Halloween Strawberry Shortcake Skull Cake

Halloween Strawberry Shortcake Skull Cake

We topped elegant strawberry shortcake with a ghoulish white chocolate skull in this spectacular Halloween dessert. Pour over the hot strawberry sauce to reveal the surprise inside!

Level: Intermediate

Total: 2 hr 45 min (includes chilling and cooling times)

Active: 1 hr 10 min

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Chocolate Skull:

4 ounces white chocolate melting wafers

1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil

4 ounces strawberries, sliced

Cake and Filling:

Nonstick cooking spray, for the pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (see Cook’s Note)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

8 ounces strawberries, sliced

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

2 cups sweetened whipped cream

Strawberry White Chocolate Sauce:

8 ounces strawberries, finely chopped

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 ounces red candy melting wafers

Directions

 

1. For the chocolate skull: Add the white chocolate melting wafers and coconut oil to a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between each, until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes.

2. Pour the chocolate mixture into the front and back cavities of a 2-part medium plastic skull mold (3-by-4-by-4-inch) and tilt to swirl the chocolate around until coated entirely (you can also use your finger to swirl the chocolate around). Tap out any excess and freeze until the chocolate is set, about 5 minutes.  

3. Reheat the melted chocolate, if needed, and brush the sides of the mold cavities with a second layer. Freeze until set, about 5 minutes. 

4. Carefully unmold the skull halves and fill one with the sliced strawberries. Microwave the melted chocolate again until smooth, about 30 seconds. Use the melted chocolate as glue to carefully attach the skull halves. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

5. For the cake and filling: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 6-inch round cake pan with 3-inch sides with nonstick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and spray the paper. 

6. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  

7. Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low just to incorporate, then beat on high until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vanilla and egg, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and continue to beat until creamy, about 2 minutes (the mixture will look curdled, but will come back together after everything is combined). With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. 

8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. 

9. Bake until golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan, turn the cake out onto the rack, remove the parchment and cool completely.  

10. Meanwhile toss the sliced strawberries and granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the strawberries to release their juices. 

11. Cut the cake into 3 layers with a long serrated knife. Place a cake layer on a cake stand and top with half of the strawberries. Spread 3/4 cup of the whipped cream on top. Repeat with another cake layer, the remaining strawberries and 3/4 cup whipped cream. Top with the final cake layer and remaining 1/2 cup whipped cream. Position the skull in the center of the whipped cream.

12. For the strawberry white chocolate sauce: Add the strawberries and granulated sugar to a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries have broken down and thickened slightly, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and vanilla. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and return the liquid to the saucepan (discard the solids). Add the cream and red candy melting wafers to the sauce and heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until melted and hot, 10 to 15 minutes. 

13. When ready to serve, pour the hot sauce over the center of the chocolate skull.

 

 

Cook’s Note

When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)


Halloween Strawberry Shortcake Skull Cake
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Halloween Strawberry Shortcake Skull Cake
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Chocolate Skull:
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Haunted Gingerbread House

Haunted Gingerbread House

Start gingerbread season a little early this year with a spooky display for Halloween. Make gumball pumpkins, chocolate tombstones and a scary (but candy-sweet!) monster hiding inside the house. …

Level: Advanced
Total: 4 hr 

(includes chilling and setting times)

Active: 1 hr 45 min
Yield: 1 gingerbread house

Ingredients:

Gingerbread Cookie Dough:

3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap and preferably golden, mild or sorghum molasses)

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Decorations:

12 ounces white candy melting wafers

1 cup ready-made chocolate frosting

12 cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed to fine crumbs

2 cups woven corn cereal squares 

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

12 ounces black candy melting wafers

Candy buttons

Black food color marker

3 ounces green candy melting wafers

1/4 cup green sanding sugar

 

Chocolate sprinkles

2 chocolate chews

3 to 4 round gumballs

3 ounces orange candy melting wafers

3 chocolate-filled rolled wafer cookies

Black sanding sugar

4 pretzel sticks

3 chocolate snack cake cupcakes

2 mini break-apart chocolate bars

Directions:

Special equipment:  a 14-inch cake board or large serving platter and 4 disposable piping bags

1. Make the cookies: Sift 3 cups of flour, the ginger, cinnamon, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the brown sugar and molasses. Mix until combined. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until a thick dough forms. If the dough is sticky, mix in the remaining flour a little at a time until the dough can easily be handled without it sticking to your fingers. You may not have to use all of the flour.

