Thursday, November 1, 2012

Graveyard Cake

Well, darn!  So much for sharing several Halloween recipes.  I attempted to make Candy Corn Pizza (less horrifying than it sounds, look here at Our Best Bites) but somehow or other after it baked, the mozzarella was the same color as the cheddar.  Delicious, but unimpressive and not worth blogging about.  Then I was going to make Spider Melt Sandwiches, but we ended up having pizza instead.  Then on actual Halloween night, I wasn't feeling well so didn't make my standard Mummy Fingers.  I have the ingredients for the spider sandwiches so will probably just make them anyway, and if they turn out well I will either post the recipe in a couple of days or wait until next year.  The Mummy Fingers- which somehow escaped getting posted last year, too- will wait as well.

Hopefully this awesome cake will make up somewhat for the boring and unfestive spirit on the blog!  Every Halloween, I want to make some kind of spooky dessert, and for some reason that dessert almost without fail ends up being Graveyard Cake or Graveyard Cupcakes.  I figure it's pretty much tradition now, so decided to do it again this year!  Usually I use a cake mix since it's the decorations that are the star, but this year I wanted to try something different and used the base for the Mississippi Mud Cake from the Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice blog.

Poor Reeni will probably be horrified at what I did to her cake- left off the marshmallow/ganache/coconut/pecan/cherry topping and used just melted chocolate chips and food coloring tinted canned frosting (sorry, Reeni!), but I couldn't help myself!  The cake looked so, so good and I wanted to make it immediately when I ran across the recipe a couple of weeks ago, but the only chocolate cake I was planning on making anytime soon was my traditional Halloween graveyard cake.  Sadly, chocolate ganache and those other yummy toppings do not look like a graveyard, so I had to change things up a bit.  Used just chocolate chips instead of the ganache because I wanted to safely store the cake at room temperature for a few days and ganache has cream in it, and purchased frosting simply because so far I have never, ever found a recipe for homemade vanilla frosting that I thought tasted okay (not a fan of the powdered sugar flavor).  If you decide to make this cake, though, you are more than welcome to make both the ganache from the original recipe and homemade vanilla frosting, or you can jump over to the original recipe and make a Mississippi Mud Cake the way it was intended to be made!

Justifications aside, this is a really good cake.  Reeni said her cake was dense and brownie-like, which is of course what I expected, but mine ended up being fluffy and soft and moist and perfect.  The thin layer of chocolate on top really enhanced the chocolate flavor, and the frosting just made it even better.  Next time I will definitely make the cake with the ganache and marshmallow fluff because I can only imagine it is amazing, too!  And although I was quite happy with the amount of chocolate in the cake, real chocolate lovers could even use 3/4 C cocoa.  My other favorite chocolate cake recipe (uh, the one on the box of Hershey's cocoa) uses 3/4 C cocoa for the same size cake so I don't see how it could be bad!

Update:  Amazingly, this cake stayed yummy and moist for a solid week.  Homemade cakes usually get stale really fast, but not this one!  It will be my go to chocolate cake recipe now, no more boxed mix.  The only reason I used the boxed mix anyway was because they stay good a lot longer.

Graveyard Cake

1 C butter
1 C hot water
1/2 C cocoa
2 C sugar
2 C flour
1 t baking soda
1 t espresso powder (optional, I didn't have this and didn't want to buy it)
1/2 t salt
2 eggs
1/2 C sour cream
1 t vanilla extract

about 1 C chocolate chips
1 jar vanilla frosting (or about 1 1/2- 2 C of your favorite vanilla frosting recipe)
green and black food coloring
Milano cookies
pumpkin shaped candy corn
about 5 Oreo cookies, pulverized in a blender

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 baking dish.  Place butter in a medium bowl and microwave until melted.  Stir in hot water and cocoa powder.  Set aside.  In a mixing bowl, mix together sugar, flour, baking soda, optional espresso powder, and salt.  Pour in cocoa mixture and mix just until combined.  Add eggs, sour cream, and vanilla extract, and beat just until smooth.  Don't over mix.  Pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

As soon as the cake is done, pour the chocolate chips on top.  About a cup is good, you can just eyeball it and use more if you want, but keep in mind a thick layer will be harder to stick the tombstones through!  Place cake back into oven and let the chocolate chips melt for a minute or two.  Make sure not to walk away or you risk doing horrible things to the chocolate chips!  When the chips have melted enough, they will look very shiny.  Remove the cake from the oven and do one of my all time favorite kitchen activities: Evenly spread the melted chocolate over the surface, while imagining the opening credits of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and humming "The Candy Man Can" and wonder why you don't melt chocolate chips onto things more often just so you can spread it around.  After you finish having fun, set the cake aside and let it cool completely before decorating.

To decorate, place a couple tablespoons of frosting into a small plastic bag and add a bit of black food coloring.  Squish it around to mix, snip off the very tip of a corner of the bag, and pipe "RIP" (or whatever you want) onto the cookies.  Alternatively, you could probably use more melted chocolate chips for this.  Set the cookies aside and mix the frosting with green food coloring.  Spread over cake, then use a spoon to make the frosting look like grass by touching a spoon against the surface of the frosting and pulling upwards.  Do this all over the cake.  Carefully press the tombstone cookies down through the layer of chocolate, then sprinkle Oreo crumbs in front to look like freshly turned soil.  Place candy corn pumpkins around tombstones.  Enjoy!

Yield: About 16 servings


  1. Do you know Willie Wonka is one of my favorite movies and I go around singing the candy man song all the time?! What a coincidence! I love your cake! So cute! I mean. . . scary! Heehee. It does look a lot lighter and fluffier than mine. Thanks for making it!

    1. Yay, I'm glad you like the cake! Hope you weren't too horrified by the frosting and food coloring :D I wonder why mine turned out fluffier than yours. No complaints- we really liked it- but it's interesting! After all, my only change to the actual cake part was to leave out the espresso powder, I followed everything else to a T.

      I love Willie Wonka, too :D Haven't seen it in decades. The parts in the candy shop and at the beginning of the tour were like a dream for little me. Unfortunately, my husband finds the movie really creepy and refuses to watch it with me. I should just watch it by myself! Last Christmas he DID however fulfill my lifelong dream of having my very own giant red gummy bear: