Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, All Hallows’ Eve, Alla helgons dag/All Saints’ Day… yes, it was a big weekend for many people around the world. Here in Sweden, the “American version” of Halloween is a relatively new celebration, and not one as yet embraced or understood by all Swedes. Case in point, my husband’s grandmother called from the small town she calls home in the north of Sweden and began complaining about trick-or-treaters. It seemed she did not know what to do with them and found their costumes and “all the banging on the door” to be rather frightening (and not in a cool, “Halloweeny” type of way). With the aid of a visiting friend, she was able to offer them some form of treat… begrudgingly… and only after they had explained what it was they were doing. The trick-or-treaters, likewise, were evidently unsure of Halloween protocol/etiquette and one 5 year-old boy returned the following night for an extra helping of “godis” (candy, in Swedish). Grandmother pointed out that she recognised his costume and that he’d already visited the night before. He replied “Yeah, I know… just thought I’d try my luck again!”
As celebrating Halloween is such a new occurrence here, but it falls around the same time as more traditional Swedish celebrations of remembrance, Swedish children and their parents seem to get it all a bit muddled. Is Halloween the 31st of October? Is it the weekend before/after the 31st of October? Or is it All Saints’ Day? Or All Saints Eve? Or even All Souls’ Day? It seems to be VERY hit and miss. A direct result of this confusion, I found myself somewhat saddened to be left with treats remaining on Halloween (and thus forced to eat them myself) on account of zero trick-or-treaters coming to call on October 31st. Two days later, imagine my surprise when, just as we were taking little L out of the bath, the doorbell rang… and there stood 5 small ghouls saying “Bus eller godis!” (“Trick or treat”, in Swedish). Luckily, I had extra treats on hand that day as I’d prepared lots in advance of a Halloween party that a Canadian girlfriend of mine was throwing.
And now I have to brag a little…
I was absolutely delighted by the responses of our visiting trick-or-treaters to the Frankenmallow Pops I presented them with. The looks of wonderment on their faces, the oohs, aahs, smiles and the lovely snaps I managed to take of our visitors were well worth the effort it took to make those extra pops (and the 2 day delay!).
In contrast to Halloween, Allhelgonahelgen here in Sweden is traditionally a subdued and solemn period of remembrance and reflection, which is commonly commemorated with the lighting of candles on Alla helgons dag (the first Saturday in November). Historically, it was on Alla själars dag (the Sunday after Alla helgons dag) that the Swedish people took time to remember and honor their deceased relatives, but candle lighting on any day of the Allhelgonahelgen period (particularly the Saturday) is a popular tradition today. I was determined to make it to Skogskyrkogården (The Woodland Cemetery) during Allhelgonahelgen this year. The lighting of candles for loved ones is such a lovely tradition… and UNESCO World Heritage listed Skogskyrkogården is one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world, no doubt. It truly is a “place of rest”, both for the departed and the living. The minneslund (memorial grove) at Skogskyrkogården is a wonderful place to pause, reflect and remember, particularly perhaps for those of us whose deceased loved ones are buried far away.
A few months ago, a random hit on Google as I searched for an address, turned up a link to a fascinating genealogy blog where I discovered some familiar names. I quickly realised that the writer of this blog and I must be related somehow (it’s a small, small world!). I was deeply saddened to read about the author’s son, baby Jarren, my cousin’s cousin, who passed away tragically at only 5 months of age as a result of being exposed to measles by an unvaccinated child. My Cupcake was perhaps 2 or 3 months old at the time I came across baby Jarren’s story and of course I was deeply affected. I cried that night and I thought of the minneslund, knowing that upon my next visit to Skogskyrkogården I would light a candle for Jarren there.
There could, perhaps, have been no better time to do it (and to tell little L about baby Jarren) than Alla helgons dag.
We were in a bit of a panic to get to Skogskyrkogården that night, as my husband had read online that the cemetery was going to close its gates (to cars only, it turned out) at 8pm. We made it in good time, however, and once we were inside, surrounded by thousands of flickering candle lights in the autumn fog, we felt calm and in absolutely no hurry to leave. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for L’s bedtime and Cupcake’s cough, we would have stayed longer than we did. We walked up the steps to the top of the hill which was already covered in flickering candles. As I scanned the ground for a little patch of free space to which another candle could be added, tears sprang to my eyes as I spotted a group of candles with names written on them… all in the same child’s handwriting, in remembrance of members of the same family.
I told L that it was a special day and that we were going to light a candle for loved ones who had passed away. I mentioned names of some of the people we were doing this for (including my grandparents, my aunt and baby Jarren).
Little L responded “Yes, and for baby Jarren… Where is baby Jarren, mamma?”.
I said that I did not know for sure, but we hoped he was somewhere happy with the other angel babies… and that when we care about people, even if they go away and we cannot see them anymore, they stay in our thoughts and hearts.
