Food + Movies: Harry's Birthday Cake

By Brooke Bailey

Today, Harry Potter turns 37 (in fictional time, that is).

The beloved book series made its debut 20 years ago, and the world was introduced to a young Daniel Radcliffe almost 17 years ago.

(Peter Mountain / Warner Bros.)

(Peter Mountain / Warner Bros.)

There’s no doubt that the series has left a major impact on our generation. We grew up reading the books as they were released, attending the midnight movie premieres (with our parents because we couldn’t drive, of course), and waiting for our own Hogwarts letter to arrive. While the book series is extremely popular and beloved, the movie series is what cemented our love for the characters and the story; the Harry Potter movies gave us Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe (shameless BWFF 2017 plug), and introduced us to so many more legendary actors.

Today, I’m sharing one of my favorite food moments from the first Harry Potter movie: Harry's 11th birthday cake. To most, this small cake is insignificant, just another prop in the movie; at most, a kind gesture from the large intruder to the shack on the rock. To me, and to Harry, the cake means so much more.

I don’t want to get too sappy on ya’ll but I love Harry Potter and I love this cake.

This slightly squashed cake is the very first birthday present that Harry can ever remember receiving; it’s his first glimpse into life beyond his miserable circumstance. It’s also his first gift from any part of the magical world, and it’s not even magical itself. The cake signifies the first step that Harry takes into the wizarding world; he receives this cake right before he learns that he is much more important than he ever thought he was. The cake is hope for Harry.

Let’s get straight into the baking

This cake was super simple to make (because I used boxed cake mix + pre-made frosting) so it’ll be super simple for you to recreate in your own home.

I also have some hot tips for you if you too decide to make this cake: 

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1. Flour. your pans. 

Take a paper towel and rub butter (or shortening) on your pans, spoon some flour in and tap your pan until it's fully coated (I recommend doing this over a sink). This makes removing your cakes a whole lot easier.

2. Level one of the layers out.

Pick your bottom layer and, using a knife, very carefully cut the round top off, making the layer as flat as you can. This helps when icing your cake because there won't be a giant gap between layers, and your whole cake will be more even. It's honestly not a huge deal if it isn't perfectly level (see tip #4).

3. Use a ziplock bag to write on the cake

I ~happened~ to have a large stock of fancy icing bags, but you really don't need one to write the message on top. Fold the opening of the bag over a cup, scoop your icing in and then cut one of the corners off (be careful not to cut off too much). We're not aiming for bakery-level perfection here, so this method is easy and works just fine.

4. It doesn't need to be perfect

Honor the spirit of Rubeus Hagrid by making this cake a lil messy! It doesn't need to be exactly like it was in the movie; if you run out of icing (like I did) and it's a little thin in places, that's fine! Hagrid would be proud of your messy cake.

If you want to go all-out and make a homemade chocolate cake and icing, here's a recipe for chocolate cake that my sources tell me is great (+ a frosting) and here is the full recreation recipe that I used for my inspiration.

What you need:

  • Chocolate cake mix (+ ingredients it calls for)
  • 1 can of pre-made white or vanilla frosting
  • Pink and green food coloring
  • Piping bag (or ziplock bag)
  • Toothpick

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to your cake mix's specification. Butter and flour two 8-inch (or whatever you have) cake pans.

  2. Following the instructions for your cake mix, make the batter for your cake. 

  3. Pour the cake batter as evenly as you can between your two pans and bake in the preheated oven for the amount of time specified for your cake mix.

  4. While your layers are cooling on racks, divide your frosting. Put most of it in one bowl and leave around 1 or 2 tablespoons in the frosting can. In the bowl with the majority of the frosting, add several drops of red food coloring. You're going for a dark pink, so mix until you feel you have the correct color. Add green food coloring to the rest of the frosting until you achieve a medium to dark green.

