A Haunting DIY Story to Chill Your Bones

A Halloween treat pinterest journey that was supposed to be a fairytale quickly became a nightmare.

The finished product. (Courtesy of Calai Watkins)

October means chilly weather, changing leaves and the students of NYU rejoicing in the tradition of changing their Twitter names to something spooky. Back in the suburban towns from where many of us came, PTA meetings have gotten that much more exciting as parents everywhere try to contain their excitement over the slew of DIY Halloween treats to try and, of course, post to their blogs. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Halloween Pinterest season has arrived. 

I’ll admit, I’ve read the blog posts and I’ve even judged Linda for being way too thrilled about her perfectly sized black and orange Rice Krispies Treats, thinking anyone could do that. Oh, sweet Linda. I am so sorry. After dipping my toe into the world of Pinterest innovation, I’ve come to realize that it’s hard and it’s scary and I’ll never say another ill word about your Rice Krispies Treats again. I commend you, Linda. I commend all you crafty moms out there. You make it look so easy. 

At the start of my quest to make my own blog-worthy treat, I figured I’d go spooky rather than cutesy. After scrolling through Pinterest and various mommy blogs, I decided gelatin worms would be the perfect beginner project for me. The materials were inexpensive, the work seemed minimal and I was ready to make the most realistic-looking gelatin worms the world had ever seen. 

The author fills straws with gelatin to mold gummy worms. (Courtesy of Calai Watkins)

Getting the gelatin to be just the right shade of pinky brown was a breeze compared to the following steps of filling 150 straws with the mixture and waiting for the worms to set — all the while performing a precarious balancing act on top of a bag of cheese in my fridge. However, the worst was yet to come. Thawing the worms and getting all 150 gummies out of the straws and into a bowl took over an hour. In the end, the worms, albeit pretty damn spooky and a Pinterest victory, were not worth the trouble. 

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In all of my DIY baking arrogance, I decided to make things even more complicated. The gelatin worms soon became the inspiration for a graveyard-themed cake extravaganza, and along with various other brilliant DIY decoration ideas, my prized worms would be the star of the show, crawling through the delicious oreo dirt of my graveyard. 

The project was doomed from the start. At this point, I was living and breathing Halloween so I thought, why not add a can of pumpkin to my chocolate cake mix? Not thinking about how adding pumpkin would affect the baking time and temperature, the foundation of my project came out soggy in the middle. It was every “Great British Baking Show” contestant’s nightmare. However, like the pros, I continued to persevere, thinking if it wasn’t going to taste good, it might as well still look pretty. 

My positive attitude, however, did not guarantee a positive outcome. You’d think the color of brownish-green dead grass would be easy to achieve with a simple mixing together of green, yellow and red food coloring, but you’d be wrong. A drop of anything was too much, and what was supposed to be the color of dead grass turned into a pastel green-beige concoction. If this ever happens to you, and you think mixing in crushed Oreos would be good for texture, don’t do it. Just don’t.

Also, be warned that a red frosting foundation for your Oreo dirt mound grave is not ideal. The frosting is white, and no matter how much red food coloring you add, you will still end up with pink frosting. Pink is so not spooky. 

I thought I might redeem myself when my chocolate bar headstone with the acronym “RIP” frosted on the front turned out to be pretty decent. My hope peaked as the Oreo dirt making up my freshly made grave covered most of the pink frosting, but this is where things took a turn for the worse. As I went to retrieve my gelatin worms and integrate them into the scene, I found only a congealed lump of gelatin, and just like that, all ambition was lost. My success story. My inspiration. Gone.

The finished product was truly repulsive. Not to mention I frosted the cake before it had completely cooled, so the icing was running everywhere and the weight of the chocolate bar headstone kept it from standing up. Dreams I didn’t even know I had of being the perfect Pinterest mom were shattered. If it weren’t for my kind roommates, who ate the cake despite its appearance and slightly underbaked inside, I might have sunk into a state of despair. But then I realized, that’s really what the holidays are all about — surrounding yourself with people who will eat your disgusting cake because their stomach pains are worth it if it means making you happy. 

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 29 print edition. Email Calais Watkins at [email protected]

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