Ready in 4 hrs (including all the decorations)
If you want to get ahead, you can make the sponges and buttercream 2 days ahead and keep both in the fridge, covered. Bring to room temperature before assembling. The finished cake will keep for up to 3 days somewhere cool.
For the sponges
250g 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate, broken into small chunks
350g unsalted butter, well softened
350g light brown soft sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
350g self-raising flour
50g good-quality cocoa powder
5 medium eggs
150ml semi-skimmed milk
For the icing
150g unsalted butter
300g 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate, broken into small chunks
340g tub full-fat cream cheese
700g icing sugar, sifted
You will also need 16cm and 20cm cake tins with removable bases, lightly oiled and bases lined with nonstick baking paper
1. Preheat the oven to gas 3, 170°C, fan 150°C. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over, but not touching, a pan of very gently simmering water on a low heat on the hob. Allow to melt without stirring, then remove the bowl from the pan and cool the chocolate to room temperature.
2. Put the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with electric mixers for 2-3 mins until paler in colour and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract, then the cooled chocolate mixture, until smooth. Sift the flour and cocoa together into a bowl with a large pinch of salt, then lightly whisk the eggs in a jug.
3. Pour a third of the eggs into the batter with a heaped dessert spoon of flour and a third of the milk, then beat everything together until combined. Repeat until all the eggs and milk are used up, then fold in the remaining flour with a metal spoon until you have a smooth batter.
4. Divide the batter between the cake tins, filling each around 2/3 full, then smooth the tops. Put the tins on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven, 45 mins for the smaller one and 1 hr-1 hr 5 mins for the larger, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached.
5. Cool the cakes in the tins for 10 mins, then carefully remove and cool on their bases on a wire rack for 30 mins. Gently invert them so the tops are now the bottoms, remove the bases and baking paper and cool completely.
6. Meanwhile, make the icing. Put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over, but not touching, a bowl of gently simmering water on a low heat on the hob. Allow to melt without stirring, then remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
7. Put the cream cheese and icing sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until well combined and smooth. When the chocolate mixture has cooled, beat that in too, with a large pinch of sea salt, until smooth. Cover and set aside until needed.
8. Once the cakes are cool, carefully cut them in half across the middle using a large, serrated knife, keeping the original tops as the bases (this is so the finished cake has sharp edges). Transfer about half the icing to a large piping bag and pipe a thick swirl of it on the middle of the base halves of the sponges. Replace the top halves, then pipe more icing over the tops. Use a palette knife to smooth the icing over the cakes in a thin layer – this is the crumb coat to keep the cake neat.
9. Once you’ve covered each cake completely in a thin layer of icing, put each on a cake tin base or chopping board and transfer to the fridge. Chill for around 30 mins or long enough for the icing to harden.
10. When the icing is firm, remove the cakes from the fridge and place the larger one on a cake drum or serving platter, on top of a cake turntable if you have one. Top the base cake with the smaller one in the middle. Using your palette knife, completely cover the cake in the remaining icing, smoothing it down and getting the corners as sharp as you can. Decorate with your edible decorations.
For the decorations
Chocolate fence: Break 180g chocolate matchsticks into different lengths, then press them lengthways close together round the whole of the bottom tier of the cake
Gravestones: Break the bottom third off 5 Tesco rich tea finger biscuits so you have gravestone shapes. Decorate with chocolate or black writing icing, then keep in a single layer somewhere cool in an airtight container until ready to use.
Edible soil: Whizz 3 chocolate cream biscuits (such as Oreos) in a small food processor until you have rough crumbs. Transfer to an airtight container and keep somewhere cool until ready to use.
Fondant lolly ghost: Roll 100g white fondant icing out on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar to around 2mm thick. Use a 20cm diameter cutter or bowl to stamp out a circle. Unwrap a Swizzels lolly and drape the icing over the top, so it forms a ghost shape. Use a black cake decorating pen to draw eyes and a mouth on, then put the stick into a straw and rest in a mug to allow the ghost to dry out and firm up. Push the lolly stick straight into the cake when ready to use. If you’re making multiple ghosts, save time by using a sheet of Tesco ready-rolled fondant icing.
Makes around 15 of varying sizes
Ready in 1 hr plus cooling
If you want to make these ahead, the cooked and cooled meringues will keep in an airtight container somewhere cool and dry for up to 5 days. Store them carefully so their stalks don’t snap off.
1 medium egg white
55g icing sugar
good-quality orange food colour gel
chocolate writing icing, to decorate
1. Preheat the oven to gas 1, 130°C, fan 110°C and line a baking sheet with nonstick baking paper. Bring a small pan of water to the boil and put the egg white and icing sugar in a heatproof bowl.
2. Once the water is boiling, remove from the heat and place the bowl on top. Beat the egg and sugar together with an electric mixer for 3-4 mins until you have stiff peaks that flop over at the very tip. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat for 1-2 mins more until the peaks are completely stiff.
3. Stir in a few drops of food gel to turn the meringue your preferred shade of orange – don’t use too much or the meringue will collapse. Once you’re happy with the colour, transfer the meringue mixture to a piping bag fitted with a curved star nozzle.
4. Pipe small pumpkin shapes onto the baking tray in different sizes, gently dipping and lifting the nozzle at the end to give you stalks. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 30 mins, then turn off the oven and leave the meringues in for a further 1-2 hrs before removing and leaving to cool completely at room temperature.
5. To decorate, carefully trace the stalk tops with the writing icing, gently smoothing it down with your finger if necessary.