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Sweet Halloween Treats From Near and Far

Divergent, delicious desserts, plus 12 recommended sweet wines for your trick-or-treat glass

Laurie Woolever
Posted: October 25, 2013

It's nearly Halloween, and whether or not you're planning to don a wig, some face paint or a costume to mark the occasion, it's the season for a little something sweet. Two New York chefs have shared two very different recipes—one all-American, one inspired by Indian tradition—that you can use to add a sweet ending to any meal. Plus, we've provided a list of recently rated, recommended dessert wines in a range of styles to pour alongside.

CHARLESTON COCONUT CAKE

Recipe courtesy of Michael Lomonaco and Wayne Harley Brachman of Porter House New York

Throughout his storied career, which has included posts at Le Cirque, '21' Club, and Windows on the World, chef Michael Lomonaco has traveled the United States in search of inspiration in the form of iconic American dishes. Lomonaco says that the coconut cake recipe that he and pastry chef Wayne Harley Brachman developed for Porter House New York, a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning steak house, is an homage to the famously well-loved 12-layer coconut cake served at Charleston, S.C.'s Peninsula Grill. Lomonaco's version has just three layers of cake, with a rich coconut filling, because, as he quips, "This is a New York cake. We don't have time for cutting and filling 12 layers."

If inclined, you can amp up this cake's Halloween spirit by coloring the toasted coconut flakes orange. Combine 3 drops orange food coloring with a tablespoon of water in a large jar or other container with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well, then add the coconut and shake again to distribute the color. Lay the coconut out on clean kitchen towels to dry for about 15 minutes before garnishing the cake.

For the butter cake:
• Vegetable oil spray, for greasing cake pans
• 3 1/4 cups unbleached flour
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
• 5 eggs
• 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly coat three 9-inch cake pans with vegetable oil spray and line the bottoms with circles of baking parchment paper.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together at high speed for 30 seconds until combined. With the mixer still running on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Continue beating until light and fluffy, 7 minutes more.

4. With the mixer on low, beat in one-third of the flour mixture. Beat in the vanilla and half of the cream, then another third of the flour. Beat in the rest of the cream, and then the remaining flour mixture.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Bake at 350° F for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cake is springy and a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely. (May be done a day ahead; if you choose to do so, be sure to refrigerate the cake layers.)

For the coconut filling:
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup corn starch
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
• 1/4 cup sour cream

1. In a saucepan, bring the cream, sugar and butter to a simmer until melted. Meanwhile, whisk the water, starch and vanilla together in a small bowl.

2. Add the starch mixture to the cream and whisk until thickened and bubbles just start to rise. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut.

3. When cool, mix in the sour cream and set aside.

For the coconut syrup:
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup coconut rum

In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar and simmer over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, let cool for 5 minutes, then stir in the coconut rum. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

For the cream cheese frosting, and to finish the cake:
• 1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
• 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
• 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• Coconut syrup (from above)

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spread the coconut in an even layer on a baking sheet and toast for 7 minutes, until golden.

2. In the bowl of a mixer, beat together the cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.

3. Trim the cakes if necessary so that they're flat and even. Sprinkle the layers with 3/4 of the coconut syrup.

4. Divide the coconut filling in half and spread evenly across the surface of two layers. Top with the remaining cake layer. Sprinkle the top with the remaining coconut syrup.

5. Frost the outside of the layer cake with the cream cheese frosting, working from the top down, taking the time to evenly coat the cake and use all the frosting. Evenly coat the frosted cake with toasted coconut. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before portioning. Serves 8 to 12.

CARROT CHOCOLATE FUDGE

Recipe courtesy of Surbhi Sahni of Tulsi restaurant and Bittersweet NYC

This year, Diwali, the five-day Hindu festival of lights, begins just after Halloween, on Sunday, Nov. 3, a coincidence that has pastry chef Surbhi Sanhi working hard to prepare sweets that satisfy all revelers. She says the carrot chocolate fudge recipe that she shared with us is a variation on gajar halwa, a tyical Diwali sweet. The bright orange color from the carrots makes the confection a natural bridge between the two holidays, and the cardamom allows it to stand out from typical Halloween fare.

Of how Diwali is celebrated in India, Sahni says, "People go to their friends and family with boxes of assorted sweets, nuts, fruits and other gifts. Savory food is different in each household, and varies from region to region. In my family, we make puri (fried bread), halwa and chickpeas. Since it is the 'Christmas of Hindus,' people do dig in deep into their pockets and cook as many dishes as possible for the occassion." Sahni is the consulting pastry chef at New York's Tulsi restaurant, where her husband, Hemant Manthur, is executive chef and partner. She has also been executive pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Dévi restaurant, Amma and Tamarind, all in New York. Her company, Bittersweet NYC, purveys sweet and savory confections online and at a number of markets and festivals throughout New York.

• 4 cups milk
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 4 whole cardamom seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle
• 2 teaspoons green cardamom seed powder (Available in Indian grocery stores; you may also remove and discard the pod, and crush the inner seeds with mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder)
• 1 tablespoon ghee (available in Indian grocery stores) or clarified butter
• 2 cups peeled and shredded carrots (4 to 6 carrots)
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup blanched sliced almonds, crushed to a powder
• 1/2 cup raw cashews, crushed to a powder
• 4 ounces Belgian milk chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 ounces Belgian white chocolate, finely chopped

1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 2 cups of the milk, the cream, crushed cardamom seeds and 1 teaspoon of the green cardamom powder. Bring the mixture to a boil, taking care not to let it boil over. Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat to medium and let it simmer for at least an hour, until the mixture is reduced by half. Remove from heat, strain out the cardamom pod solids, and reserve.

