Dawn Peters refuses to eat an eyeball.
Even if it is perfectly edible.
“I wouldn’t eat the eyeball, but I love the spider web,” the baker told the News-Press, noting she personally favors cute treats over creepy ones.
That said, she gave her 20 Basic Baking and Pastry students creative freedom as they made friendly or chilling but consistently delicious Halloween treats at Allan Hancock College. The News-Press tasted several of them in advance of today’s holiday.
“For Halloween, I let them do what they’re interested in doing,” Ms. Peters, 53, said, noting the use of ingredients such as chocolate ganache. “If you know how to use chocolate and heavy cream, you can do a million things with it.”
Teams of four in the Santa Maria classroom/kitchen worked two days on their treats as they added creepy fondant eyeballs on some cupcakes and chocolate ganache spider webs on other pastries.
The students made everything from black widow cake pops, complete with expressive eyes, to cupcakes topped with devils’ horns and witches’ hats. The class also created fudge brownies with chocolate ganache frostings and a white ghost made from buttercream.
Ms. Peters said a good Halloween treat involves the right colors. “Whether they’re cute or scary, make them visually appealing.”
To maintain the taste, students made everything from scratch and used fresh ingredients, including chocolate, sugar and eggs, Ms. Peters said. “The butter is the key, using real butter as opposed to shortening or margarine.”
The class made its frosting from Swiss meringue buttercream, which proved to be both tasty and artistic.
For example, Isis Diaz and her team put purple buttercream spider webs on a pumpkin chocolate brownie, proving those webs are actually delicious.
“And not dangerous,” Miss Diaz, a 19-year-old sophomore, said with a smile.
Near her, Gisell Gonzalez, an 18-year-old freshman, was having fun as she had chocolate ganache spiders crawl on top of peanut butter cookies.
“I guess you can make them scary or cute,” Ms. Gonzalez said as she held a cookie that seemed more friendly than frightening.
Across the room, Bridget Adams carefully squirted royal icing on a shortbread cookie to create a bright orange pumpkin, complete with green trim. Miss Adams, 34, said she was happy with the results.
Students also used royal icing on shortbread cookies to create spider webs, mummies and creepy eyes.
Nearby, Andrew Balian worked on cake pops — small vanilla and chocolate balls on top of sticks. They were covered with a hard dipping chocolate — white chocolate with orange food coloring for the pumpkins and milk chocolate for the black widow spiders.
Some of the black widow spider cake pops have legs, but others had to go legless.
“We didn’t have enough black fondant to make a ton of legs,” Mr. Balian, a 19-year-old sophomore, said, but explained the creative solution was creating a red hourglass similar to those on black widow spiders’ bellies.
His team took some creative license and put their hourglasses on top of the spiders’ heads.
Some of the chocolate cake pops were topped with edible, white bandages to turn them into mummies. You’ll find the bandages familiar; they’re white chocolate.
“I think this was a really good experience because I never made cake pops before,” Mr. Balian said. “This is my first baking class, and it’s been a blast.”
Ms. Peters said she doesn’t usually run into a demand for creepy pastries as she makes attractive wedding cakes as the chef and owner of Decadence Fine Cakes & Confections in Buellton.
But she noted one client who had a special request for a vanilla cake, covered with black fondant.
“It was a very dark cake — black with red stripes. It was an avant-garde Halloween (theme).”