Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Hogwarts Cake Don't-torial

Okay so I totally sucked at posting lately.

I would like to blame two things for this, my in-laws and Harry Potter.

While they are all very nice people, they totally vacuumed all the posting/down time out of my last week ... two weeks ... six weeks ... what day is it again?

Anyway, the cake.  Or as I like to call it the !@#$%^&* cake.

When last we left off I gave you a little tease of the potential failures that loomed in my future.

Oh and the potential was ever so great.  But this, my friends, is a tutorial, of sorts.  Think of it as an If You Are Ever This Crazy & Want To Try This Here Is What NOT To Do Tutorial.  But that title was a mouthful and too long for the blog title, so I went with Don't-torial.

But before we begin, allow me to hang my head and remind you what this was supposed to look like, though I never was quite so delusional to believe I could achieve this level of masterpiece, perfection.

There was no way that was happening, but I had hoped ...

Anyway, since the blog I swiped this idea from is called Bakingdom, clearly she knows what she is doing.  Clearly she is not a cake-mix-from-a-box-kinda-gal.  However, I am.  So, I bought me four boxes of Dunkin Heinz Classic Yellow.  That was my first mistake, because as we all learned in like kindergarten if you start with yellow in color you will have a hard time making things such as blue or red.  But Yellow Cake is the Meatball's fave, and this was supposed to be for him, so I went with yellow.  I also only needed two boxes, I have a separate post (with a lot less fail in it) about those other boxes that were purchased JIC.

Make your mix according to the package directions.  Since this is really bloomin' easy I was feeling pretty good still.  Then I needed to divide my batter into four separate-yet-equal amounts.  Allow me to save you time and messy dishes: one box of Dunkin Heinz cake mix makes 4 cups of batter.

So if you pour those four cups into two separate two-cups, you have two cakes from one mix.  Still feeling pretty good, but having a lot more dishes piling up in my sink, I busted out the food coloring.

I needed a red cake, a blue cake, a yellow cake and a green cake.  This meant that 50% of my cakes were freaking easy peasy.  Yellow was already done for me, and green was a shoe-in with a couple drops of green.  The blue and red had me worried, with good reason.  I read in the comments over at Bakingdom that she used gel colors, and when I did a google search trying to figure out how to make black frosting (we are getting to that) I discovered that these are apparently much more effective at imparting color with less than the liquid drops ... which is a great way to avoid the food coloring taste I was so nervous about.  But alas, having only my cheapo food coloring droppers I forged ahead.

My red cake wasn't bad, but blue was a bit on the teal side.  Bummer, but I was not to be deterred. I had four cake batters, and I started baking.

No, we haven't gotten to the hard part yet.

Frosting.  I needed bronze, silver, gold, and black.  You might think that I would have thought about this, and all the implied complexity it holds, before now.  But if you thought that, you'd be wrong.  Oh no, I charged on into this project without asking the fundamentally simple question "how in the great googly moogly will I ever make those colors out of frosting?!"

So with my cakes baking and my kitchen already looking like a disaster area I then asked this question.  I had both white and chocolate frosting.  I figured the Gryffindor "gold" which isn't a metallic gold really, but more of a bright deep yellow, I could handle.  So I started there.

Yeah, now with the easy one out of the way, I took white frosting and added a single scoop (like a heaping teaspoon) of chocolate frosting and mixed it up.  Bam, I made bronze!  Ravenclaw done!

But silver ... or black?  So in desperation I turned to google.  Now let me make this simple for you.  If ever you need black cake frosting, just go buy the damn black food coloring they apparently sell at hobby stores.  Its worth it.  Because starting with regular chocolate and adding eighty drops of blue and green and red, per the five different sites I found via google, desperately trying to make my frosting look right was a hot mess.  Those sites really are just liars.  Its not black, its just a dark muddy brown.    Once I gave up and accepted that dark brown was as good as it was gonna get without making it taste like plastic, I just mixed a heaping teaspoon into a white frosting and called that "silver."  Here, note the subtle differences between bronze and "silver."

