It’s 1.37am and with a flick of my wrist, the last tiny face has been iced onto an array of gingerbread pumpkins. I sigh happily, inviting Chris over to look at my handiwork. I begin to wish I had red food colouring powder to give these creatures rosy cheeks or perhaps to add a golden sheen to the pumpkin skin, but Chris just takes a hold of both arms and orders me to go to bed. The curse of the work bake sale has struck again. I’m mildly happy I didn’t break my record of 3.30am. Thank god I didn’t attempt to make a cake.
I don’t know what it is about work bake sales, but they seem to bring out the nocturnal baker in me. Whether that’s due to three sunken cakes that need to be remade from scratch, catering an entire charity sale on my own or simply starting far too late in the evening, I can’t seem to finish in a reasonable time. And so I stood in my kitchen as the hours ticked by, trying to create the perfect orange hue with a apron wrapped around my pyjamas.
For this Halloween bake sale, I’d initially planned to ice skeletons onto gingerbread men, but the search for a cutter proved fruitless. I considered freehanding skulls and then suddenly decided on cutesy pumpkins with trailing vines and a variety of expressions instead.
This is my first proper foray into icing with properly homemade royal icing and it was rather enjoyable, although I wish I had more nozzles so I didn’t have to wash and reload a piping bag every time I wanted to switch colours. The gingerbread recipe is one I’ve used many times before but always yields soft chewy biscuits with a good amount of spice. Perhaps not quite pumpkin spice, but still delicious all the same. Happy Halloween!
- For the biscuits
- 85g golden syrup
- 100g butter
- 175g soft light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 350g plain flour
- 1 egg, lightly whisked
- For the icing
- 250g icing sugar
- 1 egg white
- ½ tsp lemon juice
- Orange, green and black food colouring
- Edible gold lustre dust
- Place the golden syrup, butter and sugar in a saucepan and stir over a medium heat. Once melted together, cool the mixture for 3 to 4 minutes. Meanwhile whisk together the spices, bicarbonate of soda and flour in a bowl. Pour the sugary buttery mix into the bowl and add the egg, stirring to a sticky dough. Wrap tightly in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.
- Preheat the oven to 200oc/180oc fan and line two large baking trays with baking parchment. Flour a clean work surface and cut the dough in half (this makes it easier to roll). Sprinkle the dough and a rolling pin with flour and roll to the thickness of a pound coin. Using a 4 inch round cutter, cut as many shapes as possible, rerolling the scraps until the dough is used up. Repeat with the second half of the biscuit dough. You will have more circles than you can fit on a baking tray, so keep the remainder to bake after the first batch.
- Place on the prepared baking trays and bake for around 10 minutes until the biscuits are starting to brown on the edges. Remove from the oven cool for a few minutes on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining biscuits.
- To make the icing, place the icing sugar, egg white and lemon juice in a bowl then whisk using a stand mixer or handheld electric whisk. Beat for around 2 to 3 minutes until stiff, adding a little water if it looks dry or crumbly. Divide the icing between three bowls, with around 2 tbsp for the black, 3 ½ for the green and the remainder for the orange. Colour the icing then place into separate piping bags fitted with a narrow round nozzle.
- Pipe a large circle on each of the biscuits using the orange icing, then remove the icing from the bag and water down slightly to a spreadable thickness. Spoon a little icing in the middle of each circle and spread to the edges using the back of a spoon.
- Use the green icing to pipe a stalk on the top of each pumpkin, then pipe swirling vines around the sides of the pumpkins.
- Once the pumpkin icing has dried, pipe faces onto each one using the black icing. I went for a variety of cute and scary faces. Leave the biscuits to dry completely then add a little edible lustre dust onto the cheeks of each pumpkin to finish.