6:55 p.m. There was a chill in the country air, as a boy and his father eagerly walk out the back door of the old farmhouse, and into All Hallows’ Eve.
Playfully kicking little piles of crisp, fallen leaves, they make their way to a small tent they had set up in the woods just days before.
7:00 p.m. The boys reach their tent. A structure of cheap polyester was all that stood between them and the rapacious creatures that thrive when the sun goes down.
The autumn wind whistled through the tent, persuading them to gather kindling to build a fire, all the while anticipating a modest feast of s’mores and hot dogs stashed in their backpacks.
7:23 p.m. Pandemonium brakes out in the tent.
“A stuuunk! It’s a stunk!” the young boy screams.
("Stunk" being the boy's term for Skunk)
Without hesitation, the boys ripped through the flap of their tent, making a bee-line for home. And leaving a trail of marshmallows back to reality.
Perhaps I should mention (with devastating sarcasm) the tent stood only 23 feet from home.
What a pity. Of all the wild critters in the woods, the guys became unhinged by a certain Peppi Le Pew, hell-bent on crashing their garden party.
Based on a true story.
Well, would you look at the time! I can't end our visit without sharing what I made for the two brave male characters in the story.
Say hello to Steampunk Jack. Thanks to my daughter for the steampunk idea.
Jack was baked in two 6” in diameter half ball pans (You could use mixing bowls for this).
I have only two favorite chocolate cake recipes—this is one of them—appropriately named,
Ultimate Chocolate Cake.
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350°F.
Grease and line bottoms of two 9" cake pans with parchment paper (I used the ball pans mentioned earlier, with enough batter left over to fill a mini loaf pan).
Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler (or in a microwave on High, stirring every 10 to 15 seconds). Allow chocolate to cool.
Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in melted chocolate.
Sift together flour, baking soda and salt, and add gradually to chocolate mixture, alternating with buttermilk. Stir in boiling water and vanilla. Pour batter into prepared cake pans.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for several minutes in the pans. Invert onto a wire rack to cool. Slightly adapted from a recipe by aunt Martha Stewart~
Steampunk Stylin' Jack
I sliced each half to create 4 layers. Then filled with chocolate ganache. Even though the cake was small I inserted couple of wooden skewers through its mangy little head and into the cake board for stability.
The cake was iced thinly, and allowed to set until no longer sticky to the touch. If you'd rather not wait, refrigerate the cake until buttercream is firm.
Tinted rolled fondant went on the cake next. Indentations on the pumpkin were made with a chopstick, but a skewer works too. Be sure to do this while the fondant is still soft. The white rolled fondant collar and bowtie were added last.
Jack's top hat was made of pastillage because this medium dries faster and harder than gum paste. But I also recommend it because it is made with ingredients already in your cupboard.
1 tablespoon gelatin
1/3 cup water
4 cups confectioner's sugar (lightly spooned into cup)
1/2 cup cornstarch (lightly spooned into cup)
1 pinch cream of tartar
food coloring (optional)
Sprinkle the gelatin over water in a small heatproof glass cup. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Set in a small pan of simmering water, stirring until gelatin is dissolved. (This can be done in a microwave on high power for a few seconds). Remove from heat.
Combine the sugar, cornstarch and cream or tartar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Stir in the gelatin mixture until blended. Mix with lightly greased hands and knead until sugar is incorporated.
Turn onto a smooth, lightly greased surface and knead until smooth. If pastillage seems dry, knead in a few drops of water. If too sticky, knead in more confectioner's sugar~
Allow pastillage to rest for at least 1 hour before using. To prevent it from drying out, keep it tightly wrapped in plastic, and place in an airtight container.
Store 1 month at room temperature, or freeze indefinitely.
Recipe: The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum.
Instructions for Top Hat
An empty tin can, covered in plastic wrap and well dusted with cornstarch, was used to shape the top hat.
Roll out your pastillage to about 1/8-inch thick. Using the tin as a guide, cut out the top of the hat. Next, measure the tin's circumference (adding ½-inch to the length), cut out the strip for what will be the side of the hat.
Wrap the pastillage strip around the tin. For a clean cut, overlap the ends, and cut through all layers with an X-acto knife. Lightly dampen the ends to secure. Set on a cornstarch dusted tray to dry, while you make the brim.
Follow the same steps for the brim that you used to make the top of the hat. But add an extra 2 to 2½ inches. AND, poke a hole in the center of the brim with a wooden skewer. Allow the top and brim to dry completely, before gluing together.
What to use for glue?
No, not royal icing. Instead, dissolve a small ball of pastillage by adding a few drops of water at a time, until it is the consistency of Elmer's glue. Attach by brushing this glue on all the edges. Set aside to dry.
Take a toothpick or wooden skewer (depending on the size of your cake), insert it halfway into the top of the cake, wherever you want to position the hat. Slide the skewer through the hole in the hat, to securely anchor the hat to Jack's head.
The word, Boo, was handpainted with paste food color thinned with vodka.
Well my friends, the bewitching hour is upon us...
The stunk and I wish you a Happy Halloween!