Haunted ghost cake: Great glowing ghouls!

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“Holy cow, is that cake glowing?” Yes, yes, that cake is totally glowing and it’s making me smile from ear to ear.

When I first brought up the subject of making a glowing ghost cake, well, let’s just say there were some skeptical looks and dubious frowns. Not that my team of fellow bakers and bloggers didn’t believe in me, but they couldn’t really see the cake in their mind’s eye like I did.

Growing up with a birthday three days before Halloween I’ve always loved the wild makeup, opulent costumes, and over-the-top feeling of the whole day. It feels like an extended celebration just for me. Even the color scheme is based on my favorite color – black. How could I not just embrace it all? How could I not want to bring to it my passion for baking and decorating cakes?

Luckily, my team supports my occasional wandering off the normal path, and I was given free reign to create my vision. Sure, this luminous layer cake isn’t for everyone; but I truly hope that folks will see it as an expression of joy and creativity. It’s good to step outside the routine every now and then and really let your imagination fly, float, and flitter.

The cake itself isn’t difficult, but it does require some pre-planning. You’ll need to make the ghosts at least a day ahead of time to let them dry. Once the ghosts are done, it’s a matter of baking and decorating your base cake, gathering some glow sticks at the party store, and inviting your Halloween familiars over for a good time.

Start by checking out our recipe for Meringue Ghosts. Meringue is made by whipping egg whites with sugar, piping it, and baking at a very low temperature. It’s quite simple to make, and has a million uses.

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Pipe your large meringue ghosts about 3″ to 4″ tall. Don’t worry if they’re not all straight and standing up tall. If you turn the trays around and view all sides, you’ll see the personality of each ghost.

Some will be lumpy, bumpy spooks; some ghouls will droop. Pointy heads, sleepy heads, even ghosts with bed head. Just use your imagination and your new ghoul-friends will appear before your eyes.

Remember, even the best meringue can be fragile, and you’ll likely lose a few ghosts along the way, so make plenty of extras.

Allow the ghosts to bake at 170°F for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and leave the ghosts to dry overnight. Be sure not to open the door, not even for a peek. I find a nice big note taped on the oven door is a huge help in preventing accidental openings.

To show you how to work with the ghosts after they’ve dried, I’m using a Styrofoam ball. It will behave the same way, and I won’t mutilate several ghosts trying to get photos. The unfrosted cake is helpful in seeing details, too.

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First, prepare your glow sticks by wrapping them in plastic wrap and trimming off any large excess, like the hanging hole on this one. Set them aside, “unlit.” 2-DSCN1270

For each ghost, turn upside down and use a chopstick, crochet hook, or other long implement to drill a hole in the bottom and up the center. You’ll need to make the hole just as wide as your glow stick, but not so wide that the ghost will wobble all over.

Drill, hollow, test. Drill, hollow, test. If you had a few meringue ghosts fail or flop, they make great test subjects.

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There we go, a nice hollow tunnel up the center of the ghost.

Believe me, at this point I did behead a couple of ghosts. Luckily I was able to shave the head portion off of a few other ghosts and swap those out for the missing ones. If you look at the main photo, the tall ghost in the center has a separate body and head.

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As you prepare to cut the holes in your cake for inserting the glow sticks keep in mind that they shouldn’t stick up too much, or they may tip over. They shouldn’t be sunk all the way into your cake either, or your ghosts won’t have much glow to them. About 2/3 of the stick should rise above the top of the cake.

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When you’re ready to assemble the cake, you’ll need to make holes for the glow sticks to sit in. A smoothie straw makes an excellent cake drill. Be sure to take a dry run, testing for fit. Once you activate the glow sticks you’ll want to present the cake right away, for the best glow.

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Now, your glow stick may end up being a bit on the chubby side, requiring a larger hole. Try using an apple corer; they work great. In my case, a new toothbrush holder made lovely, large oval holes that worked quite well.

I did get over-ambitious on a couple of the holes. At the photo studio, some of the holes were too deep for the size glow sticks I was using. No worries, though; I just pushed a little extra cake down into the holes to raise the sticks up again. Filling in with a little frosting would work well, too, like filling the holes with delicious cement.

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One final test with the Styrofoam… brilliant!  Be sure to leave a little space between the bottom of the ghost and the top of the cake for that aura of underglow.

