On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

Halloween Cake

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I have been thankful to find an excuse to make another cake where I can practice using new toys, and modify the ganache recipe.

We don’t celebrate Halloween. In fact we cringe when we see children roaming the streets as we drive home, hoping they wont waste their time knocking at our door.

In that respect, making a cake with a Halloween theme is ludicrous., except it gave me an opportunity to have another “go” at decorating. And besides, when else would I get to use purple fondant?

I started on Thursday night. Some weeks back Natalie and I had been in the supermarket and I spotted Pams brand had a Coconut Instant Pudding flavour. I bought it.

Last week while grocery shopping I saw Duncan Hines Butter Cake was now being stocked. I bought that too. I wanted to see what the difference in brands would be. I’ve tried Betty Crocker. And as it happens, I’ve got Pillsbury Cake Mix coming my way as well. I put in another order at Martha’s Backyard this week. They’ve got free shipping until the end of the year. There’s a number of different goodies I’ve ordered. I’m curious about certain things that other blogs constantly rate so I’m going to “sample”.

Thursday I baked the cake as I did last weekend the Madeira cake I baked for Breast Cancer. Except this was a box mix, which was doctored.

Torte and layer

These are the changes I made:

  • 1 x Duncan Hines Butter Cake mix
  • Extra Self Raising flour to make the combined box and flour 18.25 oz
  • 1 x Coconut Instant Pudding (just the dry mix)
  • Extra Vanilla Instant Pudding mix to bring the total Pudding mix up to 3.4 oz (thank goodness my scales go from one measure to another)
  • 2/3 cup of egg whites (I used the Zeagold liquid egg whites)
  • 1 x 250 gm pottle of Lite Sour Cream
  • 1/3 cup of Coconut cream with water added to bring the total volume to ½ cup liquid

I’ve found the Baking Tin Size Converter Calculator link no longer works. In the end I downloaded the app (it’s a paid app) to my work iPhone because I just can’t be without this tool in my life.

The recipe, originally from Rose Bake’s website is for an 8” round tin. I found a 6” and 5” round cake tin equals an 8” round cake tin.

I poured 60% of the batter into the 6”, 3” high cake tin and the remainder (40%) into the 5”, 3” high cake tin.

What I didn’t expect was the huge difference in time to bake. The 5” took 65 minutes, the 6” took 90 minutes, in my oven.

I was praying they would be cooked all the way through. It’s quite tricky to tell when the cakes are so deep. They rose a little over 6cm.

Friday I torted and filled them with Italian Meringue Buttercream.

Mmmm, Italian Meringue Buttercream. This was my first time making buttercream using this method.

Alison, who often leaves me very nice and encouraging comments on posts, had flicked me an email with a link to Bronnie Bakes YouTube with Alison’s personal recommendation.

I decided it was time I gave this a shot. I had a whole lot of egg whites to use (my pouch of ZeaGold egg whites) and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. I’m so glad I did.

I also used my much loved (I’m quite enthusiastic about) Lewis Road Creamery Unsalted Butter.

I’ve used this butter in the making of Swiss Meringue Buttercream and found I didn’t need all of the butter. But I actually added 500gm of butter (not the 450gm in the recipe). I think that was more because I started to add the butter before the bowl was room temperature. It was close, but just a little on the warmish side of cool.

Italian Meringue Buttercream

At first I found the flavour to be quite different. In fact the sweetness was so different that I never tasted the butter. But after sneaking another taste I could tell it had a buttery flavour, but not a thick heavy flavour like you’ve just chewed a chunk of it.

I have to say that I prefer the Italian Meringue Buttercream. And thankfully it too freezes because I had way too much, even though it only uses 5 egg whites and my SMBC uses 8 egg whites (I would have had too much of that as well). I’ve got the left overs, which there is quite a lot of, in the freezer. It’ll be put to good use when I make my Movember cake.

Friday night I also made the ganache. This time I bought Meadow Fresh cream (even though Home Brand has no note that it uses water, and it says 35% fat), and I used Cadbury Milk Chocolate Buttons, which has 27% cocoa butter.

But alas the ganache was too soft. I started out by adding a half 250gm block of 62% Whittaker’s chocolate. I couldn’t tell any difference other than it went darker. Then Saturday morning when it was confirmed the ganache was still too soft and hadn’t hardened, I added the other ½ block. After leaving it a while I still wasn’t happy, so I gave in and opened another 250gm block of 62% Whittaker’s chocolate and added another ½. And now we were in business. It was still quite pliable in application but it was starting to firm up in the bowl. Each time I swiped some ganache off the cake and returned the extra to the side of the bowl, it would almost instantly “set”. Yay.