  5. Once your layers have cooled, use a sharp knife to level off one of the layers (to the best of your ability).

  6. Place your bottom layer on whatever you're going to store / display your cake on (so you don't have to move it later). Add the pink frosting to middle and spread to the edges of the cake. Add your top layer and continue frosting until the entire cake is covered in pink frosting.

  7. I don't like to live my life too dangerously, so I lightly sketched out the message on top with a toothpick to make sure it all fit.

  8. After filling your piping / ziplock bag with the green frosting, pipe the message on. Take not! The message on the original cake is not spelled correctly.

  9. DONE! You did it! Congrats!

You can send my questions and pictures of your finished creations on Twitter @brookelbailey.

Happy Birthday, Harry!

Short of the Week: Age of the Farmer

By Brooke Bailey

“Sometimes you think ‘oh everyone’s getting into farming, it’s the cool thing to do.’ But that’s actually not true at all, no one is getting into farming!”

Age of the Farmer tackles one of the most prevalent issues in North America, even though you may not realize it. The average age of farmers in the U.S. is 57. Our farmers are rapidly aging and there aren’t people in line to take their place; they’re literally dying faster than we can replace them.

Filmmaker Spencer MacDonald and photographer Eva Verbeeck set out to document young farmers in the Pacific Northwest. They – the farmers – speak about their concerns for the future of farming and what drew them to the lifestyle.

MacDonald’s filmmaking style makes an already short-short film seem to fly by. It leaves you wanting more but is also the exact perfect length; the overhead animations keep things interesting while short clips of life on these farms gives you the context you need. The entire film is narrated between four young farmers, but there are no talking heads. Not seeing the narrator makes it feel introspective; like you’ve taken a trip inside their head and you’re hearing their thoughts and seeing what they see.

Age of the Farmer gives you a look at a lifestyle choice that most of us wouldn't consider to be a lifestyle choice anymore. These farmers advocate for living off the land and producing your own food, becoming nearly self-sustaining while still not totally giving up the pleasures of modern life. And you're a liar if it doesn't make you want to join them, even just a little bit.

You can view Verbeeck’s full photo gallery here.

See more work from MacDonald here.

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

By Brooke Bailey

A few weeks ago, we put Spider-Man: Homecoming in our Summer Movie Preview and this week, I’m bringing you my review of the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

To give you some background on my knowledge of the MCU: I like it. I haven’t seen every single movie in the collection but I’ve seen most of them and I’m a fan of the thing. With that being said, I can’t give you super amazing context of how this film fits into the MCU canon. What I can do is tell you what I, a casual fan of Marvel movies, thought of Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Ya'll it was really really good.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is both a great movie and a great Spider-Man movie. I grew up on the Toby Maguire Spider-Man movies, which I really enjoyed; but even then, it felt like something wasn’t quite right. I never knew exactly what that something was until I saw Homecoming. What this movie gets right is its lightness and its comedy and its youth. By setting this movie in a high school, with teenage (or almost teenage) actors, Homecoming brings a youthful energy to the MCU, which is something it definitely needed between all of the building smashing and dramatic middle-aged men (@ Tony Stark).

I love that this movie gives us high school-aged characters. Most movie-goers can relate to the high school experience, but it’s a bit harder to connect with fighting Nazis, being frozen in ice for 70 years, and trying to readjust to modern life (looking at you, Cap).

I found Homecoming to be very relatable; as a college student, I find myself occasionally pondering whether or not I can go out with friends the night before an 8 a.m. final, which is not the same thing as Perter Parker deciding between catching bad guys and taking a Spanish quiz but, you know, similar.

I LOVED the casting of Tom Holland as Spider-Man. He fits the part so perfectly, playing a very convincing American teen when in fact he is 21 and British. He plays a Peter Parker who is very genuinely excited to have these powers and to put them to good use; a refreshing change from most of the other Marvel superheroes who act like they would rather not have powers. The rest of the casting is also fantastic: Jacob Batalon as Ned is so wonderful and silly and the perfect sidekick who's not really a side-kick, Zendaya plays that one kid that everyone knows – they act like they're too cool for school but could probably use a few good friends (which was definitely me in high school), and Michael Keaton as the Vulture is like a whole, multi-level, inception thing.

