Hermione Birthday Cake Tutorial

little girls dressed up as Hermione Granger

There are worse book characters to idolise than Hermione Granger

The youngest children in all families are inevitably influenced by their older siblings, and Mini is no different. She learned to read better so that she could read her sisters’ favourite Harry Potter books. She’s such a huge fan that I am now the only one in the house who’s never read them, nor am mad-keen on everything Harry Potter.

So for her 7th birthday, Mini asked for a Harry Potter-themed birthday party (more in another post) and a birthday cake for her actual birthday that had “something to do with Hermione Granger”. Hmmmm, no challenge for this non-HP fan, then (!)

I decided to do a fairly simple book cake, and call it Hermione Granger’s Diary. I took photos of the process so that I’d remember it for her more complex birthday party cake later that week. And as a bonus, I can use them as a tutorial to show you how easy it was. Remember, I’m not a great cook or a talented cake decorator – if you take your time and follow my top tips, you’ll produce something far, far better. Please share your own hints and tips too!

Hermione cake Harry Potter

Hermione’s Diary Cake

  1. OK, start the day before by baking the cakes and preparing a cake board. Don’t bother buying a board. Just get some stiff cardboard (I cut a bit off a packaging box, but have been known to use a couple of empty cereal boxes) and cover it entirely in tin foil. This makes it look good, gives you something big enough to work on, makes the cake portable, and it’s also easy to wipe crumbs and smears off the side.

  2. Make 2 loaf-cakes and let them cool completely. Maxi suggested I make them both chocolate and orange marble cakes and so I used double the recipe at the link. I didn’t ice them with the drizzled chocolate and I didn’t use food colouring.

  3. Make up a batch of plain buttercream. I used a block of unsalted butter (250g), 2 cups of icing sugar, and my all-time favourite method of making Whipped Buttercream Icing.

  4. Using a sharp knife, cut the top off the loaves on a bit of a slant. This shapes the cakes so that they’ll look a bit like an open book when you press them together. If you were neater than me, you would cut the tops off entirely so that there are no curved edges. If you’re worried about the cakes becoming too thin, you could raise them up by slicing each loaf in 2 and filling with jam and/or cream at this point.

  5. In the interests of thrift, crumble the bits of cake you sliced off and mush them together with a spoon or 2 of buttercream. Effectively you’re making a batch of cake pops, but you’ll use it like mortar to hold the 2 loaf-cakes together.

  6. Put a smear of buttercream on your cake board and place a loaf cake on top (this will hold it down). Squish the cake-pops mortar along the side of the cake, then smear more buttercream on the board and stick the second loaf-cake to the first. Really squish the cakes together.

  7. Now cover both cakes in the rest of the buttercream. Don’t worry about getting crumbs in the icing: it really doesn’t matter because it’ll all be covered in fondant icing.

  8. Roll out some white fondant or ready-roll icing to form the pages along the sides of the cake. I used a 500g block in grand total, but you might need more or less: it depends how thinly you roll the icing. You could be extremely neat and cut them into beautiful rectangles, or you can be slap-dash like me and just wodge them on. I used the excess fondant icing to start to disguise the misshapen bits of loaf-cake, but as I said in (4) above, you could avoid that by slicing the tops neatly and more severely.

  9. Use a blunt edge (spatula, back of a long knife, etc.) along each side to make lots of page marks. The layer of buttercream under the fondant icing will help.

  10. Dip a clean paint brush in some cocoa and use it to brush the edges of the pages to make them look old and dirty. I’m not sure that Hermione’s diary would actually be so grubby, to be fair, but I wanted to try out the technique.

  11. Roll out more white icing and place over the top of the cake. Shape it with your hands so that it looks like an open page. Brush more cocoa along the edges and on the ‘pages’. Roll some coloured fondant icing (or colour the last of the white fondant icing with some food colouring) into long thin sausage shapes and place them around the edges to look like the book’s cover, peeping out from under the pages. Flatten the sausages with a flat edge on top and at the side. If you have any black icing, add a little arch in the middle of the front and back to look a bit like the empty space where the edges of the pages curve away from the book binding. (Or just brush lots of cocoa in that corner to achieve the same / a better effect).

  12. Decorate! I used a pen that writes on icing to write something, and made a bit of a bouquet of roses with a tiny bit of green fondant icing I had leftover from The Boss’s birthday cake last month and some shop-bought icing flowers. I shook some little white chocolate stars over the top to use them up (they’ve been lurking in my cupboard for too many years… I swear they’re breeding…).

  13. Add some candles and go!

Christmas Eve 2016

I’ve been driving everyone demented in the house over the past few weeks, insisting on playing HeartXmas on the radio whenever I’m at home. The unrelenting barrage of Christmas-themed music was surprisingly soothing. Well, to me at least. I’m a grumpy old sod who always, always hates the overly-commercial and overly-long build-up to Christmas. Perhaps after the 12 months I’ve just had, I think I needed a nudge into feeling faintly ridiculous and a bit happy. Even if it’s artificially and commercially produced by silly songs with inane lyrics and cynical producers.

