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Tombstone cake with a Bloody surprise


2 boxes white cake mix

6 whole eggs

2 \0xBD cups water

\0x2154 cup vegetable oil

1 pint fresh raspberries

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. water

\0x2153 cup sugar

2 cups white chocolate chips

\0x2154 cup heavy cream

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Halloween wouldn't be complete without something sweet. You can go out and buy a few bags of candy bars for your party-- or you can be a cool ghoul and surprise everyone with this tombstone-esque cake that bleeds when you cut into it. Impressive but doable: it's a vanilla cake with buttercream icing, raspberry coulis "blood" and a white chocolate drip ganache.

First, make the vanilla cakes. I made mine with a box mix to save time and ingredients, but if you have enough of those to spare, feel free to make it from scratch. What's important, however, is that you make white cake, not yellow cake-- both are vanilla, but white cake will make the spooky surprise inside stand out best. Mix all the ingredients well and pour the batter into two 13 x 9'' pans. Pop them in the oven for around 30 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, make the raspberry coulis. Coulis is just a fancy name for any type of fruit sauce, and it's simple so don't be intimidated if you're not a coulis connoisseur. In a saucepan over medium heat, add the raspberries, water, lemon juice and sugar all at once. Stir constantly until the raspberries break down into something between a pulp and a sauce and the sugar has dissolved -- probably about five to seven minutes. Press the finished mixture through a fine mesh sieve to filter out the seeds, leaving you with a bowl of bright red liquid -- this will be the blood. Let it cool to room temperature before covering and placing in the fridge. It'll keep until you need it again. The amount of lemon and sugar in the coulis isn't a set amount; add to your taste.

Speaking of icing, I used whipped buttercream, but whatever you prefer will do. If you'd like to color any part of your cake, the icing would be the best choice. Adding color to the ganache is risky, as it can cause the chocolate to seize -- especially if the coloring is water-based. With icing, however, you can go to town with however much of whatever food coloring you like. I used purple and blue to make a ghoulish, greyish purple.

Once the icing is prepared, you can start to assemble the cake. Cut each sheet in half to make four 7.5 x 4.5'' cakes. Trim off the domed tops to make the cakes easily stackable. Put a layer of icing between each cake; on the third layer, cut a shallow well into the top and surround it with a piped dam of icing. Pour the raspberry coulis into the indentation and top it with the fourth cake -- the idea is to make a pocket that will keep the coulis from seeping into the cake but still allow it to leak out when cut. Then frost the whole thing. Don't worry if your frosting is a bit patchy; take it from me, it's harder than it looks to get a smooth bakery finish. And anyway, it's Halloween; it should look spooky and decrepit, like a proper tombstone.

Finally, the most delicate part: the ganache on top. Regular chocolate ganache is made with a 2:1 ratio of chocolate to cream, but since white chocolate isn't technically chocolate (shocking, I know), it has a different composition and you'll need a ratio of 3:1. Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until it starts to bubble, stirring constantly -- cream scalds easily. Then pour it over the white chocolate chips in a separate bowl. Let it sit for a minute or two, then stir until all the chocolate has melted.

Now, ganache is tricky, and if you're new to it, there is a relatively high chance that it might split, which just means that the fat in the chocolate will separate and you'll be left with an oily mess. If your ganache splits (as mine did) do not despair (as I did). It can be saved! Simply heat up some more of the cream and add it in a splash at a time until the ganache becomes creamy and smooth.

Pour the ganache on top of the frosted cake, gently pushing it over the edge in places where you would like the drips to be; let gravity do most of the work here. This is a good opportunity to cover up problem spots in the icing.

When the ganache sets, your cake is ready to be cut. Unfortunately, my vanilla cake absorbed most of the coulis, so the blood did not ooze as I had hoped. If I were to do it again, I would probably add a thin layer of buttercream between the cake and the coulis to prevent this. Either way, the acidic raspberry contrasts with the sweetness of everything else quite nicely.

This cake may look on the small side, but with four layers, it's enough to feed a crowd. Serve it up at this year's monster mash; in my experience, it's a graveyard smash.