Halloween is nearly here: that day when pretending to be someone you’re not is not only acceptable, but encouraged, and when your door bell will ring with sweet-seeking hopefuls. While I admire the effort it takes for children to venture from house to house in hunt of something delicious, there is an easier way!
You can put on whatever costume you like (if you call your pajamas a costume, I shall not judge) and create your own little slice of Halloween heaven. It comes in the form of a classic chocolate cake, jazzed up with festive Halloween icing that looks much more difficult than it really is.
While I appreciate a miniscule chocolate bar from a neighbor, I recommend that grown up neighbors share a generous portion of this delightful dessert instead. It’s so chocolaty and rich it’s spooky.
makes a double layer 9-inch cake
1-3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup boiling water
1⁄2 cup vegetable oil (not olive oil)
plastic spider rings, for decoration*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two nine-inch cake pans and place a round of parchment paper in the bottom. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and oil until completely combined. Add a very small amount of boiling water and mix well. Gradually add the rest of the boiling water, mixing well to combine. (If you add the water all at once, it will scramble your eggs). Add to the dry mixture and mix with a wooden spoon just until combined. Divide batter equally among the pans and bake 30-35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool. Place one layer of cooled cake on serving platter or cake stand and spoon about 1⁄2 cup of dark chocolate frosting on top, smoothing from the center to the outside edges in an even layer. Top with second layer of cake and dollop remaining chocolate frosting on top. Smooth from the center outwards and down the sides to get an even layer of frosting. Pipe simple white icing in circles, smaller at the center and larger as you go out from it, each circle about 1-inch apart. Using a butter knife, lightly blend the icing and frosting from the center outwards (like spokes of a wheel). You will wind up with a spider web pattern. *Place plastic spider rings as decoration, but do not use if you are feeding this cake to children, or remove them before it is eaten.
Dark Chocolate Frosting
6 ounces of semisweet chocolate chips (about half a package)
1 teaspoon corn syrup
3⁄4 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons dark chocolate cocoa powder
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons milk
Melt chocolate chips by combining with corn syrup and microwaving 40 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in additional 10 second increments, stirring between, until glossy and smooth. Whisk together butter, cocoa powder and salt. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar and milk, blending well. Add melted chocolate chips and remaining powdered sugar and blend until smooth and combined.
Simple White Icing
I refer to frosting as the thick butter-based cover for a cake, while icing is thinner, without butter, and used as a glaze or for decorative purposes, as in this recipe. I realize many folks have different understandings of icing vs. frosting, this is simply my take.
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon milk, or more as needed
Combine milk and powdered sugar and stir to get a drizzly consistency, adding more milk as needed.
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The Rev. Whitney Wilkinson is pastor of Cameron Presbyterian Church