For almost four years, Kaiy Smith has been the powerhouse behind Stems, a full-service event planning company in Pasadena, California, known for its luscious, awe-inspiring cheese boards and grazing tables. But for this year’s spookiest holiday, she simply couldn’t bring herself to make the same old Halloween harvest board, or even something themed orange-and-black. It had been a tough year of juggling her business, her family and a move, and she wanted to make something different to celebrate the holiday.
So what was she inspired by? “Female Disney villains, especially when they’re women, are ten times more powerful and scarier, because they have this poise behind their scariness,” Smith said. “So I wanted to focus on bad women, if you know what I mean, like the scary stepmother or the queen who doesn’t like you—Disney villains like Maleficent and the Queen from Snow White.”
Tired of the usual Instagram scroll of cheese and treat boards, she came up with a novel idea: a dramatic board invoking elements of those iconic villainesses, with a predominantly purple-and-black color scheme featuring pops of poison apple red. Her Halloween S’mores Board features vegan witch hat cupcakes frosted in a wicked purple, Dandies marshmallows, Oreos, graham crackers, peanut butter, and dark chocolate, plus sinfully-gilded candied apples in gothy shades of black, dark red, and purple.
ICYMI, “spookuterie” boards are all the rage. If you’re wondering what exactly a spookuterie board is, well, we did too. Turns out, they’re Halloween boards that mash up the beautiful with the bizarre, the sweet with the spooky. They often feature themed props like skeletons, witches, and monsters. And this is key: they have a sense of humor or mystery. That little bit of tongue-in-cheek is what makes you smile when you look at spookuterie boards—just like looking at your favorite neighbor’s Halloween lawn display. Whether you hashtag them spookuterie boards, char-spookerie boards, or just spooky cheese boards, they’re taking over social feeds, and we’ve been paying attention.
If you want the best tips for making your own spookuterie board, this master cheese board artist has got you for a superbly stunning Halloween spread—and it doesn’t even require vegan charcuterie or cheese.
Scheme and theme
Figure out your color scheme and theme first. Smith encourages focusing on just two or three dominant shades. Then, pick your theme, whether it’s witches, skeletons, ghosts, or just a food like s’mores. Sketching out a mood board on Pinterest or a mock-up on a piece of paper can be helpful in nailing down your concept. Try to plan out what you’ll use to represent your characters.
Let your imagination run wild
Anything can go on a board—it doesn’t have to be strictly vegan cheese and charcuterie. Fruit, your favorite snacks, multi-colored chips and dips, or whatever you’d love to nosh on will get the job done, too.
Keep it simple
Smith says that limiting the number of ingredients you use is key. “People want all the things for Halloween, but if you put everything you love on one board, it looks like a jumbled mess. So it’s important to have an idea of the direction you’re going in because it allows you to edit, and you also tend to save money.”
If you’re doing a board for two people, don’t buy 50 ingredients; stick to five to 10 that you love. “You can make it just as beautiful and focus on what you love with just a few ingredients.”
Make it semi-homemade
Don’t be afraid to buy your primary ingredients. Just because you didn’t make the cupcakes or Oreos doesn’t mean it’s not special to you and your family. “I think the reality is there are so many incredible vegan products that we don’t need to make everything from scratch,” Smith says. “I bought the candied apples, for instance, so you can support small businesses while also indulging a little bit.”
Smith came up with the idea to turn over black ice cream cones on top of cupcakes for a witch hat effect. To make it, first get a cupcake and frost it with black frosting (Smith used charcoal powder in her frosting). Then, add an upside-down black ice cream cone to the top, and make a purple frosting brim for it. Pieces of lemon thyme were repurposed to look like creepy crawly weeds, while layered graham crackers ran a river through it all.
Use unexpected colors
You don’t have to use red apples or standard ice cream cones either. And when it comes to vegan cheese, these days you can even find wine-stained or berry-studded red or purple varieties. You can dye or glaze a variety of ingredients, or candy other ingredients, to get the hues you want.
Add a “whoa” element
Though everything on the board is cool, the cauldrons take the cake for the “weird science” element of Smith’s board. To make them, she ordered small cauldrons and dry ice. She achieved the bubbling-over effect by adding a little warm water to the dry ice.
Smith’s S’mores Board features not only cupcakes, candied apples, and s’more ingredients, but also graham crackers, maple popcorn, peanut butter, berries, lavender, and lemon thyme, for a perfect snacking selection. Happy Halloween!