Warning Amblers: this post contains horror, gore and shameless puns. Read ahead at your own risk!
Halloween is by far my favourite time of year. Pumpkins, bats and witches hats are all I need to please the little goth inside me! I’ve wanted to have a go at a cake like this for a very long time and I’ve finally been given the perfect excuse. As the whole team has been delving deep into the world of vegetarian/veganism recently (and because I find the contradiction extremely satisfying) I’ve made the whole thing vegan. And so, without further ado, I present to you my spooktacular, show-stopping Bloody Red Velvet Cake. *Cue thunder, lightening and evil laugh*
I found the sugar glass to be the hardest part and it can take an hour or so to set (depending on thickness), so it’s best to start there. It took me three attempts to get it right, but success finally came (after furiously Googling, “why is my sugar glass brown?!”).
There are a lot of recipes out there that seem to use varying methods, but with a little troubleshooting I’ve finally found one that works. The key to crystal clear sugar glass seems to be in the speed. The longer it takes for the sugar to reach temperature, the more the sugar molecules break down, which is what causes it to caramelize and turn brown. As soon as the sugar has dissolved in the water, crank the heat up to medium-high. As the water evaporates, the temperature will start to rise quickly, so get ready to plunge the pan into some cold water as soon as it hits 150°C to stop it from continuing to rise.
What you’ll need:
- 500ml water
- 250ml glucose syrup
- 785g caster sugar
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- Heavy based saucepan
- Sugar thermometer
- Sheet pan lined with tinfoil and lightly greased with oil
Start by weighing out all your ingredients into the pan and putting it on a medium heat. Stir all ingredients to combine, and continue stirring until all sugar has dissolved.
Once the sugar is dissolved it’s important NOT to stir it again, as you will introduce bubbles and make it cloudy. As soon as the sugar has dissolved, insert the sugar thermometer and turn the heat up to medium-high. The temperature will rise steadily until about 100-110°C where it will stay for 10-15 minutes until the water has evaporated. Once all the water has evaporated the temperature will continue to rise quickly.
As soon as it reaches 150°C (or even 145°C as it will continue to rise a little) remove from the heat and plunge the saucepan into cold water to stop it cooking. Be careful not to get water in the pan, as this can cause bubbles.
Immediately pour the sugar mixture into the prepared sheet pan and tilt to spread the mixture around. Let it settle for a minute and pop any larger bubbles with a pin. Your sugar glass is now done and should be left aside to set.
While the sugar glass set, I got on with the red velvet cake. Vegan cakes are surprisingly uncomplicated most of the time and, due to the oil and high quantity of soya milk, often a lot more moist and flavoursome than a regular sponge cake. Remember, you will lose some colour during baking so make sure the initial colour is very intense. You’re looking for a good blood red! You can of course use your own recipe for red velvet cake, but here’s mine:
- 650ml soya milk
- 20ml white wine vinegar
- 180ml oil
- 450g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 ¼ tsp salt
- 475g self raising flour
- 70g cocoa powder
- 1 tsp red food colouring paste approx.
- 10g bicarbonate of soda
- 10g baking powder
Line three 20cm cake tins with baking paper and preheat the oven to 170°C. Combine the soya milk and vinegar and stir until it’s a thick, creamy consistency, put to one side. Measure oil, sugar, vanilla and salt into a mixing bowl.
Into a separate bowl sieve the flour and cocoa powder. Whisk the oil mixture to combine and slowly pour in a third of the soya milk. Once combined, add in a third of the flour mixture and continue to whisk. Continue to add the remaining thirds in this way.
Add in the food colouring paste to desired colour (approx. 1 tsp) and mix well. Whisk in the bicarb and baking powder. Divide the mixture between the three tins and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (the dye may colour it a little).
Leave to cool while preparing the buttercream.
I tried a few cream cheese icing recipes, but found that they were too soft for a layer cake. Also, most of the soya cream cheese that I’ve tried has had a very cheesy flavour that doesn’t work in high quantities for a dessert. I therefore opted for my tried and trusted ratio of 1 block butter: 2 cups icing sugar : 2 tbsp cream cheese. I also added a dash of vanilla to counterbalance the cheesy flavour.
- 250g vegan butter (room temperature)
- 2 cups icing sugar
- 2 tbsp soya cream cheese
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Weigh the butter into a bowl and whisk to soften. Add soya cream cheese and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add the icing sugar one cup at a time and whisk until smooth and fluffy. To assemble the cake, I started by trimming the tops to level them. Even if they look flat, this is an important step, as it allows all the layers to sit level without wasting a lot of the buttercream filling in gaps.
I placed the first cake layer on a stand and smoothed out a layer of the buttercream on top and out just past the edges. The next layer I flipped upside down and positioned on top. By doing this I can easily see if the layers aren’t level and adjust. It also allows the top layer to sit flatter for a smooth surface.
I repeated the buttercream layer and placed the final cake layer on upside down, again for a flat, smooth surface. I then covered the top and sides with a thin layer of buttercream to create a crumb coat. This is particularly important when using a white icing with a brightly coloured sponge, as it traps all the coloured crumbs inside and allows for a crisp, bold finish. I placed in the fridge for half an hour to firm up while I made the delicious blood!
Edible fake blood is really quick and easy to make with just a few ingredients. It would be difficult to give exact measurements, however, as colours may vary. What you need:
- Light corn syrup (available in the world food aisle)
- Corn flour
- Red and blue food colouring paste
- Vanilla or other flavouring
I used about half a cup of the corn syrup, which made a lot for what I needed. A little definitely goes a long way. To this I added about a quarter of a teaspoon of the red food colouring to achieve a really vibrant red. To make the blood look more realistic, I added a toothpick drop of blue food colouring. This gives it a darker tinge. I then stirred in cornflour ¼ tsp at a time until I achieved the thickness I wanted. The cornflour has the added effect of making the syrup opaque, so it looks more realistic. Finally I stirred in a teaspoon of vanilla, but you can use any flavour. Peppermint blood? Why not!
With my blood ready for splattering, I got back to my icing. I used an offset palette knife to smooth out a thick layer of buttercream all over the cake, then created a swirl on top, as I thought the blood might settle nicely in the grooves. I placed it back in the fridge to set for half an hour.
Once the buttercream had set I had the fun job of smashing my sugar glass. If you’ve got plenty to spare, I highly recommend sneaking up on a friend to smash it over their head! But maybe don’t eat those bits.
I dipped the end of each shard into the blood and pushed the bloody end into the cake to create nice oozing cuts. Make sure to push the shards in deep enough to hold them. I repeated this all over the cake in a random fashion. Once finished, I drizzled a little extra blood here and there to complete the horror show. And voila! A gory Halloween masterpiece to satisfy a ghoulish appetite!