Kari's top five Halloween treat recipes

From left to right: mini caramel apples and pears, autumn spice shortbread cookies, pumpkin seed shards

Va-Va-Voom vegan chocolate cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes
This recipe was adapted from one of my favourite cakes, which has fudge topping as a layer inside. I often make the cupcakes a day ahead, cover them with plastic wrap and frost them the next day because the top and interior are softer and chewier!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar
1 cups water
1/3 cup of a moistener: mashed banana, unsweetened apple sauce, fruit puree, or neutral-flavoured vegetable oil (no olive oil!)
Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). Line a 12-muffin pan with paper wrappers.

Pour the flour/baking mix, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, and salt through a sifter or strainer to catch (and crush!) any lumps and keep them out of your bowl. Give them a gentle whisking to make sure they're all evenly mixed.
In a separate bowl (or large measuring cup), combine the wet ingredients and give them a stir.

Add wet bowl to dry bowl and mix until smooth.

Pour 1/4 cup of batter into each of the wrappers, and immediately bake the cupcakes for 15 to 18 minutes, depending on your oven, until a knife, toothpick, or skewer poked into the middle comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven, allow it to sit for 5 minutes, then take the cupcakes out and set them on a cooling rack until they reach room temperature.

Note: If you would like to make this a vegan recipe, use dairy-free chocolate. The cakes can also be made gluten-free by substituting an equal amount of gluten-free all-purpose baking mix for the flour.

Chunky peanut butter fudge icing
I have a long-running affection for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and their Reese's Pieces candy. One time, my parents even picked up a box of Reese's cereal puffs for me to try! If you can't use peanut butter or coconut milk, you can use a different nut butter (try almond, cashew, or hazelnut), or a different liquid (rice milk, flavoured soy milk, almond milk...). It won't be as rich, but will still be delicious!
Makes enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes and have a few spoonfuls to enjoy.

1 cup chopped dark chocolate (about 150 grams)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp granulated white sugar

Set all ingredients in a double-boiler or a metal bowl sitting on a half-full pot of lightly simmering water. Wait patiently for 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir the mixture until it is uniform. Allow to cool at room temperature for 5 minutes.

Choose your favourite way to top the cupcakes: Dip them in the fudge, spread it on with an offset spatula, or swirl it on with a piping bag.
Decorate with chocolate, sprinkles, or candy. Use Reese's Pieces or cut-up PB cups if you can bear to part with them.


Open-faced ghost S'mores

Summer is officially done, but it doesn't mean that S'more cravings have been vanquished! This is one of the easiest recipes that I could think of for the Top Five list. If you happen to own a brulée blowtorch, great, go on and burnish the marshmallows, but most people can get away with using the BROIL setting on their ovens. Now go on! Get the kids a flashlight so they can tell ghost stories, or grab some friends so you can all retell the horrors of whatever crazy stuff happened last weekend.

These are best served warm, but are still good at room temp. You can decorate the marshmallows if you like, by drawing little creepy faces on them, and it's up to you to decide whether you want taller ones that stand up (large marshmallows) or melty, blobby ones (mini marshmallows), or both. I put Jabba the Hutt's face on one of them, because it looked appropriately lumpy.

If you need these to be gluten-free, double-check that your products don't have any ingredients that you aren't sure of. Kinniinnick makes a product called S'moreables Graham Style Crackers.

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