Anyway, I like to sing / screech / croak along to the radio. Not knowing the words or tune has never slowed me down, oh no, I just crack right on with my own version, the ruder the better. Though admittedly that made learning the correct words to their school carol concert a wee bit trickier for my trio than it should have been, but that’s another story… So the minxes were getting fed up with me imitating Bruce Springsteen, moaning about how gravelly and awful his voice was and that his Santa Claus is Coming To Town sounded like more of a huge parody than my send-up of it. I’m not a big fan of his work, to be fair, but do have a very soft spot for Streets of Philadelphia. So I decided to play the girls it, the version at the link. Personally I love the way it sounds like he’s walking along the street, singing it. And I love the sound of his voice in that particular song. However, I didn’t expect the reactions I got from the girls…

dsc_0359 dsc_0361

I guess they’ll not be big fans, then.

 

We had some friends over today for lunch. Their girls are the age of Mini and younger and a real joy to be around. We finished off a huge meal (brisket that had been in the slow cooker for 12 hours and Midi’s best savoury dumplings) with my friend’s delicious pavlova, then emptied an entire can of shaving foam playing Pie Face. Ahhhh, you can’t get kids too hyper on Christmas Eve!

Well, I say that… They were all bouncing off the walls. Properly going bonkers. ‘Unable to speak an entire sentence’ level of excited. I didn’t hold out much hope of them ever getting to bed. Then The Boss had a brilliant idea of breaking out the tubs of gingerbread dough his mum had given them – get them to bake gingerbread biscuits, decorate 7 shades of living hell out of them, then leave them out for Santa. Awesome! I watched the 3 of them slow down, start of concentrate, calm down more and more, get engrossed in their decorating, focusing on their creations. They stopped moaning about my Christmas music radio station and even joined in singing, while me and Mini went all kitsch on this year’s Christmas cake (those blobby things are robins. With their wings and tails outstretched. Of course they are. You see it now, don’t you?)

Santa and Rudolph's treats

Santa and Rudolph’s treats

After a few hours, they were done. I openly admitted how impressed I was with their artwork. I’m sure Santa was, too. So in a fairly calm state, they laid out Santa’s and Rudolph’s snacks, milk and whisky, posed gamely for the annual Christmas Eve photo, said goodbye to Edbie the Elf*, then went to bed without arguing.

Christmas Eve 2016

Christmas Eve 2016

*The elf went back to Santa, of course, leaving a thank you note that included some insults to Elsa, and leaving behind some Santa hats, Christmas joke box and some elf cupcake toppers I found a few months ago.

Around midnight, me and The Boss got out all the minxes’ presents from their hiding places. This year I was smug as a smug thing because I kept an Excel spreadsheet listing everything I’d bought for them, roughly how much it was (so I could make sure they’d roughly the same spent on them, and that I didn’t go overboard), and (crucially) where I’d hidden it.

So there I was, hissing: “Gas Out… Midi… blue ikea bag behind the stripey bag in the wardrobe” like a mad game of Twister to a hapless Boss who was tiptoeing around helping me fetch things. He picked up said Gas Out game and gave it an innocent prod. It came with batteries already fitted. It let out the most massive, long, wet-sounding fart I’ve ever heard that reverberated noisily along the hall. Have you ever tried not to die of laughing silently?! I swear, I lay on the floor outside Midi and Mini’s room, doubled up, dry-snorting about the noise, the terrible timing, and his face looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights. A guilty one. So that nearly started our Christmas morning earlier than we’d planned!

As it was, we first heard the pitter-patter of tiny jack-boots running around to see if Santa had visited just before 4am. I persuaded Mini to snuggle in with me for 20 whole sleepy snoozy minutes before I heard the other pair of tricksters giggling in the hall and gave up. I happily accepted the payback for the past 10 years of post-7am Christmas Day waking. It’s 0420hrs, Santa’s been, and the kids are shrieking and laughing and smiling over their presents – let the festivities commence! Merry Christmas!