As several other reviews pointed out, the casting in this movie is “effortlessly” diverse. While I don’t know if I would go all the way to effortless, it was nice to see casting that made a high school look like a high school. I think that people were so ready to call a major movie like this one "effortlessly diverse" when they saw more than two people of color in it. I struggle to call any film made by mostly white people "effortlessly diverse" because they clearly had to think about who they were casting. That being said, effort is not necessarily a bad thing – diversity shouldn’t seem forced (and it doesn’t here), but knowing that filmmakers are making intentional choices to cast actors who are representative of the real American population is good.

One thing I was worried about after Captain America: Civil War was Tony Stark. To be honest, I am not a huge Tony Stark fan and I never have been. I didn’t like how he recruited Peter to fight for a cause that he didn’t know the details of enough to support in Civil War and then basically dropped him like a used tissue. I was concerned that this feeling would carry over into Homecoming, but I didn’t find that it did. Tony was more palatable for me here than in any of the other MCU movies he’s been in and I appreciate that a lot. He's not perfect as a character and there are still some times in this movie when I wanted to punch him in his smug billionaire face, but overall it was much better than the other movies. 

 

Now, I’m going to list some of my favorite things from the movie:

Donald Glover

He doesn’t play a super huge role in this movie but he’s an American treasure and he should be in every movie.

Peter’s emotions

It was wonderful to see that, in emotional points, Peter actually got emotional – tears and everything. It's refreshing to see this in a huge superhero movie and it helped bring the whole film down to earth and remind you that first, Peter is 15 and second, superheroes have emotions just like the rest of us.

The Vulture

A+ villain with a fabulous costume and an awful perception about how to right the world’s ills AKA the holy trinity of super dope super villains.

The villain twist

As soon as Peter walks up to Liz’s house I thought “we haven’t met her parents yet” and then I thought “oh SHIT no way” and then it was everything I could do not to get up and run up and down the steps a few times to calm myself down.

Michelle

Zendaya is great and this character is great. We don't see much of her, but she has a cool mini-arc as she starts to embrace the people around her as her friends. Also, when she says “my friends call me MJ” I almost jumped out of my chair.

High school bullies

The kid who plays Flash was great and helped deflate Peter’s ego exactly when he needed to. He’s not a beat you up and take your lunch money bully – because this is a giant school for nerds – but his default taunt (Penis Parker) is an A+ teenage bully taunt.

Spidey suit + yellow jacket

Just great.

 

And here are a few things I didn’t love about the movie:

Happy

I know that the whole point of this character is to shut Peter down at every point but I just don’t love him and I thought he was annoying throughout the movie.

When Peter ditches the decathlon trip

There were a few points during this part that were a little bit off – like how there seemed to be no immediate consequences for Peter ditching the group. Yes, he gets detention, but I’m pretty sure they would have literally called the national guard if I ditched the group on a high school field trip.

The Washington Monument save

Don’t get me wrong, I think this scene is really cool. But Peter fell all the way to the bottom and there’s not a clear transition from that to him being reunited with Aunt May and it’s all a bit confusing. Assuming that he wasn’t passed out when he reached the bottom, how did he manage to sneak out somehow but how did he do it without being seen? The entire place must have been swarmed by police and people so I don’t think it would have been easy. But, you know, movie magic and things.

The destroyed sandwich shop

I just felt like this was being set up to be more than it turned out to be 🤷‍♀️

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If you want to hear more of my thoughts on the movie, or you want to let me know what you thought, you can find me on Twitter at @brookelbailey.

Let us know what movie we should review next for the blog! Find BWFF on Twitter at @bwff_ua, on Instagram @bwff_ua and on Facebook here.