It’s that time of year again, friends, and if you thought that you could get this far into October without me going a bit overboard, then you have no idea who you are messing with! We are halfway through the most glorious time of the year (the 31 day celebration of Halloween), and it’s time to get some serious spook on.
This year, I’ve decided to take on Halloween from a hostess’ point of view, and I’m going to give you a couple of different suggestions on how to make the most of your scare-tastic celebrations. I’m calling this series Hosting Halloween, and it’ll have ideas on decorating schemes, drinks, activities, and of course, treats. So let’s get started with some brunch!
Nothing bums me out more than waiting and waiting for a celebration only to have it snap by in an instant. It’s one of the main reasons I’m an over-celebrater–I like to get the most out of my holidays. So while you may not turn Halloween into a 31-day celebration, you may love having a Halloween day brunch as much as I do.
There are few things I love more than a Halloween day brunch. It gets the day off to the perfect start–a scary one! With good food and good friends, it’s a great way to extend a traditionally stunted holiday into a day-long party!
Let’s get started with all that tasty food! First up, I have my all-time favorite cake. It’s a white almond layer cake with a vanilla buttercream and raspberry preserve filling. This cake has a nice bitterness from the almonds, which makes all that sweet jam shine. The vanilla buttercream turns the jam filling into a creamy, fluffy texture that you just can’t stop eating. It’s killer!
This cake looked awesome on my brunch table. Cutting into the cake had a creepy effect when all that jam oozed out of the layers. And how cute are those tombstones?! Those are sprinkles, if you can believe it!
Wilton makes these perfect little sprinkles in packs of twelve, and they come with a food safe pen to write epitaphs. How cool! Because they’re sprinkles (as opposed to fondant or candy), they stay sturdy in the frosting over time, are rigid against gravity, and aren’t too tough to eat. They were perfect! You can buy your own set right here.
Next up are some of the cutest mummy biscotti I’ve ever seen, and some of the tastiest, too! These are Pumpkin Brandy Biscotti with Walnuts and a White Chocolate Brandy Drizzle. These guys are so tasty, and they looked so cute on the table. I had never made biscotti, but I was quite surprised to learn it’s no more complicated than a cookie or a scone. So if you’re a bit scared to give a shot, don’t be! I’ve got a simple recipe for you down below!
Of all the treats on the table, I think I was most proud of these creepy concoctions. These are Pumpkin and White Cheddar Coffin Scones. They are a highly addictive savory scone, so consider yourself warned. They have pockets of warm and soft white cheddar cheese. The pumpkin seeds give the scones a nice pop of green and a surprising crunch. The pumpkin keeps the crumb moist and earthy. I’m sorry, I’m drooling just thinking about these guys! They were the perfect treat to pair with a nice Bloody Mary.
I’m not a big fan of gore-inspired food. I see the merit of it, and I get the creeps from it, but I have too weak of a stomach to have all of that gore laying on my plate. Plus, there’s often such an emphasis on the gross effect of the food that we forget that it has to taste good, too.
So these cherry pastries are as close to gore as I’ll get. These are my Bloody Cherry Pastries. They are made with a soft and flaky pastry crust, have a generous dollop of smooth cream cheese, and are topped with a sweet black cherry reduction. Don’t you love how the reduction makes the pastries look like they’re bleeding? They even leave little puddles behind!
Maybe it’s just me, but I just can’t consider it brunch unless there is a cocktail on the menu. In addition to coffee and orange juice, I offered two boozy cocktails for guests. The first is a spiked apple cider, which I make simply by adding bourbon. It’s about a 2-to-1 ratio in favor of apple cider, and I garnish with cinnamon.
The second drink I offered was a Bloody Mary, of course. It’s just my luck, but whenever I need to find a specific mixer (i.e. Blood Mary base), I can never find it. And wouldn’t you know it, the morning of my brunch, I couldn’t find it at the stores near my house. In case your ever in that same situation, I’ve included a recipe for a Bloody Mary base down below.