2. Melt the ghee or clarified butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, then add the shredded carrots. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat, for about 5 minutes, until the carrots have lost some of their water.

3. Add the remaining 2 cups of milk to the carrots and continue cooking on high heat, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are cooked and the milk has largely evaporated, about 30 minutes. Stir in the sugar and continue cooking for about 30 to 45 minutes. Add the reserved cream and milk mixture to the carrots and bring to a boil. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, then stir in the almonds and cashews.

4. Remove the mixture from the stove top. Stir in the chocolate and the remaining green cardamom seed powder, and mix well to ensure that all of the chocolate is completely melted.

5. Grease a 9-inch by 12-inch baking pan and line it with parchment paper. Pour the fudge mixture into the pan. Refrigerate the mixture in the pan for at least 5 hours, then turn the hardened fudge out onto a cutting board and cut into pieces. Serve chilled. Makes about 24 1-inch pieces.

RECOMMENDED DESSERT WINE

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More wines can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

CHÂTEAU DOISY DAËNE Barsac 2010 Score: 94 | $58
A juicy, compact style, with tangerine, apricot, toasted almond and heather notes all rolled together at the core, waiting to unfurl fully through the unctuous, passion fruit-filled finish. Plenty remains in reserve, but this is hard to resist now. Drink now through 2030. 5,000 cases made. —J.M.

GRAHAM Tawny Port 20 Year Old NV Score: 93 | $60
A complex and full-bore tawny, with deep, intense flavors of orange cream, glazed apricot, baked peach and roasted pineapple that are balanced by concentrated chocolate and toffee notes. The bright finish is filled with spice and supported by fresh acidity. Drink now. 25,000 cases made. —K.M.

JOSEPH PHELPS Eisrébe Napa Valley 2010 Score: 92 | $$50 / 375ml
The floral apple blossom and ripe pear flavors give way to fresh and clean pineapple juice and candied orange peel details, displaying plenty of vibrancy and a long finish. Drink now through 2015. 750 cases made. —M.W.

COCKBURN Late Bottled Port 2007 Score: 91 | $21
Lush, rich and youthful, with intense and pure-tasting flavors of mineral, dark plum, red currant and spice, supported by medium-grained tannins. Shows good grip on the finish, offering details of underbrush, dark chocolate and spice. Drink now through 2028. 1,200 cases imported. —K.M.

D. KOURTAKIS Muscat Samos Kourtaki NV Score: 91 | $12
Presents heady aromas and flavors of ripe peach, dried apricot, fig and spice. Honey and smoke accents envelop the rich and creamy finish, which lingers with luscious sweetness and tropical fruit details. Drink now through 2024. 300,000 cases made. —K.M.

RAMOS-PINTO Tawny Port RP 10 years Quinta da Ervamoira NV Score: 91 | $40
The toffee and mocha flavors are concentrated and powerful in this rich tawny. Deeply spiced, filled with hints of white chocolate and allspice midpalate, this delivers a plush finish filled with orange rind and glazed apricot notes. Drink now through 2018. 5,000 cases made. —K.M.

BADIA A COLTIBUONO Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2005 Score: 90 | $$40 / 375ml
Almost whiskey-flavored, this exudes honey, caramel and sweet oak elements, with ripe apricot and mango notes emerging from the supple texture. Delivers a lightly astringent, walnut-accented finish. Drink now through 2016. 10,000 cases made. —B.S.

JZ WINE COMPANY Riesling Yakima Valley Frost Bitten Ice 2012 Score: 90 | $$13 / 375ml
Rich, sweet and silky, with a remarkable freshness to the pear, apricot and delicate spice flavors, lingering easily on the pointed finish. Drink now through 2016. 2,572 cases made. —H.S.

WARRE Tawny Port 10 Year Old Otima NV Score: 90 | $$27 / 500ml
Redolent of dried citrus, glazed apricot and honey cream notes, flecked with hints of tarragon. The finish of toffee displays an intense spiciness, lingering with caramel nuances. Balanced and refined. Drink now. 8,300 cases imported. —K.M.

GONZALEZ BYASS Cream Jerez Solera 1847 NV Score: 89 | $23
Date, prune, toasted rye, steeped raisin and dark fruitcake notes mingle in this fleshy, unctuous, inviting Sherry, with a light clove accent lingering on the finish. Drink now. 30,000 cases made. —J.M.

PILLITTERI ESTATES Vidal Niagara-On-The-Lake Icewine 2011 Score: 89 | $$30 / 200ml
Honey, apricot, grapefruit and earth flavors mark this tangy dessert white. A bit coarse, with intense fruit and a long finish. Drink now through 2018. 5,000 cases made. —B.S.

EVANGELOS TSANTALIS Moscato Lemnos NV Score: 89 | $$5 / 500ml
An aromatic sweetie, with zesty dried citrus accents to the ripe peach, apricot and marzipan flavors. Light, featuring honeyed notes on the rich, creamy finish. Drink now through 2020. 10,000 cases made. —K.M

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