“Ravens’ Nests” – John Whaite’s Sophisticated Hallowe’en Dessert

John Whaite Raven's Nest

In the lead up to this year’s Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show in London (13th – 15th November 2015 in London), the awfully nice people who organise it are allowing me to share a dessert by John White, the charismatic winner of The Great British Bake Off in 2012. It’s not just any old dessert though – John has created a chocolate cherry delight that will wow your guests at any time, but would go down particularly well at Hallowe’ en.

So if you fancy making – and eating – a rich chocolate cake topped with a light cherry mousse and decorated with chocolate ‘feathers’, read John’s reminiscences about how his mum planned Hallowe’ en and what inspired him to create this recipe. Then go for it!



Essential equipment

3 disposable piping bags, one fitted with 10mm nozzle, one fitted with a large star nozzle and one with a number 1 writing nozzle

4 mini savarin moulds, greased, frozen, greased again then dusted with flour

Sheet of acetate/baking paper

For the cake

30g cocoa powder

100g dark muscovado sugar

50g hot water

50g Greek yoghurt

1 egg

1 tsp coffee extract (optional)

50g dark chocolate, melted in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g plain flour

For the cherry mousse

2 gelatine leaves

200g pitted cherries (frozen are cheaper, defrost first)

80g golden caster sugar

250g whipping cream

Red food colouring paste

For the feather decorations

100g dark chocolate, tempered

2 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)


When I was a tot mum used to throw the best Halloween parties for us: bin bags torn up and hung from the doorways, cobwebs covering the entire ceiling, and even disco lights in the dining room to create an eerie environment. Bin bags, however effective in the Nineties, wouldn’t quite cut it nowadays, and so I need to impress my guests with food. These little rounds of cake, filled with cherry mousse and adorned with a tempered chocolate plume of feathers, are just the thing for an adult Halloween party. They were inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’, that haunting poem of waiting and fear. These beautifully light chocolate, cherry and coffee cakes are well worth the wait.


1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

2 Place the cocoa powder and sugar in a mixing bowl and stir together until well mixed and fairly lumpfree. Add the hot water and stir to a smooth paste, then beat in the yoghurt, egg, extract if using, and the melted chocolate. Sift over the bicarbonate of soda and flour and fold to a smooth batter. Put the batter into the piping bag with a 10mm nozzle and divide between the 4 prepared moulds.

3 Bake for 10–14 minutes, or until a skewer gently inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and de-mould immediately, and allow to cool on a wire rack until completely cold.

4 To make the cherry mousse, soak the gelatine leaves in a jug of cold water – put them into the water one at a time or else they’ll stick together and never dissolve. Blitz the cherries to a mush in a food processor or with a stick blender, then put into a small saucepan and add the sugar. Bring the cherry pulp and sugar to a boil, then simmer and allow to reduce down to a loose compote consistency. While the cherries are still hot, squeeze the surplus moisture out of the gelatine leaves and add to the pan with the cherries. Add the food colouring. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved, then allow to cool completely, but don’t let it set.

5 When the cherry compote is cool, whip the cream to soft, floppy peaks, and gently fold together with the cherry compote. Put the mousse into the piping bag fitted with large star nozzle.

6 Place the chocolate nests on serving plates, and pipe a large, indulgent swirl of the cherry mousse in the centre of each one. Chill until needed.

7 For the tempered chocolate feather, put the tempered chocolate into the piping bag with small writing nozzle. Pipe a fairly thick line of chocolate about 10cm long, then, with the tip of the nozzle, drag the chocolate out diagonally on either side of the line to create a feather shape. Make 12 in total, each a slightly different size, and allow to set at room temperature.

8 Once set, place 3 into the mousse of each Raven’s Nest to create a dramatic, haunting finish. Sift over some cocoa powder if desired.

Chilling With A Coole Swan

Given that I’m not a big drinker, it’s quite ironic that the two items I came home with after the BBC Good Food Festival at Hampton Court at the weekend were both bottles of alcohol! Well, you have to enter into the spirit (pun not intentional) of the event and there were quite a few stands promoting and selling a variety of alcoholic tipples. It would have been rude not to buy something!

I’ve already posted about the gin I bought so now I’m going to fill you in on the joys of ‘Coole Swan’ which is an Irish cream liqueur. I’ve tried quite a few cream liqueurs in my time including Baileys, Carolans and some supermarket own brands and they were all reasonably similar in taste, colour and ‘mouthfeel’. With some, there is a strong aftertaste of the Irish whiskey and with others it’s the creaminess that lingers.

The Coole Swan bottles are quite eye catching with the blue writing contrasting elegantly against the pure white of the liqueur. As other Irish cream liqueurs are often somewhat beige in colour (due to the addition of caramel colouring), this was something different. Moving closer, I noticed that the ingredients consisted of single malt Irish whiskey, cocoa, vanilla and double cream. Now other cream liqueurs have similar ingredients but the gleaming whiteness of the Coole Swan made me want to dive right in. Well, I simply had to taste it and the helpful young people manning the stand poured me a small one. If it hadn’t been so popular, I may have had a larger one but you can’t have everything!

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As I’ve made clear elsewhere on this blog, I’m not able to quote phrases bandied about by connoisseurs within the drinks industry as I generally only drink a couple of times a month when I go out with friends. I also can’t say how a single malt may be better than any other. What I can say about Coole Swan is that it’s quite light and by that I mean it doesn’t thickly coat your tongue like some others do. It has a very smooth texture, almost velvety, and the alcohol doesn’t hit you between the eyes. The mellowness may be due to the fact that real chocolate is gently melted into the cream which for me is a match made in heaven. But please don’t think that you can’t taste the whiskey – you can!

I bought a bottle of Coole Swan at the Food Festival for a special show price and last night I chilled a small glass in the freezer and poured in a small measure of the chilled white stuff. It was a delicious end to a very wet and uninspiring August Bank Holiday. If you like Irish cream liqueurs but want something a bit different, I suggest you try Coole Swan. Look at the beautiful bottle – go on, you know you want to!

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Please note that I purchased a bottle of Coole Swan and was not paid or asked to write a review of it. I am enthusiastic about the product and this post reflects my honest opinion. For more information on Coole Swan Irish cream liqueur, please look at the company’s website – http://www.cooleswan.com