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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  • October 5, 2009
    5:08 pm

    Hallowe'en is just as fun for adults as kids. Good for you for keeping up YOUR tradition for your daughter! My hubby, who is Australian, and I brought about bonfire night into our Hallowe'en celebrations. It is now a neighbourhood tradition of 10+ years.

  • October 5, 2009
    6:09 pm

    I used to LOVE Halloween when Kirsten was little and the neighborhood was filled with kids! Things are so different now with the "Harvest" fairs they have and the trunk or treat at the various churches. Seems like Halloween is a thing of the past where I live.

  • October 6, 2009
    2:18 am

    Julie Anne, stumbled upon your blog and love it. You are so brave and capable. Thanks to cameras and films that brought back all the wonderful memories.The Halloween 'wind' is gradually blowing to the Asian countries as well with restaurants and clubs making it a special nite, and shops selling variety of spooky costumes and accessories.Keep up with the good work!Vanezza Lai, Malaysia

  • October 6, 2009
    11:39 pm

    Hi Julie Anne,Halloween in Australia is not a huge event, however it is celebrated to some degree.Our inner city neighborhood gets the odd little gremlin here & there looking for goodies.Now that I have a baby daughter I will certainly be involved in this event in the future. Here are a couple of Halloween concoctions my friend makes every year….CHEESY SKELETON BONES:You need- Puff Pastry and Tasty Cheese (or any cheese you fancy)Simply cut your bought puff pasty into rectangles with the ends shaped like a heart. Size depends how big you want them. Sprinkle the top with grated tasty cheese and bake for a few minutes until pastry has risen and cheese has melted.FIRE ANTS ON A LOG:You will need- Sticks of Celery, dried cranberries and soft spreadable cheese of your choice.Cut celery into desired lengths (to be used as logs). Spread cheese in the center and place dried cranberries along the top, with a slight gap in between each cranberry. Serve. ENJOY!Aussie Mum

  • October 7, 2009
    2:08 am

    One of my favorites, deviled eggs cut in half made to look like blood shot eyes. Boil as many eggs as you think you'll need. Let them cool and them crack each egg shell about half over. Place in a large bowl of water colored with red food coloring and a tablespoon of vinegar (enough to cover eggs) and leave for 1/2 to hours. When you peel the eggs, they will have red veins and you can make the yolks green to look sick and add black olives for pupils, really fun.

  • October 7, 2009
    4:58 pm

    I wish I knew who you were Anonymous, because the blooshot boiled egg eyes are genius! Can't wait to try them! Love the Aussie twsit with the fire ants on a log too Aussie Mom. So glad you accidently came across the blog Glitterati… I hope you will keep us informed about how things are done in Malaysia! I find it fascinating to know how things are done differently everywhere. As much as I'd love to be traveling and experiencing everything firsthand… you keeping us informed is the next best thing, and the beauty of the internet.I agree Ktari… I plan to enjoy Halloween to the hilt this year at a party too (no idea what costume yet though), but then I'm just a big overgrown kid at heart and always will be. Laura, you'll just have to come hang in LA… there are great Halloween parties here!

  • October 7, 2009
    8:21 pm

    Julie, I love your story of introducing the Halloween tradition in London !!! 🙂 Gina

  • October 9, 2009
    7:42 am

    It was me, Cathy Garossino, Julie Annem Anonymous boiled egg eyes. I was in a hurry and forgot to sign my name. The eggs are so cool and look very real. My first attempt didn't work very well but I didn't crack the egg shells enough; make sure to do a couple of tests to see how many you need to make. Happy Halloween.Cathy Garossino

  • October 29, 2009
    8:43 pm

    It has been fun keeping up with you Julie, through your blog. Really enjoy it. I have shared it with all my friends. The cobwebs and spiders are up and we are ready for some pumpkin carving and now I have some spooky ideas for Halloween snacks. Nikki(Marlene's daughter)