The only thing separating an everyday-type brunch from a Halloween brunch is the décor.
Don’t you love those flying bats on the wall? You won’t believe how easy they were to make. I searched the internet for a free image, copied it multiple times on a page and printed it. It took about 30 minutes and all of my patience to cut those little guys out, but I was thrilled with the final product. I used Glue Dots to attach them to the wall, and gravity pulling on their wings created the illusion that they are flying.
The spiderwebs are placemats I found at Hobby Lobby. I hung them on the walls using small clear Command Hooks. Even standing at the buffet, you can hardly notice them!
By the pillow you can see one of my favorite decorating tricks. The framed picture is a greeting card. I love finding cards with vivid images to frame for parties. They’re cheap, durable, and usually pre-cut to the correct size. There is also a much larger selection of greeting cards for holidays than graphic frame fillers.
Later in the week, I’ll show you the fun craft we did at the brunch, Pet Ghosts. Here it is! These adorable Pet Ghosts are so easy to make and bring out the creative side of your guests.
I love having crafts with personality, and the ghosts certainly have that. Personalizing their habitats, designing their look, even naming them–it’s the perfect trinket for guests to create and take home.
A lot of the prep work I did ahead of time, which isn’t necessary. It adds about an hour of work to the guests, but isn’t overly difficult, otherwise. What I did ahead of time are the first three steps, essentially leaving just the decorating stages for guests.
Mason jar, preferably smooth and designed for crafts
Wooden letter ‘H’
Assorted decorative papers
LED flickering tea light candle
1. Prepare Mason jar by removing any stickers/advertisement. Puncture the lid using the flathead screwdriver and the hammer to create a hole for the tea light’s on/off switch to be accessible. This may take a few strikes to create a large enough gap. Using hot glue, attach just the base of the electric tea light to the underside of the lid. Unscrewing the tea light will assist in this process. Let dry.
2. Measure and cut the backdrop of the habitat using your choice of a decorative paper (the sturdier the stock, the better). Size and shape vary by jar, but the inserted advertisements usually are a good starting place. Otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with trial and error.
3. Using an X-Acto knife, carefully cut the legs of the wooden letter ‘H’ to create small tombstones. Evenly coat with grey paint. Let dry. Using black paint, stencil on epitaphs and crosses.
4. Decorate background of habitat to desired fashion, and insert into jar. For added security, put a small dot of hot glue on the corners of the backdrop to help hold it in place. Hot glue the inside bottom of the jar, and add chunks of preserved moss. Add props to the habitat, including tombstones, but can also include rocks, trinkets, or beads.
5. Create the ghost by wadding a small section of gauze and surrounding it with a square piece of gauze. Stitch up to create a secured head and free-flowing body. Paint a face on the ghost, and let dry. Stitch a small section of white thread out the top of the ghost’s head for hanging. Using hot glue, attach the free-hanging end of the string to the electric tea light or the underside of the lid, checking to ensure placement is good within the habitat.
6. Connect electric tea light back to its base. Put lid back on the jar. Add ribbon, tape, and tags as desired to decorate the outside of the jar. Flip on the tea light, and enjoy your ghostly friend!
That’s all for now, friends, but keep coming back! I’ll have another post in my Hosting Halloween series. Until then, Delicious Dealings!
Check out all the recipes from this post below!
Almond White Cake
For the cake:
1 box white cake mix (Duncan Hines)
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 pinch of salt
3 large eggs
1 cup cold water
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients making sure to break up and large clumps of mix, and then set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine water, eggs, sour cream and almond. Mix well. Slowly add wet mixture to dry mixture while beating on medium speed with either a hand mixer or stand mixer.
Once well-combined, divide evenly into 3 greased 8-inch pans. Bake from 20-30 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick into the center and remove it cleanly. Allow it to cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing layers from the pans. Cool to room temperature. Split each layer in half. Cover in saran wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
For the Frosting:
4 cups unsalted butter, softened
8-9 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 pinch of salt
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter until light and fluffy. On a low speed, add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until reaching the desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt, allowing it to fully incorporate.
