I won’t be having a halloween party this year. Sadly after daily encounters with people sneezing in my face on the tube, I have come down with something which progressed from a cold to flu to bronchitis. Fortuitously however, I won’t be needing a halloween costume – my face looks green enough on its own!
In times past however I have indulged in halloween to the full, and even this year I have managed to stem the tide of my all-encompassing malaise to carve a pumpkin or so. For this time of year, when the days are short and the dark evenings long, it’s all about candles and lanterns, baking and the homely smell of sweet cinnamon and warming winter broths. So in this short exploration of all things halloween, I thought I’d share with you some ideas for a halloween shindig, for baking, and for your requisite seasonal pumpkin.
First up the cakes – no Halloween is complete without them, and when I bake for Halloween, it’s more about the decoration than the sponge. I could go gingery and spiced (I’ll save those for another day), but for these little spooky treats, I stuck with the age-old chocolate sponge recipe my grandmother taught me when I was young. 200g of caster sugar, self-raising flower and butter respectively, two eggs, a dash of milk, a heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder and a heaped teaspoon of baking powder – the ingredients are foolproof. I start by creaming the sugar and egg yolks, and tend to whip up the egg whites for extra air in the sponge. To the egg/sugar mixture I add the sifted dry ingredients, mixing well before folding in the egg whites. Then – and this is my mother’s baking tip – I add a little milk. Enough to make the mixture run off the spoon. This guarantees the lightest of sponges. I pour into fairy cake cases and bake for around 15-20 minutes at 180 degrees, and ice with a butter cream and some shop bought icing tubes. Easy.
For something more adventurous, check out these marzipan and gingerbread beauties sold in Betty’s tearooms in York.
For decorations, I tend to go with candles aplenty, like this ghoulish ghost-shaped floating candles scattered with pumpkin-shaped confetti and other ghosty shapes. I also have a few sparkly skeletons dotted around to bring some Damien Hirst bling to the event. Nats.
For the requisite pumpkin lantern, I’ve carved a few this year – faces from bemused to gentle – my pumpkins tend to bring joviality to my home rather than fear.
But for the ultimate in chic contemporary pumpkin lantern, check out these ones carved by my friends Celia and Tarquin for their stunning Yorkshire wedding last weekend (more on that later). Apparently they used a drill to form these perfect holes which looked uber chic as an alternative to the typical scary halloween face.
Finally, if you’re lucky enough to carve out a pumpkin which is full of delicious flesh, why not try using the insides to make a pumpkin, pancetta and gorgonzola risotto? There’s nothing richer and more satisfying at this time of year. Just a shame that with most of the supermarket bought pumpkins in London, there’s nothing but stringy flesh and seeds inside.
Whatever you’re doing, have a Happy Halloween!!
- Pumpkins to Jack O’Lanterns (gardeningnirvana.wordpress.com)
- Guides: How to carve a Halloween pumpkin like a pro (walesonline.co.uk)