Espresso cupcake with caramelized banana, peanut is one of Ron Ben-Israel's favorite dessert ideas. Espresso cupcake with caramelized banana, peanut is one of Ron Ben-Israel's favorite dessert ideas. Espresso cupcake with caramelized banana, peanut is one of Ron Ben-Israel's favorite dessert ideas. (Photo: The Food Network)

Ghoulishly good Halloween dessert ideas

Celebrity pastry chef Ron Ben-Israel reveals his favorite creepy confections and baked creations.

Halloween is all about yummy sweet treats, but it’s a lot more than the mini chocolate bars and candy corn your trick-or-treaters bring home. Tune in to Food Network and you’ll find great ideas for the spooky holiday on “Halloween Baking Championship,” a four-week competition (the finale is Monday, October 26) in which the bakers scare up inventive, delicious and creepy desserts like eyeball-decorated chocolate cups and pumpkin graveyard bread pudding with a mummy on top.

Renowned pastry chef Ron Ben-Israel is one of the judges on the show, and the assignment is squarely in his wheelhouse. “I’m fond of making really disgusting cakes for Halloween, and have excelled in severed body parts oozing blood and gore,” he says, mentioning one he made for a client’s Halloween birthday. But he’s also fond of baking slightly less bloody cakes for the holiday, like a purple pumpkin. “My best Halloween dessert is a pumpkin Charlotte. It’s a variation on the classical mousse encased in ladyfingers, but I make it with a pumpkin mousse, caramel, and tint the ladyfingers orange and black.”

Purple pumpkin cake by Ron Ben-IsraelThis purple pumpkin is both decorative and delicious. (Photo: Ron Ben-Israel)

But for scary cakes, it’s fun to pour on the blood and gore, such as a brain-shaped cake with raspberry filling oozing out of it. “More is definitely better, and one doesn’t need to practice classical technique or restraint. Save the delicate touch for Easter,” says the Israeli-American pastry chef, adding another helpful tip: “For the home baker, it's important not to go over-sweet. Good baked goods require a bit of salt to round up the flavor, and fruity desserts greatly benefit from adding acid such as lemon juice.”

His favorites on “Halloween Baking Championship” include the chocolate espresso cupcake with caramelized banana, peanut butter cup Swiss buttercream with gummy worm and chocolate dirt, made by contestant Scott Breazale, and Mexican chocolate tartlet with a Dia de Los Muertos skull sugar cookie, prepared by contestant Rudy Martinez.

"Halloween Baking Championship" judges Carla Hall, Ron Ben-Israel and Sherry Yard dressed in costume on the set."Halloween Baking Championship" judges (from left) Carla Hall, Ron Ben-Israel and Sherry Yard get into the holiday mood. (Photo: The Food Network)

The New York-based baker, who grew up in Tel Aviv, enjoys dressing up in costumes for the holiday. “I once dressed up as a jellyfish – I put a lampshade over my head and tied many cut-up strips of translucent garbage bags. I was a hit!” he says. He also loved camping it up as Carmen Miranda on the show, where the judges join the fun by donning Halloween costumes. “I can slip into a pair of neon orange tights and six-inch heels at no time at all!”

Want more dessert ideas? Check out these recipes from our Israeli Kitchen chef Sarah F. Berkowitz for glazed Oreo cake, chocolate cupcakes with mocha cream, date cake with mandarin orange glaze and no-bake white chocolate cherry pie.

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