So, ghosts are ready, cake is ready, guests are ready. Let’s snap some glow sticks and make Halloween magic!

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We hope you enjoy this post on one outlandish cake. Have a safe and fun spooky season, and be sure to walk on the wild side every now and then!

 

 

 

 

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. Erin in PA

    I love it! What a BOO-tiful cake you have made! This looks definitely do-able, thank you for the step by step. I would have never thought to use glow-sticks in that way. :)

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Thanks Erin, I’m glad you like it. As for the glow sticks, don’t you just love the wacky ideas you get in the shower? ~ MJ

    2. Cynthia Whitley

      This looks like such an awesome cake! I can’t wait to try this. I love the glowing ghosts! I love the step by step directions. I’m getting the same idea for Christmas, but the ghosts would be Christmas trees..

    3. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      With all the Christmas ideas, I’ve already got to plan another cake. You guys are awesome! ~ MJ

    4. The Grahn Family

      WOW! We love this idea! Thanks for the careful instructions. We are going to try this idea out as a Christmas tree! Thanks for the inspiration. P.S. — Some the best ideas come while taking a shower!

    5. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      I hope you have fun making this together. I can’t wait to see where the shower inspiration brings us next! ~ MJ

  2. Savannagal

    So, did you hollow out the ghosts and stick the styrofoam ball inside them? I can’t quite figure out what you did with the stryofoam balls. The holes in your cake looks really huge, much bigger than any glow stick I’ve ever seen. You didn’t put the styrofoam in there, did you? That would ruin the cake, so I’m sure you didn’t. I just can’t figure out why you needed the balls. Really cute cake.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Sorry for any confusion. I just used the Styrofoam balls in place of the real meringue ghosts to show how to hollow them out. What I did to the ball, you’d actually do to the ghosts you make. Hope this helps! ~ MJ

  3. Patti

    This is GREAT! Thanks for the step by step pictures, they really help. Can’t wait to make it for our family Halloween party!

    Reply
  4. Anne Logsdon

    Would also make a terrific winter-time cake, with glowing meringue snowpeople. Think I’ll go stock up on glow sticks!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Great idea Anne. I bet glowsticks will go on sale in about 2 weeks after Halloween, so you can stock up. :) ~ MJ

  5. Hillary

    Amazing! Spooktacular! (I really just said that!) This is brilliant & now I must make a glowing ghost cake for my family too! Thanks for the awesome inspiration!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Thanks Ghoulfriend (yes, I really said that back). Hope your family loves it. :) ~ MJ

    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      I think the kids would go nuts for this. Prepare to earn your rock star baking stripes. ~ MJ

  6. TanyaTingle

    Cook cake – I am thinking that this can be adapted for Christmas – meringue christmas trees, dotted with mini-M&M’s, glow sticks (green maybe) underneath…..

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      We tried the green glows sticks in the ghosts and they were quite spooky. They didn’t last all the way through the photo session though, that’s why we went with white in the end. Purple was cool too, but again didn’t show up as well as the white. I ADORE the Christmas tree idea. Way to run with it! ~ MJ

    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Check at the party store for glow sticks that fit in earrings or rings. They tend to be nice and small, like 2″ or so. ~ MJ

    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      It’s good for the young at heart too Ann. Why not surprise the crew at work? ~ MJ

  7. Rohna in southwest Virginia

    Hi MaryJane! I am so excited to make this for my birthday on October 27! Two questions: where did you find the purple candy corn? And what recipe did you use for the cake and frosting? Thanks for the inspiration! (The color of this cake is perfect, too, as purple is my favorite color and black is the favorite color of my 10-year-old sous-chef, Sierra!)

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      We are almost birthday twins Rohna, mine is the 28th! I found the candy corn at a local grocery store called Hannaford’s. It was in with the regular candy corn and it is supposed to be blackberry flavored. I found it a little perfume-y in taste but definitely berry flavored.
      For the cake, I used our Gluten Free Vanilla Cake mix, and used coconut coffee creamer instead of the milk. Tropical ghosts ya know. :)

      I hope you and Sierra have a great time making the cake and HAPPY BIRTHDAY! ~ MJ

    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      I did my ghosts about 3 days ahead of time. Meringue keeps really well as long as it is cool, dry and airtight. ~ MJ

  8. Heidi B

    I would think that you could also use the battery-powered LED “tealight” candles and just set the ghost over one of those (Of course, the ghosts would have to be big enough.) It would be much simpler.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Awesome idea! You’d still need to hollow out the bottom of the ghost a bit, but that’s another great way to “go with the glow”. ~ MJ

  9. Marlene

    I wouldn’t have thought of using glow sticks in food. I would have worries about the safety of the glow sticks coming in contact with food. I’m sure you have checked this out. I think this will inspire all kinds of creativity. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Hi Marlene,
      That’s one reason the sticks are well wrapped in cling wrap before touching the cake. Best to be safe. :) ~ MJ

  10. Anne

    this is incredibly creative!

