Note from the editor (Leah): Following is a guest post that is written by my friend Matt Templon. He decided that he was going to make a cake for his girlfriend’s birthday, and I thought it would be perfect for my first guest post. What is not to like about a single (unmarried in this sense), 26 year old guy living on his own trying to make a cake to impress his girlfriend? Nothing! If you would like to contribute a guest post, please let me know, I’d be happy to share others’ projects. And now I turn it over to Matt…
Let me first start this off with a little anecdote to get some things out in the open before I start to discuss my attempt at making a Wilton Harry Potter cake. 1) My mother is an excellent cook/baker. She actually used to teach Wilton cake decorating classes. After many years of observation, I tried my hand at making a cake of my own. 2) I have not made a cake since I was 7 years old and in Cub Scouts. Every year we had a cake decorating contest, and I participated. Of course like all Cub Scouts, I had help from my parents, especially my mother. 3) When I proposed the idea of making this cake at the dinner table around the holidays with all my siblings home, my older brother and younger sister vehemently bet against my ability to make this cake. My younger brother however took my side and bet with me. I never am one to back down from my siblings, so having 2 out of 3 bet against me felt like a challenge that I couldn’t back down from.
When I was back home in NJ over my Christmas vacation (all 4 days of it), I noticed something that was glaring at me as I walked by it numerous times: the Harry Potter cake mold. I knew my mother had made this cake before, and I had seen impressively done each time. My girlfriend enjoys Harry Potter, and helped to set-up (do PR for?) the exhibit about how the movies were made when it originally opened in Chicago. Thus, since I knew she was coming to visit me in Washington, and would be arriving on her birthday, why not try my hand at making the Harry Potter cake? With coaching and guidance from my mother (not to mention her food coloring, cake mold, and cake board) I was able to take on the task and create what is to follow. Remember, I am a 26 year old male, who has not made a cake in 19 years, you can cut me some slack.
Step 1) Making the cake. – Since my mom already had the mold I was ahead of the game. All I had to do was put it in my bag from NJ, and bring it back to Washington (state) with me. Once there I purchased a yellow cake mix (Pillsbury brand to be exact) and followed the instructions on the back for making the batter. I then put Pam – For Baking – along the bottom of the cake pan, spraying evenly as I went. This assured that the cake would come out easily after it had been baked. I proceeded to then pour the cake batter in the pan, and smooth it out evenly throughout. Placing the cake in the oven, I then set the timer and waited the 34 mins the recipe told me too. Once time was up, I took a toothpick to the cake, stuck it in, and it came out clean. I then removed the cake from the oven and let it cool for 10 mins. After 10 mins, I took the cake and flipped it over onto a cookie sheet.
After the cake was placed onto the cookie sheet, I then put it in the freezer to keep. You can keep the cakes in the freezer until you are ready to ice them.
Pro-Tip: It is also much easier to ice a cold cake.
Step 2) Making the Icing: Growing up in a household where my mother was constantly making cakes, it was almost frowned upon to use out-of-the-can icing. If you are in a time crunch though, or looking for something more healthy, the can is definitely the easier way to go. Since I wasn’t looking for either of those two things, I took on the task of making my own icing. Thanks to the Wilton cake decorating book my mother sent me, I was able to follow the simple recipe for Buttercream icing:
- 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (Crisco)
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups of confectionery sugar
- 2 table spoons of milk
With an electronic mixer, mix the butter, shortening and vanilla extract with 1/2 of the sugar to start, and gradually work in the the rest of the sugar and milk.
Since Harry takes a lot of icing, I doubled the recipe. It was easy, and you can do it by exactly doubling the portions.
At first when my icing came out, it was a little dry. See picture below: After adding in a little bit of more milk I was able to bring it to a proper consistency for real Buttercream icing:
This was then capped off and put into the fridge overnight. While this part it not necessary, I was doing my Harry Potter step-by-step and wanted to wait a day before I made the colored icing and decorated the cake.
Step 3) Decorating the cake! -Harry had been sitting in the freezer for 3 days. Thus I needed to take him out and place him on the cake board, which my mother had graciously provided me – Thank You Mom! Running a butter knife below him, I was easily able to unattach him from the cookie sheet. I then took a little bit of icing and placed it on the cake board to make sure that once Harry was down, he was going to stay in place.
I then proceed to take the rest of the icing and place it out on the counter. This allowed it to soften up a bit, and made it much easier to work with when I was creating the colors and eventually decorating.
Harry is no easy fellow. This little wizard takes a whole spell-book full of colors to create, but if you are like me, you can cheat a little bit and not use every one. I decided to make his whole shirt grey, and his lips and lightening bolt the same color. This allowed me to cut out two colors. The rest of the colors that Harry calls for are as follows:
- 2 1/2 cups light violet
- 1/4 cup violet
- 1/4 cup yellow, brown , red combined (Lightning bolt/mouth gold)
- 1 1/2 cups black
- 1/4 cup grey
- 1 cup copper
- 1/4 cup green
- 1/4 cup white (I really used a 1/2 cup though – needed some for the “pretty” base border)
Pro-Tip: It is very difficult to make dark black. Unless you have super food coloring it is going to take a lot of effort. Black took me a long time to make, and lots of elbow grease. Some people cheat and use dark chocolate icing for a substitute for black. I am not a huge fan of dark chocolate, and nor is my girlfriend Kate. Therefore I made the choice to make black icing instead, the old fashioned way.
Once Harry was down, and the colors were made, it was time to start decorating. Luckily if you have any of the Wilton cake molds, they come with instructions on the back. These instructions not only tell you what colors you need but also the step-by-step color-by-number guide to how to approach the decorating of the cake. Below you will see some pictures from the process, and I will try and explain what I did the best that I can.
In the above photo Harry had been outlined with the black icing, eyes are filled in with black for the pupils, along with white around the edges. The first step was to take the light purple and go around the border and the edges. This to me was almost the most difficult part of the cake.
In the above photo you can see that some of the colors have been filled in on Harry. His eyes are of the green color I created, his shirt collar is white, his face/neck skin tone copper, and his shirt grey. Lips and the lightening bolt are the same color, lighting bolt gold. Most of Harry is done with a #3 tip for small piping of the outlines, and a #16 star tip for the coloring in of most areas.
Pro-Tip: Because you reuse the tips so much, it is smart to either have multiple, or some hot water at the ready. It is also wise to use disposable icing bags (which you can see in the colored icing picture above). This allows you to have dedicated bags for each color, and be able to switch quickly. Once again Thank You Mom! She provided me with the tips and the bags.
Above is my completed cake. He now has hair and writing. I am not skilled in writing with icing, and is apparently is something that is learned over time.
This is definitely an amateur done cake, but something I enjoyed doing. It was nice to have a project like this that I could look forward to working on each night, and do it step by step. I think my mother also enjoyed teaching me and helping me work through the process as well. While I have watched her make many cakes in the past, it fun to be able to use those observations and try my own hand at a cake.
The true test will be if K8 really likes the cake, and how it tastes. Who knows, maybe I have a future of cake baking/decorating.
Thanks for reading my guest post, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
PS: The following cake is one that K8 received from her mom at work for her birthday. Wonder which one you (the readers) think is better. Let us know in the comments. Thanks!