Halloween is far from a massive thing in Germany. I don’t know how many times people have asked me what Halloween is or when it is. It is not something that people here have grown up with and not a traditional celebration for them.
But it is something that I grew up with. I remember as a child the excitement over monkey nuts, masses of sweets, bobbing for apples, finding the ring in the brack and the coins in the colcannon. These are traditions I want to pass on to my children, but it is made tricky by us being the only people around who celebrate that way.
What little of Halloween is known here is limited to trick or treating and scary costumes; ideas picked up from American films without any background knowledge of the origin or traditions. I usually try to have a little Halloween party for my children and their friends, but have found I am having to move with the times.
A bunch of 4 to 8 year olds are not going to be too impressed with mandarins, nuts, kale-flecked mash and bread with raisins in it, even with the chance of finding a ring or a coin. But I can’t bring myself to invite children over and stuff them with sweets.
My middle ground over the past four or five years has been to make a Halloween cake or buns as the highlight of the party spread. Since Halloween has often fallen on a work day, I have generally been in a rush to get organised, flying in the door at half four in the afternoon trying to get everything ready for the fall of darkness at half five.
Today I found myself with a spare hour as the boys did their homework with no complaints. On the spur of the moment I decided to do a trial run for Monday’s party by whipping up a batch of buns and trying out some decorations.
I like to use a chocolate cake or chocolate muffins as the base for the decorations. The darkness looks well again the white of ghosts or the strong orange of pumpkins. One year I bought a plain chocolate loaf cake on the way home from work but mostly I bake my own.
Today I baked these buns:
125g butter at room temperature
135g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
20g cocoa powder
A couple of drops of vanilla essence
Preheat oven to 200°C (fan). Place 12 bun cases in a bun tin.
Beat the butter and sugar together. For the fluffiest results use an electric mixer. Add in the vanilla essence, eggs, flour, baking powder and cocoa powder and beat until just combined. Divide the mixture immediately between the 12 bun cases and bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
For the decoration of the muffins, I decided to go with pumpkins, cobwebs and two types of ghost. For these I needed:
100g white chocolate, melted
Food colouring in yellow, red and green
To make the pumpkins, mix a small amount of melted chocolate with red and yellow food colouring to make orange. Shape small circles of orange-coloured chocolate on greaseproof paper. Mix a very small amount of white chocolate with green food colouring and use this to make the pumpkin stalks. Once the pumkins have dried, use a dab of melted chocolate to attach them to the top of the buns / muffins / cake.
To make the cobwebs, drizzle white chocolate onto the top of the muffin in a cobweb pattern and leave to dry. For decorating a cake, make the chocolate cobweb pattern onto greaseproof paper and when it is dry transfer it to the cake.
To make white chocolate ghosts, spoon some white chocolate onto greaseproof paper and spread it with the back of a teaspoon into a ghose-shape. Add a flattened raisin for the mouth and two smalll pieces of raisin for the eyes.
To make marshmallow muffin topper ghosts, lay the marshmallows on their side and paint green eyes and a red mouth onto them with food colouring. Use a dab of chocolate to stick them onto the top of each muffin.