Rose Prince's Baking Club: Halloween spider web shortbreads

Date:30-10-2013 08:58:23 read:2

Rose Prince's Baking Club: Halloween spider web shortbreads

Your children will love these creepy Halloween shortbreads

Spooky sweeties: spiders web shortbreads are the perfect treat for partying kids Photo: Andrew Crowley

Rose Prince's Baking Club: Halloween chocolate orange cake

The festivals come so thick and fast at this time of year it feels like the harvest festival apple cake only just came out of the oven before it’s time to make something for Hallowe’en. Then we have Guy Fawkes Night to contend with, followed by – well, let’s not think about Christmas yet.

Having once witnessed the whole of the city of Boston decked out in artificial cobwebs on October 31, I have always felt we underdo All Souls’ Eve, decoratively speaking. Frankly, I can do without trick or treating. But Hallowe’en does at least present some interesting prospects for creative baking. Ghosts and spiders, devils, pumpkins, witches and black cats; reds, oranges, white and black – it’s a great scheme.

On the aforementioned trip to Boston, you only had to walk into a supermarket to find a huge range of sweets in all these colours and shapes. I brought back a sackfull and watched as the E numbers nearly blew the minds of a very happy bunch of children at teatime. Subsequent years were less indulgent, due to the fact that cake decorating is not my talent.

I have always felt that good things decorate themselves. A little glaze with melted apricot jam here, a squiggle of water icing there. My skills are definitely in the “glacé cherry on top” category, and I’m surely not the only person who watched the “Showstopper” on the Great British Bake Off from behind the sofa. I find all that creativity very, very frightening. Build a Hansel and Gretel cottage from sponge? I’d rather eat raw liver.

My recipe for the décor-adverse baker is one that requires no specialist equipment, and very little skill except keeping a steady hand while holding a bag of glace icing. It is also, if you have never made it, a chance to make shortbread, the wonderful buttery, immovable biscuit that beats all others, even cookies, when made with good butter.

On this subject alone – butter, that is – there is a new tub of lard on the block. Lurpak, whose butter makes the very best Victoria Sandwich, has brought out a slow-churned butter that resembles a British sweet cream, a butter that is best spread on bread or toast. But it has plenty of flavour, and so makes a great shortbread. You need to beat the butter well before adding the sugar until pale and airy, so the shortbread is not too dense.

Hallowe’en spider’s web shortbreads, with pumpkin filling


You will need a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, a 5cm round cutter (use a wine glass if you do not have one) and a polythene freezer bag for piping


175g/6oz unsalted butter

90g/3¼oz granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

270g/9½oz plain flour

For the filling

150g/5½oz unsalted butter, softened

150g/5½oz sifted icing sugar

Orange food colouring paste*

For the spider’s web decoration

100g/3½oz sifted icing sugar

2-3 tsp sieved lemon juice

* Choose tangerine apricot, £2.59 from Squires Kitchen

Cream the butter in a stand mixer, or in a bowl with a wooden spoon, until pale and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix for a further five minutes. The mixture will still be gritty, as granulated sugar does not dissolve in butter when beaten. Add the vanilla and the flour, mixing slowly. Turn the mixture out on to the work top and form into a round, about 5cm thick. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to one hour.

Preheat the oven to 340F/170C/Gas 3. On a floured worktop, roll out the dough to ¾ cm/¼ in thickness. Use the cutter to make an even number of discs. You will need to squidge the cut dough together and reroll to get the most out of it. Lift each disc with a spatula or palette knife and place on the baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Prick each disc with a fork a few times.

Bake for about 15 minutes until pale brown. Cool on the sheet for about 15 minutes then place on a rack to cool.

Meanwhile prepare the filling and the icing for the decoration: beat together the softened butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy, then add the colouring paste and mix, adding enough to give it a good “pumpkin” colour. When the biscuits are cool, spread a little on one disc, then sandwich it together with another biscuit.

In a separate bowl, mix together the lemon juice and icing sugar to make a stiff paste as thick as toothpaste – only add the third teaspoon of lemon juice if it is needed, and then only drop by drop. Fill the bottom corner of a large freezer bag with the icing then, onto the surface of the shortbread sandwiches, pipe a six-pronged star.

Next, pipe three concentric circles, starting at the outer edge of the biscuits. It should, if you take it slowly and the icing is not too runny, look like a cobweb. Allow the icing to set. These biscuits can be made a day or two in advance, if you wish.

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