Scaredy cats look away now. Claire Goodwin has created an exceptionally spooky Halloween treat. The amount of sugar involved alone is terrifying. But delicious – obvs.
Goodness me, I’m deep into season three of The Walking Dead and thoroughly addicted. As an extreme wimp, it’s a revelation. I mean, I watch The Moomins from behind a cushion, just in case the Groke throws me a curveball.
To celebrate my newfound ability to watch scary jumpy things, I thought I’d make a terrifyingly delicious cake for Halloween. And what better than a severed zombie head?
Like last year’s cake, it looks effective, but really isn’t that difficult to do. The good thing about making a zombie is that if there are a few dubious areas of the cake, you can just throw a load of fake blood on it. Sorted.
With the rise in popularity for all things cake, you can pick up some half-decent items of equipment fairly cheaply these days. A set of cake decorating tools such as these can be found in high street stores such as Home Bargains for a couple of quid. The different ends on these tools give different effects, and the rounded tools are the ones you’ll need for the zombie cake.
You’ll need paintbrushes (new ones, rather than any old gloss-addled ones from the shed). I bought a decent set for about £3 from Wilko’s and they don’t shed into the sugar paste, which is ideal. If you are a cake decorator and have an airbrusher, this will work wonders for this cake. It isn’t essential though. I have made similar cakes to these without an airbrusher and they have turned out wonderfully; the secret is blending the colours with a large brush.
You will also need a decent range of gel food colours: peach, brown, red, green, black and purple. Don’t buy the liquid ones from the supermarket, they just don’t work very well. And grab yourself some food-grade spirit alcohol to let down the colours for painting, or a clear drinking spirit such as vodka, gin or white rum.
Finally, you will need: a 12-inch cake drum, a six-inch cake board, dowels, contrasting ribbons, liquid glucose to make blood, around two kilos of white fondant/sugar paste, and three or four packs of coloured fondant for the hair – I used two different purples, black and blue.
Firstly, you need a cake for the base. Before you start, cover your large cake drum with fondant (it will take approximately 300g). Leave it to harden in a light, cool place. I made a basic 10-inch vanilla sponge and vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream for the base.
The cake base
800g butter or margarine
16 medium eggs, whisked
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180°C
Grease and parchment line two 10-inch cake tins (or you can use the 9 ½-inch springforms available in most supermarkets).
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs a little at a time. Sieve in the flour and combine. Finally mix in the vanilla. Spoon the mixture between the two pans. Cooking time will depend on your oven, so check after 45 minutes. If the cakes are still wobbly in the middle, keep in for another 10 minutes. They are done when a skewer comes out clean. Turn onto cooling racks.
While the cakes are cooling, make the buttercream:
6 egg whites
300g caster sugar
Vanilla essence to taste
Whisk the sugar into the egg whites over a bain marie until the sugar has dissolved and the whites are frothy and thick. Remove from the heat and whisk up to a thick glossy meringue where the mix stands in peaks. Grate the butter straight from the fridge. Add the butter a little at a time until it mixes fully into the meringue and you have thick clouds of fluffiness. Add the vanilla essence to taste.
When the cakes have cooled, cut the tops off so that they are flat. You can eat these. Fix one cake round to the cake drum using a little buttercream; sandwich your cakes using half of the buttercream, then frost all around the outsides with half of the remainder. Leave to firm up, then recoat the outsides with the remaining buttercream. Try to get it as smooth as possible.
Using a kilo of the fondant, roll out into a large circle and cover the cake, smoothing out any wrinkles as you go. Take your offcuts, roll into another large circle and drape over the cake like a tablecloth. Attach this with a little water brushed on top. Fix your ribbon around the board using double sided tape and around the base of the cake using a little fondant let down with some water to make a glue. Leave to firm in a cool place.
440g Rice Krispies
Cooking spray – I use Lurpak cooking mist
Heat your marshmallows in a large pan. You need to keep them moving and to keep an eye on them as they will catch and burn in an instant.
Once they are liquid, add the Rice Krispies and stir until they are all coated.
For the next bit, you need a clean surface, a six-inch diameter mixing bowl, a bowl of clean hot water in the sink and a tea towel on hand.
Spray your surface, your mixing bowl AND your hands with the cooking spray. Turn out the mixture onto the surface and work together into a ball. You need to squeeze them together so they form a solid mass. When your hands get too gloopy, dunk in the water, dry thoroughly and re-spray.
Once you have a ball of sorts, get the whole mix into the mixing bowl and compress down. This will help you to get the shape and the compaction. Turn out the mix, turn it over and put the non-rounded side into the bowl to shape it. Turn out the ball onto a piece of parchment paper and shape it a little more, with a neck etc if that is what you want it to have. Leave it to harden.
Place your Rice Krispie head onto the small cake board and trace around it. If the board will not be hidden by the head you need to trim away some of the board.
Cover your head in fondant – don’t worry if it’s lumpy, this is zombie skin – and place back on the parchment.
Using sausages of white fondant, create furrows, eye sockets, the nose cavities and the mouth shape. Use your rounded-end fondant tools to smooth the sausages into the fondant and to press into the eyes, nose and mouth cavities to create hollows. Make some teeth by rolling out balls and squashing them. Give them some texture with the pointed-end decorating tool.
Coat the whole head in the peach flesh tone – you will need to create a paint by letting down the food colouring with spirit or food grade alcohol. Have a spare bit of fondant on hand to check the colour before applying to the head.
Next, make two or three brown tones of varying shades and brush this into the folds, furrows and shallows of the eyes and nose. If you have streaky paint, use a clean paintbrush dipped in spirit/alcohol and then blotted, and blend the colours together. You will have to rinse out your brush regularly.
Once you have some light and shade, use your black paint to darken the orifices. Next, create some bruises with the green, red and purple. Don’t worry too much if it’s a bit splodgy in parts, as you can cover these up with blood in a bit. Leave it to dry.
Attach your head to the board using a little fondant glue. Measure and place the dowels in the base cake so that they will be under the head to support it. Attach the head to the cake.
Using your coloured fondant, make lots of sausages for the hair and attach to the head, allowing it to flow onto the board. If you have any splodgy bits or dodgy edges around the base of the head, use the hair to cover it up. Once you have finished adding the hair, go over it with a sharp knife to give it a bit of texture.
Add two circles of fondant into the eye sockets and paint them bloodshot with red irises and black pupils. Add two tiny blobs of white fondant into the middle of each pupil for extra fear factor.
Take your liquid glucose (you can use seedless smooth red jam for this with a little extra food colouring added in, or coloured piping gel if you choose) and colour it red. Splodge it all over the cake where you see fit, as well as around your severed neck.
Stab your cake in the head with a steak knife and gloop on a bit more blood.
Claire is a speech therapist, baker, cake decorator, sometime radio guest and writer. She writes about food, being fat and living with mental health problems @bake_therapist; www.baketherapy.co.uk; www.facebook.com/CakeChemistryUK