Maverick Life


Vampire Tears Candle Cake from Helena Garcia’s new cookbook, ‘The Wicked Baker’

Vampire Tears Candle Cake from Helena Garcia’s new cookbook, ‘The Wicked Baker’

The Great British Bake Off’s Helena Garcia was born in Ceuta, an independent Spanish city in north Africa. She picked up the American flavours her baking is known for as an exchange student in Las Vegas – and, having wowed the GBBO judges, her unique style is now recognised around the world.

Whether you’re a curious witch, a Halloween fiend or you just want to add a creepy touch to your baking, Helena Garcia’s new book will give you all the inspiration you need. Try her Vampire Tears Candle Cake for All Hallow’s Eve this year – eek!

Writes Helena: “These candle cakes are based on ‘blood’ candles I have at home. They’re covered in black wax but when you light them, they drip red ‘blood’. I think they’re really cool, so I just had to adapt them into an edible equivalent. It is a straightforward recipe and perfect for a centrepiece dessert. The cake base is red velvet. A little tip to get a darker black buttercream: make it the day before as it darkens with time.”

Ingredients (Serves 6-8)


  • 285g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp red food colour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 240ml buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar

Cream cheese frosting

  • 225g full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 55g salted butter, at room temperature
  • 360g icing sugar
  • 50g black or regular cocoa powder
  • black food colour

To decorate

  • 340g red Candy Melts
  • 1–2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • black birthday candles



Preheat the oven to 160°C fan [350°F/Gas mark 4] and line a 23 x 33-cm baking tray – the kind you would use for a Swiss roll – with baking paper.

For the sponge, sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a smaller bowl, mix the cocoa powder, red food colour and vanilla extract to form a thick paste. Set aside.

Cream the butter and caster sugar together in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one, and continue mixing until fully incorporated.

Add the cocoa and food colour paste and mix, making sure to scrape down the sides and base of the bowl.

Add half the buttermilk and mix in, then add half the flour mixture and mix in, then repeat with the rest of the buttermilk and flour. Add the vinegar, then increase the speed to high and mix until everything is incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared baking tray and bake for 25 minutes, or until a skewer stuck into the middle comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting. Mix the cream cheese and butter together in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Turn the speed to low and add the icing sugar, a little at a time. Add the cocoa powder and enough black food colour to get the right shade.

When the cake is ready and cool, level it with a serrated knife, then cut out 6 circles with a 10-cm [4-in] diameter cookie cutter.

Assemble the first candle by layering and icing the first 3 circles of cake. Smooth the frosting around the sides with a palette knife and insert a skewer in the centre to keep it stable. Repeat using 2 circles of cake to make a shorter candle, then use the final circle to make a candle that has been very burnt down. Don’t smooth the tops as candles dip in the middle. Chill the assembled cakes in the fridge for 45 minutes.

Melt the Candy Melts according to the packet instructions or in the microwave at 30-second intervals, then mix in 1–2 Tbsp of vegetable oil to loosen it a little. Pour into a piping [pastry] bag and drip over the candles. Leave it to set, then repeat the process. The more times you repeat the process the fuller the ‘wax’ will look. Insert a birthday candle in the middle of each cake and light before serving. DM/ ML

The Wicked Baker: Cakes and Treats to Die For by Helena Garcia with photography by Patricia Niven is published by Hardie Grant/Quadrille (R315). Visit The Reading List for South African book news – including recipes! – daily.


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