Monday, October 7, 2013


Cherry Cake

Fresh cherries are one of the highlights of summer fruit, but beware their high-staining juice. Dishtowels, aprons, and your shirt all are at risk of becoming pink polka dotted.
Fingernails stained burgundy from pitting deep red cherries, I was baking a sweet surprise for some friends. A golden crusted cake with cherries peaking through the top was sure to delight. Old-fashioned flavor and simple preparation make this one of my go-to summer desserts.
I love cakes you can whip up quickly in a bowl, pour into a pan and bake. With a short list of ingredients, all you need is a springform pan and some parchment paper. Springform pans are handy to have in your tool kit and parchment paper is incredibly useful. Here, it’s cut into rounds to line the pan. You can also purchase pre-cut rounds from most cooking stores.
For simplicity sake I’m calling this a cake. The original recipe called it a torte. I think it’s really a French clafouti; a country-French dessert made with fresh fruit (traditionally cherries) and a thick batter. Some are more cake-like, some more pudding-like. This one is on the cakey side but still nice and moist.
Thanks to cookbook author and teacher, Tori Ritchie, I first came across this recipe while taking classes at Tante Marie Cooking School in San Francisco more than a decade ago. Published by food writer and author Marian Burros and Lois Levine, the original recipe was for a plum torte. It’s one of the most requested recipes from the NY Times archives.
Instead of plums, I use fresh cherries. I’ve also traded out the white flour for whole wheat pastry flour, which lends a nice texture and bit of a nutty flavor. Almond extract replaces the vanilla, and a splash of Amaretto at the end adds even more almond flavor.

When placing cherries on top of the batter, squeeze in as many as you can in a single layer. The batter will rise up around them as the cake bakes.
For serving, all this cake needs is the simple embellishment of a little powdered sugar or a small scoop of ice cream. No fancy, sugary, buttery (high fat and calorie) icing required.

Cherry Cake

This easy cherry cake makes sweet use of fresh summer cherries for a simple country-style dessert. You’ll need a 9″ (23 cm) springform pan and parchment paper. Side notes – I store my whole wheat pastry flour in the freezer. Get your butter out of the fridge an hour or more ahead of time.
Serves 8
  • Non-stick spray
  • 24-28 large, dark red fresh cherries
  • 1 cup (5 ounces or 140 grams) whole wheat pastry flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) aluminum-free baking powder
  • pinch of table salt
  • 1 stick  (8 tablespoons or 113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup  (5 1/2 ounces or 165 grams) organic cane sugar (Wholesome Sweeteners)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur (optional)
  • 1 extra tablespoon of sugar (1/2 ounce or 13 grams)
  1. Position oven rack in the center and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees (177 C)
  2. Prepare your pan. Spray the bottom of a 9″ (23 cm) springform pan with non-stick spray and line the bottom with a round piece of parchment paper.
  3. Start by washing, stemming and pitting your cherries. You can use a cherry pitter tool or a paring knife. Push the cherry through the tool to remove the pit or cut cherry in half and remove the pit. If cherries are whole, halve them top to bottom. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat, vigorously whisking by hand, or with a hand-held electric mixer and beaters. Add the eggs and beat until incorporated and the batter is smooth. Add in the almond extract. Add in the flour blend and stir to incorporate until smooth. Batter will be thick.
  6. Scrape batter into the pan and smooth to the edges with a flexible spatula. Place the cherries cut side down on top of the batter completely covering the top of the batter. Sprinkle the top with the one extra tablespoon of sugar and drizzle with the Amaretto if using. Bake cake until deep golden on top, about 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester, toothpick or paring knife inserted in the center come out clean.
  7. Remove cake from the oven and allow to cool 10 minutes. Run a thin, flexible paring knife around the inside of the pan edge to free the cake. Pop the spring and remove the sides of the pan. If serving warm, slice into eight pieces. Serve plain, or dust with powdered sugar. A small scoop of ice cream is also nice.
Cake can be made a day ahead, cooled, wrapped well in plastic film and refrigerated. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
Pre-cut parchment rounds are very handy if you like to bake. Alternatively, trace a circle with the pan onto parchment and trim to the right size with scissors. 


