Mini’s Harry Potter Themed Birthday – Party Activities

This is the 2nd of 3 posts detailing a really easy, quick and cheap Harry Potter-themed party that we did for Mini’s 7th birthday. I’ve already told you about how we prepared for the party (and yeah, most of that was in the hour or 2 before the party started because I was so busy making the cake at the last minute…!). In this post I’ll tell you about the party activities and games. To give you a better idea of whether they’d suit you too, they kept 10 little girls aged about 6 years old entertained solidly for 2 hours, including half an hour of eating (edibles are in a separate post).

14d sorting

Yes, yes, even a non-HP fan like me knows that the light pink on the right should be red for Gryffindor, but I’d already used all the red icing up before I hit on the idea

Sorting Hat.  Mini really wanted to sort her guests into Hogwarts Houses. We’d thought about making a sorting hat, but realised it would take far too much time and mucking around with papier-mache. We questioned whether there was even a point to sorting the kids into Houses at all – eg were we going to do team games or award House Points? No. So to my adult mind there was no point. Mini really wanted it to happen, so we did. Still, I’d suggest you think about awarding House Points throughout the party so that there’s a reason to the guests being put into Houses if that’s what you want to do.

Anyway, I adapted a great idea I’d read on a few blogs and made it even simpler. You only need:

  • a packet of plain fairy cakes
  • some small coloured fondant icing circles (cut out from the leftover icings used on the birthday cake)
  • some whipped buttercream icing (also leftover from the cake)

14c sortingSimply put a coloured disk of icing on top of a fairy cake, squirt a blob of whipped buttercream icing over the top to conceal the coloured icing, then put the finished cake on a plate. I sprinkled some white chocolate stars over the top because those little decorations seem to be breeding in my baking ingredients cupboard – I can’t seem to use them up!

The idea is that each witch sits on a step (the same one as the Prisoner of Azkaban mugshot), puts the Sorting Hat on (Professor Baldy’s hat), chooses a cake and then takes a bite. The Hat magically reveals which House the witch belongs to by changing the colour of the icing inside to fit.

The girls thought this was a lot of fun and they were all very patient, waiting in line to try it. Some weren’t mad on the icing, though, and it was useful to have a bucket handy to grab discarded cake…

Pin the Glasses on the Harry Potter. The plan was then to play something quick in the hallway with Professor Baldy supervising while Professor FishFace sorted out the props for the next activity on the kitchen table. So we went for something super-easy that little kids always seem to like: pin something on something! In this case, Pin the Glasses on the Harry Potter.

Maxi had lots of fun the night before painting a brilliant representation of Harry Potter and making 10 pairs of different coloured glasses. The kids were happy being blindfolded by Mini’s new Gryffindor scarf and taking turns to stick their glasses on the picture. There was a lot of innocent sniggering at some glasses looking like hair bows on Harry, and they’d have been happy playing this for lots longer than the 15 minutes it took. The winner got a little packet of chocolate buttons.

If you fancy doing this and don’t want to freehand a picture of Harry Potter without glasses, then Google for and print an image of a young Daniel Radcliffe 😉 Another option would be to pin the scar on the Harry Potter – then you just need little lightning bolt shapes. Or even get the children to mark a zigzag on the picture in different coloured crayons / pens whilst blindfold – easy!

10 Potions Master

Professor Baldy channeling his inner Snape

Potions Class. The activity that me and The Boss spent longest prepping for was Potions Class. And I swear that only took 20 mins of Googling, printing, sticking, emptying cupboards and thinking. To save you the thinking and Googling, read on!

If you have WinZip, then there are some fantastic free potion bottle label printables all over the place, such as this, but I don’t have that application. In a mad panic, I printed out a load of blank food labels and just hand-wrote information all over it. I really didn’t need to – little kids aren’t all that interested in Olde Worlde handwriting on old labels; they’re all about the whizz-bang of bubbles and colours and smells!

The Boss lead the kids in a class. We gathered them around the kitchen table where I’d already laid out a jam-jar and teaspoon each as lab apparatus. The Boss had a lot of ingredients already decanted by his wonderful lab-tech assistant (me), so it was quick and easy:

  • a bottle of clear vinegar (any old kind);
  • a jug of the water that I’d previously cooked a red cabbage in*;
  • a jar of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda);
  • various baking glitters and sprinkles and the like.

11a potions ingredients*I cut our last, manky, old red cabbage from the garden, chopped it up, poured boiling water over it and boiled heck out of it for 10  minutes. I strained the liquid and chucked the cabbage.