    I think this would also be neat if you did your sculptures as angels; you could use a mint puff for the head, and a Necco wafer for the halo. (No faces necessary, of course.) And half a doily would work for wings, if you must have them.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      OH, my goodness, that would be so beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing your amazing idea Anne. ~ MJ

  11. Paul from Ohio

    MJ’s creativity springs another mother lode! I’m thinking Halloween Carved Fondant Pumpkin atop a cake, I’m thinking Birthday cake with glowing candles of fondant! Brilliant creative idea. Rock on magic person.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      I can’t wait to see all of the great die-rections (get it? get it? ) this cake takes. ~ MJ

  12. Vickie

    It looks like a lot of us had the same idea about Christmas. Can I add green coloring to meringue and still have it hold its shape?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Yes, you can absolutely tint meringue with food coloring. Light green trees would be lovely. ~ MJ

  13. Aunt Patty

    I wonder if flameless LED tea lights would work as well as the glow sticks? The “ghosts” would still have to be hollowed out, but the tea lights would sit on top of the cake. Saving steps, no digging out the cake and easily removed to cut the cake. They sell flicker style too, which could be cute.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      I think they would work out really well. Love the flicker idea. I’m a huge glow stick fan but now I’m seeing so many possibilities. Wooo hooo! ~ MJ

  14. Cathy Mac

    I’m thinking this would look great for Christmas – use green food die and decorate the tops of cupcakes with the smaller glow sticks … YOU ROCK!!!!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Now I’m actually excited for the snow and holidays, so that’s saying something. ~ MJ

  15. Erica D.

    My daughters birthday is Halloween and this is the perfect cake for her. She will be 20 this year but never too old for Halloween Birthday cake. In fact she just asked me what I would be baking for her this year. Can’t wait to present this to her . . . now if I could only think of a gift !!! Thanks.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Oh, I hope she loves it Erica! How about a nice stack of books (cookbooks?) for her birthday? It always bring a smile to my face. :) ~ MJ

  16. kgmoom

    What an amazing idea! I love it! Mary Jane, I wish you were my neighbor already feel like you’re a friend! So glad to have a face to put with all the wonderful, imaginative creations!

    Reply
  17. Angel

    I was reading thru all the comments and the directions but didn’t see my answer, what did you use to make eh eyes and mouths of the ghosts?
    Love this idea!
    Thank you!
    Angel

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Hi Angel,
      The faces were drawn on with food markers. You could also use a paintbrush and some thinned down food coloring to paint on faces. ~ MJ

  18. Bridgid

    I love this! Fabulous idea! Many thanks again, MJ! FYI – your favorite color is black, mine is orange! Together we make halloween!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Yippeee! I knitted some awesome orange socks this summer, but made the tops so tight I can’t wear them! Care for a pair of orange hand puppets? hee hee hee. ~ MJ

  19. Andrea

    OK, so where did you get the purple candy corn this time of year? Or was it left over from Easter? ;-) I will make an orange cake if all I can find is regular candy corn but I love the spookiness of the purple!

    Thanks again!
    Andrea

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      I found it at a chain grocery store called Hannaford’s here in Vermont. The candy company name is Zachary, if that helps with searching. ~ MJ

    2. Andrea

      Their website says they sell them at Target! That will be my next stop! Thanks!! So excited to make this. I’m going to use it as a fundraiser for my Breast Cancer 3-Day walk!

