Halloween Cake Gone Wild
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Halloween Dark Chocolate Cake with Orange Buttercream is wild with scattered twigs and pumpkin candies. It was a dark night and the wind was brisk, scattering twigs and branches everywhere in the pumpkin patch!

This cake was actually inspired by a recent fall wind storm where I live. Wind gusts up to 30mph caused tree branches to fall everywhere. My Halloween cake is a recreation of the chaos and destruction of those winds.

On a tasty note, this is a dense dark chocolate butter cake made with unsweetened cocoa, buttermilk, and sour cream. The chocolate cake recipe is adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten of the Food Network; the only change I made to the recipe was to eliminate 3 tablespoons of brewed coffee. I decided to frost the cake with Swiss Meringue Orange Buttercream since chocolate and orange flavors are always a good pairing. I’m not a fan of using food coloring in food but I thought for Halloween a bit of color would be fun, so I added orange food coloring to the buttercream frosting.
Recipe type: Dessert | Chocolate Cake | Orange Buttercream
Serves: 15 to 20 servings
Cake Batter:
  • 2½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
Swiss Meringue Orange Buttercream:
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 1/16 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest (about 1 orange)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or Triple Sec
  • Few drops orange food coloring (optional)
Decoration (optional):
  • About ½ cup vanilla candy melts (for twigs)
  • Dark brown food coloring (for twigs)
  • Assorted Halloween candies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare one 12x17x1 inch Jelly Roll pan; lightly grease the pan with vegetable shortening, line with parchment paper, and then lightly grease the top of the parchment paper and dust with flour.
Cake Batter:
  1. In a large size mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; sift or whisk together to mix. Set aside.
  2. In a medium size mixing bowl, stir the buttermilk, sour cream, and vanilla together; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Tip: To cream, start by placing the butter in the bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed begin by beating the butter about 1 minute until it is smooth and light in color. With the mixer still on medium speed, slowly add the granulated sugar to the butter, either one tablespoon at a time, or in a very slow steady stream, taking from 4 to 5 minutes to add all of the sugar, then add the brown sugar, taking an additional 3 to 4 minutes, beating until the butter and sugar are fully incorporated and the mixture is a light, or pale color, with a fluffy texture. While adding the sugars, stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the mixture off the paddle and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula so the mixture blends evenly.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating until thoroughly mixed.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add about one third of the flour mixture, mix just until the flour is almost completely blended. Scrape the bowl down, and add about one half of the buttermilk mixture, blending just until mixed. Scrape the bowl down again and continue alternating with the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, ending with the last portion of the flour, and stirring just until blended.
  6. Bake: Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 30 minutes or until a long toothpick, wooden skewer, or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place pan on a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Swiss Meringue Orange Buttercream:
  1. In a large bowl of an electric stand mixer combine egg whites, sugar, and salt; place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Using a wire whisk, whisk constantly by hand until the mixture is hot, about 3 to 5 minutes. Tip: the mixture should reach about 130 degrees using a candy or instant read thermometer to gauge the temperature, or feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips. Remove from heat.
  2. Attach the bowl to the electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium high speed for 5 to 7 minutes or until the mixture forms a thick fluffy meringue and is cool. Tip: Touch the meringue and make sure it has cooled to room temperature. Also the outside of the bowl should feel cool to the touch.
  3. Stop the mixer, remove the whisk and attach the paddle. With the mixer on medium speed add the butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time and mixing 20 to 30 seconds after each addition. Add the orange zest with the first butter addition. While adding the butter, stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the mixture off the paddle and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula so the mixture blends evenly. Add the vanilla and orange liqueur and continue beating until the Buttercream is thick and smooth, about another 2 to 3 minutes. Optional: add a few drops of orange food coloring to reach the desired shade of orange color. Beat until color is thoroughly blended.
  4. Buttercream should be used immediately, or refrigerate or freeze until needed.
Decoration (optional):
  1. Twigs: Cover a large baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Place the candy melts in top of a double boiler over hot water, stir with a rubber spatula until melted and creamy. Add a few drops of food coloring to reach the desired shade of color for the twigs. Tip: Create a double boiler by filling a saucepan with 2 inches of water and bringing it to a simmer. Turn the heat off and place a stainless steel, ceramic, or glass bowl on top of the simmering water, the upper pan should not touch the water. Tip: if too much color is added the candy melts may seize up and appear grainy. If this happens stir in about 1 teaspoon vegetable shortening to smooth the mixture back out.
  3. Place the melted candy melts in a small sandwich bag and snip a small piece of the corner off the bag. Gently squeeze the bag to form twigs onto the parchment paper lined pan. Set aside to cool and harden. Candy melts will dry and harden quickly at room temperature.
  1. Using a long kitchen knife, slice the cake in half lengthwise. Place one on the cake halves on a serving platter. Use an offset spatula to spread about half of the frosting over the top. Tip: I spread the frosting as evenly as possible over the bottom layer but intentionally kept the edges rough.
  2. Top with the remaining cake layer and use the remaining frosting for the top of the cake. Spread the frosting as evenly as possible over the top, keeping a rough look at the edges.
  3. Place the hardened twigs and Halloween candies randomly over the frosting.
Chocolate cake recipe adapted from Ina Garten Recipes : Food Network
Recipe Notes
Pan: one 12 x17 x1 inch Jelly Roll pan Pan Prep: Greased, Parchment Lined, Floured Oven Temp: 350° Storage: Cover and Refrigerate

Help: Cake Hints, Melting Chocolate, Chocolate Types

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Recipe by at https://thebakingpan.com/recipes/cakes/halloween-cake-gone-wild/