Sleepy Hollow, New York

I’m just back from New York, and it was nothing if not an adventure! The unexpected arrival of a certain Hurricane Sandy may have put a stop to the majority of my plans (instead, my NYC BFF Nicolette & I basically had a four-day slumber party in her perfect Williamsburg apartment), but we did manage to cram in a few adventures on either side of the storm.

Top of my list for this trip had been an autumnal day trip somewhere on the East Coast; I didn’t mind where, so long as the leaves were orange, the scenery picturesque and the activities centred around idyllic American ‘fall’ fun. Which is how we came to spend the weekend before Hallowe’en in the town of Sleepy Hollow in upstate New York.

I hadn’t actually realised that Sleepy Hollow (of the Headless Horseman legend) was an actual place until Nicolette suggested it as the destination for our roadtrip. Now, I’ve always been practically obsessed by Hallowe’en (given it is barely recognised in Australian and England, I’m rather fascinated by the American-centric tradition), but when we pulled into the town I got so worked up in excitement I actually squealed.

The little town of Sleepy Hollow needs none of my rose-tined romanticising, for it was so hauntingly charming all on its own. Every surface seemed covered with the confetti of fallen flame-coloured autumn leaves, each lampost and wooden porch decorated with scarecrows and spiderwebs and candlelit jack-o-lanterns, while costumed trick-or-treating children criss-crossed the little streets.

We visited haunted cemeteries, and the house where Washington Irving (author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and some say the founding father of American fiction) spent his days, and watched dramatic performances of haunted tales, and threw ourselves in giant piles of crunchy leaves (that someone had so kindly raked into leafy mountains that were practically begging to be jumped in), and picked pumpkins from the patch, and drank apple cider and ate s’mores and candy corn and stroked black kitties that crossed our paths in the garden – and generally relished in all the wonderful Hallowe’en traditions I’ve ever wanted to try – until the stars twinkled in the dark sky overhead.

Thank you Nicolette and Sara and Sleepy Hollow for fulfilling all my autumnal and Hallowe’en fantasies!

Wearing: Opening Ceremony cat sweater (the best gift from Nicolette which I’m completely obsessed with; now sold out, but similar style here), Uniqlo Oxford shirt, Camilla and Marc dress (worn as skirt), Chanel handbag, Marc Jacobs chain belt, Ash boots, Mimco necklace, ring and cuffs, Zara sunglasses, bow headband from Tokyo (similar style here), MAC ‘Ruby Woo’ lipstick.

I’d love to hear what seasonal activities you have been enjoying in your corner of the world!

Love, Miss B xx

* Thank you to everyone who sent kind/concerned messages during the hurricane!

Thank you Nicolette for helping with these photos!

 

Fudgey Bittersweet Chocolate and Cheesecake Cupcakes

Come Hallowe’en, I become obsessed by all things pumpkin pie. Even though I make (in my opinion) the best pumpkin pie, the Clever Boyfriend and my nearby friends hate the stuff, and thus I’m usually left to eat most of the thing myself. This means I have to limit myself to making it once a year  (I don’t want an entire pumpkin pie going straight to my thighs on a regular basis, you see…) and it becomes even more special.

Since not everyone is a fan of the traditional Hallowe’en pumpkin flavours (and those that are usually already have a favourite recipe), these little cakes are a great alternative. Their richness seems Hallowe’en appropriate, and the eggless base becomes a dark, fudgey (almost truffle-like) base which is offset nicely by the sweeter cheesecake top. And the best part? It impossible to eat more than a couple of these, so your thighs will generally be happier…

INGREDIENTS:

Bittersweet chocolate base:
190g plain flour
125g caster sugar
40g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
45ml vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar (you won’t taste this, but it is essential to react with the bicarb soda to make the cakes rise)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cheesecake top:
150g reduced fat cream cheese
60g caster sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
100g dark chocolate chips

Cream cheese frosting:
150g reduced fat cream cheese
150g icing sugar (sifted)
50g butter (room temperature)

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 170c / 325f

For the chocolate base:
In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and bicarb soda until combined.
In a separate jug, stir together the oil, vinegar, vanilla and 125ml water.
Slowly add the liquid mix to the dry ingredients, mixing constantly. The mixture will become very thick; continue to beat until all the ingredients are completely combined. If mixing by hand rather than electric beater, you may need to add a little more water to allow the ingredients to combine – do this by slowly adding 1 teaspoon of water at a time until you have a thick, fudgey consistency.
Spoon the mixture into a muffin tray lined with paper cases (each case should be 2/3 full).

For the cheesecake topping:
In a bowl, beat together the cream cheese, egg, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate chips until evenly dispersed (do not overmix).
Scoop this mixture on top of the chocolate mixture (about 1 tablespoon in each case).

Bake for around 20 minutes, or until the cakes are firm to touch and the cheesecake has become golden (do not overcook as cheesecake will become dry).
Leave to cool slightly before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting: beat together the icing sugar and butter until the mixture is creamy and well combined. Add the cream cheese and beat until completely incorporated. Continue beating at high speed until the whole mixture becomes light and fluffy (about 5 mins).

Once cool, ice each cake with the cream cheese frosting (below) and a sprinkling of cocoa powder.

Makes 12 regular cupcakes.

What are you making for Hallowe’en?

Love, Miss B xx

Mulberry’s treat-or-treat

I don’t know whether it’s because my imagination was over-stimulated as a child, but I tend to get ridiculously excited by themed holidays, especially Hallowe’en. When I was younger, we lived in a great big ancient house, with high ceilings, chandeliers and furniture carved with lions heads; perfect for telling ghost stories and playing spooky games. But as Australia tries to resist all form of gimmick (and because Hallowe’en there falls in Spring), it never quite felt right. So this year, I’m all about getting into the ghoulish spirit!

Apart from a hideously sprained ankle (which has left me with a rather attractive hobble), today was one of those perfect Autumn days in London. After indulging in new treats at Liberty and afternoon tea at Sketch, I limped down to Bond Street to drool over the bags in Mulberry (which lately is becoming a mild obsession to rival my love for Chanel).

I nearly squeeled with delight when I saw the store: it’s been temporarily transformed into a Hallowe’en grotto meets accessories heaven! Beautiful tan bags were perched atop pumpkins (carved with Mulberry bags and trees rather than ghoulish faces), and the clothes are the couture equivalent of Autumn leaves. And please gods of Hallowe’en, may I have everything in the window for my trick-or-treat?

And the best part? Pop into the store and you’ll come away with a trick-or-treat bag filled with old-fashioned candy. I brought a couple home for the Clever Boyfriend and his eyes lit up like a happy kid (he’s now in the subsequent sugar coma stage…).

Do you do anything to mark Hallowe’en? What would be your dream tick-or-treat surprise?

Love, Miss B xx