Professor Baldy got the kids to carefully pour some of the cabbage-water into their jam-jars and smell it. Then he handed round the bicarbonate of soda (“Shredded Essence of Boy”) and they all oohed and aahed as the water turned distinctly blue! He gave them a bit of spiel about the Truth Potion (vinegar) deciding whether the potion was actually a boy or girl potion: they added it in different proportions and some turned pink again, some stayed bluey-purple. Some of the kids’ potions fizzed and bubbled with the bicarb, too. They all loved the colours and strong smells and the whole hocus-pocus of it.

11b potions ingredientsI collected the jam-jars, rinsed them out, and handed them back so that Professor Baldy could ‘test’ them on their potion-making skills: they were to make a potion of their choice. I got a tub full of 10 random potion labels I’d been able to find via Google and print and cut out. The kids chose one each, stuck their label to their jar with Pritt stick, then inspired by their chosen label, they were unleashed on the contents of my baking cupboard: a decanted carton of pineapple juice, lots of baking glitter sugars that I’d re-labelled things like ‘Wart Dust’, ‘Dried Bogeys’, etc., as well as flour, sugar, the vinegar, cabbage-water and bicarb.

The girls seemed to like these 30 minutes most of all. And I tell you, we adults chortled lots at these lovely, well-brought up girls asking each other politely to kindly pass the bogeys…

Pass the Parcel. You can’t have a birthday party without a game of Pass The Parcel. It’s virtually The Law. So we did! Each layer of wrapping contained individual jelly beans from a packet of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, and the prizes in the middle were whole packets of the beans. (Tip: if you want to do this, they can be expensive. You can always pick up packets on the very cheap on eBay).

If you don’t know, these jelly beans come in a range of nice, standard flavours, and also nasty, unusual flavours, like earwax, vomit, soap, grass, etc. Mini had shared a packet the morning before with her sisters (see photos below), so we knew to keep a little plate of fudge handy beside a glass of water to help get rid of the taste of any beans that were too horrendous. And 2 wee girls definitely needed it!:

Make Your Own Wand. In the end, there wasn’t time to do another ‘class’ that we’d planned: Make Your Own Wand. If you want to do it yourself, it’s really easy. Just get lots of brown paper / offcuts of wallpaper / any sturdy paper; scissors; glue and water; paintbrushes; brown and black paints; fake gems; rice; pasta shapes. Just roll up a strip of paper into a quill shape. Paint it with a mix of brown or black paint, PVA glue and water. Then stick shapes or gems to it, and paint again if wished. Let it dry, and there you go!

Next post: the Birthday Tea and Cake

Mini’s Harry Potter Themed Birthday – Party Prep

As I was telling you earlier, Mini is bonkers about Harry Potter and for her 7th birthday asked for Hogwarts robes, a wand, HP-themed birthday cake, HP-themed party, etc. The whole family got very excited about the latter, so I agreed that she could have a smallish, Harry Potter themed birthday party. We ended up having such a hoot (even me, the non-Harry Potter reader or fan) and it was actually so easy that I decided to write a series of 3 posts so that you can do your own Harry Potter theme party, should you ever feel so inclined.

Mini’s invite (personal info altered). Download your own version at the link ‘PartyInvite’  —->

Invitations. Mini invited all the kids from her year at school (all 7 of them). Initially she wanted an exact replica of the Hogwarts Acceptance Letter, but I felt that it sounded too weird for anyone who didn’t know anything about Harry Potter. There are lots of free printables all over the Internet, and we based ours on my favourite site. Feel free to download my Word document (below) and change around the information as you see fit. I put 2 invites onto the Word file and printed both out on A4 paper so that I could squeeze 2 invites to a page.

PartyInvite

 

 

Platform 9 3/4. 16a platform 9 and a bit16b platform 9 and a bitSo what was the point of the golden ticket that the invitation told the guests to bring? I asked The Boss and Mini about that (they’d concocted the invitations) and they both scratched their heads and said, “Dunno”. Helpful. Well, it irritates me to do someone pointlessly, so I thought the guests might feel the same way. What purpose would bringing their ticket to the party serve? I was still pondering that on the morning of the party while I was furiously tidying up*. I found a big square of red fabric I’d been meaning to either cut up and use or recycle. A wee lightbulb went off in my head. I grabbed the Resident Artist and asked her how much white paint she had. Barely a dribble. Hmmmm… It could still be enough! I described how to suggest a brick wall using just a couple of shapes, gave her a piece of foam mattress that was already en-route to the bin, a plate, her paint and the bit of fabric, and she produced this almost-brick wall in about 60 seconds! She wrote a Platform 9 and 3/4 sign on an old bit of box (the rest of the box turned into cake boards to hold up the cakes and a mugshot board) and we pinned up the board and fabric at our front door.

*Tidying Up = shove all your junk and rubbish into a few laundry crates and ram them against a wall in your bedroom out of side.