So here’s my proportions:

  • 750gm Cadbury Milk Chocolate
  • 375gm 60% Whittaker’s Chocolate
  • 375gm Cream

I still followed the same method of brining the cream to the boil having first melted (slowly in the microwave) the chocolate. I actually melted the Whittaker’s chocolate in my milk pan, but next time I’ll melt all the chocolates together.

The cream was added in 4 stages to the chocolate and incorporated using a wooden spoon. Then I got the stick blender out and gave the lot a good mix for a few minutes (I didn’t re-do this stage after adding the Whittaker’s chocolate).

Again I had too much, even though I ganached both the 5” and 6” cakes. The rest is in the freezer, and will, like the IMBC, make an appearance for the Movember cake.

It didn’t take too long to ganache the cakes. I slightly modified the method I used last week. I didn’t ganache the base of the cake card, instead I used the buttercream. I found that ganache on the bottom of the cake make it harder to extract a slice from the cake when it was cut. Funny thing is though, that while the cake was in the fridge for the prescribed 2 hours firming up, and it was at this stage upside down, the cake card started to lift from the cake (the bottom was now at the top). Needless to say that when I flipped the cake back up the right way, so the cake was again sitting on the cake card, it remained in place and hasn’t slipped at all.

Next came the covering of the cakes. Remember last week when I had that really awful bulge? Yeah well that was my fear this week, except that I had two chances to bulge.

Building a web

Working in dark colours means that I had to be extra vigilant about getting cornflour on the fondant. And though I tried really hard, I still managed to get a bit on the fondant. I forgot to wipe my hands after having laid the fondant over the cake! Oops.

The fondant covered nicely and I had no problem at the beginning. And I poked a skewer all the way through the centre of each cake (as I’d read during the week) so that as the cake came to room temperature air had somewhere to escape.

Although the cakes were at room temperature before I covered them. With the ganache behaving I had no qualms about bringing them out of the fridge and letting them get to room temperature prior to covering them.

The only moment that caused me some concern was after I had stacked the 5” on the 6”. I could see a bit of a bulge along the top edge. I used a pin to prick it and eased the air out.

Along came a spider

I don’t know if you know what it’s like to wake in the morning and lay in bed wondering if your cake is still in tact. I have to get up and put myself out of my misery. Even it had blown apart, at least I’d know. In fact before I went to bed last night I took photos, just in case things took a turn for the worst.

Mr Fussy and I often get to talking about how I will decorate a cake. He encouraged me to go with the purple, he liked my idea of adding an orange border at the base of each cake. This gave me a chance to use my new First Impressions Silicone mould which had been shipped to me from America (thanks Fishpond!). I’d had a little practice during the day and found that the “strand” released quite easily for the 5mm size, but not so for the 4mm. Still I hadn’t planned to use the smaller size, the 5mm is about as small as you’d want for a cake boarder. The smaller sizes might be good as accents, or maybe they would work if you were doing a petite cake.

The pearl boarder used a 50/50 mix of gumpaste to fondant. It was really cool to use this. I was able to pick up the strand by just one pearl and it would all hang there, and the strand was still quite moveable after a few minutes, so I didn’t have to rush to get it on the cake immediately. Though I wouldn’t encourage you to sit about and have a cup of tea first.

At first I was going to leave the cakes at this stage for the night, but then I decided I still had plenty of time (I was at this stage before cooking dinner) so I’d do the cobwebs.


For the cobwebs I used my Mankins Clay Extruder. I’ve used this once before on the cake I did for Cel, I had made the grass around the posts using it. The fondant I used was the same as I used last weekend, so it had a little Tylose in it. That didn’t seem to have any adverse effect with the strands. I cut them up and placed them on the cake. This was a very fiddly job, and someone might have better ideas about how to do this without as much grief. I got to use my new paint brush, my Colour Shaper soft taper “brush”. I found them online (and in store) at a local art shop. I used this to help maneuver the strands in place. Though getting them to the cake was a real hit and miss affair. I had started out using my water pen (another art shop purchase) to “paint” the water into the lines I wanted to use. But it turned out to be not enough water to give the right stick for the fondant. Or it just took me too many times (and time) to get the strand to the cake. In the end, having already done 2 cobwebs, I realised it was easier to use the water pen directly onto the fondant strip. I had a better strike rate at getting the strip to stick to the cake, but it still wasn’t easy. So I did a third one, as you do.

All the while doing this I felt that many many months ago I had bought “something” to use for Halloween. It wasn’t until I got to bed (early because I wasn’t feeling well) that it dawned on me what it was. I had bought the Alphabet Halloween silicone mould, way back in January this year.