L thought about that, then nodded and added “Yes, they are home there.”
I felt very moved by those simple words.
The rest of the Halloween/Allhelgonahelgen period was spent enjoying time as a family and celebrating with friends. We visited Skansen (a fabulous outdoor museum) and Över Järva Gård (where my husband’s very talented cousin took photographs of the little ones), had play dates with friends, ate Mummy Cupcakes for dessert on a couple of occasions (see recipe below), carved a pumpkin for the first time and the children received their homemade Sugar Skull-style Treat Boxes with goodies on the 31st of October.
Our special Halloween themed family dinner consisted of Jack-o’-Lantern style “carved” bell peppers, stuffed with veggie fried rice and baked in a hot oven for around 30 minutes (fun and delicious!) and a dessert of vegan, refined sugar-free apple and pear crumble with maple syrup, pecans, walnuts, raisins and a little toasted coconut (recipe to follow soon) served with vegan ice cream.
During the afternoon of Alla helgons dag we attended a lovely Halloween party hosted by a Canadian friend. I was very surprised when some of the guests took photographs of the treats I brought to share (Frankenmallow Pops and Ghost Cupcakes), even more so when some of them uploaded the images they took on Facebook (and people posted such nice comments about them). Of course I was most thrilled that the children liked them and that some kept coming back for more… and more!
The Ghost Cupcakes I created were extremely simple to put together. I was afraid that a design based around piped buttercream frosting might be too hard to safely transport to the party, but I recalled store-bought meringues (something which can be easily found here, but that we never buy ourselves) and thought the forms and sizes would make perfect little ghosty toppers for simple cupcakes. With the tiniest amount of dark chocolate (already melted post-Frankenmallow Pops construction) and the aid of a trusty toothpick, I dotted a simple ghost face on each meringue. I assembled the cupcakes, topped with a ghost meringue, 30 minutes before we left home… they were that easy!
DIY SUPER-EASY GHOST CUPCAKES
- Dot melted dark chocolate on store-bought meringues (around 3 cm in diameter or larger, but no larger than your cupcakes) to create little ghost faces.
- Spread or pipe frosting on your baked and completely cooled cupcakes (I made a double batch of Refined Sugar-free Apple Parsnip Cupcakes- recipe below), dab or pipe a little extra frosting in the centre and secure a ghost meringue on the top of each one.
- A coating of sprinkles over visible frosting will add an extra festive touch.
REFINED SUGAR-FREE APPLE PARSNIP MUMMY CUPCAKES
WITH MAPLE SYRUP & PECANS + VEGAN VANILLA BUTTERCREAM
Prep time: 25 mins, Bake time: 18-20 mins
I have described these cupcakes as being both “naughty” and “nice” as the cupcakes themselves are refined sugar-free, but the frosting is not (only as I din’t have the time to experiment with birch sugar). The frosting I used for these cupcakes is my go-to vegan buttercream frosting. Vegan frosting has to count for some extra brownie points, right? 😉
175 g unsalted butter
250 g organic coconut palm sugar
90 ml organic maple syrup
3 large organic eggs
250 g organic plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice (I made my own mix using ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and allspice)
170 g organic parsnips, peeled and grated
170 g organic apples (not too tart), peeled, cored and grated
65 g organic pecans, roughly chopped
Zest and juice of 1 small organic orange
- Heat oven to 175C fan. Line cupcake tins with liners. Melt 175 g butter in a saucepan over gentle heat, together with the coconut palm sugar and maple syrup. Cool slightly. Whisk the eggs into the syrup mixture.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and mixed spice, then add the grated parsnip, apple, chopped pecans, orange zest and juice. Pour the syrup mixture over and combine well. Fill cupcake liners two-thirds full with batter and bake cupcakes for around 18-20 mins (depending on your oven and the size of the cupcakes) or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool the cupcakes slightly in the trays before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.
*The unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen and will defrost perfectly.
*Recipe adapted from my recipe for Apple Parsnip Cake.
VEGAN BUTTERCREAM INGREDIENTS
120 g nonhydrogenated shortening
120 g nonhydrogenated margarine
350 g powdered sugar, sifted if clumpy
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 minutes more.
- Add the vanilla and beat for another 5 minutes until fluffy.
*Recipe closely adapted from this fabulous one originally from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World , by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.
*This frosting keeps well in the fridge and can be frozen too!
MUMMY CUPCAKE DECORATING INSTRUCTIONS
- Using a Wilton 101 piping tip, pipe a couple of dabs of frosting in the center of each cupcake and secure two candy eyes (or raisins).
- Make sure the piping tip is flat side down and pipe strips of frosting to create the mummy’s “bandages”. Pipe 3 or 4 strips of frosting in one direction, making sure they overlap slightly, then change direction and repeat. This creates an “organic” appearance.
THE OTHER MISS MARZIPAN 2013 HALLOWEEN POSTS
Click on images to visit the posts!