How To Make An Easy Harry Potter Cake
How to make an easy Harry Potter cake has been on my ‘to make’ list for soooo long but it just seemed too daunting to tackle. Usually, the problem is the design, I get cake block a lot. Ha, that sounds kinda dirty. This time though, I knew exactly how it was gonna look but I had no idea how to do it. I’m not a natural artist so the idea of freehand painting something so complicated just seemed ridiculous. Then I thought, what about wafer paper? I could trace out the design, cut it out and glue it on to the cake. But, if you take one look at how intricate the design is you can see it would be almost impossible to cut by hand. And I don’t have one of those fancy machines to do it for me. Which means that I just kept avoiding it. Terrible habit, I know.
Until I remembered a trick from school, you know the one, you trace over something then place the tracing paper pencil side down on real paper and go back over the lines? The pencil lines transfer from the tracing paper to the real paper. But how was I gonna do that on a cake? I spent a really long time looking into edible pens and paints and nothing came out right until I found this post about someone asking if graphite was food safe. And it is! Which means regular pencils can be used on cake! I still urge a little bit of caution, it has to be a regular HB, 2B, 4B etc, I have no idea what coloured pencils have in them. And obviously, don’t root out a manky old pencil from the bottom of your miscellaneous drawer because who knows what germs are on there. Keep it clean peeps.
Finally, I can make this cake happen!
Ok, I’m a die-hard Harry Potter fan. Have been since my dad bought me a copy of The Prisoner of Azkaban for Christmas when I was thirteen. Bless him, he didn’t know it was part of a series he just heard that it was the book of the moment. Within the week, I had devoured the other two. It was the start of a 19-year love affair. These books are like my safety blanket. I must have read each one at least 10 times and honestly, that’s a conservative guess. When I’m sad or lonely they pull me out of it. Or when I just need a good cry I’ll go back to Half-Blood Prince and wallow in the top tower scene. I remember the first time I read that one, I was staying with my sister. She had gone out and when she came back I was surrounded by an entire roll of toilet paper, sobbing. I mean double-pumping sobbing. Couldn’t speak. She was so worried and I didn’t make it any easier because all I could get out was, “He’s dead, he’s dead!!!”. When she realised I was talking about Dumbledore and not a real person I thought she might actually kill me.
When Deathly Hallows came out my dad was there again at midnight queuing up at Asda to make sure me and my younger sister had it straight away. I almost called in sick to work that week because I had to finish it. I mean what was more important? Tending bar at a Wetherspoons or finding out whether or not JK killed off Harry in the end? No contest. I know some people have their issues about Deathly Hallows but I say to them, for shame! The way the final book ties in clues hidden in every single other instalment is nothing short of genius. The care with which she handled 7 books worth of storylines and for them all to impact the final is just bleeding beautiful! She taught an entire generation of humans to be kind, do what’s right and embrace difference rather than exclude those who are different. What a feat! JK is bae!
I have my issues with the movies (like any good book junkie). Just because there's so much missing from them. And I get it, they couldn't fit in all the details of the books in 2 and half hours but sometimes it still rubs me up the wrong way. One thing I think they nailed though was The Tale of Three Brothers. The illustration is stunning, the styling perfect, it;s truly magical. Which is why I chose it as my cake homage to the wizarding world.
I still get Harry Potter themed gifts every Christmas. 31 years old and every year the happiest part of my Christmas is the HP swag. I have hoodies, onesies, tees, badges, mugs, I even have a handmade Hogwarts express bookmark. Ooooh yeah! I almost bought a Hermione wand at Universal once and still hate myself for chickening out. Urgh, I was so gutted at Universal, the one day I could go the worst storm to hit LA in 10 years appeared and shut down the park. I got stuck for 20 minutes on ‘The Forbidden Journey’ because the electric went out. The worst part was I was alone because my friend felt sick after the first time we went on and I decided to ditch him for a second turn. That’s karma for you kids. I made out alive in the and the experience just made me stronger, ready to face the world anew.
If you thought I couldn’t get any more obsessed, think again. Caking this one got me thinking of at least another 5 I wanna do. I really want to do one that’s all about Hermione cos you know she’s the real star. And one with the Hogwarts Express going over the viaduct because, chills! Gaaah, before I get ahead of myself I should probably get started on this one first though eh?