2. Gather the dough into a ball; divide in half. Roll each dough piece flat to 1/4-inch thickness between parchment paper sheets. Transfer the dough inside the sheets to the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

3. Position a rack in the center of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Print the Haunted Gingerbread House Walls and Roof Template (link below) and cut the shapes out with scissors. When the dough is well chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and peel back the top sheets of parchment. Lay the templates on the dough and cut around them using a flat-edged knife (do not discard the templates). Transfer the dough shapes to the prepared baking sheets. Leftover dough can be re-rolled and cut into cookies, or you can shape it into a baton and store it in your freezer for up to 1 month.

5. Bake the shapes for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges. While the cookies are still warm, lay the templates on top of the baked cookies and re-cut them using a knife. This will help the shapes fit together perfectly when you are assembling the house.

6. Assemble the house: Place the white candy wafers in a heatproof bowl and cook at 100 percent power in the microwave at 30-second intervals. Stir well after each interval until the candy is smooth (this should take about 1 minute total cook time). Transfer the candy to a disposable piping bag with a small hole in the end snipped (you may also use a zip-top bag with the corner snipped). Use cans from your pantry to help prop the house pieces up as you work. Glue the sides, front and back of the house together using the white melted candy. Let stand until dry, about 10 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, prepare the landscape: Spread half of the chocolate frosting over a 14-inch cake board or serving platter. Sprinkle the surface with the cookie crumbs and press them down slightly with flattened palms. Save leftover cookie crumbs and frosting for later use.

8. When the candy holding the gingerbread walls together is dry, gently lift the assembled house and place it in the center of the prepared board. Pipe white melted candy along the top edges of the house and attach the roof; hold the pieces steady with your hands until they hold on their own, about 2 minutes. Pipe extra candy around the roof edges and walls to fill in any visible gaps.

9. Place the corn cereal in a bowl or zip-top bag and add the cocoa powder. Mix together until the cereal pieces are well coated with cocoa. Pipe a line of candy on the bottom edge of a roof piece and place cereal pieces end-to-end in a single layer to make roof tiles. Pipe another line of candy just above the first row of cereal and add another row, slightly overlapping the first. It’s okay to use broken cereal pieces, as this will add to the character of the haunted house. Cover the entire rooftop with cereal. Pipe candy on the front and back top edges of the house and line with cereal squares. Allow the house to stand at room temperature until the candy is set, about 15 minutes.

10. Make the windows and door: Print the Haunted Gingerbread House Windows Template (link below). Place the template on a flat work surface and cover it with a large sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Melt the black candy wafers in a heatproof bowl and cook at 100 percent power in the microwave at 30-second intervals. Stir well after each interval until the candy is smooth (this should take about 1 minute total cook time). Transfer the candy to a disposable piping bag with the tip snipped. Pipe the candy over the black boxes (windows and doors) on the template. Use a toothpick to push the candy into small corners and to fill in gaps. Make as many windows as you wish for your haunted house by moving the template under a new sheet of parchment paper. Place candy buttons in each of the smaller windows before the candy is set. Use a food color marker to draw on eyeballs. Allow the candy to stand until set, about 15 minutes at room temperature or 5 minutes in the refrigerator. Peel the candy boxes with eyes off of the parchment and use a little melted candy to attach them to the top front of the house. Position each window tilted inward slightly. Attach the larger candy rectangle below the 2 windows to create the door. Use the white melted candy (reheat if necessary) to pipe dots on the top and bottom edges of the door. Use a toothpick to pull the melted candy into points to create fangs.

