Halloween is almost upon us and it’s time to indulge my fondness for anything edible in the form of a ghost! A child of the 80s, Nintendo’s Super Mario World provided hours of
frustration enjoyment as I tried to progress through more than the first handful of levels. (Incidentally, it wasn’t until I met Hungry Hubby, King of all Computer Games, that I even *believed* it was possible to complete a video game. I totally thought it was Urban Legend. Gaming has never been in my skill set…).
The big fat white ghosts which would only move when Mario’s back was turned called Boos enchanted me as a tot and so come Halloween, I’m all about anything and everything in the form of a not so scary wee ghostie. Enter my Red Velvet Boo Cakes.
Red Velvet is a cake that I don’t make all that much for the same reasons as most – it’s that scary teaspoon of food colouring which just seems plain wrong. But when you think about it, when better to be scared by your food than Halloween?! So out comes my pot of red food gel and into the oven goes a pan of cupcakes (I never, ever use liquid colourings, they just dilute whatever you’re adding them to and the colour is never as vivid).
Although, this red velvet recipe is all about the flavour so there is a good proportion of cocoa in there. This means the red colour is never going to be spookily lurid red – the recipes which are run the risk of giving you an aftertaste of food colouring, not a rich chocolatey cake. Which these cupcakes definitely are. Speaking of cupcakes, sometimes I want something other than buttercream or cream cheese frosting on my cupcakes and a fluffy cloud of vanilla scented marshmallow fits the bill nicely, plus it is easy to make and easy to create a ghostly form with very little in the way of specialist baking equipment. A cheap electric hand beater and a large piping bag are all you need.
There you have it – a sweet little treat for Halloween, the trick being how to eat a bite with the ghost and cake in one mouthful ;)
- 180 g plain flour
- 60 g cocoa
- 1 tbsp baking powder level
- 250 g caster sugar
- 100 g soft butter
- 200 ml milk
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp red food colouring gel
- 175 g vanilla sugar*
- 1 tbsp water
- Pinch of salt
- 3 large egg whites
- 3 small sheets/leaves of gelatine
- Approx 10g melted dark chocolate
Before you start, measure out the milk and stir in the vinegar - leave to stand and curdle whilst you get everything you need ready.
Preheat oven to 160˚C and line your cupcake tin with paper cases.
Measure all the dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk to combine. Rub in the butter until it is well dispersed throughout the flour mix (finer crumbs than for pastry making).
Crack the eggs into the curdled milk and add the vanilla extract and food colouring - whisk well to combine then pour in a steady stream into the flour mix. Beat until just smooth - don't overwork the batter!
Scoop into your prepared tin using an ice cream scoop (my 45ml one is useful here but make sure you only fill to halfway, 2/3 maximum or you *will* get muffin tops!) and bake for approx. 25 minutes until risen and when gently pressed, the cupcakes bounce back.
Leave to cool and when cold, make the marshmallow.
Place the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water (just enough to cover) and leave to one side.
In a heat proof bowl, add the egg whites, vanilla/caster sugar, salt and 1 tbsp of water and place over a pan of simmering water making sure the base does not touch the water.
Using a handheld electric whisk, beat the marshmallow ingredients until thick and fluffy - they will look like white patent leather (all glossy) and be reasonably stiff. This could take 8 minutes or so. Take off the heat.
Squeeze the water out of the gelatine and drop the leaves into the marshmallow and continue whisking until the bowl is cool and the mixture much thicker and stiffer - it will feel increasingly heavy on the whisks as it approaches being ready.
Immediately scoop into a large piping bag with either the end cut off or a large plain nozzle (at least 1.5cm wide) and pipe a generous amount of marshmallow on top of each cupcake. Hold the bag vertically and for a fat ghost, don't pull up too much or too quickly (as this will give a tall skinny ghost instead!).
By the time you have finished piping, you should be ready to paint chocolate faces on the ghosts - I leave the bowl of chocolate resting in another larger bowl of recently boiled water (don't let any water splash into the chocolate or it will seize) so that it is molten whilst you work with it. Use a skewer to paint two eyes and a mouth (get creative and give them personalities if you like!). The marshmallow will be firm but tacky so use a light touch to give a neat finish.
*=by vanilla sugar I mean caster sugar which has had a few beans of vanilla tucked away in it for as long as you can. I always keep my caster sugar like this actually. It's great to give the flavour of vanilla when you want to keep things white, as extract is very dark and seeds may not be the look you're going for, like with these marshmallow boos!