A showstopping Halloween cake to wow your guests – this Boozy Chocolate Skull Cake with Strawberry Jello “Brain” and Red Velvet “Blood” Sauce is the perfect union of delicious, gruesome and spectacular! Melt the white chocolate skull cap by pouring the bloody custard sauce to reveal the jello brain hidden inside!
It’s Halloween Week on The Flavor Bender, and I’ve got another gory and delicious treat for you guys today, following close on the heels of these awesome 5 Mini Monster Cakes and this Flaming Dragon’s Blood Cocktail! 🙂
Today I’m sharing a recipe for a Boozy Chocolate Skull Cake with jello brain, a crackling skull cap and a red velvet blood sauce! Yep, it’s one of a kind triple threat of a dessert and if you’re looking for a showstopping Halloween cake to wow your guests, this is just what you need! 🙂
This boozy chocolate skull cake is a fantastic centerpiece for your Halloween dinner party! So imagine, there’s this beautiful skull covered in a thin coating of white chocolate ganache, and then just before you serve the cake, you pour warm creamy red velvet creme anglaise (bloody custard sauce) on top to melt the chocolate skull cap, revealing the strawberry jello brain piece. I took inspiration from that famous pig blood scene from the movie Carrie! 🙂 And what’s even better is that this boozy chocolate skull cake feature THREE DIFFERENT DESSERTS in one masterpiece!
- A Halloween-worthy bourbon soaked black chocolate cake – coated with chocolate ganache and then a a thin layer of white chocolate ganache. To make things easier, you can skip the chocolate ganache layer, but that crumb coating helps with sculpting the skull cake and define those features like the eye sockets, nose area, mouth etc. When the crumb coating is smooth and has set, you pour the white chocolate ganache layer so that the final product is white and stands out against the blood red custard sauce you’ll be pouring on top later. I wanted this cake to stand upright, so I created a small base with the excess cake scraps and then sealed it all together with some ganache. The chocolate skull cake is soaked in a bourbon simple syrup and is deliciously moist and fudgy.
- Strawberry jello brain and red velvet pouring custard – the brain is made with pieces of strawberry jello that has real strawberry pieces in it. I added 2 tbsp NON-FAT evaporated milk to create a more “brain tissue like” look. You don’t need a brain mold for this, I just cut the set jello into small pieces and piled them on top of the cake. The irregular pieces look pretty awesome to me, and it’s easier to assemble too. Warm red velvet creme anglaise is poured on top of the jello to create a gruesome “bloody look”, with excess bloody custard sauce drips down the side of the cake too.
- Popping candy skull cap – the brain is covered with a white chocolate shell that has popping candy in it, so that as you melt the white chocolate with the warm red velvet custard, the popping candy starts popping and crackling like you know – a cracking skull, ha! I just thought it added another layer of gruesome surprise. You can serve the cake with extra pieces of popping candy “skull cap” pieces too.
With 3 amazing desserts in one showstopping spooky Halloween treat, this chocolate skull cake is perfect to wow your guests! I made the boozy chocolate skull cake with my own, tried and true chocolate cake recipe using black cocoa so that it has that Halloween-worthy black look. After you pour the white chocolate ganache layer, and the cake is chilled, you can mold that white chocolate layer as you please, to refine the look of your skull cake.
Here’s another important note – make sure to add the bourbon syrup BEFORE you stick the cakes together. That’s what I did the first time I tested this recipe, and the cake soaked more of the bourbon syrup. But when I recorded the video, I completely forgot to soak it with bourbon syrup first! ADOY!
Since this is a RECIPE + tutorial, it’s going to be quite long. BUT, I’ve included all the tips and made it as easy as possible to follow along. So make sure to read everything first to understand all the steps before you get started.
You will also need a specialty skull cake pan for this Halloween cake. I use the Wilton Dimensions 3D skull cake pan.
CHECK OUT THE VIDEO RECIPE HERE
Chocolate Skull Cake with Strawberry Jello Brain
Chocolate Skull Cake
- 340 g unsalted butter melted
- 3 tbsp oil
- 455 g white sugar
- 5 eggs
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 115 g black cocoa
- 300 g AP flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- Melted butter and extra cocoa dust to coat and dust the skull pan
- 10 cup 3D skull cake pan
Bourbon Simple Syrup
- 1 cup sugar syrup
- ¾ cup water
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup bourbon whiskey
- 340 g bittersweet chocolate chips or chopped
- 170 g whipping cream measured by weight
- Pinch of salt
White Chocolate Ganache
- 340 g white chocolate chips or chopped
- 115 g whipping cream
- Pinch of salt
White Chocolate Skull Cap
- 226 g white candy melts or tempered white chocolate
- 3 tbsp popping candy optional
Strawberry Jello brain
- 1 packet of strawberry jello
- 1 cup hot water
- ¼ cup cold water
- 2 tbsp evaporated milk
- ½ lb of fresh strawberry chopped
Red Velvet Creme Anglaise
Chocolate Skull Cake (Day One)
- Preheat oven to 300°F. Brush the skull pan generously with melted butter and dust it with black cocoa powder. Make sure to butter and dust the whole skull pan. Set aside until the cake batter is ready.
- Place the melted butter, oil, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Whisk until everything is mixed together well. If you used dutch cocoa, add a few drops of black food coloring to make the cake darker in color. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, sift the black cocoa, flour, baking powder together. Add the salt and mix until well combined.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 2 - 3 additions. Fold in the dry ingredients well in between additions.
