Halloween Cake with Meringue Ghosts

Don’t be scared of this delicious Halloween cake! Baker Kim-Joy uses spiced pears and her caramel cake that’s no trick and all treat!

| October 2019


Ideally, use the Spiced Carrot and Walnut Cake or Ginger, Pecan and Salted Caramel Cake for this. If you have time, do make the little gingerbread house, poached pears and meringue ghosts. This is a great cake to do with kids, as everyone can decorate their own ghosts! Try making ghosts to represent each other. Maybe some are peaceful and others are vengeful spirits? The best thing about Halloween baking is that it doesn’t have to be neat. Wonky, cracked meringues have personality; imperfect houses look perfectly planned to give them that abandoned look; who can say how a spooky pear should look.

Serves: 20-24


Poached Pears:

  • spices, such as 1 whole clove, 4 cardamom pods, 1 cinnamon stick,
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 3 pears

Meringue Ghosts:

  • 1 quantity of Meringue mixture (see below)

Gingerbread House:

  • 1 quantity of Ginger Cookie dough (see below)
  • 1 quantity of Royal Icing (see below)


  • black and red food dye
  • Ginger, Pecan and Salted Caramel Cake (see recipe below)


  1. For the poached pears, place a pan of water on the stove and bring to the boil, then add all the spices and the sugar. Peel the pears, leaving the stems intact, and slice off the bottoms. Put them into the water to simmer for 20-30 minutes until soft.
  2. Meanwhile, make the meringue and pipe into a variety of ghosts, then bake (see below).
  3. Now make the ginger cookie dough (see recipe below), roll out and cut out the right shapes (you can find templates online). Bake, then cool on a rack.
  4. Make the royal icing and dye a small amount black (see recipe below). Put into separate piping bags.
  5. When the pears are soft, take them out of the water and leave to drain on a clean tea (dish) towel.
  6. To assemble the house, use royal icing to line up the sides, then place the roof on top last. Pipe spooky details, such as ghosts and angry faces.
  7. Using black food dye, pipe or paint faces onto the meringue ghosts. Carve faces into the pears and use a brush to add ‘gore’ with red and black dye.
  8. Assemble your cake layers with cream cheese filling.
  9. Now for the fun part! Carefully control some drips of salted caramel down the sides of the cake (see recipe below). Position the house with the haunted pears just behind. Assemble meringue ghosts on top of the cake and wedged into the buttercream down the sides. Splatter red food dye as desired. (I sometimes get too enthusiastic about this and the kitchen becomes covered, but it’s oh-so-satisfying …)

Ginger, Pecan and Salted Caramel Cake

The ginger flavour of this cake comes from both ground ginger and stem ginger, so there is a strong ginger undercurrent, and as a bonus you occasionally get a burst from a chunk of stem ginger. The pecans and salted caramel complement it perfectly – you will definitely want to go back for seconds.

Serves: 16-20 (makes 3 X 18-cm/7-in cakes)


  • 250g (1 cup plus 2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 250g (1 1/4 cups) dark muscovado (soft brown) sugar
  • 120g (1/3 cup) black treacle (molasses)
  • 375g (2 3/4 cups plus 1 1/2 Tbsp) self-raising (self-rising) flour
  • 4 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 300ml (1 1/4 cups) whole milk
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz) crystallized stem (candied preserved) ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Salted Caramel:

  • 90ml (6 Tbsp) water
  • 240g (1 1/4 cups) caster or granulated sugar
  • 225ml (1 cup) double (heavy) cream
  • salt, to taste


  • 1 quantity of Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)
  • 120g (1 cup) pecans, lightly toasted and roughly chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit/Gas mark 4). Grease 3 x 18-cm (7-in) cake tins and line the bases with baking paper.
  2. For the cake, heat the butter, salt, muscovado sugar and treacle in a small pan over a low-medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter has melted and combined.
  3. Combine the flour and ground spices in a separate bowl.
  4. Heat the milk in a small bowl in the microwave for a minute until warm. Set aside.
  5. Pour the liquid sugar and butter mixture over the flour mixture, then stir quickly until smooth and combined. Add the chopped ginger, then the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  6. Add the bicarbonate of soda to the reserved warm milk and mix until foamy. Pour this into the main mixture and mix with a balloon whisk until smooth and just combined. Immediately pour the mixture evenly between the prepared cake tins and bake for 25-35 minutes until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  7. While the cake is baking, make the salted caramel. Heat the water and sugar in a saucepan over a low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and wait (don’t stir) until the sugar turns an amber colour. You can swill the pan around to even out the colour.
  8. When the sugar syrup has turned a deep amber colour, remove the pan from the heat, add the cream in one go and stir constantly with a balloon whisk. The caramel will bubble up, so be careful at this stage! Return the pan to the stove over a low heat and continue stirring until all the sugar has dissolved and you have a smooth and creamy caramel. Pour into a medium bowl and sprinkle with a little salt to taste. Don’t add too much; it’s better to add too little than too much. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for 30-45 minutes. It will thicken as it cools.
  9. When the cakes are baked, leave them to cool in their tins for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and turn them out onto racks. Peel off the baking paper and leave to cool.
  10. Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting (see below), then transfer to a large piping (pastry) bag and cut a large tip.
  11. Make sure the cakes and caramel are cool before assembling. Stack the cakes using the guide below. In between each cake layer, pipe the frosting, drizzle the caramel and sprinkle with a third of the pecans. Continue until you have 2 layers of frosting and caramel, and have placed the third cake layer on top. Pipe the frosting on top of the cake and smooth with a palette knife. Cover the sides with more frosting, or leave them naked, depending on how you are planning to decorate this cake. Chill in the fridge, or freezer if you’re in a rush. Then it’s time to decorate!

Cream Cheese Frosting

This has a slight tang from the cream cheese, which works well with cakes that have warming spices such as cinnamon and ginger. It remains firm, so can be piped and used to cover cakes. Just be careful not to overmix it!

Makes: Enough to fill, crumb-coat and cover a tiered cake


  • 115g (1/2 cup) salted butter, at room temperature, chopped
  • 600g (4 1/4 cups) icing (confectioners’) sugar
  • 300g (1 1/4 cups) whole cream cheese


Place the butter in a stand mixer (or use a handheld electric whisk) fitted with a balloon whisk attachment and beat until smooth and softened. Add half the icing sugar and beat until combined. Add the cream cheese and the rest of the sugar and whisk until combined. Don’t overmix, or the frosting will become too soft.

Cake Decorating Tips and Ideas


Sometimes your baked cake might dome upwards in the middle, which is not ideal for stacking. Level your cakes by using a serrated knife and judging by eye, or use a purpose-made cake leveller. This means you can reward yourself with the cake cut-offs …



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