Remove chilled layers from the fridge and uncover. Set a base layer of cake on a board or stand. Top with buttercream and set another cake layer on top. Pipe a ring of buttercream around the outer edge of that layer, creating a bumper, and spread a heaping amount of raspberry preserves inside the bumper. Top with a cake layer. Continue this process, alternating between a layer of buttercream and a layer of preserve until the final cake layer is on top.
Cover the cake in a thin layer of frosting, a crumb coat, and chill for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove and cover in a final layer of frosting. Decorate as desired.
More recipes below!
Pumpkin Brandy Mummy Biscotti with Walnuts and White Chocolate Brandy Drizzle
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons brandy extract, plus 1 teaspoon set aside
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 ounces white chocolate, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt, then set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and extracts. Reduce the mixer’s speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients and allow to beat until just incorporated. Fold in the walnuts.
Turn the dough out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Dust your hands and the dough with flour. Divide the dough in half and shape into 3×12-inch logs, and keep them about 3 inches apart. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the dough puffs and begins to set. Let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet and transfer to a cutting board. Reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees.
Slice the logs into 1-inch-thick pieces. Arrange them cut-side down on the baking sheet. Return to the oven to bake, flipping the cookies halfway through. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
Place white chocolate and brandy extracts in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave for 30-second intervals, pausing to stir between each round, until the chocolates are fully melted and smooth. Transfer to a sandwich baggy, and pool all the chocolate to a corner of the bag. Snip the corner off using a pair of scissors, and drizzle chocolate over the cooled biscotti. Add decorative sprinkle eyes.
More recipes below!
Pumpkin and White Cheddar Coffin Scones
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup cold butter
1 1/2 cups diced white cheddar cheese
1 cup pumpkin seeds
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
2 large eggs
Coarse ground pepper for topping
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Work in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly. It’s okay for larger pieces of butter to remain–DO NOT OVERWORK THE DOUGH! Stir in the cheese and pumpkin seeds.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and eggs until smooth. Add the pumpkin and egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until the dough is entirely moistened and it’s holding together.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and sprinkle a bit of flour of the parchment paper. Scrape the dough onto the lined pan, and divide it in half. Round each half into a 6-inch circle, about 3/4-inch thick.
Brush each circle with milk, and sprinkle with the coarsely ground black pepper. Using a cookie cutter or knife that has been run under cold water, cut out the shapes or divide the circles into 6 sections. Place cut scones about 2 inches apart on the parchment-lined pan.
Place the scones and the pan uncovered in the freezer for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Bake the scones for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the scones, or until they’re golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out cleanly.
Serve warm! Store any leftovers in an air-tight container and store at room temperature.
More recipes below!
Bloody Cherry Pastries
1 17.3-oz package of frozen puff pastry dough sheets, thawed
1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
1 16-oz package of frozen pitted black cherries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for melting
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Cut thawed pastry dough into circles, about 4-inches in diameter. Place on prepared baking sheet, and spread about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of whipped cream cheese on the uncooked dough, making sure not to spread all the way to the edges. In a microwave safe dish, melt some butter. Lightly brush melted butter on the exposed edges of the puff pastry.
In a skillet over low heat, empty frozen cherries and allow to warm slightly. Add butter and sugar, making sure they both melt completely. Stir cherries to warm and coat. Increase temperature to bring cherries to a boil, and allow them to boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and let cherries simmer.
Put pastries in the oven and let them bake for 10-15 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately top with cherries. Be sure to drizzle reduced syrup over the pastries to make them extra bloody! Serve warm.
More recipes below!
Bloody Mary Base
1 liter tomato juice
4 oz lemon juice
4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
5 tablespoons horseradish
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
7-10 dashes Tabasco sauce
Combine ingredients in a large pitcher. Stir to combine. Store in a tightly-sealed container and keep refrigerated. Serve 6 oz of base to every 3 oz of vodka over ice. Garnish with celery sticks and stuffed olives.