Halloween, like Easter, is a celebration that I think was infinitely better as a child. It’s so much more fun to be the child knocking on the door than the adult desperately trying to decide (a) if it’s safe to open the door, and (b) on a suitable treat if there is a little monster there. I really enjoyed Halloween when I was small: putting on a witch costume after school, being taken out in the dark by one of my parents, calling on the neighbours my parents knew would have some sweets ready, tucking in to the delicious haul back at home. We never had anything as extravagant as a pumpkin, of course – turnips all the way in our household. I was absolutely terrified of fire as a child, so holding the turnip with the lit candle inside just added to the experience.
As an adult Halloween seems to be more about getting drunk and wearing an outrageous costume, neither of which I’m especially enthusiastic about. But it is still about treats too, and everyone knows I’m a fan of them. Beautiful little red velvet cakes look suitable for the occasion with their vivid shade of red and the little bat on top to give it a Halloween twist, but of course they’re just as good all year round. Don’t skimp on the food colouring!
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Makes about 16, from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days
120g butter, softened
300g caster sugar
2 large eggs
20g cocoa powder
40ml liquid red food colouring
1 tsp vanilla essence
300g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Icing: 100g softened butter, 600g icing sugar, 250g full fat cream cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 190C and line a muffin tin with paper cases.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa, red food colouring and vanilla to make a paste.
5. Add the paste to the batter and mix well so it is fully incorporated. Look at that colour!
6. Sift together the flour and salt. Add half of it to the batter and mix well, then add half the buttermilk and mix. Repeat with the remaining halves.
7. In another bowl mix together the bicarb and vinegar (it fizzles beautifully!), and stir in to the batter.
8. Spoon or pour the batter into the prepared cupcake cases and bake for 18-20 minutes. I also made some mini cupcakes which needed 10-12 minutes.
9. Cool for a few minutes in the tins, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
10. Use an electric whisk to beat together the butter and icing sugar. Add the cream cheese and mix slowly at first, then faster to make a glossy icing with can be piped or spread on. Decorate as you wish.