  20. Joann

    I love this idea, and I also like the simplicity of tea lights. I’m going to make small parchment paper cones (parchment circles with a wedge cut out, and bring the straight edges together and staple them), sized to fit over the tea lights, and form the meringue ghosts on the cones. I can leave them there inside the ghost during baking, and after the ghosts cool I think it’ll be pretty simple to take out the parchment. Less broken ghosts (I think) than if I hollowed out the ghosts by hand!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      I had thought about that when I first started too Joann. I ended up not going that route, but I’d love to hear about your results. ~ MJ

  21. paula b

    Am not familar with glow sticks (old foogy), but I can see this cake in spring with roses and daffodills with tea lights under flowers.. Laves could be strings of ivy. Hope to try it. Also cupe cakes with flowers on top and tea lights. I work with H.S. kids, part of INT. LIONS CLUB, called Leos, this would make a great fund raising project for bake sale????

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sure would! Do a few practice runs first. I am sure you can find some helpers! Elisabeth

  22. Mary "Linda" Brown

    You are brilliant! What a great idea – I’ll bet all your co-workers think so too. One of these days I am going to try this.

    Reply
  23. Maggie

    Do you put the faces on with the food writers after baking the meringue ghosts?
    Can’t wait to make this Ghostly cake for my grandchildren! Going to use color changing, flickering tea lights!
    Thanks for the super spooky idea!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Yes, a food coloring marker is great for adding the faces. I hope the kids love it. You’ll be the most awesome grammy ever! ~ MJ

  24. Maggie

    How did you do the frosting to get that almost iridescent fiber-y effect? Almost looks like clouds – definitely a ghostly effect!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      The cake was iced with plain white icing, and then covered all over with purple sparkling sugar. The sugar has a purple/blue look to it that really shimmers under the glow sticks. ~ MJ

  25. Jane

    Super cute idea! I was wondering if you could use submersible lights. I have used them in my Halloween punch bowl before with good results. They are very small and might just sit on top of your cake and they last for 6 or more hours.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Hi Jane,
      I’ve never seen them before, but in looking at them on Amazon, they look like they would fit the bill perfectly. They are 1″ high, so you’d still need to carve out the bottom of the ghosts a bit, but I think it’s a great idea. ~ MJ

  26. Pat Nelson

    MJ all the ideas I had in mind to mention have already been brought forth by other readers, except this one. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARY JANE!!! I’ll help you celebrate yours on the 28th, if you help me celebrate mine on the 30th. Scorpios must stick together.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Awww, thanks Pat! I’ve already started celebrating and with friends with birthdays on the 27th, 29th, 30th and 31st, we’ll rock the house all the way to November! I hope you get all that you are wishing for and count me in for big virtual birthday hugs. ~MJ

  27. Bernice Kalisz

    I think if you start now you could make us a glowing Christmas cake with trees for Christmas, then we have valentines day and Easter bunnies. Ok I will shut up. Love the cake and idea.

    Reply
  28. Maggie

    What size tip did you use to pipe the ghosts?
    I appreciate all the good ideas and tips you always give us and the clever ideas!
    And I hope you have the spookiest birthday/ Halloween ever!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      HI Maggie,
      I actually didn’t use a tip, I cut off the end of the disposable bag. I’d say the hole was about the size of a dime, or a penny. Hope this helps! ~ MJ

  29. Billie Whipple

    Just to be a Mom here–anyone who wants to try the meringue ghosts: be aware that the inside of glow sticks are glass.
    The [toxic] chemicals that glow are released when you break the glass. Those things are made in China, and we all know about China’s disregard for toxic chemicals. I’m surprised you didn’t mention anything about this in the directions. I, myself, would NOT want those in something I was going to eat–whether they’re wrapped in plastic wrap, or not. Just sayin’….

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Hi Billie,
      It is always good to be aware of anything you use in the house and kitchen, and use your personal judgement on what is best for you and your family. I hope the cake inspires you to make something wonderful to share with the family. ~ MJ

  30. mumpy

    i can’t begin to tell you how much i LOVE the fact that you pointed out the center ghost being made of 2 separate meringues! ( i hadn’t noticd, and i suspect i’m not the only one who hadn’t)…..those of us who…..um….struggle?…swear?….occasionally give up?….when it comes to cake decorating, are much encouraged by the thought that things don’t always go perfectly even for the diva of decorating….this will really help the next time i tackle a major fancy job!

    Reply
  31. Ida Dohoney

    I maybe going toooooo far, but using the tea lights , a sheet cake would be large enough for a cemetary effect as well. Use tombstones made from cookies and colored frosting and take it from there. Wish I still had little ones around. BOOOO hooo!!!!!

    Reply

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