic few going out of their way to do it different. Oren Peli’s Chernobyl Diaries is definitely trying to be a trip-taking rebel.

My Screen Rant:  Chris, his girlfriend, Natalie, and her tag-along galpal, Amanda, are off sightseeing throughEurope. They make a brief pit stop inKiev,Ukraine, to visit Chris’s playful, up-for-anything brother, Paul. Paul is really so up-for-anything that he arranges an impromptu side adventure through Uri’s “Extreme Tourism” to Pripyat, the town evacuated and left deserted following the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. His straighter-laced brother is not exactly thrilled.


Of course, the typical warnings soon abound. Another backpacking couple joins in on the tour, Uri must take the antsy group another route after being denied access into the city by gate guards, and signs of “we’re not alone” slowly creep their way into the film. The action really picks up once the tour ends. But you know the tour never really ends, right? Because the van doesn’t start and the walkie-talkie only responds with static. *shocker!* Wild animals are on the prowl, and radiation levels are beginning to rise along with the tension amongst the frightened friends.

An uneasy feeling

That is where the tried and true devices of the Pick Em Off horror film dissolve. What follows is an unremitting assault on your nerves sans spooky music that gives away the better jolts. The creepy setting is finally original. The characters face more than just mutated ruins-dwellers. The ending left a hopeless taste in my mouth (that is usually not the case). And thankfully, it’s not a found footage film!!

Now, who says horror isn’t educational? After an hour and a half of thinking “get the heck outta there,” at the characters, my zomblings could not wait to revisit Chernobylthrough the internet and library books. The movie sparked an interest in the geography, the history, and the science behind the disaster. Chernobyl Diaries motivated their interest in learning far better than any textbook or classroom lesson. Go Horror! I think that’s pretty awesome!

Something’s coming!

The Recipe: Makiwnyk is the traditional poppy seed cake ofUkraine. I took the customary ingredients found in the cake and transformed them into airy lemon-glazed Makiwnyk cupcakes. Not only is the glaze refreshingly tart, it also serves as a tasty adhesive for the radioactive fondant symbols atop each treat. The best part is that you don’t have to be an expert in fondant to create the decorations because the design is fairly simple.

Tips for Success: Make the lemony glaze while the cupcakes bake. Prepare the fondant decorations a day or two ahead.

Nuclear Makiwnyk (Poppyseed) Cupcakes

(Makes 22-24 radioactive goodies)


3 c cake flour

2 sticks (1 cup) softened butter

5 eggs (room temp, please)

2 1/3 c sugar

¼ tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp salt

1 c sour cream or crème fraiche

1 tsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp lemon zest

2 Tbsp poppy seeds

1 tsp cinnamon

Liners: radioactive green or yellow

Topping: Makiwnyk (lemon) Glaze

Decoration: Nuclear Symbol

How To Make Em:

Obligatory Reminder: Prep pans with cupcake liners and coat sparingly with non-stick baking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Beat the butter and sugar into creamy submission using your hand mixer or stand mixer.

2. Add the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the sour cream/crème fraiche by hand.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the boring stuff: flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the creamed mixture by hand or mixer until well combined.

4. Gently mix in the cinnamon, lemon juice, zest, and poppy seeds.

5. Fill each cupcake cavity about ¾ full. Bake 15-18 minutes in 350 degrees oven. Always do the toothpick-poke check before pulling them out of the oven. If the toothpick emerges clean from the center of a cupcake, it is done.

6. Cool. Glaze. Decorate.

 Deadgirl Makiwnyk Glaze

 (Enough to cover 22-24 radioactive goodies)


3 ½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 ½ c powdered sugar 

How To Make It:

1. Whisk the two sticky ingredients together until the sugar is fully dissolved and it resembles a syrup.

2. Brush or drizzle over the tops of the cooled cupcakes.

3. Place the decorations atop each cupcake before the glaze dries.

Fondant Radioactive Symbol

1 batch white fondant (storebought or homemade)

Yellow icing color

Black icing color

Tools: toothpicks, rolling pin (silicone or otherwise), silicone mat or tabletop, extra powdered sugar or cornstarch, craft cutting knife or fondant cutting knife, standard circle cookie cutter

**First off, I don’t have any money to spend on fancy-schmancy cake decorating supplies so in true DIY anarchy style-I use what I have around my kitchen.

**Also, I don’t buy packaged fondant because it tastes disgusting to me and where’s the DIY rebellion in that? I prefer to make my own. On our next traveling adventure, I will post a recipe for homemade marshmallow fondant. Much yummier!!

Doin’ it Deadgirl Style

How To Make Em:

1. Dust your work surface or mat with loads of powdered sugar/cornstarch.

2. Using a toothpick to add the color, tint ½ of the fondant yellow and ½ of the fondant black.

Alternative: There are always more than one way to skin a cat, my dearies. Black fondant is a pain to achieve. If you are patience-challenged like me, cut down your time by simply leaving the other half white and paint on the black icing color after the decos have been assembled. I did this, and it worked fabulously.

3. Roll out the yellow fondant thin and cut out as many circles as you can with your circle cutter. Place each circle atop a cupcake.

4. Using your craft knife or your overpriced fondant tool, cut radioactive symbols from the black (or white) fondant. See my example below for an awesome visual or Google it.

5. Using a dab of leftover glaze or a small bit of water + powdered sugar/cornstarch, adhere your small symbols to the yellow circle.

*If you are painting on the black color, use a fine brand new art or candy making paint brush.

Voila! You are set for a radioactive night of horror film watching!!! Enjoy!

Upcoming Travels: Another Friday the 13th means another group meeting with my Main Man, Jason Voorhees. We’ll be watching Friday the 13th Part 4 (my absolute favorite in the series) and munching on Hockey Mask Scotcheroos!


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