A major event in the US, Halloween has never had the same impact in the UK. But there are signs that this is changing, with the British public showing more interest in ghouls and ghosts.
According to Steve McCann, technical baker for ingredients supplier Macphie, sales during the scaring season are soaring. "With the UK Halloween market growing by a staggering 25% year on year, many bakeries find that this is their strongest time of the year for novelty lines, even though it has a much shorter selling period than Christmas," he says.
"Halloween sales might stretch to a couple of weeks, compared with 8-12 weeks for Christmas. Both Christmas and Halloween have strong visual identities and are great opportunities for bakers to create excitement and revitalise existing lines to capture the imagination."
Halloween has a strong appeal to both children and adults, and has a much broader consumer base than say Valentine’s day, says McCann. "Everyone seems to get into the spirit of Halloween and most bakers enjoy the opportunity to come up with gruesome ideas in the most shocking colours."
So what does he look for in a Halloween idea? "Mainly we look for ideas that are simple to make but have a lot of visual impact. Bakers can make the most of the range of Macphie bakery ingredients available," he says.
For example, Macphie recommends starting with plain cake bases (such as Macphie’s Mississippi Muffin/Case Mix or Genoese Cake Mix) or cookies (such as Macphie’s American Soft Cookie Mix).
Simply cut these into novelty shapes and top with quick and easy decorations. McCann says: "It’s important to keep the concepts grounded in practical reality. We know that people are pressed for time and don’t always have the finishing resources they’d like."
Childrens’ sweets can be used to finish some of the products, which are easily obtainable at any supermarket or sweet shop. There are a variety of plaques and toppers available.
McCann says: "We also look for ideas that will appeal to both children and adults, with a sense of fun and an element of gruesomeness, because we know that these are the ideas that will walk out of the shop."
McCann says his ideas for Halloween tend to come from the traditional ghosts and ghouls Halloween themes. "Our marketeers research global databases for what’s new, what costumes themes are on the web and that kind of thing. They keep a list of ideas associated with Halloween. If you can work around these, you can’t go far wrong."
Despite the US tradition of celebrating Halloween, Macphie says the event actually originated in England. In nineteenth century All Souls’ Day parades, poor people begged for food and families gave them pastries called "soul cakes" in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. n
=== Let your imagination run wild ===
n Use what is readily available to finish products
n Keep the final format simple
n Produce fun, scary ideas that will appeal to children and adults
n Make sure to use Halloween-themed packaging to make things extra special
Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein Cakes:
Make up Macphie Genoese Cake Mix as per basic recipe. Deposit 5kg of batter into 18in x 30in tray. Bake at 180ºC (360ºF) for 40 minutes. When cool, cut into rectangles. Enrobe with 5th Avenue White Icing coloured with green food colouring. Create faces and hair with jelly sweets, Liquorice Allsorts and 5th Avenue Chocolate Icing. Use chocolate curls to create Frankenstein’s hair.
Make up Mississippi Plain and Chocolate Muffin/Cake Mixes as per basic recipe. Add green food colouring to the plain batter as required. Gently blend the two batters together to create a marble effect. Deposit 85-90g of batter into paper cases on muffin trays. Bake at 185ºC (365ºF) for 30 minutes. When cool, decorate with jelly worms to create a scary maggoty effect.
Trick or Treat Cookie Bags: A mixture of delicious "treat" cookies and unusual "trick" cookies for example: hot chilli flavour, which are surprisingly tasty!
Make up Soft and Chewy Cookie Mix as per basic recipe. Blend in 10g of dried chilli per 1kg of powder mix. Deposit 75g of dough onto baking tray and bake at 170ºC (350ºF) for 14 minutes. Alternatively make up cookies using Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chunk, Oat & Raisin or Chocolate Cookie Mix.
=== Halloween line-up ===