While officially celebrated Oct. 31, it is one of those holidays (like Christmas) with a “spirit” that transcends the day itself, bleeding into the chilly weeks beforehand as people of all ages begin planning their costumes and festivities.
If you're unlucky enough to be a dude like me around this time of year, chances are you're going to be the brunt of a few “tricks” from your less-than-mature (but admittedly, very fun) friends.
Growing up in Somalia, Nur hadn't had the pleasure of our western candy and costume-oriented holiday, and upon moving to Canada it became a fascination for him. When I questioned him about his love for Halloween, he admitted he had heard of it as a child and was always very jealous.
Things of a spooky nature, he said, were always more serious in Somalia where superstitions were deeply ingrained in the local culture.
“Here, witches and ghosts are fun and nobody takes them seriously. In Somalia, witchcraft is a word that strikes fear into people's hearts. Witch hunts still happen there all the time,” my friend explained.
As a young adult in Canada, he was eager to participate and make up for all the lost October fun he was deprived of in childhood because of geography and cultural superstition.
I observed the year before that Nur relished the “trick” aspect of Halloween even more than he did the “treat.” He enjoyed scaring young women the most (which I warned him was probably a very bad idea) by dressing up as a scarecrow and standing still, only to pounce out when they least expected it, yelling Somalian profanities and effectively terrorizing them.
I was therefore understandably skeptical when he invited me over to his apartment for a Halloween “surprise.” I was expecting some sort of jump scare to happen, so I was on edge even as
I rode the elevator up to his floor. As my apprehension peaked, I knocked on his door and waited to be startled.
Instead, he opened the door smiling and embraced me in his standard overly-friendly bear hug.
“Terry, my friend, I bake a cake! You a baker, you tell me if it is good, yes?”
I followed him into the kitchen and sure enough, there was a cake.
It was quite large, and lavishly decorated with various Halloween chocolates. On top was a dome topped with whipped cream and frosting to depict a human skull jutting from a faux grave made from chocolate frosting, cake bits and a cardboard headstone.
I was genuinely impressed at the effort and artistic flair that went in to this Halloween cake and congratulated him on a job well done.
Grinning, he handed me a sharp, dagger-like plastic fillet knife and proceeded to tell me a morbid story from his childhood about a young man who came upon a witch while fetching water.
The witch was cursing the water to make the village people sick and the young man was forced to kill the witch by stabbing her in the eye. Ever since, the people of his village stab an effigy in the eye to keep her evil spirit at bay.
Nur then handed me the knife and with an unnerving, dour expression asked me to do the same with the cake.
Not wanting to offend him, I took the knife and walked over to the cake to do just that. Being very secular, I smiled at the silliness of it all before raising the knife to plunge it into the eye of the skull.
When my knife came down ... POP!
The cake erupted into an explosion of whipped cream, cake bits and frosting as I punctured the hidden balloon beneath the whipped cream, which I had mistaken for a dome of cake – all of which covered me from the chest up.
It startled me so badly that I cried out at the top of my lungs and felt my heart skip a beat before hammering in my chest.
I angrily turned to face Nur only to see a handful of banana pudding coming straight into my face with a wet smack, startling me a second time.
Nur burst into laughter as he held his phone out, taking a video the whole time while my back was turned. I could have struck him but began laughing despite myself.
When our laughter and profanities died down, he breathlessly explained between giggles that he had made up the story about the witch, had seen this prank done on YouTube and thus absolutely needed to try it out on me.
He spent three nights preparing and baking the cake and since I was his only real friend in Newfoundland, I was the only one he was comfortable pranking with it.
I had to admit, it was an amazing Halloween trick that also came with a treat. Beneath the exploded balloon there was still an entire cake that needed eating. It was delicious, still riddled with Halloween chocolate candies and covered in a rich, chocolate icing along with a few messy globs of whipped cream.
We ate almost half of it as I cleaned up and borrowed one of his shirts, while he added mine to his laundry and spent the rest of the evening playing Call of Duty.
The following is the recipe and method that Nur used to make ...
1 box chocolate cake mix and its ingredients (prepare as directed)
1 can chocolate frosting
Your favourite Halloween candy (for decoration)
1 medium balloon (for whipped cream)
2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
4 tbsp of sugar or honey
1 tsp of vanilla
Black food colouring (for the skull drawing)
Cardboard, scissors, and markers (for the headstone.
Bake cake as directed and let it cool. Once cooled, carefully hollow out a space for the balloon to fit in the centre, being sure to keep these cake scraps to use later.
Blow up a balloon as much as possible to keep it tight for easier popping. Place one heaping tablespoon of frosting on the bottom of the pan in the hollow you created and use this to stick the balloon in place like glue.
Spread the remaining frosting on the remaining cake surface and cover this again with leftover cake crumbs so it resembles soil, adding the Halloween chocolates/candies to depict rocks or stones.
Cut headstone out of cardboard and decorate as you wish with markers, sticking it to the top end of the cake so it resembles a grave.
Next, chill bowl and utensils used to make whipped cream. Once chilled, whip cream on high speed with the above ingredients until it forms stiff peaks. Spread this evenly over balloon and using some black food colouring, a small paintbrush and a small amount of water, paint a skull face on the whipped cream so the dome itself becomes a skull sticking out of the “grave.”
I was so impressed with this Halloween prank that I couldn't help but write my first Halloween food column about it. It remains one of my favourite Halloween memories and it’s an insanely fun trick I would like to see popping up (pun intended) from time to time in households island-wide around the end of October. Try it! Get your kids involved. Scare the jumpin's out of someone (who doesn't have a heart condition, preferably) and create some fun Halloween memories for yourselves!
Mix it up by making a jack-o-lantern or a zombie face rather than your standard skull. Get creative! And have a little trick with your Halloween treats!
P.S. If you're wondering about whether I got Nur back for the popping balloon prank, let's just say that I baked him a cake too... one that was equally as “explosive” in the end thanks to a special ingredient that tends to keep one ... regular.