11. Make the monster arms: Melt green candy wafers as previously directed with the white and black candy wafers. Transfer the candy to a disposable piping bag with the tip snipped. Lay a sheet of parchment on a work surface. Pipe a 4-inch L shape on the parchment paper with the green candy. Use a toothpick to smooth the candy into an arm shape. Use the toothpick end to pull the bottom of the L shape into fingers. Pour green sanding sugar over the top portion of the arm, leaving the hand uncovered. Place a chocolate sprinkle on each finger to create long claws. Allow the shapes to set until firm. When the candy is firm, peel it off of the parchment and shake the excess sugar off of the arm. Repeat this process with a backwards L shape so that you have 2 monster arms. Attach a candy window with melted candy to each side of the house and hold until set, about 2 minutes. Attach an arm to each window and hold until set. Further decorate the sides and back of the house with more windows. 

12. Create boards for the windows: Knead 2 chocolate chews together and roll flat with a rolling pin (if the chews are too firm to flatten, heat them in the microwave for 5 seconds). Cut small board shapes (about 1/4 inch by 1 inch) from the candy using a knife. Use the end of a toothpick to striate the pieces. Use the pointed end of the toothpick to poke 2 small holes in each end, creating nail holes on the boards. Attach the pieces over the windows using melted candy.

13. Make candy pumpkins: Carefully poke holes in the gumballs using a metal skewer or knife, and thread them onto the pointed ends of toothpicks. Melt the orange candy wafers as previously directed. Dip the gumballs into the candy and place them on parchment paper. Remove the toothpick. Use leftover chocolate chews to fashion small pumpkin stems. Place them standing upright on top of the pumpkins. Allow to stand until set, about 15 minutes.

14. Make spooky trees: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use the black melted candy (reheat as needed) to pipe 3 well-spaced lines on the cookie sheets. Place a rolled wafer cookie on top of each line. Use the black candy to completely cover the wafers. Draw tree branches with the candy coming off of both sides and the top ends of the wafers. Cover with black sanding sugar. Let stand until firm, about 15 minutes.

15. Meanwhile, make the pretzel ladder: Break 2 of the pretzel sticks in half. Place 2 whole pretzel sticks parallel to each other. Attach the broken pretzel rungs to the whole pretzel sticks using melted candy. Let stand until set. When firm, lean the ladder against the house, preferably leading up to a window with eyeballs peering out.

16. When the trees are firm, lift them from the parchment and shake away excess sugar. Place each snack cake on the cake board upside-down and press a candy tree in its center. Cover the snack cakes with leftover cookie crumbs, if desired.

17. Make tombstones: Place leftover chocolate frosting in a piping bag. Break the chocolate bars at their perforations. Pipe a small dot of frosting onto the crumb-covered cake board and press an upright turned chocolate piece into the frosting. Repeat with remaining chocolate pieces to create a graveyard.

18. Finishing touches: Use melted white candy to pipe spider webs onto the house. Use the food color marker to draw cracks on the house, and spiders near their webs. Place the pumpkin decorations on the landscape and around the house as desired.


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Mummy Hand Pies

Mummy Hand Pies

This easy, Halloween-inspired recipe can be made ahead and served later as a scary-good party dessert.

Level: Easy
Total: 55 min
Active: 25 min
Yield: 6 hand pies

Ingredients:

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Kosher salt

 

2 refrigerated pie crusts, thawed if frozen

All-purpose flour, for dusting

1 large egg

12 raisins

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, optional

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

 

  • Add the pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and a pinch of salt to a medium bowl and stir to combine.

 

  • Roll out 1 pie crust on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin to form a rectangle about 9 inches by 12 inches. Square off the crust with a knife, reserving the scraps for decorating. Cut the pie crust into 6 equal rectangles, each about 3 inches by 6 inches. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

 

  • Roll out the other pie crust to the same thickness as the first. Cut into thin strips about 1/4 inch wide and 7 inches long. Repeat with the reserved dough scraps. Transfer the strips to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

 

  • Add 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling to the center of each rectangular crust. Use the back of a spoon to spread out the filling, leaving about a 1/2-inch border around the edges. 

 

  • Lightly beat the egg with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to brush the edges of the pies with the egg wash. Layer the strips of dough, varying the angle of each strip to create a “mummy” look. Seal the edges with a fork and use a paring knife to trim the overhang. Lightly brush the tops of the hand pies with the egg wash. Add 2 raisins to each hand pie for the eyes. ‘

 

  • Bake, rotating the pan halfway through for even color, until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a baking rack slightly, about 5 minutes. 

