Autumn ushers in a host of childish joys: a carpet of crisp golden leaves made for jumping about in, a drop in temperature that just calls for hot chocolate and an exciting 'back to school' wardrobe of knitwear and coats. And...dare I say it...my favourite holiday. Maybe it's because I'm a December baby (and thus have the terrible first world problem of having any birthday thunder stolen by Christmas), but I've always had a soft spot for Halloween...
I love the creativity that goes into thinking up costumes, reading up the history of the holiday, and consuming as many scary books, TV shows and films as I possibly can. If you've been following me for a while you'll know that I had a mini Halloween reading challenge last year and it's become a bit of a tradition for me since - this year's poisons of choice have been the Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV show, The Turn Of The Screw, N0S4R2 and World War Z, in case you were wondering! So when I was invited to a Halloween-themed ZoMeeto masterclass at Sponge & Cream, I fully admit I jumped up and down like a little kid in anticipation.
Owner and former Hummingbird head baker Paulina Byrne welcomed us into her charming kitchen in Brixton Market with a combo that sat firmly within the 'treat' spectrum of trick-or-treat: bubbly and a gigantic slice of cake! I plumped for a slice of the banana cake, another childhood fave (I sense a theme of regression here) which was at once moist and rich, topped with chocolate brownie frosting...! Ridiculously delicious. I also had a taste of my fellow ZoMeeto attendees' choices, particularly enjoying the unique butternut squash cake.
Full up on cake already, we gathered around the kitchen worktop for Paulina's speedy masterclass in how to assemble, frost and decorate a multi-tiered lemon and coconut cake packed with lemon curd, sprinkled with desiccated coconut and topped with candied slices of lemon. It looked absolutely scrummy and luckily for me, we got to take home our own mini lemon and coconut cupcakes as part of the next stage of the workshop!
Next the Halloween element of the evening came into play, as Paulina brought out little packets of coloured fondant icing, cutting, snipping and rolling little pieces with great dexterity to create three possible cupcake toppers: a ghost, a pumpkin and a witch's hat.
And then...it was our turn to have a go!
Making fondant sculptures was very much like playing with Play-Doh. So at this point of the evening I'd actually regressed to person in a sandpit level. Especially where it came to my fine motor skills. Paulina made the process of making the little critters look incredibly quick and easy. The harsh reality? I spent a good ten minutes rolling out my witch's hat (which ended up more of a misshapen, Sorting Hat monster). Shh, art was never my strong point...
After making our fondant models it was time to put them in pride of place on top of some delicious Sponge & Cream cupcakes. Paulina taught us how to frost the cupcakes appropriately: lemon and coconut daubed on rustically for the ghost, ribbons of orange for the witch's hat and green grass-like spikes of frosting for the pumpkin to sit on. I personally had the most fun with the grass, and now I have more of an idea of how to ice properly (though I'll definitely need a lot more practice!)
My pièce de resistance: Casper the Friendly Ghost.
So yeah. Thanks to my greedy inner child, I scoffed all my cupcakes within 24 hours. Thank you very much to Paulina for the wonderful cake, for teaching us how to make the three-tiered cake and the fondant sculptures and most of all, for being so tirelessly patient with me and my sad lack of icing knowledge! And thanks so much to Zomato for organising another incredibly fun event! Paulina hosts similarly fabulous workshops and baking classes currently at Fair Cake (there's one on tomorrow if you're that keen!) so if you're looking to improve your cake skills, keep an eye on the Sponge & Cream Facebook and Twitter pages for news on the next one.
I'm even more pumped for Halloween than I was already and am planning recipes to use up pumpkin from the jack-o'-lanterns I'll invariably be carving next week! Do you have any plans for Halloween this year?