Not much, right?  So, feeling a little less certain, I still march on.  My cakes were done and cool, but not cool enough.  But we will get to that part momentarily.  So I cut them.  I don't know how on in the sam hill the baking goddess (as I was now mentally referring to her, no mortal can do this crap) made two cuts in six inch cakes.  Here I was with nine inch cakes and I could only do one without them falling a-freaking-part on me.  Only having one of those little rings has a whole lot less impact in the final reveal, let me tell you.

So I cut the cakes, removed some of the excess (too much in some places, the beast was about 50/50 icing to cake ratio when I was done) and decided it was time to frost-fill.

Oh how wrong I was.

Trust me, if you do not wait long enough and you have cake that is even slightly warm or frosting that is even slightly room temperatureish you will get this.

My advice?  Freeze the effing cake pieces.  Refrigerate the frosting and pull it out about five minutes before you are ready to go.  Then, well, make one hellova mess.

My color order was messed up, I had frosting everywhere, and I am certain I heard the Beans mimic me and say "oh shit" while playing with his toys.

The end result.  Note the not-quite-black frostin on that top Hufflepuff layer?  Or the teal bluey green of the Ravenclaw layer just under it?  Not quiiiite the same as the original, as you can see here:

But I was hopeful that frosting could cover up the mess and make it still look fantastic.  Hope springs eternal, right?

Not completely wrong I suppose, it did look better, but I had no idea how on earth it would look once we cut into it.

The wax paper you see in there was placed so that I could ice this biotch without worrying about getting it on the plate.  Once I was done I pulled the wax paper strips off and it looked clean.  I have no idea why it is in the refrigerator at this stage.  I don't remember doing that ... oh well.

Then I made the decorations.  Those were simple, if not a bit tedious.  Bakingdom offers them on her site too, along with those cute owls you see in the picture with the completed cake.  Don't let them fool you, the owls are evil, more evil than the cake, but that is another post.  Soon.  I promise.

Anyway, the decorations:

My supplies: Printed (on cardstock) images, a folder thingy, scissors, bamboo skewers (not pictured), and hemp (also not pictured)

This is how I glued the banner with the song words on to the bamboo skewers.  It worked beautifully, and was the one thing I did on my own and did right.  Thus, I had to include it. Yay me!

Once those were done and it was time, I assembled it all, we lit the candles, sang ... and Meatball loved it.  But that was when he thought it was just a tall chocolate cake with spiffy decor.

Then we cut into it.

Sorry, the picture is blurry because, well, I was laughing too hard. It was either laugh or cry, so I went with laugh.  Turning to look at Meatball to see what he thinks -- because all the adults in the room where being overly kind and generous with their "ooo"s and "ahh"s -- I found him amazed and excited.  He immediately got the colors and understood the cake, he thought it was "totally wicked" which I presume means "good," and was quite thrilled.  I will not be showing him any of the concept/inspiration pictures, of course.

So while I thought it was atrocious, he liked it.  Which I guess is should be all that matters.  It did not taste like food coloring, which amazed the crap out of me.  It did have about a 50/50 icing to cake ratio and was a tad rich, so everyone took small pieces.

Feeling foolishly reassured, I felt inspired to do another Harry Potter related gift for Meatball.  This is, after all, his eleventh birthday ... and you know what happened to Harry on his eleventh birthday ...

If you don't know, *gasp!* go get your geek on and read the darn books! Then come back and read tomorrow's post! Here is a hint ...


  1. I think it's AMAZING!!! Cakes are such a love/hate for me - i think i said that before...but it's true. You are awesome!! And now i wish i had some cake.

  2. I wish I could have shared, we had more than enough!

    And you are too sweet, thank ya! ;)

  3. Whatev, dude. Your cake ROCKED. NO WAY would I have the patience to do that!

  4. Aw, shucks! I will never have that kind of patience again, I assure you.