Perfect! Now we had a reason to collect the Golden Tickets. I thought up a bit of a spiel about how only ticket-holders could pass through the brick wall. That gave the kids a reason to hand over the tickets they’d kept, and also helped parents escape quickly, too (they didn’t have special tickets of course). I held on to the first ticket handed over so that any child who’d forgotten theirs ‘magically’ had a ticket appear in their pocket, as would happen to any True Witch 😉 I’m really glad I thought of that – it put a smile back on the face of one wee girl who’d forgotten her ticket and was fretting about it, the wee soul!

The Teaching Staff. Perhaps The Boss and I should have sorted out our costumes in advance, but as it was, we suddenly thought about it 15 minutes before the first guest arrived. Eek! So he dashed to his wardrobe and found a black teeshirt and trousers; I only had a green teeshirt and swishy green skirt (no black – it’s sooooo ageing for us wrinkly old birds, dotcha know?!). The Boss grabbed Mini’s old dress-up witch hat and I spotted my only posh chiffon scarf. I’d noticed 2 lengths of black fabric in my fabric stash earlier, so I liberated them and we quickly put them around our shoulders. And ta da, there we were: Professors FishFace and Baldy, ready to teach a new intake of witches! 18 moaning myrtle

Decor. Have a Google for decoration ideas for your party – some are incredible! But we just didn’t bother – too little time and money. We did do a quick print-out of an image of Moaning Myrtle and blue-tacked that to the inside of the toilet seat as a bit of fun and maybe a surprise.

Mugshots. We made a mugshots board to have a bit of fun with. Midi cut out a square from that well-used cardboard box (cake boards, mugshot frame, platform sign…), printed some of the free Prisoner of Azkaban printables around the internet, and stuck them to the top and bottom of the square with a bit of Pritt stick. She made the prisoner number similarly: just print and stick to another bit of card.

As each child came to the party, we welcomed them through the brick wall, then got them to perch on a step, hold up the prisoner number board, pull a funny face and have their mugshot taken. As they turned out so well, I printed each mugshot and included it with that child’s Thank You card from Mini after the party.

In hindsight, and assuming you like all your activities to kind of fit together (!), this could have been some kind of matriculation set up, eg give the witch her Witch’s Number, put the school’s name as a title at the top, and a school motto at the bottom. This would have worked better as an activity and as a memento in the Thank You cards.

Anyway! It was a lot of fun. Here are the Family Trout mugshots:

The pedant in me is driven mad by the lack of capitals in the signs, but I didn’t have the time or energy to sort it out myself. I also can’t find the different original sources of each of my Prisoner of Azkaban photo booth printables (there are so many! Google them), so below I’ve added my own. I’d be delighted to add a link to the original source instead, so let me know if you spot it and I’ll amend.

Azkaban Printables

Next post: Harry Potter-themed party activities!

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!

3 Easy Christmas Cakes Icing Tutorials

Christmas cake iced with tree and snowflakesEvery year, starting around the end of October, my kitchen smells of Christmas cake. I bake 4 big ones, cut them up into different sized cakes, ice and decorate them, let them dry out, then send them off to brave the Royal Mail to reach relatives. So at any one time in November and early December you’ll find a glass dish full of dried fruit steeping in brandy, foiled-wrapped cakes occasionally being ‘fed’ with more brandy, and chopping boards laden with little cakes in various stages of sugar-covering, all hiding underneath a protective ceiling of foil. Oooooo, the smell is delicious!

1-xmas-cake-present11-hat-tutorialEvery year I do it and every year I mutter darkly that this’ll be the last year. But truth be told, I really enjoy making Christmas presents that I know will be eaten and not add to a mountain of plastic or clutter; I love thinking about the recipient as I finish off each cake. I know I’m not that great a cake-maker, but I think my relatives know that I make each cake with a lot of love. The trouble with me, though, is that I always leave the decorating to the last minute, so inevitably start applying royal icing before I’ve any clear idea of what I’m going to do. Trust me, inspiration rarely strikes at the right time…

This year, though, I had the foresight to look through Pinterest for ideas before I got out the marzipan. I thought I’d share my take on the ideas with you and tips on how I did them in case you’re tearing your hair out icing 9 cakes, too.

1. Tutorial to Ice a Knitted Hat Cake

Christmas Cake with Mittens by Alina Vaganova

Christmas Cake with Mittens by Alina Vaganova

I thought these little mittens on a cake looked sweet, but I’d no time to make intricate little decorations: a big hat would fit my timescale better. Here’s how I did it:

Start with your fruit cake iced already. I put a layer of marzipan and a layer of ready-to-roll icing on top of mine because I wanted to be able to smooth out the edges. If I had time (and the skills!) I’d have applied a layer of royal icing and left it to dry.

