Thursday, October 31, 2013

Haunted House Cake

We have a little basket of Halloween candy on the counter - dark chocolate kisses, chocolate peanut butter cups and chocolate caramels - that Jamie's been nibbling on all evening while dinner is cooking.  Trick-or-Treaters don't bother climbing all the stairs in our condo buildings, so any candy we buy ends up being just for us.

I've been wanting to make a Haunted House Cake for a couple years now, and finally decided to take the time to make one.  The idea for this design is from a photo I saw on a cake picture gallery, and as you see, my design is largely inspired by that one.  I didn't care for the ghoul on top, though, so instead, I made a little graveyard with Milano cookie gravestones and pumpkins made from fondant.

One of my own design ideas to add to the cake was the gray pathway leading from the gate up to the house, but in the end, I'm not sure I actually loved that addition, and might prefer it without the path.  Either way, I thought it turned out totally adorable, and I took the cake to work today for our Halloween potluck lunch.

I might just have to challenge myself now to make a Haunted House Cake every Halloween!

Haunted House Cake

chocolate cake:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk or whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
orange vanilla bean buttercream:
  • 3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 4 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 2 teaspoons orange extract
  • orange and black food coloring
  • 3/4 cup orange marmalade
pumpkins, gravestones and dirt:
  • fondant, tinted orange
  • brown edible marker
  • small amount of buttercream, tinted green
  • Milano cookies
  • Oreo cookies

Bake the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray three 9-inch square and two 6-inch round cake pans with non-stick spray.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the eggs, buttermilk, sour cream, oil and vanilla and beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until well combined.  Scrape 2 cups of batter into each of the pans (the small 6-inch pans will be more full).

Bake until the center of the cakes spring back when gently touched and a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes for the thinner cake layers in the square pans and 30-35 minutes for the thicker cake layers in the small round pans.  Set pans on a wire rack, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and cool completely.

Prepare the Buttercream:
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter and vanilla bean seeds for 1 minute.  Add the powdered sugar and meringue powder, a spoonful at a time, mixing on low to combine.  Add the milk and orange extract and whip on medium high until very light and fluffy.

Remove 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream.  Color a very small amount green, about 1/3 cup gray, and 1 cup black.  Color the remaining buttercream orange.

Make the Pumpkins:
Roll the fondant into balls between your hands.  Press indentations around the sides using the side of a toothpick, and press an indentation into the top for the stem using any clean, blunt object, such as the end of a small pen or pencil.  Draw feathery brown lines along the indentations with your brown edible marker.

Assemble and Decorate:
Remove the cooled cakes from the pans.  Stack the square cakes, layering each with a thin layer of marmalade between.  Frost all over with a thin crumb coat of orange buttercream.  Stack the round cakes on top (I off-centered mine to make room for the gravestones), layering with more marmalade between, and frosted  with a thin crumb coat of orange buttercream.  Chill for 20 minutes to set the crumb coat and frost all over with a smooth coat of orange buttercream.  Chill for 20 minutes.

Fit a piping bag with a small round tip and fill with black buttercream.  Pipe the house, fence, trees, birds, etc.  Switch to a small star tip to pipe the border.  Spread or pipe the gray buttercream for the path and outline with black.

Cut a few Milano cookies in half and press into the frosting for gravestones.

Spread a thin layer of frosting onto the cake board around the cake.  Crush 6-8 Oreos in the food processor and sprinkle crumbs onto the frosting.

Decorate cake with the pumpkins.  Using a small star tip, pipe the green buttercream to make stems for each pumpkin, and a small round tip for the curly vines.

Recipes from Curly Girl Kitchen
Design Inspired by Cake Picture Gallery's Halloween Cake