A metal lamp frame and chicken wire are repurposed for this simple project that can be decorated for all seasons. Paint them black and add artificial spiders to create a creepy cobweb effect that is perfect for Halloween.

Chicken Wire Pumpkin Decoration

Materials Needed:

  • small roll of chicken wire
  • wire cutters
  • work gloves
  • needle-nose pliers
  • black satin spray paint
  • wire lampshade frame (optional)

Option One: Use a Lampshade Frame to Create Cloche

Put on work gloves and roll out chicken wire. Gently wrap wire around lampshade frame to estimate how much is needed to fully cover sides (Image 1). Remove shade and use wire cutters to cut wire to appropriate size. Wrap wire tightly around frame, pinching over top and bottom edges (Image 2). Cut excess wire if needed to make it fit properly.

Trim Wire and Connect Ends

Trim excess wire where ends of chicken wire meet (Image 1). Using your fingers or needle-nose pliers, gently twist wire together to connect the ends (Image 2).

Cut and Secure Top

Cut a piece of chicken wire to fit on top of lampshade frame (Image 1). Fold and twist wire's edges over frame to hold top in place. Spray with one coat of black satin spray paint and allow to dry prior to use (Image 2).

Option Two: Form a Dome-Shaped Cloche Without a Frame

These chicken wire cloches can be easily made without a lampshade frame, as well. Simply cut a piece of chicken wire to approximately 20" x 10" with a pair of wire cutters. Roll wire into a cylinder and twist wires together to hold in place where ends meet (Image 1). Cut three to four vertical slits in top of the cylinder about 3 inches long (Image 2). Fold cut pieces in toward the center, so they overlap and form a dome shape (Image 3). Cut excess wire sections and twist ends together to hold dome shape. Make sure all edges are trimmed or folded under. Finally, spray with one coat of black satin spray paint and allow to dry prior to use (Image 4).


America's Best Haunted Houses - Top 13 Scariest 2013

The fastest growing industry in America is the Halloween industry. We’ve seen it grow over the last ten years from a 1-billion dollar industry to a near 10-billion dollar industry. Halloween has grown to levels no one ever expected. Today, we see millions of home owners decorating their houses, turning their garages into haunted houses, changing their backyards into cemeteries and inviting people from around the neighborhood into their own personal HAUNTED HOUSE! Today tens of thousands of home owners buy zombies, monsters, tombstones, and crypts and even use specialized lighting to display and showcase their masterpiece. Many even create CGI FX in their windows. The days of Halloween being a kid’s holiday all about trick-or-treating are OVER! Even moms are getting into the act buying Halloween themed decorations to make the interior of the house Halloween themed as well.

Halloween is not an official holiday. They don’t call off school and work for Halloween. You don’t have to buy anyone a gift or cook a turkey or take your spouse to dinner with cards & chocolates. Halloween is a holiday that millions upon millions of Americans CHOOSE to celebrate and everyone celebrates in different ways. Some take their kids to pumpkin patches and Fall Festivals. Many enjoy decorating their house and yard.  Others become obsessed with the haunting of the holiday. Some even build their own haunted house experience right in their own home. And millions visit America’s best and scariest haunted houses to celebrate the holiday! In fact, haunted houses and Halloween attractions now make up more than 1 billion dollars of the ever growing Halloween industry.

Every year in March, haunted house owners and operators across America converge in St Louis, Missouri for the National Halloween and Haunted Attractions tradeshow produced by Transworld Exhibits, where these haunt owners can view and purchase new products, monsters, animations, special FX, and more. Additionally, there are numerous educational seminars and round-table discussions with other haunted house owners to plot and plan how to make America scream even more than the previous year! So what do haunted houses across America have planned for you this year? How are haunted attractions planning to keep up with movies, videos games and other interactive events? Do video games and movies even compare now to the live and very interactive experience of a haunted house?

