For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9 by 2 inch pan, an 8inch oven-proof bowl and a 6 inch loaf pan. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and the vanilla extract, then gradually stir in the milk. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pans, about two thirds full (begin with the loaf pan, followed by the bowl and then the baking pan). Bake the 13 by 9 by 2 inch pan and the bowl for 45 to 50 minutes, and the loaf pan for 35 to 40 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center to see if the cakes are done. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, vanilla extract and melted chocolate. In a separate bowl, sift the confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder. Gradually add it to the butter mixture, blending well after each addition. Mix in enough milk to make the frosting "muddy."
For the decorations:
To create the roof on the Witch's House, cut the corners off one end of the small loaf cake (a job for older kids). Place the house in the 2 by 3-inch slot, securing it with toothpicks or a bamboo skewer. Then "paint" the house with orange frosting.
Tile the roof of the house with chocolate graham crackers and frosting. Add a few scary details: windows made of broken chocolate cones with orange icing grids and a peanut cookie door with a candy doorknob. Surround the house with shoestring licorice barbed wire. Then add a flying witch. Use a toothpick to attach the witch's face (a gumdrop cut in half, lengthwise) to her hat (a chocolate cone) and to her broomstick (licorice with three slits cut in the end).
Cover a large cutting board or piece of cardboard with aluminum foil. Place the 13 by 9 by 2inch cake on the top of the foil to create the "graveyard." On one end, place the bowl-shaped cake to create the "hill." Generously frost the graveyard and hill. Next, cut a 2 by 3-inch rectangle, about 1 inch deep, on top of the hill to accommodate the house.
To create the gravestones, break peanut cookies in half and pipe on spooky sayings with orange frosting (R.I.P., Boo and so on). Secure in the muddy frosting. Next, make ghosts in the trees. Use scissors to cut three crooked branches in a piece of licorice. Tuck two mini marshmallows between the branches and place tree on a piece of waxed paper. Microwave for 10 seconds to slightly melt the ghost. Give the ghost two mini chocolate chip eyes, then plant the trees in the mud.
Next, add the spooky walkway leading up to the house. Draw a crooked path from the base of the cake up to the witch's door with a toothpick (use this as your guideline). Outline the path with chocolate-covered raisins, then sprinkle with broken green hard candies. At the entrance to the pathway, add a chocolate graham cracker drawbridge.
For a frightful finishing touch, outline the graveyard with broken chocolate cone fencing. Set the Witch's House in a place for all to see and scream at.
Tip: To make the project more manageable, bake the cake one day and decorate it the next. Tip: The frosting may be made a few days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Before frosting, bring it to room temperature, then re-whip. Tip: For crumb-free spreading, frost a very thin layer on the entire cake, then spread with a fluffy layer. Tip: To make the orange frosting, tint 1 cup of store-bought or homemade white frosting with orange food coloring. For a vibrant color, use food coloring paste, which is available at kitchen and party supply stores. Tip: Lay all the decorations out before you start. Show the kids our photo and allow room for their own creative additions.
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