Sunday, 1 November 2009


Well it was Halloween yesterday so as you can imagine it was time to do more stuff with pumpkins. The day before we'd gone out for the day to a local wildlife attraction where one of their Halloween themed activities was carving pumpkins. This could be done for an additional charge of £2 and most people were getting stuck in. They had a huge trailer full of pumpkins and bin loads of pumpkin inners. It is a weird thing when you stop and think about it to take a huge edible fruit and to turn it into something completely inedible. With the pumpkin industry becoming big business, there must be fields dedicated to growing pumpkins which will all be thrown away!

But I'm no spoil sport and I love carving pumpkins for Halloween. Of course, I may have looked like a spoil sport as I whisked my children home from the wildlife attraction without a carved pumpkin each. Instead we went home and selected a pumpkin each from our homegrown collection. My now seven year old daughter decided that this year she wanted to carve her own pumpkin so I gave her a few instructions and words of caution and wisdom and let her get on with it. When she paused long enough from her hard concentration she asked me how old I had been when I carved my first pumpkin. I had to confess that I had been 24! Still, it wasn't the done thing in my day! As it happens, my daughter turned out to be a natural and produced a beautiful carving.

This had taken about an hour longer than I had anticipated and it was dinner time so we took a break and I resumed pumpkin carving in the morning for my youngest daughter. She wasn't keen to carve her own and that was just fine by me so I set about doing hers. But as soon as I'd got past the gooey and tiring emptying of the pumpkin stage my eldest appeared and declared she wanted to carve this one too. I let her get on with it until the tool blade snapped and it all became a lot trickier at which point I finished the job for her. She was also noticeably absent for the smearing of Vaseline over all the cut edges. She apparently hates Vaseline on her hands more than pumpkin goo!

I noticed that our homegrown pumpkins had much thicker flesh than the ones being carved the day before. In a way that makes carving them harder work but it does mean they yield quite a lot of pumpkin that can be eaten. With the flesh from the first pumpkin we made some pumpkin cup cakes and decorated them ready for our Halloween party after dark. I have steamed the flesh from the other one but have yet to make it into anything. Where am I now with my 101 things to do with a pumpkin? Number 10 maybe... I'm not sure I'm ever gonna make it to 101!

Pumpkin Cup Cakes

6 oz (175g) light brown sugar
3 oz (85g) butter, softened
2 large eggs
8 oz (225g) plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
8 oz of steam, pureed pumpkin

4oz (110g) cream cheese
2 oz (55g) icing sugar
1 oz (25g) cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Orange food colouring
White chocolate
Liquorice wheels

Preheat oven to 180°C, gas 4 and put paper cases into a fairy cake tin. Cream together the butter and sugar then stir in the eggs. Sift in the dry ingredients then add the pumpkin puree and stir until mixed well. Spoon into the paper cases and bake for about 20 minutes until golden and risen. Cool on a wire rack. Whisk together the cream chesse, icing sugar, cornflour, vanilla and food colouring to make the frosting. Once the cakes are cooled, spoon the frosting on top each cake. To make the chocolate decorations, melt the chocolate over a pan of boiling water then pour into Halloween themse ice-cube trays. Chill overnight until hard then remove from the trays and stick them into the frosting. To make the liquorice spiders, unravel a liquorice wheel about half way and snip the liquorice off. Stick the remaining wheel onto the frosting then cut some of the remaining length into 8 legs and two claws and stick these on too. Store in the fridge but eat at room temperature.

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