 

  • Serve as is or decorate with a simple icing. Combine the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl with 1/2 teaspoon water. Stir until smooth and glossy. Transfer the icing to a resealable plastic bag and snip off the corner. Pipe the icing onto the hand pies using the stripes of pie crust as a guide. Serve.

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Strawberry Cream Pie

Strawberry Cream Pie

I have some friends who declare that they “don’t bake”.  And I get that, not everyone enjoys baking but that doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy homemade treats, specially not these days when ingredients that are normally baked can be bought inexpensively at most grocery stores.

You can buy things like pie and tart shells, puff pastry and bread dough inexpensively and they sure cut your baking time almost in half.  At times it’s more cost effective to buy these things frozen than it is to make them from scratch.  Not only that they actually taste good!  And of course you don’t have to tell anyone that the pie crust was frozen; let them think you made it from scratch!

So for those of you who love desserts but don’t like to bake here’s a super easy Strawberry Cream Pie!  You can actually use any fruit, yes even canned pie filling, for this pie, but I love strawberries and these days you can pretty much get fresh strawberries year round.

Strawberry Cream Pie
Ingredients:

1 Graham Cracker Pie Crust

1 Pkg. Whipped Cream Cheese

1/2 Tsp. Vanilla

1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar

1 Pkg. Cool Whip

1 Basket Fresh Strawberries cleaned and hulled

For Glaze:

3/4 Cup Juice any type

1/4 Cup Sugar

2 Tbs. Cornstarch

2 Tbs. Corn Syrup

Directions:

Beat cream cheese in mixer until smooth.

Add vanilla and powdered sugar.

Fold in Cool Whip.

Pour into pie crust and smooth top.

Chill in refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile dissolve corn starch into 1/4 cup of juice.

In small saucepan whisk together remaining juice and sugar.

Cook over low heat to boiling.

Stir in dissolved corn starch and cook until thickened.

Remove from heat and stir in corn syrup.

Set aside to cool.

Once pie filling is set and chilled arrange strawberries on top.

Gently pour thickened glaze over strawberries.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.


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Honey roasted fig & almond tart

Honey roasted fig & almond tart

Delicious, sweet and fruity pud, great served with cream or ice cream – make the case with bought pastry

ready in 1½ -1¾ hours, plus chilling time

MORE EFFORT

SERVES 8

Ingredients

 

500g pack shortcrust pastry at room temperature, thawed if frozen

8 ripe figs, stalks trimmed

finely grated zest and juice of one large juicy orange

 

 

1 tbsp clear honey

200g softened butter

200g golden caster sugar

200g packet ground almonds

2 medium egg yolks

Method

1. Preheat the oven to fan 180C/ conventional 200C/gas 6. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface and use to line a shallow loose-bottomed 25cm flan tin. Make sure the pastry comes above the rim – it may shrink in baking and the filling could spill. Chill for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cut the figs in half lengthways and sit them cut side up on a roasting tray. Mix the orange juice and honey in a bowl, pour over the figs and roast for 10-12 minutes until just soft. Drain off any juice into a saucepan and reserve.

3. Prick the base of the chilled pastry case all over with a fork, then line with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to fan 130C/conventional 150C/ gas 2. Leave the pastry case to cool slightly before filling.

4. Cream butter and sugar in a food processor or with an electric beater until smooth and pale. Tip in the ground almonds and zest and whizz briefly to combine. Add egg yolks and 1 tbsp of the reserved fig juice and whizz again until smooth. Spread evenly over the pastry case.

5. Gently press the figs cut side up into the almond mixture. Bake for 11⁄4 hours or until it’s golden all over (don’t worry if the centre still seems soft – a little gooeyness is good). Leave in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove sides and transfer on its base to a wire rack to cool.

6. Before serving, take the tart off its base and transfer to a flat platter or board. If you have juice left from roasting the figs, bring it to the boil and simmer for 1-2 minutes until sticky and syrupy. Brush this over the figs and serve as soon as possible, while the syrup is still glossy on the figs (it will start to seep through into the filling if you leave it too long).


Honey roasted fig & almond tart
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