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!

Fish Birthday Cake Tutorial

easy fish birthday cake tutorial

Fish Cake

Happy birthdayI made Maxi a fish birthday cake and it seemed to go down quite well… I took photos along the way to remind me how to make it next year, so this is a wee photo tutorial in how to do it. I bet you could make it far, far better! Maybe next year I’ll do an all-chocolate one, with gills made of Flakes and flat scales made of white and milk chocolate buttons. Yum! Can’t wait!

You can base this cake around any round cake you like: sponge cake, Victoria sandwich, pound cake, fruit cake, etc. I made a Madeira cake (recipe at the end). Partly because it makes a dense sponge that’s really easy to cut, partly because I know I can make them easily and they turn out the way I want every time, and partly because I’m greedy and I love them.

1. Start with your round cake.

1. Start with your round cake.

Anyway, the cake can be any size. This one is from a 9″ cake tin.

So: start with your cake. It’s up to you whether you level off the top or not. I didn’t bother.

2. Slice cake from the middle to the edge on the diagonal; lay the slice to the side.

2. Slice cake from the middle to the edge on the diagonal; lay the slice to the side.

3. Cut the tail slice in a curve and cut that in half

3. Cut the tail slice in a curve and cut that in half

4. Place the 2 small pieces to the top and bottom as fins.

4. Place the 2 small pieces to the top and bottom as fins.

5. Smother in buttercream.

5. Smother in buttercream. No need to worry about a crumb-coat and no need to be neat – just smother that fish in buttercream (I used 200g butter, a little milk and about 450g icing sugar).

6. Roll out ready-made icing and place over central part of fish.

6. Roll out ready-made icing and place over central part of fish.

7. Roll out marzipan and cover the 2 fins and the tail.

7. Roll out marzipan and cover the 2 fins and the tail.

8. Ice stripes on the fins and tail; add a mouth. Use leftover buttercream to sandwich pink strawberry buttons as 'bubbles'

8. Ice stripes on the fins and tail; add a mouth. Use leftover buttercream to sandwich pink strawberry buttons as ‘bubbles’. I used a shop-bought tube of icing: they look like big toothpaste tubes, come with 3 different shaped nozzles, and are sold in the home-baking aisle. The pink buttons were in the home-baking aisle, too.

9. Stick rows of sweets in the side as scales; use buttercream to stick a Party Ring biscuit on as an eye.

9. Stick rows of sweets in the side as scales; use buttercream to stick a Party Ring biscuit on as an eye. I used a few little packets of Fruit Buttons as fish scales. I thought they might be in rainbow shades of pink, red, orange, yellow and purple, but they turned out to be various shades of orange. And they were a nightmare to stick in the icing: too soft. Meh! Next time I’ll use Smarties or chocolate buttons.

Close-up of the scales

Close-up of the scales

fish cake tutorial 11

I added little wave wiggles and some writing and details using a little tube of chocolate icing I had leftover from another cake. I admit that I only added them because stupidly I’d placed the cake too much to the left and had a big gaping space (doh!), but it made the whole cake look pretty good.

easy fish birthday cake tutorial

Fish Cake

Madeira Cake Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 300g butter
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 400g plain flour
  • 20ml baking powder
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • grated rind of 1 lemon

Method

  1. Put oven on at 170degC/340degF/gas 3. Line a 9 inch round cake tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar till light and airy.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.
  4. Gradually add the beaten eggs to the creamed mixture. Add big spoons of flour any time the mixture even hints at curdling.
  5. After that, add the egg and flour alternately.
  6. Stir in the lemon rind.
  7. Spoon into the prepared tin.
  8. Bake for about 1hr 10 mins. If the top is getting too brown, put some foil over it. At the end, check the cake’s cooked the whole way through by putting a skewer / clean knitting needle in the centre and checking that it comes out clean. If mixture sticks to it, it needs at least another 10 mins baking.

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…!)