Candy Cake

A top-down picture of a pile of chopped chocolate-nougat candies on top of a puddle of dulce de leche, on top of chocolate frosting, on a wooden cake stand on a different wooden table.

Kitra: I have never been a Halloween person. I’ve talked about this before, but I’ve generally found it to be at best an inconvenience.

Jordan: I’m sure you’re holding in a number of opinions about it.

I AM.

  1. Costumes are not worth it. Ever.
  2. “Spoopy” is the worst made up nonsense word and I hate it.

Counterpoint: Bluebs.

Fair. I’ll continue.

  1. Who even are all of you on twitter now
  2. It’s dark at 6:30, I’m tired of rounding corners only to come face to face with a shadowy figure that turns out to be a decoration.
  3. It’s a drinking holiday, which are always bad and should be ended.
  4. Usually, it’s a weeknight and everyone is tired and mean the next day, and I don’t get the right amount of sleep that night.
  5. Pressure to have fun: the real problem with all holidays.
  6. No one ever knows what anyone is dressed as, and it is a straight bummer for all involved.
  7. Somehow this is a fireworks holiday too???? IDK
  8. People should not knock on doors ever, I have a terrier and she hates it.
  9. No one has ever invited me to a Halloween party and I personally am bummed out by that.

I mean, points 1 through 10 suggest that they would have very good reasons to think you’d be uninterested.

  1. Re: No. 11: I also don’t get to say “I can’t go because it’s also MY BIRTHDAY WHICH YOU FORGOT AGAIN, but you sure could make that costume 3 months out thanks” which is really pent up in my spirit for many, many people I’ve known.

Oh no, this was not supposed to be a sad blog post, I’m sorry I led us here.

  1. I don’t like scary things.
  2. Most of the candy is bad, no one likes Jolly Ranchers.

I feel like you added an extra one specifically so that you didn’t have 13 points there.

Surprisingly, I have no problem with 13. It’s always been my favorite number.

Sure.

However, my current neighborhood has changed my animosity these past few years. While I’m still not into “Halloween” per se, I am into 500 teeny tiny children cramming into the front gate of my yard for a mini Snickers (no knocking, I just sit on the steps). It’s adorable. And it gives me an excuse to have some friends over for snacks and to help make the 100 CVS runs as all the candy disappears. This year, however, there will be no trick-or-treaters coming around, and I have no excuse to buy 50lbs of candy.

Look, we don’t have a way to make Halloween fun this year.

Again: It is never fun, see above.

We cannot wave our magic princess/witch/princess-witch wands and make it safe to send children wandering the neighborhood. But we can help you with the candy thing.

Previously, we’ve focused on the vibes of a Halloween cake. This year, it’s about the candy. Yay! Candy!

Shockingly, despite the inclusion of literal candy in this, it’s not the most horrifyingly sweet cake we’ve made. It’s not even the most horrifyingly sweet Halloween cake we’ve made—that honor goes to the cake that was covered in yogurt-pretzel ghosts.

Frosting: Tangy. Cake: Soft and lovely. Dulche de Leche: Yes. Candy: Chopped and shoved in there thank you very much.

You might be tempted to swap in a standard chocolate fudge frosting, but don’t give into that temptation. The sour cream frosting is the perfect counterpoint to the sweetness of the rest of it.

Since this year, you’ll be free from many of the horrors of this holiday, it’s a great time to redirect the extra energy you would usually spend sewing a costume or shoving your drunk friend into a car after they get into it with someone dressed as a giant hotdog. May I suggest cake as an outlet?

And hey, it’s a small cake, but it’s still big enough to share. If the spirit moves you (no pun intended), you might invite a few friends over to have some socially distanced dessert, costumes completely optional.

A small three-tier caramel cake with dulce de leche and candy chunks in between the layers and chocolate frosting on the outside, all resting on a wooden cake stand. A slice of the cake is on a plate next to it.

Candy Cake

Adapted from Erin McDowell on Food52

Notes

This makes a small three-layer cake, but you could also double it (or just use the amounts in the original recipe) for a full-sized cake. Alternately, the below amounts can be baked in two 8- or 9-inch round pans for a wider, thinner cake that would be less impressive but no less delicious.

For the frosting, McDowell says not to use chocolate chips; we didn’t test this, so if you only have chips, proceed at your own risk. To fill/top, use whatever chocolate-based candy you like. We had a mix of Twix, Snickers, Milky Way, and 3 Musketeers and used about a dozen of the extra-small fun-sized ones in between the layers, plus a few more on top.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 3 whole eggs plus 1 egg white, at room temperature
  • 1¼ cup (265g) brown sugar, preferably dark
  • 2½ cups (270g) flour
  • ½ tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons (330g) heavy cream, at room temperature

Frosting and Filling

  • 6oz (170g) milk chocolate
  • 3 oz (85g) dark or semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup (240g) sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup dulce de leche (store-bought or homemade)
  • Candy of your choice, roughly chopped (see note)

Directions

For the cake

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat three 6-inch round cake pans with baking spray, or grease and flour them.

Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the eggs, egg white, and brown sugar. Beat on high speed for 5 or 6 minutes, until the mixture is very thick. If it develops a bit of a foam, turn the mixer down to medium for another minute or so.

While the mixer runs, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add a quarter of the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Scrape down the sides and repeat three more times with the rest of the flour.

With the mixer still running on low, slowly add the heavy cream. Once it’s mostly incorporated, finish stirring it in by hand using a rubber spatula.

Divide the batter into the three prepared pans. Bake for 24-28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out free of batter. The cakes might still be a bit sticky on top, which is fine. Let cool fully in the pans before removing.

For the frosting and assembly

Roughly chop/break up the milk and dark chocolate and place it in a medium bowl. Microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring in between, until it’s a little more than half melted. Continue stirring until completely melted. If it still feels quite hot, set it aside for about five minutes.

Whisk the sour cream, vanilla, and salt into the chocolate. It may stiffen up too much to spread; if that happens, just microwave it for about 15 seconds until it’s useable again. Put about ¼ of the frosting into a piping bag or a Ziploc with the corner cut off.

Slice the top off of each cake layer so that they are level. Starting with the bottom layer, pipe a ring of frosting around the outside—think of this as a wall that will hold the rest of the filling in place. If your dulce de leche is too stiff to easily stir and spread, microwave it for 15-30 seconds, then dollop a few tablespoons in the center of the cake and gently spread it out. Add a handful of chopped candy, however much looks good to you. (This is not an exact science.)

Repeat with the next layer. Once you have all three layers in place, use the remaining frosting to frost the outside of the cake. Top with extra dulce de leche and chopped candies, if desired.

Since this frosting includes sour cream, the cake should be kept in the fridge.

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