* Disclaimer: this blog post was created for the purpose of an assignment
Strange, but true. Our task was to create or write something in an area of interest out of the curriculum, while still linking it back to our medical studies. No prizes for guessing what immediately sprang to mind! AND I realised it was perfect timing for a how-to on bleeding heart cakes with Halloween just around the corner. I mean, could you imagine one of these as the centre piece of buttercream-frosted cake, dripping blood (I mean, berries..) down the sides?
To be honest, our family has never been big on Halloween. It is nowhere near as celebrated in New Zealand as it is in America, and what there is seems hugely commercialised – a profit-making venture above all else. Although in America, Halloween began as a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, brought over by Scottish and Irish colonists and has now been celebrated for over 100 years, in New Zealand it has emerged in the last decade or two via American popular culture (Mean Girls, anyone?) – and perhaps because of this seems less authentic, cheaper.
Though you might now see a few groups of small children on the streets, houses are not decorated, pumpkins are not carved (mainly because it is spring!), there are no fall festivals or bonfires, and Halloween parties are only just gaining traction. However, I have experienced that once – fall festivals, trick-or-treating and all – during the months we spent living in Pittsburgh around age seven. I think my brothers and I were a little overwhelmed (or overjoyed, maybe!) by the sheer quantities of treats we managed to collect whilst traipsing around the neighbourhood – it was a whole new world of Halloween.
In saying this, I do appreciate Halloween baking. Growing up with memories of family festivities, scarily decorated cupcakes and homemade costumes is quite different from the mass-produced plastic-y outfits and huge bags of sugary sweets that seem to have dominated the New Zealand market.
It did make this assignment far more bearable than many others. Constructing chocolate heart cakes and getting my brothers to act as models, sinking their hands into the gory ‘blood’ and smearing it across their faces, was highly entertaining for the rest of the family. I think they had fun too – what boy doesn’t dream about getting to stuff cake in their mouths as messily as possible without reprimand?! (just to clarify – the hands making the cakes are mine. The hands ruining the cakes are my brother’s)
They are made from texas-muffin tin sized chocolate cakes- fluffy, dark and studded with chocolate chunks. You then shape pairs of the cakes into a roughly oval anatomical heart-shape (see the picture with the cakes on top of the fondant), stick them together with smears of smooth chocolate buttercream and wrap the red fondant up and around the them, molding out arteries at the top. Homemade piping gel is surprisingly cheap and simple – sugar, lemon juice, cornflour and water comes together into a glossy, thick paste that can be coloured with red and black food colouring and painted straight onto the fondant for that bloody, straight-out-of-your-chest look. A dark purple berry compote (strained to remove seeds) is the final touch, dolloped into the arteries and down the cake for extra gory, bloody effect.
From a distance, they look scarily realistic.
If you have a person to scare this Halloween, have a show-stopping cake to make, or simply want to have a bit of fun in the kitchen, give them a go! (and don’t be put off by the long instructions – just wanted to explain as much as possible!)
- You have two options for the heart size: for a realistic heart shape, use 1 chocolate cake + a curved cut-out part of another one stuck together. Using this method you will get a maximum of 4 hearts. If you don’t mind if it is more round (see the ones at the back of my photos), then just use a single chocolate cake – in which case you could make 8 hearts but will need more fondant. You could also make fewer hearts and just eat the extra chocolate cakes!
- Another option if you don’t have texas muffin tins is to make smaller versions in normal muffin tins – they just will be smaller than an ‘anatomical’ heart size. You will have to alter the cooking time of the cakes though as they will bake more quickly.
- Please comment below if you have any questions at all!
- Texas muffin tin tray
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup cocoa
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
- 3/4 cup strong , hot coffee
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 170 g butter , softened
- 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons cream
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornflour/cornstarch
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup raspberries , fresh or frozen
- 1 cup blueberries , fresh or frozen
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Red fondant - at least 200g per heart you want to construct , possibly more to allow for mistakes
- Red food colouring
- Black food colouring
Preheat the oven to 180° and grease and flour an 8 hole texas muffin tin
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl, mix together the eggs, buttermilk, canola oil and vanilla until smooth.
Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients until just combined. Gradually add the hot coffee while stirring gently. Finally fold in the chocolate chips.
Divide between the texas muffin tins.
Bake in oven for around 15-20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean (make sure you aren’t just hitting the chocolate chips though!). I made these in a temperamental oven, so be careful with cooking time as I can't be 100% sure that mine was at the correct temperature! Leave to cool for 15 minutes.
Gently remove from tins and set aside to cool completely
In a small bowl or cup, dissolve the cornflour in 2 tablespoons of the water.
Place the sugar and remaining water in a small pot over a low heat, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved.
Add the lemon juice and cornflour/water mixture, turn the heat up to medium, and continue to stir constantly until it comes to the boil and starts to thicken.
Set aside to cool.
Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan over low heat until combined and defrosted (if your berries were frozen). Cook for about 10 minutes to thicken, stirring occasionally so the compote doesn’t catch.
Taste to adjust the sugar levels.
With a fork or spoon, break up the berries as much as you can against the side of the pot, then strain through a fine sieve, getting out as much of the compote as you can. The aim here is to get rid of all the seeds for a smooth, dark red/purple berry compote that you can use as ‘blood’.
Add the butter and icing sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer (or use held mixer). Beat together until the butter is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Add the cocoa and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes or until there are no streaks of white.
Add the heavy cream and whip for another 2-4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Set aside.
See the construction notes as to whether you want to make ovoid/ellipsoid, more anatomical heart shapes (slightly bigger), or just use a single chocolate cake per heart (more spherical), and use the photos above as a guide to making them.
To make the ovoid heart shape, cut a curved piece out of one of the mini-cakes so it sits snugly against the edge of another. Then, on the cut cake, slice a piece of each side so it comes to a rounded point at the end opposite where it sits against the other cake. See the photo above where the heart-shape is sitting on top of the fondant for this.
Divide the fondant into 200-250g pieces, depending on the size of your heart.
Roll out the fondant on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar (not flour!) into an elliptoid/oval shape about 3mm thick (again, see photo above)
Place the heart-shaped cake into the centre of the oval. Spread some of the chocolate buttercream frosting between the two pieces of cake to keep them together as you wrap it up in fondant.
Quickly and gently, lift up the sides of fondant and wrap up the cake, bringing the fondant together at one edge (or towards one edge) of the heart cake. (again, see photos).
Use the edges of the fondant at the top to form three arteries - this is tricky, but I did it differently for each heart. Just mold the fondant gently together into three circles at the top. Don’t worry about creases in the fondant - they look great later on when covered in piping gel.
Repeat with your remaining chocolate cakes, buttercream and fondant.
When ready to paint on the blood, carefully colour your piping gel. First gradually add red food colouring until it is dark red, then add a tiny bit of black (seriously tiny) to get the red a dark, bloody colour.
Using a soft paintbrush, generously paint on the piping gel, making sure to get into all the crevasses of the heart.
When ready to serve, add the berry compote into the arteries and drip it down the sides and base for a really gorey look.