Every other Friday, we'll be sharing dessert projects that demand a little extra time and effort. Because weekends are the sweetest part of the week.
Today: Yossy shows us how to make a Halloween cake that is spooky to look at but not at all scary to make.
This cake has a spooky Halloween vibe going on, but don’t let that fool you -- underneath all of that webbing is vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and rich chocolate cake that is perfect for any celebratory event that calls for a layer cake.
I have doubled the recipe below to make the cake extra tall for a dramatic presentation. If you’d like to do the same, no need to double the frosting; one batch of swiss meringue buttercream will be just enough to frost a double batch of this cake. Now all you need is a good costume.
Makes one 8-inch cake
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup strong coffee
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
5 egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 pound butter, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips, or web decoration
Pastry bag and coupler
#4 round tip
#2 round tip
To make the Swiss Buttercream
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk continuously until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is foamy and quite warm to the touch, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Use the whisk attachment to beat the egg white mixture until stiff, glossy peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature.
Switch to the paddle attachment and reduce the speed to low. Add the soft butter a few tablespoons at a time. Beat the frosting until smooth. If your frosting breaks, turn up the speed on your mixer for a few seconds and and whip until the frosting no longer looks curdled. Continue to add the butter until it is incorporated then add in the vanilla and salt. Set aside 1/2 cup of the buttercream to make the web decorations.
To make the buttercream for the web
Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave. Let cool slightly, then whisk the melted chocolate into the buttercream you set aside. Fill your pastry bag.
To assemble and decorate the cake
First: If you are worried you might have trouble drawing the web, practice your piping skills on a piece of parchment paper taped to your countertop. Practice to your heart’s content, then scrape up the frosting and put it back in your pastry bag to use again.
Trim your cakes so the tops are flat. Place one layer onto a serving platter or pedestal, and spread about 1/2 cup of the frosting onto the cake in an even layer. Place the second layer on top and repeat. Finish by placing the last layer on top, trimmed-side down, so the top of the cake will be nice and flat and crumb-free.
Cover the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
More: Pick up a turntable to make frosting your cakes even easier.
Pull the cake out of the fridge and add a second, heavier coat of frosting on the top and sides of the cake.
Now it’s time to get webby. Start with the #4 tip on the pastry bag of chocolate frosting and using gentle, even pressure, draw two intersecting lines on the top of the cake. I’ll call these lines the “arms” and where they meet will be the center of the web.
Draw 2 or three more “arms” on your web, making sure to leave some space for the connecting threads. Connect the arms of the web with slightly curved lines, all of the way to the edge of the cake.
To draw a simple spider make two dots, one slightly larger than the other, for the body and head. Then switch to the #2 tip and add 8 legs and an optional sprinkle of black sanding sugar for extra spookiness.
Serve the cake at room temperature. Store any extra frosting in an airtight container in the freezer, where it will keep for a few weeks.
Photos by Yossy Arefi