Julie Anne, Tatjana, and Nick Rhodes with friends
When I first moved to London I realized no one celebrated Halloween! Once Tatjana was born I was determined to do something about it. I explained to all of the bewildered mothers in the neighborhood that they must have candy on hand, dress their kids up as what ever they fancied, and that I would take the kids in a group knocking from door to door. They would greet us at the door, let the kids do a little “trick for their treat”, and off we’d go to the next house. Then afterwards everyone was invited back to our house for a Halloween party. Reluctantly they agreed.
Taj and friends trick or treating for the first time
Nick and I would set about carving jack-o-lanterns, decorating the house with skeletons, spiders webs, and other creepy crawlies. Nick would always put together a tape of spooky music to have playing in the background while Tatjana and I worked on the party food.
Kid’s Halloween party food
We cut peanut butter sandwiches into ghost shapes with raisins for eyes, and cheese sandwiches into owls. I would slice the tops of celery sticks vertically, then immerse them in ice water so the edges curled slightly for a witches broom, while Tatjana molded bits of marzipan around Maraschino cherries for eyeballs on the plate. Then we set about making spiders from brownies with red hots for eyes and black licorice for the legs. Another year we did a pot full of “bloody veins with ground brain balls” (spaghetti and meatballs) and a chocolate graveyard cake for dessert. According to Tatjana, no plate was complete without jellied worms for garnish.
The creepy feast
After dinner we would play pin the tail on the black cat. I cut out a cat from black construction paper, eyes from green construction paper, and used chalk for the whiskers. We blind folded the children one by one, turned them round a few times, then marked the spot they put the tail (a foot long piece of black tinsel) each time until we had a winner!
Pin the tail on the black cat
Ghost stories
While they played the game, I’d sneak out to put my sheet on, then read them ghost stories in my spookiest voice until it was time for them to go home with their bags full of candy and dreams of witches, black cats, and ghosts! Oh my!
Ten years later Tatjana and I went back to the old neighborhood for Halloween with friends only to find nearly every house with jack-o-lanterns in the windows and kids trick or treating from door to door. I’d like to think I had a hand in bringing that tradition to London! That I’d left a little indelible mark on the adopted homeland I so often miss.
With Halloween creeping up on us I thought it would be a good time to start coming up with spooky party and food ideas each week. Please click on “comments” below, and share your favorite ghoulish ideas and concoctions with all of us!
Chocolate Graveyard Cake
You could certainly use a cake mix if time is tight, and skip to the icing and decorating part, but kids love making a cake from scratch, and I think it always tastes so much better.

Servings: 12
for the cake
  • 3 ounces of unsweetened (preferably Valrohna) chocolate
  • 2 cups flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon coffee extract or espresso
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
for the chocolate fudge icing
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons Valrohna cocoa
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon coffee extract or espresso
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
for decorating
  • 6 rectangular shortbread cookies
  • tubes of cake decorating icing in colors of your choice


for the cake
1). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9″ x 13″ pan.
2). Melt chocolate in a double boiler.
3). Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.
4). Beat butter and brown sugar together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until light and fluffy.
5). Add melted chocolate, coffee extract, and vanilla and beat until combined.
6). Add 1/3 of flour mixture alternating with 1/3 of sour cream at a time, beating after each addition until all incorporated. Stir boiling water in to thin the batter.
7). Pour into pan, and bake in the 350 degree oven for 35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center. Cool for at least 10 minutes before loosening sides with a knife, and inverting onto the serving platter. Let cake cool completely before icing.
for the chocolate fudge icing:
8). Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add brown sugar and cocoa. Bring to boil, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Add milk and remove from heat. Stir well. Stir in sifted powdered sugar, stir well. Add vanilla, coffee extract, and sea salt, stir well. Pour over cake, using a knife to spread evenly and cover completely. Cool completely before decorating.
for decorating
9). Decorate each cookie with RIP as I have done in the photograph. Push the bottom edge of each cookie into the cake at regular intervals to look like a graveyard.

Serving Suggestions: Serve with ice cream of your choice (I like coffee ice cream with mine, but almost all flavors of ice cream go well with chocolate fudge cake).


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