The knitted hat decoration is just coloured fondant icing. You can make your own or buy it ready-coloured and ready to roll.

0-hat-tutorial

 

Knead the coloured icing really well until it’s soft and pliable.

Take 2 golf-ball sized chunks of it and roll them into long sausages.

Twist them together into a long twirl.

Take another 2 chunks of icing and repeat, except this time twist the sausages in the other direction.

Lay the 2 twirls side by side, on a piece of baking parchment or a silicone mat. Pat them up close together until the twists match up.

 

 

 

 

 

5-hat-tutorialCut the pairs of twists to the length you want, then lay the off-cuts alongside. Cut a hat-shape out of the twists.

8-hat-tutorial

Take some white fondant icing and form it into a fat sausage, which will become the brim, and a round ball, which will become the pompom. Cut the ball in half so that you have a nice flat surface to stick to the cake.

Brush the top of your cake lightly with some cooled, boiled water. Then carefully, using a fish slice or spatula, slide the hat onto your cake. Gently pat it to shape. Put the brim at the base, covering the ends of the hat, and place the pompom half at the top. Make sure the flat side was well-moistened with water to help it stick. Either leave the white icing as it is, or mark it in some kind of texture – I pricked mine all over with a toothpick to make a vaguely furry texture because I’d no other bright ideas. (Please add a comment with your ideas so I can do a better job next year!)

9-hat-tutorialFinally, I added a little fondant icing snowflake I’d stamped out. Do this at the last minute so that it’s pliable – if you leave the snowflakes to dry out, they’ll crumble when you press them into the hat.

Leave the icing to harden for a few days before you try to post the cake.

2. Tutorial to Make a Christmas Tree Cake

The Pink Whisk's Stars and Sparkle Christmas cake

The Pink Whisk’s Stars and Sparkle Christmas cake

I was inspired by this beautifully-decorated cake from The Pink Whisk. I’ve linked to their very comprehensive instructions on how to ice and decorate a cake. If you’ve got the time, please go there – if not, then here’s how I did a much-less perfect variation:

Again, start with a fruit cake that’s already iced. I used a layer of marzipan and a layer of white ready-to-roll icing, the same as the knitted hat cake above.

Take a good chunk of coloured fondant icing and knead it until it’s very pliable and soft. Roll it out till it’s around 5mm thick. Cut it to size and shape. Lightly moisten the white icing with some cooled, boiled water, then place the coloured icing on top  (My blue icing was originally a beautiful square, but I have to tell you that I was a bit slapdash about taking it off the rolling mat and putting it on the cake – it stretched. I’d no more blue icing and it stuck a bit too well to the white icing, so I just left it and covered up the wonky edges with snowflakes).

2-xmas-cake-treeNow gently scatter whatever decorations you want on top. Get them into the places you like, using cold clean fingers (!) or the end of a paintbrush or even tweezers, then gently press them into the coloured icing. When they’re pretty well secured, use a rolling pin to gently roll over the top into a more level layer and press the decorations in even more. I used tiny white chocolate stars and some sugar stars in my Christmas tree.

Cover the edges of the coloured icing with whatever you have to hand – I stamped out some snowflakes from more of the white fondant icing. If I’d had more time, some silver balls would have looked great, or best of all, some piped swirls. Aye, maybe next year!

3. Tutorial to Ice a Present Cake

sorry, I don't know whose cake this is - I found it at www.dorafashionspace.com

sorry, I don’t know whose cake this is – I found it at http://www.dorafashionspace.com

I think the present cake is easiest of all. There are so many beautiful pictures all over Pinterest, and this one inspired me.

I covered a fruit cake with a layer of marzipan and let it dry. Then I rolled out some white fondant ready to roll icing, brushed the marzipan with cooled, boiled water and placed the icing on top. I smoothed the top and bottom edges in tightly to the cake. Then I folded the side edges in like I would with wrapping paper. What an easy way to finish off the icing – no smoothing or cutting!

Christmas cake iced like a present side viewI gently pressed in lots of little sugar balls. In hindsight I think it would have looked better with a random pattern, and making a pattern took a lot of time. But hey-ho!

I took a big chunk of pink fondant icing and kneaded it till it was soft and pliable. I rolled it out, then used a pastry cutter to cut it into strips. I brushed each strip with water, then stuck them to the top of the cake in a cross shape. I made a bow out of some strips and stuck that to the top.

Christmas cake iced like a present front viewAgain, I left the icing to harden for a few days before trusting the cake to the Royal Mail.

…………………………………………….

I’ve yet to ice our own family Christmas cake. I think I’ll leave that one for the minxes to do!

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!