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!

Battle of the Prinsesstartas

Ah. It seems I never got around to finishing a post last year about the cake I baked for The Boss’s birthday. Well, I did the same one this year: a Prinsesstarta. It was one of the technical challenges on Great British Bake Off a couple of years ago and made a big impression on The Boss. Every year we bake each other a birthday cake; every year I ask for super-lemony drizzle cake and every year he goes for Dundee cake. Till last year. Cackling a little too loudly, he asked for a Prinsesstarta.

Well, I’d seen it made on GBBO and had a detailed recipe. How hard could it be…?

Chuffing hard when you’ve never made a whisked genoise sponge cake or creme patisserie before… After spending all day on the bloody thing, my 2015 attempt virtually ran out the fridge (and out of the kitchen and down the street). The Boss chortled at the mess I managed to hold together with lots of marzipan, which made it lumpy and a bit like Yoda’s face, but declared the taste delicious.

A week later I was away teaching, so he got the minxes together and made another one, as a Yoda cake, to show me how it was done. And of course they were great. Harrumph! So the battle was on…

This year he asked for another Prinsesstarta. I told him to take a running jump: he was going to get a Dundee cake as usual. Secretly, though, I spent 2 whole days trying hard not to cough over it, doing a bit, lying down for a rest, then doing some more. Sod the 2 and half hours limit of GBBO! I’m strictly amateur. I made the creme pat extremely thick by cooking it for waaaaay longer than the recipe said, over a lower heat. I didn’t overwhip the cream this year. The sponge rose beautifully like a souffle because… well, I’ve no idea. Just luck this time. And because I made it in a narrower tin (8″), it was thick enough to cut into decent layers. Finally, I had leftover jam from when we foraged all those wild raspberries last year.

It was an overly-tall cake, but oh my stars, it was delicious! Worth the effort for the taste alone, never mind the happy look on The Boss’s wee face when he saw it. Still, life is too short to make another ever, ever again, that IS for sure!

Mini’s Weather Cake Photo Tutorial

Mini's Weather CakeI know there are a million rainbow cakes out in Internet-land, so I thought I’d add mine to the melee. Mini Minx turned 3 today and had asked for a ‘weather cake’ with the sky, the sun, clouds, rain, snowflakes and a rainbow. Eep! Luckily I remembered the brilliant rainbow cake my friend Tracy had made her wee daughter last month, and the tips she’d given me about colourings. She’d kept the inside a surprise, and I thought that was a fantastic idea. If you’ve seen the video of little Mini cutting her cake and her reaction at discovering the rainbow inside, then you’ll see why I think most of the impact of this pretty cake is from keeping the inside a secret! So try to make it when no-one’s around…

It was actually pretty easy to do, and from start to finish took me a single evening. Call it 4 hours, absolute tops, including baking and cooling times. But I was doing other things at the same time too, like cook dinner, eat, get kids to bed, etc. So really not too arduous.

OK, first of all, assemble all your kit. You don’t need it all, but it certainly made things much easier for me:

  • I use disposable paper cases because I’m rubbish at greasing and lining baking tins. They’re like massive cupcake cases. If you have them, 15cm diameter cases and tins would be ideal, but I used 18cm cases (in 20cm tins)
  • 2 cake tins. Small ones. 15cm diameter would be spot-on.
  • food processor or mixer. I used one with a whirly blade rather than a proper Kenwood mixer thing. It’ll be fine!
  • wooden spoon
  • spatula
  • small mixing bowl
  • electronic weighing scales

Here are the ingredients for the sponge cake bit:

  • 6 large eggs
  • about 300g self-raising flour
  • about 300g softened butter
  • about 300g castor sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • food colouring. Gel colourings give you brighter results than the liquid food colouring bottles you get in supermarkets, but they’ll be fine, too.

Here’s my basic sponge recipe, which makes 2 layers:

  1. Put the food processor base onto a set of scales. Crack 2 large eggs into it. Note the weight (should be around about 100g or so).
  2. Add that same weight of castor sugar into the base.
  3. Add that same weight of butter, and also of self-raising flour.
  4. Whizz until it’s all processed.

Right! Let’s begin!

Preheat the oven to 190degC. Make up a batch of sponge recipe. Using the spatula, put about half into your mixing bowl. Don’t stress about being exact, just do it by eye. I say use the spatula because when you’re working with small amounts of sponge mixture, leaving a few tablespoons of mix on the sides of the food processor base is a real waste!

Add food colouring and a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix with your wooden spoon. It’s up to you how much food colouring you use: I used a half teaspoon for each layer. Some folk prefer a more subtle effect… Scrape the mix into one of the cake tins and smooth it to the edges and so it’s fairly flat.

1 assemble layersScrape the other half of mix into the bowl (it’s up to you if you want to wash it out first or not – I didn’t bother*), add a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon of gel food colouring, mix, and put that in the other cake tin. Bake the 2 layers for 15 – 20 mins in an oven at 190degC. When they’re cooked (skewer comes out clean / bounces back when you press it lightly), leave them in the tins for 10 mins to cool, then take them out onto a wire rack to cool properly (still in their paper cases) and crack on with the next 2 layers. Repeat for the last 2 layers.

* I didn’t bother being too pedantic about stopping the colours mixing. I made the blue then the purple layers; the yellow then the green layers; and the red followed by the orange layers.

