I absolutely adore Halloween. The next few posts will be devoted to my creatively borrowed ideas from all sorts of places for Halloween treats and fare, and this particular post is dedicated in “loving” memory of our pet tarantula, Fluffy.
“WHO has a pet tarantula?!!!”, you ask yourself. Am I right? Well, it didn’t happen on purpose, I can tell you that, and technically she ended up being my husband’s pet tarantula since he kept her at work per my not-so-gentle request.
Let’s start at the very beginning…To say that I LOVE Halloween would just trivialize my feelings about it. It is a go-crazy holiday at my house. I love to cook, decorate and throw parties in honor of Halloween.
That’s pretty funny since I am the biggest scaredy cat on the face of the earth. I will NOT go to any kind of Haunted House since people might and do pop out at you, I hate horror movies and I am not really a big fan of gross. But I do LOVE cute witches, pumpkins, spiders and the like.
Although, in the last few years I have tried to up-scare my house by placing skeleton heads and hands crawling out of my front lawn with gravestones next to them. I also have a spooky candelabra on the piano and a few other scary items. You see, I’m trying to keep up with my aging kids so they don’t get embarrassed that all we have up are cutesy ghosts and pumpkins. So uncool. I try to stay make a ridiculous attempt to be cool. I have a feeling it’s a fruitless endeavor though.
Anyhow, basically that huge interruption was just to let you know that my house is adequately decked out at this time of year. One year, when I was cleaning my front entry (or in reality stopping by the big bowl of Halloween candy for just one miniature chocolate), I noticed a particularly good spider-like decoration on the bottom step of my staircase. Wow, it was pretty realistic…it was big, hairy and brownish…just like a tarantula. Most Halloween fakey spiders are black and rubbery looking. I must have spent a pretty penny on that guy, I thought.
Then it dawned on me, maybe this guy wasn’t a fake so I called for back-up. The spider remained perfectly still while my husband, son, daughter and I all scrutinized it, and we all agreed that it must be a fake (albeit a very good one) and that I just hadn’t remembered buying it or placing it there.
My husband, being the great dad and fearless leader that he is, wanted to be 100% certain of its fakeness and went to get a jar to place over it, just in case. While he went to get the jar, I peered very closely at this guy, sure it was not real. My nose was about 2 inches from it as I stared, thinking, “Wow this is an awesome fake.” When my husband appeared with the jar, he placed it over the spider, and it JUMPED and sprawled rapidly as it was put into the jar. I believe my scream was heard several houses down the street.
To make a long story even longer, my husband called our local Nature Center to inquire about tarantulas. He was told that once they make it inside your home, it’s a sign that they are not thriving in the wild. Well, true or not, we believed it hook, line and sinker and being the humanitarian, animal, reptile and now arachnid-loving people that we are, we kept her (we had found out it was a girl)—of course named her Fluffy and sent her to live at my husband’s office since he was the one so keen on keeping her and feeding her live crickets (YUCK! Still not a fan of gross).
The little homemade chocolate spider on my cake is a Fluffy likeness and fondly reminds me of her. She actually was a pretty good pet and fairly interesting to watch when she molted and would leave an entire sheath of herself behind as she took on her new “skin”. Oddly enough I was sad when she moved on– several years later–to greener pastures.
This particular cake was from Cooking Light way back in 1996 (OUCH! I just seriously dated myself), and the white icing is supposed to look like a spider web. Mine does not, but perhaps yours will. It is absolutely chocolate and coconut deliciousness though. It’s soft and spongy, with a mild coconut flavor tunneling through the center and it’s oh so simple. I usually serve it with a small scoop of coconut gelato to complete the dessert.
I hope you enjoy it and keep coming back for more Halloween inspired desserts and fare.
Chocolate Macaroon Tunnel Cake
Adapted from Cooking Light, October 1996
1 1/4 c. sugar
6 T. vegetable oil
3 large eggs
3 c. all purpose flour
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. flaked sweetened coconut
1 1/2 t. coconut extract
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa, good quality makes a big difference
3/4 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 T. milk
To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bundt pan generously with nonstick cooking spray. Combine sugar and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer, beating well at medium speed. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
Combine flour through salt in a separate bowl and whisk together to avoid sifting. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
Reserve 1 c. of the batter in a medium bowl and set aside. Add cocoa powder to remaining batter in large bowl; stir well. Reserve 1 c. of the chocolate batter and set aside. Pour remaining chocolate batter in the prepared pan. Combine reserved white batter with 1 t. coconut extract and flaked coconut. Spoon coconut batter in a tunnel in the center of the chocolate batter. Top with remaining 1 c. chocolate batter. Bake for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes; remove from pan. Cool on a wire rack completely.
For the web-like icing: Combine remaining 1/2 t. coconut flavoring, powdered sugar and skim milk; beat until smooth. Drizzle over cake. Serve with coconut gelato or vanilla ice cream.