Haunted Houses are going over-the-top bigger, better, and scarier than ever. In fact, haunted houses no longer just compete with other local haunts in their area, but haunted houses across the country. Visiting, attending and traveling to haunted houses is now an America phenomenon as people are using sites like www.HauntWorld.com to find the best haunted attractions in the World to travel to attend. America has spoken, and they want HAUNTED HOUSES in the Fall not horror movies and not videos games. They want live, in-your-face scares combined with high tech scares for the utmost in lifelike scares. They want what a roller coaster can’t deliver no matter how high or fast they’re built. Now that Halloween 2013 is here it’s time to find the best, the scariest, and the biggest over the top haunted houses and Halloween attractions in America.  Prepare yourself for the biggest screaming season in Haunted history.

Haunted House owners and operators have created attractions that are so detailed they remove you from the realm of reality and plunge you into a haunted World you never knew you could experience. So finally, we present you some of the best traditional haunted houses, real haunted houses, haunted hayrides, corn mazes and more. If it’s an attraction opening during the Halloween season, you’ll find it here on www.HauntWorld.com. Now sit back for the best haunted houses in America 2013.

1. 13th Floor Haunted House / The Asylum Haunted House in Denver, CO - www.getscared.com:  There’s a group who runs the biggest franchise of haunted houses in America, and they specialize in being the scariest in America too. The owners of these attractions are building haunts nationwide and in each city they build an attraction, their haunts dominate the market place. 13th Floor Haunted Houses are located in Denver, San Antonio and Phoenix Arizona and each attraction is designed and built by the team behind House of Torment and The Asylum. The Asylum also located in Denver is one of the most detailed haunted houses in America and between the 13th Floor attractions scattered across America and The Asylum in Denver they can fulfill any fright fans need for fear!

2. Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride in Philadelphia, PA - www.thebatesmotel.com & Pennhurst Asylum in Spring City, PA - www.pennhurstasylum.com:  If you travel to the Philadelphia area you are in store for a one-two punch of gut wrenching fear!! Each attraction operated by the same ownership group offer two totally unique and different attractions The Pennhurst Asylum is located inside a REAL closed down asylum and Bates Motel features a massive haunted hayride, haunted house, maze and more. Making this trip to Philly is tops for any fright fan.

3. Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park, NY www.headlesshorseman.com:  Headless Horseman features the best, most theatrical haunted hayride in the industry, with massive detailed sets, over the top theatrical costumes, tons of haunted houses, corn mazes, and even the Headless Horseman himself riding horseback!

4. Cutting Edge Haunted House / Thrillvania in Fort Worth, TX www.cuttingedgehauntedhouse.com:  In the Dallas Fort Worth Texas area there are two of the best haunted houses in America. First up is Cutting Edge, one of the longest haunted houses in the World, once holding the Guinness Book of World Records, it’s a site to be seen. Plus Thrillvania, of the same ownership group, is also one of the industry’s most celebrated and historic haunted houses. Once known solely as Verdun Manor, Thrillvania offers scares of all magnitudes including flames flying out of the building and some of the best actors in America. If you are traveling to the Dallas area, prepare for a real scream!

5. Netherworld Haunted House in Atlanta, GA - www.fearworld.com:  Netherworld features everything you’d ever want in a top haunt: amazing costumes, monsters, make-up, sets, animations, actors and more. They scare you both inside and outside the haunted attraction. Netherworld is the most visited haunted house in the entire industry attracting more customers than any other haunted house in America!  Netherworld best feature is the outside actors who entertain guests even the ones who haven't purched a ticket some don't because the parking lot is scarier than most haunted houses.  Prepare to beg for mercy just to buy a ticket at Netherworld.

6. The 13th Gate Haunted House in Baton Rouge, LA - www.13thgate.com:  13th Gate is one of the most detailed haunted houses in America featuring incredible set design, animations and special FX with over-the-top makeup artists and actors to round out it’s perfection. It also features thousands of live snakes to add an extra fearful element. 13th Gate expanded a few years back adding Necropolis 13, a haunted New Orleans-style Cemetery, that includes an old fashioned Voodoo Fire Show on weekends. The spirits really come alive at 13th Gate!