2 compress lightlyNow to construct your cake! It looks amazing if it’s layered with buttercream, but I think my gallbladder would complain a bit (!). So I spread some apricot jam between each layer. I didn’t bother heating it first because I’m not sure why you’d do that! Then while I sorted out the icing, I put the base of the (now cold) sandwich baking tin on the top, and put a weight on that (the big old mixing bowl) to gently compress the 3 apply buttercreamlayers.

I made a buttercream with 100g butter, 225g icing sugar and about a tablespoon of milk. I blobbed it over the sides and used a spatula to smooth it around and over the top. That was about right – not too thick and not too skimpy.

Icing: I used a 1kg pack of ready-to-roll shop-bought icing. I DSCF7174guess it’s like fondant icing? I added a tiny blob of the blue gel food colouring and kneaded it into about 700g of the icing with a dough hook (I was too scared of the mess it might make of my fingers to do it by hand…). It didn’t take long to spread through the icing till it was a beautiful sky-blue. I rolled it out and draped it over the cake. I should have spent longer smoothing it over the cake, but tbh just plopped it on, squashed it around, and gave the top a wee polish with the palm of my hand to make it gently gleam.

DSCF7173Decoration: I used yellow icing to make a sun. Just a round cutter and an ‘i’ cutter. I stuck it on with a pastry brush and water. The clouds were some of the 300g icing left over. They were flower shapes that I cut in half. I used el-cheapo writing icing to blob and drip on ‘rain’. The name was made of white icing with red gel colouring added. The aircraft was just modelled from off-cuts all mixed up. I used more writing icing to add ‘strings’ to turn the name into an aircraft’s flying banner, and a smile to the sun.

Ta da! You’re done.

DSCF7175One of the ladies (Emma Ringer) on my FB page said that she’d made a rainbow cake with lemon flavouring. That made me guffaw and really appeals to my sense of humour! If I ever make this again, I’ll maybe make each layer a different flavour: mint, DSCF7205almond, lemon, etc. If you use liquid flavourings, then you just add a bit at the same time as the food colouring, so it shouldn’t be too much extra hassle (though the mix of flavours could be boak-worthy…!)

The Trout Is A Big Softie

Midi Minx is now 3. Her birthday passed without serious incident or visit to A&E. In fact, we all really enjoyed ourselves. Even The Boss, who turned 32 the day before. (Yeah, I really tried to get Midi out on his birthday, but failed dismally. And the surgeon was too busy swigging from a can of Fanta and laughing at my previous caesarean scar to make the midnight deadline. So she was born at 0005hrs, 5 minutes too late).

Because my mother-in-law is visiting, we decided to take advantage of the 1:1 adult:minx ratio and took the girls swimming. Maxi Minx showed off her Real Swimming Without A Float, Midi got to thrash and splash her sisters around (I found Konfidence aqua-band things that keep water out of infection-prone ears: they’re brilliant!) and Mini Minx licked her rubber ring thoughtfully. Mini started shivering after 30 mins, so I took her out.  She started wailing when we discovered that the showers had no hot water. Although I’d brought a fluffy dressing gown for her (way easier than struggling with a towel), she started crying loudly when I lay her down on the change table. When I strapped her down so I could get undressed and dried, she went ballistic. The Trout’s 4th Rule of Motherhood is that the clumsiness of your fingers is directly proportional to the volume of your baby’s screams, which is indirectly proportional to your speed.

We decided to go for a long walk along the beach. I have a theory that anyone lazy enough to leave their dog’s poo on the pavement/path/beach is (a) a cretin, and (b) too lazy to walk very far. As well as (c) very dead if I catch them. So we only had to walk maybe 1/4 mile past the caravan park to find clean beach. The girls loved it, for different reasons. Maxi loves the pink glittery pebbles on that beach, and Midi likes the dead things. Mini is fascinated by the dogs. The dogs love me. The Boss thinks they can smell my milk; I think they’ll get a kick if they continue to paw me after I’ve used my best Naughty Minx Deterrent voice on them in a sharp: “Down!”. Anyway, we didn’t see any dolphins this time, but did discover a new path home through the woods, free of dog poo. The Boss even made noises about getting the baby seat out to put on the back of the bike for Mini.  Ulp – better crack on with the gymball core-strengthening exercises…

Midi got the cake of her dreams: she wanted a white triangle, with white decorations and white candles. I asked if she wanted sparkles and glitter. She looked disgusted. So this is what I made:

It was just a 2-sandwich Victoria sponge (weigh 4 eggs. Mix up the same weight in butter, caster sugar and self-raising flour. Bake at 180degC for 30 mins. Makes 2 x 7″ cakes).  I sandwiched it with buttercream and strawberry jam then cut it into a triangle (3 offcuts for Quality Assurance sampling – yum). Over that went white roll-out icing. Then about 30 cut-out lovehearts to hide the joins, her name, and the only non-glittery white candles I could find. They sparkled a bit, but weren’t too bad. Midi liked it a lot. She liked the taste even better. I am very, very proud. I made some rose and loveheart jellies with strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant jelly.  Cheesy I know, but we all like jelly, and they looked so pretty.

A loveheart for each infinity that I love her

 

 

The bottom pic is the Dundee cake I made The Boss. If you want the recipe, you have to comment on this post!

A currant for every time I think, "I really love that man"