This morning I re-coloured the reddish orange that I used for the pearl boarders to make it a more pumpkin colour, and made the pumpkins, and the “Halloween” letter set. The pumpkins came away really easily but I put the mould into the freezer for 3 or so minutes when it came to the word Halloween. It came away good for 2/3 of it, but the last bit was somewhat reluctant. I thought I had misshapen the word, but on closer inspection to the mould, it was exactly as it was meant to look.


I used my edible black marker to colour in the eyes, nose and mouth of the pumpkins, and after photographing the cake, realised I should have done the same for the pumpkin in the word “Halloween”. Oh well.

I used the same mould to try and make the spider and web, the witches face/hat and the broomstick and the bats. All of which proved to be very tricky, even after a light dusting of cornflour in the mould.

Ahh yes, the spider. I got to make him on Friday evening. He’s all fondant for the body and head, the legs have florist wire in them, and I made them too long, but I actually think he looked more menacing with longer legs.  After rolling the fondant around the wire I used very small scissors to cut into the fondant to give it some sort of “hairy” look.  Dave at work said I needed to add a black stripe down the back. Mr Fussy agreed. I had to Google Black Widow Spider to see how the red was, then I cut out the red fondant and adhered it to the back with a bit of water. Saturday I brushed the body with some water and then used black sanding sugar to give some texture. I also used my stencil brush dabbed into black food gel to give the red a bit of a mottled look, similar to the photo I was using. I didn’t know what to do with the face, I couldn’t get a good look from the photos, but knew I had it wrong. I decided to make fangs, but it really just makes the spider look like it has buck teeth. I’ve got a long way to go with figurines. Not that figurines really spin my wheels, probably because I find them so difficult.

Creepy crawlies

Now this may come as a bit of a surprise to you all, but in the last 2 weeks, I’ve had no chocolate bars after dinner, in fact the only sweet treat I’ve had was a slice of the cake I made for Breast Cancer Awareness, and last night I had a Chocolate Caramel Cookie that Mr Fussy and I made yesterday afternoon (post coming). That’s a bit of a miracle for me, because when I have a chocolate bar, I usually have two! I’ve been very good at turning cake down at work, and even having salads for lunch. I’ve only had bread twice in the last two weeks, both times during the weekend. So I’m having a piece of cake tonight. Coconut cake isn’t my favourite flavour, but I want to try it out. I do find it a bit limiting when I’m trying new things in the kitchen not to sample, but I’m really bad at knowing when to stop! One swipe of the beaters becomes devouring the entire remains. So yes, I had a very small bit of IMBC and relied on Mr Fussy to tell me what the ganache tasted like. He said you can tell it has some dark chocolate in it, but it’s not really bitter.


I’ll have to update the blog post with a photo of the cut cake so you can see how it all panned out.

All and all I’m happy with the outcome. The ganache worked, eventually, the IMBC is a hit, the cake doesn’t have any nasty bulges and the decorations, from afar, look reasonable.

So for those that do celebrate Halloween, I know it’s a bit early, but Happy Halloween to you.

The dark sideUpdate: We’ve just finished dinner (yummy Saffron Risotto with Porcini mushrooms and chicken) and followed that up with a slice of cake.

I’ve got to say that I really enjoyed it. It might have been the nicest slice of cake I’ve had, that I’ve made. I ate it slowly to try and get a feel for flavours and  textures. Usually I inhale my food. I mean you’d think there was a race, and being the competitive (cough) type, I had to win. Anyway, the cake. I first had some cake without any ganache and fondant. It was lovely and soft, and moist, but not a wet sort of moist. The coconut flavour was obvious but not in the slightest bit overpowering. The IMBC was there but not intrusive, it was soft and delectable. The ganache, well that’s got to be the best ganache I’ve ever put on a cake. It truey was smooth, it wasn’t bitter, it wasn’t a powerful mouthful of chocolate, it just melded really nicely with the cake. And the fondant was still soft but not sticky, the fork went through it nicely. If anything the fondant could have been a mm thinner. If I were being picky, which I usually am. Mr Fussy said it was a really nice cake. All together the cake was a very pleasant dessert. The cake wasn’t that sweet so it offset the fondant, and the ganache was just the right amount of chocolate but not the star. I guess what I’m trying to say is this was a very well balanced cake.

Why do box mixed cakes have to be so much nicer in flavour and texture? What do they add that makes it so?

Given I don’t really think much of coconut, I’d have another slice (but I wont) again. Of course if I had the choice of that and caramel, well.  It goes without saying doesn’t it?

Piece of cake


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