10/10/2014 13:17 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Spooky Halloween Cupcakes

Perhaps it's the full moon, but for some reason I'm not half as grumpy about Halloween as I was last year.

Then, I fell into the Victor Meldrew stereotype of complaining about the commercialism, the cost of costumes, the grimness of dragging a mini-Grim Reaper around the dark streets to knock on neighbours' doors, the perception of teenagers using the occasion as a licence to extort money with menace (even though that never actually happens).

I'm not sure what the reason for the mood change is: perhaps two years as a Reluctant Housedad has turned my brain to blancmange from being stuck at home alone for too long and thus I welcome any excuse to get out or meet other people.

But I suspect the real reason is what it means to my three children. They have been buzzing about it ever since the Halloween treats first started appearing on the supermarket shelves around about Easter (!).

Even though I know and you know that it is a cynical American import (though, historically, Halloween was created to celebrate the burning of the last witch in England), it has become as important to them as Christmas (almost) and birthdays (hmmm!).


It's quite simply an excuse for dressing up, stuffing themselves with more free sweets than their stomachs can cope with and experiencing the gentle thrill of feeling scared whilst feeling the security of a parent's clasped hand.


And so this year, I have thrown myself into Halloween wholeheartedly. This week, I bought costumes for the kids (a Scary Fairy for my 10-year-old stepdaughter; a Skeleton Pirate costume for my eight-year-old son; and a Grim Reaper outfit, complete with scythe, for this five-year-old brother) for them to wear at their school's half-term Halloween Party.

Each equipped with sharp swords, broomsticks and scythes - because, thankfully, our head teacher is not one of the Health 'n Safety Gone Mad Brigade.

Then on Thursday, I spent the day scooping out pumpkins for them to decorate in the evening, and making these spooky cupcakes for the party.

Once upon a time, I'd have said baking cupcakes was a women's-only pursuit, but since the all-male final in the Great British Bake-Off I figure what the hell. Besides, I got the kids to help, and it was great fun.

Halloween? Bring it on. Yes, I used to be a miserable old werewolf...but I'm alright no-ow-wooooooooo! (That's a joke, by the way).

House Dad's Halloween Cupcakes

Makes 48

350g golden caster sugar

350g butter

350g self raising flour

6 eggs

2 tsp of baking powder

Cocoa powder/instant hot chocolate powder

1. With a whisk or wooden spoon, cream the butter and sugar.

2. Beat in the eggs and flour a little at a time until smooth. Add baking powder and enough cocoa powder (or instant hot chocolate powder) to make a light brown batter that drops easily from the spoon. If needed, loosen with a few drops of milk.

3. Divide into 48 cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 mins at 170C (160C fan)/Gas 3.

4. Remove from the oven when the cakes spring back to the touch.

5. When completely cool, decorate with buttercream icing (use bought or mix double the amount of icing sugar to butter) coloured green or orange with food colouring.

6. To make the webs, pipe two thin concentric circles of chocolate buttercream on top of the cake. Then pipe spokes from the middle to the edge of the cake to create a web.

7. To make the spiders, place a large chocolate button in the centre of the cake and pipe on 8 legs in chocolate icing. Attach edible golden balls for eyes, secured by a blob of icing.