3 cakes (recipe here)
150ml double cream
300g dark chocolate
500g icing sugar
750g beige fondant
100g black fondant
Food colouring gel, black and brown
Bake the cakes in triangle pans if you have them, if not 8-inch round pans should work great and then carve the shape after baking
When cool, wrap the cakes in cling film and place in the freezer to chill, this will make them easier to frost
Whip together 250g of butter, 500g of icing sugar and 2 tsp of vanilla until light and fluffy, if you need to loosen the mix, add a splash of milk. But not too much, we want the frosting to be quite thick and stable otherwise the cake will pull down at the corners like mine did
Build the cake in layers with frosting and place in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes
While the cake is chilling, break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a clean metal bowl. Heat 150ml of double cream in a pan until its just about to boil. Don’t let it come to the boil though otherwise, it will burn
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and leave to sit for 5 minutes before stirring until all the chocolate is melted. Leave the ganache to cool
When the cake and the ganache has cooled, coat the cake with a thin layer of ganache to pick up the crumbs and return to the fridge for 30 minutes
Repeat this process 2-3 times until the cake is smooth and the edges sharp
As I mentioned above, covering cakes completely in fondant is my absolute weakness so I did this one in panels and then used ropes of rolled fondant to cover the joins at each side. But if you want to cover the entire cake in one, I found this great video from CreativiU. Her corners are pretty sharp and she even goes through getting rid of air bubbles and repairing tears and imperfections which is really handy when you’re starting out cos these things do happen and that’s ok
Once the cake is covered we want to paint on a little brown food colouring to really get that parchment paper look. Dilute a tiny drop of brown food gel in a splash of vodka and paint this onto the cake. Build up layers of colour, darkening at the edges. I use vodka for this because it dries pretty fast and the alcohol evaporates so you don’t have to worry about any taste being left behind
Leave to dry overnight. We need the fondant to be hard on the outside so that when we transfer the design on the fondant stays smooth. I made the mistake of forging ahead to quickly the first time and ended up with little pock marks all over the fondant like this...
Now for the painting, it’s so much fun! The following day when the fondant is hard we’re ready to get the design on.
Do a quick Google image search for ‘The Tale of The Three Brothers’ on your tablet or laptop and find the scene that you want on the cake.
Measure a piece of parchment paper against the side of the cake and mark out the size available. Cut this out with an additional border of about 2 inches.
Use a disinfectant wipe to clean off your tablet or laptop and place the parchment on top of the screen. Resize the image until it fits the parchment guidelines and tape the paper down. Using a pencil, draw around the image, leaning quite hard and going over each line a few times. We need the graphite to really transfer from the parchment later.
Now take the parchment and place it pencil side down onto the side of the cake. I sterilised 4 dress pins in boiling water to hold the paper in place while I worked but if you’d rather just hold it, it’s totally up to you.
Using the end of a paintbrush, go over the entire design. You want the pressure to be just hard enough that the pencil on the other side will rub off onto the fondant but not so hard you’re denting the fondant. Rub over each line a few times to really make sure it’s all transferred. When you’re happy, remove the parchment paper. Underneath you should find a perfect outline ready to paint
To paint, I recommend doing one layer quite thin until you get the feel of the design and then another on top that’s thicker and more opaque once the first layer has dried. To start, mix a little black food gel with vodka. The amount varies depending on the brand, I find my Dr Oetker colour needs a lot less vodka that my Wilton. The best way I’ve found is to the load the paintbrush with vodka and then mix on a plate with the colour rather than pouring the vodka on, this way you can add it little by little and adjust as you go. I know you can get edible paints but honestly, I’m never organised enough to get some beforehand and I find the food gel works fine.
If you make any mistakes, dip a clean brush in clear vodka and brush over the mistake then blot up with a piece of paper towel, the stain should lift if you catch it quick.
For the second layer of paint, it’s really important you let the first one dry completely otherwise the second layer will actually lift the first clean off. If you have a look at the cake, I skipped the invisibility cloak on the second layer too, cos you know it’s the star of the show and we want to give that feeling of transparency. I also, left part of Death’s cloak slightly faded too just to link up the fact that the invisibility cloak given to Ignotus came from Death’s own cloak. I then blended this into the darker parts with the help of the vodka to make the transition smoother.
At this point, I wanted the cake to be a little moodier so I brushed some diluted black gel around the sides of the cake, careful not to get too close to the characters. Blending so that it was darker at the edge, lightening as it made its way in toward the centre.
When you’re happy with the depth of the colour we can move on to the deathly hallows symbol. Roll out a piece of black fondant into a rope and place around the top of the cake in a triangle shape, right to the edges. The black fondant I have is annoyingly sticky so if I leave it in place for a few minutes, it sticks itself to the cake. But if this isn’t the case for you a brush of vodka on the fondant will help it stay.
Repeat for the circle. To get the circle perfectly round I searched my cupboards for a lid or mug that would be the right size, placed it on top of the cake and moulded the fondant around it. When I was happy, I snipped off the excess, pushed in the ends and carefully removed the mug. With the circle in pace, decide which corner of the triangle you want the line to come down the centre from. Press down to create an indent in the circle
Roll out a final rope and place this through the centre of the triangle, over the indent you made in the circle. Snip off the excess from the end and smooth into place
And you’re done! Congratulations! Remember to tag me in your pics @icinginsight, I can’t wait to see everyone’s take on this