- Divide the cake batter into the two prepared skull pan cavities (about ¾ of the way up in each pan). Bake in preheated oven for 45 - 55 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool down slightly. Turn the cake out on to a cooling rack while it’s still warm and let it cool down completely.
- Trim the tops of the cake to remove the top crust. Crumble the crust into cake crumbs and mix it with 1 - 2 tbsp of ganache or frosting to make cake pop dough. This will be used to shape the cake base and the skull cap crown.
Bourbon Simple Syrup (Day One)
- Place the sugar, water and vanilla in a pan. Heat over medium high heat and stir to dissolve the water. Bring it to a boil and boil for about a minute or two. Remove from the heat and let the syrup cool down. Stir in the bourbon. Pour the syrup into a squeeze bottle, so that it'll be easier to use.
Chocolate Ganache (Day One)
- Mix the chocolate, cream and salt in a bowl. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second bursts, while stirring in between until the chocolate has melted and formed a smooth ganache.
- Allow the ganache to cool down until it's thick enough to spread. Use immediately, or reheat gently if it set hard again.
White Chocolate Ganache (Day Two)
- Place the white chocolate, cream and salt in a bowl. Microwave the ingredients in 30 second bursts while stirring in between until you have a smooth white chocolate ganache. Let it cool until it is pourable, or thick enough to spread. Use immediately.
White Chocolate Skull Cap (Day Two)
- Melt the white candy melts in a clean dry bowl, in the microwave or over a double boiler. Make sure to stir every 20 - 30 seconds to prevent the candy melts from over heating and burning.
- Stir until the candy melts are completely melted, and slightly cooled down.
- Add the popping candy and gently stir to mix it in.
- Coat the top of a balloon with the white candy melts - like how you'd create a candy bowl.
- Let the chocolate set completely. Then loosen the balloon from the edges of the “white chocolate bowl”, and cut a hole in the balloon to deflate it. Carefully remove the balloon. Use a hot knife to trim the edges of the white chocolate bowl (skull cap) to create a smooth edge. Set aside until needed.
Strawberry Jello Brain (Day one or two)
- Mix the jello with the hot water and whisk until the gelatin and sugar have dissolved. Add the strawberry pieces, cold water and evaporated milk. Whisk to combine and pour the mix into a flat dish. Refrigerate until set.
- Once the jello has set, cut it into 1 - 2 inch cubes. Set aside until needed.
Assembly (Day One AND Two)
- Evenly coat the cake halves with the bourbon syrup. Be generous and make sure to coat each half with the syrup on all sides. You will probably use about half of the sugar syrup recipe (maybe a little more). Let the cakes completely absorb the syrup.
- Place the back part of the skull on a cake board. Spread a thin layer of chocolate ganache and stick the front (face) part of the skull onto the base. Use a skewer to hold the two halves together. Place the cake in the freezer for about an hour just to harden up the ganache and to make sure the cake is set together.
- While the cake is being chilled, form a base (to support the skull so that the front of the skull is facing forward) with the cake scraps.
- Once the cake has set, stick the “cake base” behind the skull using chocolate ganache. You can shape and/or trim the cake scraps to fit properly. Refrigerate or freeze until set. Do not freeze the cake, as the next step is to cut the cake to shape it.
- SHAPING THE CAKE - Once the cake base is set, you can trim it to make it smoother. Mark a circle around the top of the skull with a tooth pick. Using a serrated knife, cut out the top of the cake. If needed, apply some bourbon syrup to the top of the skull too. From a “cake ridge” with extra cake scraps, to form a “bowl”. This is where the jello “brain” is going to go (see recipe video).
- Refrigerate for about 30 min - 1 hour, just until the cake scraps harden and set. Make the chocolate ganache during this time.
- GANACHING AND SHAPING THE CAKE - apply the cooled down, thick ganache to the cake. Make sure to apply the ganache inside the eye sockets, inside the cut cake skull top, and all other exposed cake surfaces. The ganache will harden and set due to the temperature of the cake. Using a warm spatula, spoons and plastic wrap, smoothen the ganache on the cake to form a smooth surface with defined eye sockets, nose area, top of the skull, jaw and mouth. Let the cake set completely (overnight if you prefer).
- DAY TWO, WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE - place the chilled cake on a cake rack and then place the rack over a cake tray (to catch the white chocolate ganache that drips down). Pour or spread the white chocolate ganache over the cake. Use an offset spatula to spread the white chocolate so that it coats the cake all over. Once the cake is completely coated (it doesn’t have to be neat), keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the white chocolate set. Once the chocolate layer has set, you can use a small spatula, gloved hands (or use plastic wrap), and other fondant tools to shape the white chocolate layer on the cake. Using a sharp point, carve in some teeth on the skull. The cake is now done and should be kept in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
- Place the cut up jello pieces carefully inside the skull cavity. They will slip, so carefully place them on top of each other (you may not need all the jello).
- Cover the jello layer with the popping candy white chocolate skull cap. Warm up the red velvet sauce over medium heat white stirring (to avoid clumping and scrambling). The custard should be steaming, but not boiling.
- Serve the cake on a cake tray with the steaming red velvet custard sauce. Pour the sauce immediately over the skull cap, and listen for the crackling of the skull cap as it dissolves and activates the popping candy. The skull cap will melt away to expose the strawberry jello “brain” and the skull will have “bloody” red velvet custard dripping down.
- Slice the cake and serve with the jello and custard. Enjoy!
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