7. Field of Screams in Lancaster, PA - www.fieldofscreams.com:  Field of Screams boasts the LONGEST haunted hayride in America, and with three other amazing haunted houses, Den of Darkness, Nocturnal Wasteland and Frightmare Asylum, this scream park is another scariest haunt to top our list. Field of Screams also features scream shops, food, games and stage shows for a well-rounded evening of thrills!

8. The Darkness Haunted House in St. Louis, MO - www.scarefest.com:  The Darkness located in St Louis is celebrating its 20th year of Fear. It’s the most well-known haunted house in the World. In fact, many within the haunted house industry have rated this haunted attraction the BEST in America for its original special FX, Hollywood level detail, and the use of computer generated effects. The Darkness is certainly one of the most celebrated haunted houses in the industry and features 3 attractions in one including the World’s best 3D Haunted House called Terror Visions and the Monster Museum with gift shop. The Darkness is extremely scary and extremely detailed. In fact, many of the effects are one of a kind. People come to visit The Darkness from all over the World!

9. House of Torment Haunted House in Austin, TX - www.thehouseoftorment.com:  House of Torment is located inside an old movie theater with three attractions in one, and each year they totally renovate with all new sets and scenes. One of the most unique things about House of Torment is their Control Room. Inside this room sits the evening’s mastermind of House of Torment, controlling triggers to set each animation at the precise moment to get the ultimate scare from each individual guest, creating guest screams unlike any other. House of Torment has set a new standard for the haunted house industry with icon characters, use of Hollywood make-up artists, and amazing set design. This year House of Torment features Blackthorne District, Cursed and Slaughterhouse. House of Torment has been featured on national television, and this year on the very next weekend following the close of the 2013 haunt season, House of Torment will host the industry’s Legendary Haunt Tour, November 8th and 9th.

10. Erebus 4-Story Haunted Attraction in Pontiac, MI - www.hauntedpontiac.com:  By definition, “EREBUS” is the darkness beneath the Earth that the dead must pass to reach Hades, and the owners of Erebus Haunted House take great pride in emulating that depth of horror inside their haunt. Located in Pontiac Michigan, this attraction once held the Guiness Book of World Records for the LONGEST haunted house in America. We have rated Erebus the most unique haunted house in America with their over-the-top collection of interactive monster props, and mechanical special FX. Erebus is located in a multi-story building complete with a full interactive haunted house where the props touch the customers giving them a sense of REAL FEAR!

11. The Dent School House in Cincinnati, OH - www.frightsite.com:  Located in Cincinnati Ohio  this might be the most detailed haunted house in America and by far one of the most unique themed attractions in America. This horrific haunted house theme centers around a serial killer janitor inside an abandoned haunted schoolhouse. After visiting this school, you may never step foot in a schoolhouse ever again.  The Dent Haunted School House has been one of the most visited haunted houses within the haunted house industry and has showcased amazing set designs and unique theming. There’s no wonder it’s Cincinnati’s SCARIEST haunted house!

12. Kersey Valley Spookywoods Haunted Attractions in Greensboro, NC - www.spookywoods.com: Located in North Carolina, this attraction is rated the best overall screampark in America, because they have more different style attractions than any haunted attraction in America including daytime events and nighttime events. By day, Kersey Valley houses the best Halloween attraction in America with dinosaur digs, corn mazes, spooky tram rides, pumpkin patches and more. By night, the Spookywoods’ zombies, monsters and spirits come out to play, haunting the woods and making North Carolina one of the scariest places on earth to be!

13. Nightmare on the Bayou in Houston, TX - www.nightmareonthebayou.com:  Nightmare on the Bayou is located next to Houston’s oldest graveyard near the Heights in the shadow of downtown Houston, Texas. It proudly boasts Houston’s only REALLY HAUNTED attraction where REAL ghosts linger the property. Don’t believe it?  Ask employees and past customers. Paranormal hauntings occur regularly at Nightare on the Bayou making it one of the most unique and scary attractions in the country. They also feature one of the biggest Halloween retail stores in America where customers can purchase Halloween costumes and d├ęcor.