Have you heard, girls and ghouls? Hocus Pocus: The Official Cookbook is now available on Amazon—and we couldn’t be more psyched. Written by Elena Craig and S.T. Bende, the Salem-centric cooking guide includes 70 recipes that are prime for Halloween parties, fall festivities, scary movie viewing parties and any old weeknight.
How to Make Winnie’s Spellbook Cake from “Hocus Pocus: The Official Cookbook”
Dead man’s toes not included
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Recipes run the gamut from Blood Orange Jack-O’-Lantern Tarts and Puffed Rice Potion Bottles to Dead Man’s Toes and Mummy’s Scorpion Pie. Some are quite easy to tackle, while others require much more time and skill. We’re no doubt most psyched to try Winnie’s Spellbook Cake.
In case you haven’t seen Hocus Pocus (what have you been doing since 1993…), Winnie’s sentient and delightfully creepy spellbook is a major part of the movie. It’s said to contain her “most powerful and evil spells.” Here, it’s transformed into an over-the-top dark chocolate cake, complete with buttercream filling and shimmery luster dust.
Be warned: This dessert is not for the faint of heart. It’s a bit tedious and requires some skillful decorating…but it’s arguably the most iconic treat in the entire book. (P.S.: You’ll need a candy thermometer.)
Read on for the full recipe, which can feed 12 to 14 people in one fell swoop. (And for more recipes, add Hocus Pocus: The Official Cookbook to your Amazon cart.)
How to Make Winnie’s Spellbook Cake
For the Cake
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup sour cream
For the Filling and Frosting
- 6 egg whites
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 6 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, plus more for greasing
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
- 1 cup crushed chocolate wafer cookies (optional)
- About 30 chocolate chew candies
- About 2 teaspoons silver luster dust
- ¼ teaspoon gold or bronze luster dust
- About 1 tablespoon black cocoa, cocoa or black petal dust
1. Make the cake: Line an 11-by-14-inch cake pan with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and both sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla. Beat again until well combined. Add the cocoa powder and mix again until completely incorporated.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.
4. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the sour cream all at once. Mix until completely incorporated. Add the remaining flour mixture, mix again and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly drizzle in 1 cup hot water. Continue to mix until all of the water is incorporated and the batter is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack and removing the parchment. Allow to cool completely.
7. Make the filling and frosting: Add the egg whites and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the brown sugar with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Set the mixer on medium speed and whisk until the eggs are frothy, about 1 minute. Add the lemon juice and whisk until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes more, then shut off the mixer.
8. Grease a heatproof 4-cup measuring cup with butter and set aside. Fit the saucepan with a candy thermometer and, when the sugar mixture reaches 238°F, decant it to the measuring cup.
9. Slowly add the sugar syrup to the egg whites in small batches, whisking after each addition. When all the syrup is added, beat the mixture on high speed until the meringue is completely cool (the outside of the bowl should be cool to the touch), 3 to 5 minutes.
10. Add the butter, one to two pieces at a time, beating well on medium speed after each addition. Once all the butter has been incorporated, add the vanilla and briefly beat on high speed until smooth.
11. Reserve 4 cups of the frosting to fill the cake and create the pages and add the melted chocolate to the rest. Beat again until smooth, about 1 minute.
12. Assemble the cake: Cut the cake exactly down the middle horizontally, creating 2 smaller layer cakes of equal size. Place one layer onto your desired cake or serving board. Use 2 cups of the plain frosting to fill the cake by frosting a thick layer onto the bottom cake layer with an offset spatula. If using, sprinkle the crushed cookies on top of the frosting. Top with the second cake layer and use the offset spatula to “seal” the edges by pushing frosting into the space. Chill in the refrigerator as is for 10 minutes.
13. Remove from the refrigerator and frost the top of the cake and the back edge (this will become the spine of the book) with the chocolate frosting. Use the offset spatula to create neat edges along the front and sides of the cake to create the book cover. Reserve about ½ cup of the chocolate frosting, storing in an airtight container at room temperature. You will need this to attach the embellishments. Chill again for 15 to 20 minutes.
14. Remove from the refrigerator and use the remaining 2 cups of plain frosting to pipe the exposed front and side edges, creating the pages. Be careful not to touch the “book cover.” Chill again for 10 minutes or more before using a long knife or metal ruler to “cut” pages into the edges. As straight as possible, firmly press the edge of the knife or ruler into the frosting, over and over, until you have created lines representing the pages from top to bottom. Repeat on the sides, lining up the lines as best you can. Keep in mind the spellbook is a very old book, so imperfections just make it more realistic. Return the cake to the refrigerator while you create the embellishments.
15. You will need a nonstick surface such as a silicone baking mat or parchment paper, wooden skewers and a microwave-safe plate. Place three unwrapped chocolate chews on the plate and microwave 5 to 10 seconds, until just pliable. Knead together until they are one smooth ball. Roll out the ball on the nonstick surface until you have a 12- to 13-inch snake, making sure to thin out one end for the tail. Gently pinch and flatten the other end to create the head. Coil the snake and set aside. Repeat for one more coiled snake, then make one snake for the top of the spine. Measure the length of your frosted cake to make sure it will fit.
16. Use about 1½ candy chews each, gently heated, to create five fingers for the book spine, using the skewer to create details such as nails and knuckles. Gently heat another six candies, knead them together and roll them out to about ⅛ inch thick. From this, cut the rounded triangles that sit under the coiled snakes, and the straight strip that sits under the third snake. Use five candies to sculpt the lock pieces. For the base of the stitches, use another two candies and roll them out to thin ropes of varying lengths, fold each rope in half, creating a double strand, then gently flatten it.
17. Use the silver luster dust and a small, clean brush to “paint” the snakes, snake bases and lock pieces. Age the pieces with the black cocoa or black petal dust. Age the fingers with the cocoa as well.
18. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and use little dabs of the reserved frosting to attach all the embellishments. Do the stitches last, fitting them in around the other decor as desired. Place the remaining frosting in a disposable pastry bag, snip a small hole in the tip and pipe the stitches, then pipe perpendicularly over the base stitch lines. For the final step, use the black cocoa to age the rest of the book and pages by gently dusting it on with a pastry brush.
19. The cake can be made up to a week ahead, wrapped and frozen. Do not defrost before decorating. The decorated cake can be made a day ahead and should be kept in the refrigerator until about 45 minutes before serving.
Recipe and photo courtesy of Insight Editions