A Geeky Halloween

These past 3 months I’ve been indulging in watching old boxsets of Doctor Who, covering the 9th to the 11th Doctors. The minxes have been watching some of the less scary episodes – basically everything not written by the brilliant Steven Moffat. Well, I think I’d rather the girls continued to sleep at night than introduce them to Blink and Silence in the Library too soon…

So this year for our Hallowe’en theme we decided to be Doctor Who characters: Maxi, the wannabe teenager, chose Rose Tyler; Midi wanted to be a Dalek; and even though she’s only a bit aware of who they are, Mini dressed up as a Weeping Angel. The Boss made a fine dude of an Ood, and I discovered that my reading glasses made me a passable 10th Doctor. See what you think yourself:

The girls spent all weekend hacking at cardboard and painting it. I loved Midi’s yogurt carton lights on her Dalek head: she put some motion-sensitive lights she’d been given for her trainers laces inside, so that the lights actually blinked. And yes, that’s a plunger and the inside of a paint roller. Maxi’s attitude as Rose just creases me up – perfect! And I’m relieved about my own outfit – originally I was going to wear black teeshirt, black jeans, a black leather jacket, slick my hair down and wear a pair of huge cardboard ears and go as the 9th Doctor. But an hour before I got dressed up, I discovered that my previously-treasured 30 year old leather jacket was covered in mould (ewwwwwwww!)

We were all set to go out guising, but the forecast of heavy rain came true. Drat! Luckily lots of other children came round to share their party pieces and, as well as sweeties and satsumas, were ‘treated’ to the reward of us 5 hanging out the door and having a fake sonic screwdriver waggled at them. We let the minxes eat some of the sweeties we’d bought, as they weren’t collecting their own, and they shared their own party pieces to visitors. We dooked for apples and the girls snouted for sweets in flour. The Boss played spooky-themed music and we 5 danced and goofed around for a bit until the last of the guisers came, around 7.30pm.

Round about then, Maxi had a huge meltdown, and her sisters declared it the worst Hallowe’en ever. No one thing set it off, but I suspect the lethal combination of giving them a small dinner, a lot of sweets, lemonade, the rollercoaster of dressing up, then not going out, then screaming and dancing and playing, all on top of the clocks going back just the day before, so they were all shattered.

The Boss and I didn’t take it personally. Besides, 3 of the 5 of us get to do it all over again at the Cubs Hallowe’en party later this week!

pumpkins

 

Homemade Advent Calendar

With 3 minxes, a full and cluttered house, and enough Christmas decorations to fill an entire street, the last thing we want is 3 chocolate-filled novelty Advent calendars. ‘Where would we hang them?’ I wail every year. ‘Think of the expense!’ moaned The Boss.

A few weeks ago I was planting some broad beans into toilet roll cardboard inners to protect the new little seedlings when they sprout, for planting and (optimistic) overwintering. We had loads of tubes left, and Maxi had the bright idea of making them into a Homemade Advent Calendar. Between the 5 of us, we came up with this (instructions below):

AdventCalendar

  1. The minxes stuck down little squares of tissue paper over the top of 26 toilet toll tubes.
  2. Then they mixed up some green poster paint and PVA glue and plastered it over the outside of the tubes.
  3. While it was still wet, they formed the tubes into the shape of a Christmas tree, then blew glitter along the sides. It dried overnight and stuck together quite well.
  4. The minxes wrote numbers on random tissue-covered rolls, from 1 – 24.
  5. innards of the calendar

    innards of the calendar

    The Boss and I raided the treats cupboard and filled the numbered tubes with chocolate sweeties.

  6. He then used a hot glue gun to stick the tubes to a piece of cardboard that came off the back of a lorry art-paper pad.

With the cost of the chocolates, I don’t think a homemade Advent Calendar is much cheaper than a shop-bought one, but it works for me: it uses up craft materials and chocolate we already had, and the kids had so much fun making it that it was (almost) worth clearing up the glitter mess afterwards!

Easy Quick Crafting: Lavender Bags

The minxes were playing in the garden first thing this morning when it was sunny. They’re still obsessed with making perfume out of petals, just like I was at their age: Daisy Dream, Lovely Lavender, Pongy Poppy…

I saw Midi pull the flowery parts off the nearly-dried lavender and had an idea – why not make super-simple flower sachets? I have a ton of fabric, lace, ribbon, pinking shears and flowers. Perfect!

First I got her to draw around an upturned cereal bowl with a biro on some fabric. She then cut the circle out with pinking shears.

Maxi cutting out a fabric circle

Maxi cutting out a fabric circle

While she did that, I got some single-sided interfacing, folded it in half, and cut out a square. I used the edge of a hot iron to fuse 2 sides of it. Midi poured in her petals and seeds and I fused the remaining open side shut with the iron. Ta-da! The fastest, most secure little petal sachet EVER!

Midi with unsealed sachet of interfacing

Midi with unsealed sachet of interfacing

Then Midi scooped up her fabric circle, stuffed the petal sachet inside, then used ribbon and lace to tie the circle together into a little bag. It’s now under her pillow.

Midi's finished lavender bag

Midi’s finished lavender bag

Mini and Maxi made one each, too: once Mini managed to peel her nose off hers, she decided to use hers to air the stuffy living room whereas Maxi’s is tucked into a stuffed toy. Ah well – super-mega crafting brownie points for me today from the girls, and it took literally 60 seconds to tidy up afterwards. Win!