Bakers will be hoping to scare up profits this Halloween, with shocking delights for a more adult audience and premium price tag.

Be afraid, be very afraid… this year’s Halloween comes with a ‘not suitable for kids’ warning.

Often dominated by child-friendly treats from ghost-shaped cookies to orange and green-frosted cupcakes, Halloween-themed baked goods seemed to have lost their scare factor. But no more.

“Halloween inspiration for 2018 will be bigger and even more gruesome than in previous years,” believes Louise Liddiard, marketing manager at Orchard Valley Foods. “Halloween is big business and the more visually appealing, the better to drive sales in a relatively small window of opportunity.”

So, how can bakers boost their beastly credentials this fright night? With the prevalence of social media, there is a growing trend for shocking and realistic-looking cakes shaped like brains, severed body parts and characters from horror movies. The problem is, they’re not exactly appetising and can be difficult to create.

“Any dishes can be given classic makeover with props, colours and dyes,” says Chris Ince, chef director at catering company Angel Hill Food Co. “I wouldn’t, however, overplay that. Let the food speak for itself.”

He suggests tempting an adult audience with seasonal dishes and flavours, as well as taking inspiration from overseas.

“Check out the way other countries do Halloween and build a bakery offer around that particular culture,” he adds. The US, for example, has a ‘go hard or go home’ attitude when it comes to Halloween and the bakery offer is heavily dominated by pumpkin cheesecake, pies and doughnuts. Mexico, meanwhile, focuses on Dia de Muertos – also known as Day of the Dead – characterised by the intricately decorated skulls that lend themselves to biscuits.

“We tend to reach straight for the orange and black food colouring, but other foods would form the basis of fantastic Halloween dishes,” Ince adds, suggesting the seasonal use of pomegranates, beetroot and cranberries, which provide vibrant colour.

Richer and more intense flavours can appeal to a more adult palate, believes Neil Towse, food applications manager at Macphie. "Smoked chocolate and burnt caramel are right on trend in 2018 and lend themselves to that adult audience, as does using richer darker chocolate with a higher cocoa content," he says.

"To match the smoky shadowy flavours, activated charcoal gives an appropriately dark and intense colour which can be used in both sweet and savoury products."

For further inspiration, keep it seasonal. “Seasonal flavours are a great way to offer a product that has a more luxury appearance but is still in keeping with the occasion – for example toffee, apple, pear pumpkin, or spices such as cinnamon,” says Cristiana Balarini, category market leader, pastry ingredients, for CSM Bakery Solutions. “Taking inspiration from premium doughnuts, bakers could opt to use seasonal and popular confectionery to top baked goods and cakes. This results in a delicious sweet treat for consumers who want to avoid gory blood, brains and eyes.”

Celebration cakes offer an opportunity to add value to items suitable for a social occasion. Last year, for example, Glasgow-based Designer Cakes by Paige created a life-sized bust of the clown Pennywise from horror movie It, while The Lyniam Bakery in Pembrokeshire used crushed Oreos and marshmallow rice crispy details to make a Walking Dead-inspired creation.

Think smaller when it comes to the rest of the spread. “Bite-size formats can play an important part of this season,” believes Michael Schofield, British Bakels marketing manager. “Multi-buy offers can be ideal for consumers looking to give away memorable treats to their trick or treaters.”

Cakes, biscuits, doughnuts and rice crispy treats work well here. And, bakers can play tricks of their own with innovative flavour and colour combinations. “The trend is to play with colour/flavour perceptions such as orange-flavoured green sponge,” notes Jacqui Passmore, marketing manager, Dawn Foods UK and Ireland.

While Halloween treats for adults offer bakers a chance to add value to their range, kids should also be catered for. “Families celebrating the occasion will be looking for food that is fun and exciting,” says Balarini.

Savoury can be spooky

Sweets may dominate the trick or treat scene, but savoury still has a place at Halloween.

Sharing occasions such as parties, in particular, offer a chance for savoury to steal a share of the occasion in and out of the home.

“The popularity and versatility of the seasonal holiday means that it can be brought into bread, soup, and tacos – meaning caterers are able to get the flavour of Halloween into almost any dish on their menus,” says Chris Ince, chef director at catering company Angel Hill Food Co.

Savoury party food was a core part of Tesco’s Halloween offering last year, with menu items including Mini Midnight Devil Dogs – hotdogs in black buns – and pumpkin & chorizo-filled Hubble Bubble Pumpkin Pasties.

Morrisons, meanwhile, sought to keep the vampires at bay with a super-strength garlic bread said to be 600% stronger than a traditional garlic flatbread.

“Savoury products such as pizzas are also popular,” says CSM category leader, pastry ingredients Cristiana Balarini. “Cheese can be used to create the outline of a ghost, and pumpkin faces can be created with toppings. Top with a spider for a fun element that will appeal to kids and offer a seasonal snack to be sold all day.”

Recipe: Koko Pumpkins


  • Bakels Kokomix, 1kg
  • Water, 0.4kg      
  • Total Weight, 1.4kg
  • Bakels Rich Chocolate Fudgice
  • Bakels Pettinice


  1. Mix Bakels Kokomix and water on second speed for 3 minutes using a beater. Add orange food colouring to preference.
  2. Deposit small quantities of the mix into the mould (Silikomart Mini Charlotte SQ034). Use a scraper to smooth over and ensure the moulds are full and even.
  3. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes at 180˚C (355˚F).
  4. Once cool, remove the pumpkin halves from the mould and sandwich together with a small amount of Bakels Rich Chocolate Fudgice.
  5. Using Bakels Pettinice sugar paste, colour with a green food colouring, make into small storks and top the pumpkins.

Source: British Bakels