halloween

Pumpkin carving

If you’re planning a Halloween celebration, nothing gets you into the spirit like carving pumpkins. We woke at the crack of dawn this morning to prepare for our annual Halloween haunt that we’re throwing tonight, and amidst the cooking, baking, carving, decorating and looking after babies, our very noisy house was in a state of perfect anarchy. Outside a thick blanket of fog had settled to hover over the fields, lakes and woods – perfectly eerie among the fall coloured trees in the distance and our toddler was mesmerised by the sight, peering out at the half-lit farmland, monkey under one arm for comfort.

 

We got a little bit more adventurous this year with the designs on our pumpkins, but the basic routine is always the same:

1. Pop to a pumpkin farm and grab yourself a good selection of pumpkins making sure there’s at least one for all the family so everyone can get involved – don’t forget the dogs if you have some canines in the family, you can carve out some juicy bones on theirs!

2.  Cut a hole in the top of your pumpkin – you need a neat but decently-sized hole to scoop out all the the flesh and seeds. We used the basic plastic sets you can buy from any supermarket, but they are amazingly effective. The mini saw easily makes tracks through the thick pumpkin skin and is much safer than a knife which can easily slip.

3. Scoop out all the flesh, pulp and seeds – a spoon or scraping tool will do the job.

4. Now plan and carve your design – you can use pumpkin templates, draw on a design with a permanent marker (this does in fact rub off with a wet wipe and some persistent rubbing we discovered!), prick an outline or just grab your saw tool, improvise and have some fun – we tried all and every method and they all produced some striking results.

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5. Finally light them up – a real tea light always looks best, but if you have little ones running round, the battery-operated ones do a great job and won’t leave you in a whirlwind of panic every time they get a bit too close.

Hope you manage to carve up something suitably spooky – results aside, we had great fun which is what it’s really all about! Guy got really stuck in – I couldn’t resist getting about a million snaps – he was such a trooper and loved every bit of it!

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Halloween cupcakes

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Halloween is fast approaching so if you’re looking for something a bit different to offer guests for a more spooktacular treat, why not whip up some of these dramatic silhouetted bat bonfire cupcakes. Made with a very simple two tone frosting, some spiderweb cupcake wrappers and flying bat cake toppers, they’re a perfect centrepiece for your festive table! We also slid our cakes into these beautiful spider web cases from Paperfiction and topped them with these flying bat cake toppers from Ginger Ray for a dramatic finish.

Equipment: 12 cupcake cases and a baking sheet

Oven:  Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/ gas 4.

Serves: 10-12


THE INGREDIENTS


For the cake:

  • 115g butter (or margarine)
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 115 grams self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice

For the frosting

  • 200g butter, at room temperature
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • a splash of milk or as required for right consistency (it should be stiff but creamy)
  • orange and yellow food colouring (we use these Wilton paste colours)

THE PREP


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/ gas 4.

2. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Gradually add the eggs, whisking thoroughly into the creamed butter and sugar.

4. Gently fold in the flour, ginger and mixed spice, until thoroughly mixed.

4. Place 10-12 paper cupcake cases into a muffin tin and divide the mixture between them.

5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

6. For the frosting: While the cupcakes are cooling, beat the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Assess the consistency – add a splash of milk if the mixture seems too thick.

7. Next divide your mixture between two bowls – colour one lot orange and the other yellow, adding your colouring little by little to the mix and stirring thoroughly until blended well throughout.

8. Load a piping bag with a star nozzle. Spoon the orange frosting down one side of the bag and the yellow frosting down the other side as carefully as possible. Try out a small practice swirl in a bowl to be sure the two colours are coming out well. Finally, pipe carefully onto the top of your cakes. If desired, sprinkle lightly with ground mixed spice before serving.

If you want to make them look like proper burning bonfires – particularly good for November 5th as well as hallowe’en – you’ll need:

  • 1 box of honeycomb matchmakers 
  • 4 Cadbury’s Flake bars

Halve some of the Matchmakers and snap others into smaller lengths. Cut the Flakes into small lengths. Build a frame over the red and yellow flames using 3 – 4 larger Matchmakers, then add more orange and yellow flames over them to complete the fire. You can then dot the smaller pieces of Matchmaker & Flake around the bottom.

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